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Saturday Word Study: “The Evil”

In the book of Judges, seven times the people are said to do “the evil” in the sight of the Lord. While most English translations ignore the definite article, preferring to translate it as “evil” or “evil things,” the Hebrew text clearly presents the term as a definite noun. The authors of this book of the Bible do not explicitly refer to that which this phrase refers, but context most commonly implies that it is a reference to the idolatry of the people of Israel.

When we look for the same phrase, “the evil” or חָרַע (hara), in the rest of the Hebrew Canon, one discovers that there are numerous things that God views as “the evil” and perhaps, it might be suggested, this understanding helps to shed light on Jesus’ language of asking God to delver us from “the evil” or τοῦ πονηροῦ (tou ponerou) in Matthew 6:13. In other words, asking God not to deliver us into temptation but to especially protect us from those sins in this category. References where “the evil” is given more specific definition are found below:

Exodus 33:4 — “the evil word” in context is the news that God was refusing to go with the people due to his idolatry.

Numbers 32:13 — “the evil” is a reference to not trusting God in the wilderness

Deuteronomy 4:25 — making carved images is referred to as “the evil”

Deuteronomy 9:18 — the people worshiping the Golden Calf was “the evil”

Deuteronomy 13:12 — Leading others into idolatry

Deuteronomy 17:2,5,7 — serving idols (note that here the death penalty is mandated for idolatry)

Deuteronomy 19:19-20 — being a malicious witness — conspiring against another

Deuteronomy 21:21 — the rebellious son

Deuteronomy 22:21 — the immoral daughter

Deuteronomy 22:24 — adulterers

Deuteronomy 24:7 — taking a Jew as a slave or selling a Jew into slavery

Deuteronomy 30:15 — here we have “the good” contrasted with “the evil” — obeying God in contrast to serving an idol

Joshua 23:15 — idolatry

1 Samuel 15:19 — Failing to destroy Agog

2 Samuel 12:9 — David’s adultery and the murder of Uriah

2 Samuel 14:17 — once again we find “the good” contrasted with “the evil” — right from wrong, in this case it is a statement that the wisdom of David is akin to the wisdom of the Angel of the Lord

1 Kings 11:6 — Solomon’s pursuit of idols

1 Kings 14:22 — The idolatry of Judah under Rehoboam

1 Kings 15:26 — King Nadab of Israel’s idolatry

1 Kings 15:34 — King Baasha of Israel’s idolatry

1 Kings 16:19; 16:25; 16:30 — more idolatry of the kings

1 Kings 21:20,25 — King Ahab’s idolatry instigated by Jezebel

1 Kings 22:52 — King Ahaziah’s idolatry

2 Kings 3:2; 8:18,27; 13:2,11; 14:24; 15:9,18,24,28; 17:2 — more idolatry from the kings

2 Kings 17:17 — burning sons and daughters in sacrifice to Molech

2 Kings 21:2 — following the practices of pagan nations

2 Kings 21:6,15-16,20; 23:32,37; 24:9,19 — more idolatry

2 Chronicles 12:14; 21:6; 22:4; 29:6; 33:2,6,22; 36:5,9,12 — more idolatry

Esther 7:6 — Haman is the evil

Nehemiah 13:17 — profaning the Sabbath is the evil

Job 2:10 — being under judgment

Psalm 51:4 — adultery and murder

Psalm 54:5,7 — to be under God’s judgment

Ecclesiastes 4:3 — better off is one who has never seen “the evil” deeds (be careful little eyes what you see)

Isaiah 5:20 — “Woe to those who call the evil Good”

Isaiah 65:12; 66:4 — idolatry

Jeremiah 3:17; 7:24; 11:8; 18:12; 32:30; 52:2 — the evil in their hearts is idolatry

Jeremiah 18:10 — the evil is not listening to God’s voice…in light of this, woe to those who claim to be Christians yet choose to ignore the Word of God

Jeremiah 23:22 — speaks of “the evil way”

Ezekiel 13:22 — “the evil way”

Micah 7:3 — idolatry

There is no debating that idolatry is the recurring theme that runs through these passages and indeed, idolatry destroys the people of God and the communities in which we dwell. And even though it is uncommon here in the west to run into people with large idols in their yards or homes, westerners make idols out of so many other things as well: performers, athletes, their wealth, a car or other precious item, etc… Anything that draws you away from having God and focusing on seeing Christ’s kingdom grow, that is an idol in your life. And these things are not just evil in God’s eyes, they are “the evil.” Pray that God delivers you from “the evil” that is in your life — is that not indeed, the heart of Jesus’ prayer?

Yet, we must notice that there are other things that are equally destructive and are “the evil” in God’s eyes. Things like not trusting God, lying, conspiring against the people of God, sexual immorality, murder, calling evil good, and not listening to the Word of God. How often do people turn a blind eye to dishonoring the Sabbath — in the eyes of God, it is “the evil.”  Then we have the sacrifice of children to Molech. Indeed, that is another expression of idolatry, but it also contains the idea of the murder of one’s own offspring. How awful a notion that is, yet it is tolerated in society and in many churches.

Finally, there is the sin of following the ways of other nations. That had obvious implications in the lives of those people who lived in ancient Israel but the sin often goes overlooked in the church today. It is commonplace for the church to incorporate pagan traditions into their public worship. Churches often draw from the practices of nature worship, nation worship, and entertainment. How many church holidays have simply been appropriated from secular sources or other religious traditions. When art, drama, organized dance, and patriotism are incorporated into the worship of God’s people, are they not guilty of this? That does not mean that art, dance, drama, and patriotism are bad things in and of themselves; they just do not belong in the worship of God’s people. 

Crucify! Crucify!

“Thus, when they saw him, the chief priests and the assistants screamed out, ‘Crucify! Crucify!’ Pilate said, ‘Take him yourself and crucify, for I find no cause in him.’”

(John 19:6)
Pilate is playing a dangerous political game with the Jews at this point. On one level, his contempt for being manipulated by these Jewish officials shows through, but on another level, the chief priests have whipped the people into such a mob that there is no telling what is going to happen next. It is a very dangerous game of chess that he is playing and it seems as if his king is being boxed in move by move, each verbal interchange that is taking place.

Yet as intense as this interplay must have been at the time, God has superintended it all to bring it to the conclusion he has designed for his Son. Jew and Gentile are here together vying to see who would be responsible for the actual death of Jesus while the guilt fell on both groups. Sin is sin whether you are the hand that carries it out or whether you provide the thought that instigates it. There is no other word but “evil” to describe what is taking place.

But indeed, there is another word…and that is grace. Though the working and debating of Pilate and the Chief Priests is evil unbounded, God is overseeing these events to leave none guiltless and then to offer grace to those who turn toward his Son in faith. Loved ones, this is why Jesus is before these wicked men. It is not because of the plans of the wicked but it is because of the design of God the Father, that he, God the Son, be crushed for our sins and that he bear the iniquity of all believers upon his shoulders that we (believers) might become the righteousness of God. There are not words to describe the debt of gratitude and love we owe for this gift of grace…all we can do is commit our lives to serving Him who has given his life to save us.

Will you?


“They answered and said to him, ‘If he were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him to you.”

(John 18:30)


This statement is about as big a cop-out as one might be able to find in any culture and in any age. They are essentially saying to Pilate, “place your official stamp of approval on what we have done, but do so without asking any questions.” How often, the tragedies we read in literature are begin in a similar way, where the king or prince or other hero tragically binds himself by oath to something, not knowing what the real cost of his oath will be in the end. As we will see, Pilate is not quite that foolish as to fall for their little linguistic trap, though nevertheless, evil will be done on this day.

On an academic note, an interesting question can be raised as to the difference in understanding that Pilate might have had regarding their accusation and what the Pharisees meant when they used the term “evil.” In a Hebraic sense, the idea of that which is evil is that which hurts one’s own existence, typically in relationship to God and/or to the community. Thus, in the book of Judges, idolatry is often referred to as “the evil.” As a result, evil was punished in the strongest way, typically with the death penalty (hence even Sabbath-breaking is described as such and was punishable by stoning — look at the moral decay found in our own culture as a result of people’s low view of the Sabbath!).

In the Greek culture, evil was looked upon somewhat differently. Evil was seen as the opposite of good and is seen as something lacking within a person or environment. Pilate’s understanding of evil would likely be closer to our own — bad things being done or taking place.  There certainly are overlaps between the two view, but the Greek view did not necessarily see evil as punishable by death as they did not see evil as destroying the covenant community.

Surely each ought to be expected to understand the subtle differences in cultural descriptions of an idea as important as evil; yet whose definition are they using? The answer is likely that they are using the Jewish understanding, but perhaps this difference in attitudes toward Jesus’ supposed crime can be illustrated by the cultural differences to the idea of evil of these two groups.

In the end, it is the one who is good in the best and greatest sense that is being accused of evil. Yet, before you quickly condemn, make sure that you examine your own heart as well. How often have you chosen to equate God’s good laws with evil by rejecting their application in your own life? It is something, if we are honest, of which we are all guilty. Let us be humbled before we condemn and let us repent before we cast stones.

Who Struck You!

* Note: to those of you who have been following this blog, my apologies for this past hiatus. I have been finishing up a text on Reformed Theology that I began over the summer, so put this to the side to finish that… Thanks for your patience.


“Then they spat upon his person and they beat him. Some slapped him saying, ‘Prophesy to us, O Christ, which one of us struck you?’”

(Matthew 26:67-68)


“And some began to spit on him and they covered his face and they struck him while saying to him, ‘Prophesy!’ And the assistants took charge of him having been beaten.”

(Mark 14:65)


There are times, when reading passages, where I cannot help but be overwhelmed by a sense of evil that permeates the actions that the text is recording. There is no other way to put it and any word short of evil, wickedness, diabolic, or foul just cannot seem to come close to describing these events. Jesus brought peace and truth; he was received with blows and spit — he came to his own and his own received him not (John 1:11). How could anyone act in such a way toward any human being is beyond me, let alone this human who is also God. To what end does this accomplish or achieve apart from demonstrating the wickedness of human hearts? Yet, that is exactly the purpose. Jesus endured the wickedness of wickedness for us even before he met judgment upon the cross — he is the Passover Lamb and the Scapegoat of Atonement (Leviticus 16:21-22) for his people — for me — and for all who are trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Yet, let us take things a step further. Are we not guilty in the same way as these servants of satan who are tormenting Jesus? By our disobedience and intentional sin, do we not spit at Christ and mock his name? When we call ourselves Christian yet behave in a way that is consistent with a child of the devil, are we not just as guilty of hatred as those in the High Priest’s hall? I suggest that we are — and in fact, are doubly guilty because we know the truth as to who Jesus is. We may not have covered the face of our Lord and struck him with our two hands, but by the sins of our two hands are we not guilty of slapping our Lord. And, when we act sinfully thinking that God is not aware, are we not guilty of saying, “Who struck you?”

Loved ones, take these words to heart and ask yourself, does the way I live honor the one who endured this for me? If not, repent and turn from your wickedness, pursuing the righteousness of God.

False Witnesses

“Now the chief priests and the whole of the Sanhedrin were looking for a false witness against Jesus so that they might put him to death. Yet, though many false witnesses came forward, none could be found until eventually two emerged.”

(Matthew 26:59-60)


“Now the chief priests and the whole of the Sanhedrin were seeking a witness against Jesus to put him to death but none could be found, for though many bore false witness against him, none of the witnesses agreed.”

(Mark 14:55-56)


This is one of those areas where a harmony is extremely helpful in trying to sort out what was taking place. It is clear that the leaders in the Sanhedrin have already decided what the outcome of this trial is to be. At the same time, they are still going through the motions, trying to make this seem a legitimate trial. Realistically this could be explained on the basis that they wanted to discredit Jesus in the eyes of the Jewish people and likely they were trying to save face with the Romans by presenting Jesus as a tried and convicted man.

To do this, they entertained many false witnesses. You can almost imagine the chief priests rounding up their cronies and manufacturing stories against Jesus, twisting the truth to suit their own ends. Yet, something wonderful happens. The Sanhedrin sitting as judge and jury over Jesus cannot find two witnesses that agree on their stories. You can almost see the frustration in their faces as they bear the contrived stories of witness after witness (that they have sought out even!) who cannot agree on what they heard and saw.

So what is the big deal? Why bother finding witnesses who can corroborate each other’s stories? It is meant as a false trial anyway. Their goal was not to slap Jesus on the wrist nor was it to imprison him. Their goal was to see him dead and according to Jewish law, no person can be put to death unless on the testimony of two or three reliable witnesses (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6). They looked hard and wide and eventually found their witnesses, but it likely took some coaching. That is the significance of Matthew’s statement that eventually two emerged — they were looking for, as Mark points out, two false witnesses whose false accounts agreed with one another.

God is Truth and there is no darkness within him. The only way one can accuse the Lord of Truth is with the lies of the devil — false and manufactured — twisted realities to suit wicked ends. The bottom line is that while Truth can exist on its own, evil must have truth to twist and manipulate. Yet, how often we are guilty of allowing our ideas to be warped and twisted by the false witnesses out there in the name of tolerance or out of the fear of consequences if you speak truth in an unpopular way. The bottom line is that we must let our witness of Christ be visible and clear in this world around us, if we don’t, we are no less guilty than the procession of false witnesses that walked before this morning of Jesus’ trial.

The Love of Money…

“And the servant brought out items of silver and items of gold, also garments and gave them to Rebekah. Precious gifts he also gave to her brother and to her mother.”

(Genesis 24:53)


For some reason, the ESV, the NIV, and the KJV translations have chosen to render the word yIlÚVk (keliy) as “jewels” or “jewelry.” The normal meaning of the word has little to do with jewelry one would wear but applies more generally to items, vessels, or implements that would be ornamented with silver or gold. These items might have consisted of anything from eating plates and utensils to a ceremonial knife or other things that might be so decorated. It is assumed by the translation committees of the aforementioned versions that because these gifts are being given to a woman along with clothing, so that they must be forms of jewelry. Yet such is an inference not necessitated by the text. Being as these are gifts given as a form of promise to Rebekah that she will be well provided for, to envision these things as ornate household items might be more appropriate.

What I find more interesting is that the things given to Rebekah are given with detail, but that given to her mother and brother are just generally noted as “precious gifts.” Clearly Eliezer has been well stocked with wealth on this journey and the gifts are meant to be understood as abundant treasures offered to her and to her family, but what is given to Rebekah is far more important than what is given to her family, noting once again that it is to Rebekah’s mother and brother gifts are given, not to her father, again implying that Laban is functioning more or less as the head of the household by this point in time.

You know it is interesting how we sometimes live with respect to earthly treasures. On one level, most of us in the western world work very hard to provide “good things” to our families but at the same time feel guilty about having good things when we realize the condition in which most of the world lives. We live a bit like Jekyll and Hyde in this way. Abraham was remarkably wealthy by ancient and modern standards. He had gold and silver in abundance, a secure place to lie down at night and rest, servants, animals, food, etc… And Abraham was not afraid to use his wealth to achieve his goals nor was he embarrassed about the way God had blessed him — his wealth was God’s doing, something that Abraham never lost sight of.

Scripture does not tell us that money is the root of all evils, but that the love of money is the root of all sorts of evils (1 Timothy 6:10). The question then is not so much the money, but where your heart is — or where your treasure is, for there your heart will be (Matthew 6:19-21). Ultimately, money is a tool. It is a tool we can use to help others and glorify God or it is a tool which we can use to harm ourselves. The question is how we use this tool today. Do we sit and dream of money so that we can live in the lap of luxury satisfying our desires? If so, one needs to put that money out of ones heart and hand. But do we recognize money as a tool that God can use in our lives not just to provide for our own needs, but to minister to others? If it is the latter, it will do good and not harm.

It has been estimated that if Americans would cut back on their Christmas purchasing by one-half and then use those funds to provide for others, we could provide clean drinking water for the entire planet all year long as well as put a Bible into the hands of every human being who does not have one. If every Christian church in America would have have a family who would adopt two children out of foster care (or two families each adopting one child…) then there would be no more foster children in our country — all would have Christian families. Similarly, if every Christian church in America would take in and provide for two homeless people, homelessness in America would be eradicated. But what do we do with our resources?

Jesus did not say that everyone needed to go and give all they had to the poor, that counsel was reserved for a man whose heart was bound by his wealth (Luke 18:18-30). At the same time, it is clear that some will be uncomfortable on how they have stewarded the blessings that God has given to them. May we be stewards that multiply the kingdom of God rather than multiplying our own comforts. The author of Hebrews writes:

“May the manner of your life not be marked by greed and be content with what you have, for he has spoken: ‘I will never leave you behind nor will I ever forsake you.’”

(Hebrews 13:5)


“You love evil over good;

A lie over speaking righteousness.


(Psalm 52:5 {verse 3 in English Translations})


Selah! Indeed, Selah! We arrive at the first stanza break and we begin to ready ourselves for the affirmation that God’s name will be vindicated; David is moving from despair over what has taken place to reminding his soul that God is just and the wicked will be utterly destroyed. If there is a sense of pity here, it is because the wicked know that they will receive the judgment of God, yet pursue their evil schemes in spite of that knowledge.

As we have noted in discussions of other psalms, we do not know what the word “selah” means. Most suggest it is a liturgical term long lost to history, but exactly what that term indicated is anyone’s best guess. Some suggest that it indicates a key change, others suggest that it is a musical interlude. Others have suggested that it is a place where the singer would raise his voice. It comes from the verb that means to “throw or hurl something away from you.” Perhaps it could be a reminder that these verses are being sung not simply to one another, but lifted up toward God and hurled in his direction as a prayer. The only thing that we can be absolutely sure of is that no one is absolutely sure of what they mean.

Regardless of the meaning of “selah,” the meaning of the rest of the verse is clear. The wicked have set their hearts on evil instead of good and they are committed to lying over speaking words of truth, justice, and righteousness. How sad it is that we live in a world where we are surrounded by those who would choose wickedness over righteousness. Yet, it ought to grieve our hearts further that we live in a world where so many who profess faith in Christ choose to treat lying (one of the things that God considers evil) so casually. “It won’t hurt anyone” or “it is just a ‘little-white-lie’” people profess. Because God is truth, a lie either great or small, is a departure from living out God’s character in our lives — more importantly, as Satan is the Father of Lies (John 8:44), it reflects that we cannot discern the difference between God and Satan in whose character we are seeking to live out.

There was a time when the Christian’s word was considered his bond and assurance. No longer in our culture is that so. Today, many professing Christians live out their lives in ways that are little different than the pagans around them and then turn around and wonder why the non-believing world has such a low view of the church. If we wish to see our culture change, the culture of the Christian church will need to lead the way. Seeking the goodness — the character of God — in our lives needs to be the pillars on which our lives are supported both individually and corporately as the body of Christ. It is a transformation that can take place in a generation, the question is whether or not we are willing to commit ourselves to making that transformation.

Why Doesn’t God Just Obliterate the Devil and thus Get Rid of Evil?

Why doesn’t God just obliterate the Devil?


            One of the projects that we engage in at Rocky Bayou Christian School is that of helping to train students how to defend their faith when it is challenged.  One of the ways in which we do so is to pose questions to the student body that challenge the faith and then challenge them to write out a response for a prize.  Each of these questions are drawn from atheistic websites, blogs, books, or movies to ensure that the questions we use are ones actually being presented by unbelievers.

            This month’s question is, “Why doesn’t God just obliterate the Devil and thus get rid of evil—and if he can, what is he waiting for?”  The question itself comes from the trailer for Bill Mayer’s new movie, “Religulous.”  The movie is presented as a documentary—more a “mock-u-mentary,” designed to poke fun at religious people.  In his interview on Larry King Live this past August, Mayer gives the motivation for asking this question.  Mayer states that religion is “the ultimate hustle,” that Christian leaders “need” the Devil, “because if God got rid of the devil—and he could because he is all-powerful—then there is no fear, there is no reason to come to church, there is no reason to pass the plate, we are all out of a job…”  This statement falls on the heels of the comment, “at some point, mankind is going to have to shed this skin (Religion) if he is going to move forward.  I do have a serious intellectual problem with it, and on another level, it just ticks me off…”

            It is worth making one more comment about the interview on an indirectly related note:  when speaking about the afterlife and the Christian’s view that we know what will happen to us after we die, Mayer makes a wonderfully true comment.  Mayer states, “unless a God told you personally what happens to you when you die, it all came from another person with no more mental powers than you.”  And that is exactly the point.  God did come and tell us what will happen to us when we die, and he tells us the way that leads to eternal life, which is through a relationship with Jesus Christ, and the way that leads to death, which is the way that Mayer seems to have chosen to pursue—to reject Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.  And we have these words of God recorded for us in the Bible.

            How do we know that the Bible is the Word of God and not the writings of men, as I would presume Mayer would assert?  While my point here is not to present a full defense for the inspiration and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures (as others have written excellent volumes on just that subject), let me set forth several basic points. 

            The first thing that we must present is that the Bible itself claims to be God’s word.  Now, your initial response very well may be to assert that a statement like this is circular reasoning.  And on some level, it is.  But let us pose the question, what might be true about the Bible if this statement about it being God’s word is true?  We would expect, were it written by God, that all of the facts that it contains are true.  And indeed, while evolutionists would assert that the creation story is untrue, evolution is a theory based on a speculation of the order of events.  The “mountains” of evidence that so many evolutionists point toward are illusory, and Creation Scientists can present interpretations of the evidence that are arguably more compelling than the evolutionary models, and which are consistent with Scripture.  If you doubt this, try getting a college Biology professor to agree to debate with a Creation Scientist—you will find it to be a rather challenging task.  The Creation Scientists are willing, but the evolutionists are not—basic logic should tell you that they are hiding something if they are unwilling to engage in such debates.

            But let us look at events that are clearly documented in history.  What we find when we examine the archaeological evidence is that there is nothing to contradict the historical Biblical account.  In addition, when we compare Biblical records of historical events with extra-Biblical documents of the same age, we find once again that there are no contradictions.  There are more textual accounts, for example, to the life of Jesus than there are for example to the life of Julius Caesar, but no-one doubts that Julius Caesar lived, nor do they doubt the historicity of his writings. 

            In addition, we might not only expect that the history that the Bible records is accurate, but we might also expect that the things that it foretells is also accurate.  Now, certainly all of the things that the Bible foretells have not yet come to pass, but there are hundreds upon hundreds of prophesies that the Bible did foretell that did come to pass.  For example, Isaiah prophesied that the man who would be used of God to return the exiles to Jerusalem would be named Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1), a prophesy that was given roughly 200 years before the event took place.  There are numerous prophesies that are given about the coming Messiah as well—that he was to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), that a forerunner would be sent (Malachi 3:1), that he would be rejected by his people (Psalm 118:22-23), numbered with transgressors (Isaiah 53:12), that the soldiers would divide Jesus’ garments (Psalm 22:18), and that in his death his bones would not be broken, but his side pierced (Exodus 12:46, Zechariah 12:10).  We could go on, as there are many more, but as a friend of mine who used to be in the meat packing industry regularly says, “If the sample is true and free from bacteria, the whole lot is likely true and free from bacteria.”  In other words, to prove that a tree has roots you don’t need to dig up every tree, but only a representative sample.  Time after time, it can be documented that Biblical prophesies have come to pass.  By every scientific measure, then, one must accept the validity of the whole.

            One might also suggest that if the Bible were written by God himself, it would be true and without contradictions.  And indeed, that is exactly the case.  It is granted that there are some people who would point out that the Bible does seem to contradict itself on occasion, but in each of these cases, the contradictions are only apparent ones noted from a surface reading of the text.  Reasonable explanations can be given for each of these apparent contradictions.  One thing that we have learned from the discipline of forensic science is that in crimes, oftentimes very unusual events take place.  And while a crime may at first seem to have taken place in one way, when all of the evidence is examined, rational explanations can be given for why the initial assumptions were wrong.  If one is going to seek to say that the Bible contradicts itself, all of the evidence, both internal and external, must be examined before any rational conclusions can be reached.  I suggest that once that examination is made, the Scriptures will be recognized to be internally consistent.

            Though I don’t mean to belabor the point, but I want to make several more practical observations about the Bible that only seek to affirm that it is God’s word.  First of all, one of the things that separate the Bible from mythic and religious writings of the ancient times is that it gives accurate names as well as detailed historical as well as geographical information.  Most ancient religious documents are rather vague when it comes to such details so that they cannot be refuted.  The Bible presents this kind of information, and as noted above, it is not found in error when challenged.  Secondly, the Bible has had a greater impact on the events of worldwide history in a way that no other book can claim.  Nations have risen and fallen around the contents and teachings of this book.  Philosophies have emerged with the contents of this book as their foundations.  The bible is the most widely-read book in history and even non-believers have benefited from its insights and wisdom into human nature.  In addition, people have been willing to die for the veracity of this book in a way that no other book can claim in history.  And finally, on a very pastoral note, the Bible has the ability to bring peace to a dying person’s heart unlike any other book in human history.  When folks are on their deathbeds, they typically do not ask for someone to read from Shakespeare’s sonnets, but regularly ask to have some of the Psalms read to them.  This again is a sign that the words of this book transcend humanity and are found to be of divine origin.  No other book, religious or secular, can claim the authority that the Bible claims for itself, and it is irrational to ask for a higher authority to attest to the divinity of the Bible than God himself because God himself is the highest authority—and He claims thousands of times in the scriptures that these words are his own.  If you doubt that this book is truly God’s word, I challenge you to sit down and give the Bible an honest read from cover to cover, examining the evidence for and against, before you seek to challenge its authority.

            Now, as to answering Mayer’s specific question about why God does not destroy the Devil and thus rid the world of evil?  To answer this question well, there are several things we need to take into account.  First of all, there is an important distinction that needs to be made between the Devil and evil in the sense that even if the Devil were to cease to exist tomorrow, there would still be evil in the world.  The name “Devil” comes from the Greek term, dia/boloß (diabolos), which literally refers to one who engages in slander against another (certainly something that Mayer is guilty of when it comes to God).  In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, dia/boloß (diabolos) is typically used to translate !j’f’ (Satan), which means, “accuser.”  Satan is described as the accuser of the faithful (Zechariah 3:1-2; Job 1) and one who incites to sin (1 Chronicles 21:1).  The Devil, in turn, is described as tempter (Matthew 4:1), enemy of God (Matthew 13:39), betrayer (John 6:70), murderer and Father of Lies (John 8:44), oppressor of God’s people (Acts 10:38), enemy of righteousness (Acts 13:10), the one who sets snares for God’s people (1 Timothy 3:7), and the father of those who make a practice of sinning (1 John 3:7-10).  Ultimately it will be the devil and those who serve him who will be thrown into the lake of fire to be tormented eternally (Revelation 20:10,15).  Thus, in a sense, part of Meyer’s answer is answered.  God has promised that he will destroy the devil, but such will not take place until all of God’s elect have been brought to faith (arguably Christ’s return is keyed to the death of the last martyr [Revelation 7:11]). 

            Before I address the question of evil and it being taken out of the world, I want to address the follow-up question that Meyer posed—what is God waiting for?  In other words, the question can be rephrased—why doesn’t God just get on with it?  In a sense, the answer was given just above—God is waiting for the final predestined believer to come to faith/the last martyr to give his life for the Holy faith.  To understand this better, it is important to look at how Peter addressed this very question in his second epistle.  Peter was dealing with those who were scoffing and saying “nothing has changed since the old days—where is this God of yours?”  It is almost as if Peter were writing to Mayer on this very issue—or perhaps Mayer isn’t overly creative in asking questions.  Peter states that the reason God is taking what seems to us to be a long time is not because God is slow to act, but because God is patient, being willing to endure the mocking and scoffing of unbelievers until the very last member of his elect has been brought to faith (2 Peter 3:8-10).  Thus, in God’s eternal decree before the foundation of the earth, when he chose his elect throughout history (Ephesians 1:4), God also determined to stay his hand of eternal judgment long enough for the very last believer would be brought to faith—he will not lose even one of those who he has so ordained to become his own (John 10:28).

            Finally, we are left with the question of evil.  The first thing to note is that while the concept of sin is related to the concept of evil, they are not synonymous.  The Old Testament word for sin derives from the Hebrew verb aj’x’ (chata), which means to miss the mark or target that one is aiming at.  Thus, sin is missing the mark of God’s righteous character or not being able to live up to his standard.  In turn, the antonym of sin is righteousness.  In contrast, the Hebrew word for evil is [r: (ra), and it is typically used as the antonym of bAT (tov), or “good.”  Deuteronomy 30:15 presents this contrast quite clearly where Moses presents the people with the following statement:  “See, I put before you this day the life and the good—the death and the evil.”  In other words, that which is good and that which is evil are seen as the necessary results of obedience or disobedience respectively, or in the context of our discussion—good and evil are the results of a righteous lifestyle or a sinful lifestyle.  One might take the concept one step farther, understanding the fall of mankind as described in Genesis 3 as the entrance of evil into the world, that good is ultimately reflected in what it was like to live in an unfallen world and evil is reflected in what it is like to live in a fallen world.

            So why does God permit us to live in a world that is less than perfect and is often filled with evil rather than with good?  Admittedly, such a time is only for a season, for there will come a time when Jesus will return and remake the heavens and the earth free from the effects of evil—restoring the world to an unfallen state, but with one catch—we will no longer be able to fall into sin.  Yet, for now, we live in a fallen world and not only do we sin, but we are forced to endure not only evil people all around us, but also evil events that take place—events that are reflective of the fall of mankind.  So why does a good God permit such evil?  First of all, God permits such to go on in the world around us to remind us of the effects of our sinful actions and hopefully compel us to grieve over our own sin as well as the sins of others.  Secondly, evil in the world around us stands as a constant testimony against the secular humanists and almost every other religious system.  Most religions and the secular humanists believe that deep down mankind is good and that it will only truly become good when it “sheds the skin” of religion and moves forward apart from God.  The Bible tells us quite the opposite.  We are born in sin (Psalm 51:5) and we pursue sin (Romans 3:10-12) with all of our strength apart from a movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  If mankind were good, then mankind would be perfecting itself and wars and political oppression and greed would come to an end.  Yet we are sinners, and thus we stumble and fall into sin.  Mankind is fallen and evil is a constant testimony to that fallenness.  A final reason for God’s permission of evil in the world is that he uses evil to strengthen Christians in their faith.  Facing evil, trials, and tribulations force us to draw closer to God and to rely on his strength and thus grow in our relationship to him.

            In other words, for the Christian, while evil is something that we never desire to enter into our lives, when it does, such evil things are not necessarily bad.  In fact, in many cases, the scriptures remind us that it is good to face evil things so long as we are relying upon God, for such cases will grow us to be stronger in our relationship with Jesus Christ.  One final note—while the final destruction of the Devil will not take place before the second coming of our Lord, Jesus did once and for all time defeat the power of the devil upon the cross of Calvary.  Yet, though Satan has been defeated, we must endure for a little while longer while God works out his plan in the world.

            In a nutshell—God does has already destroyed the Devil and has promised to cast him in the lake of fire in the end times.  Second, God is waiting for the last of the elect to come to faith and/or the last martyr to die.  Third, even if the Devil were thrown into the pit tomorrow, we would still have evil in the world due to the fall of man and man’s sin—something that can only be remedied through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Fourth, evil is not always bad though it is always unpleasant.  God often uses evil to bring about his work in this world as well as using it to sanctify and mature us in the faith.