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Whate’re My God Ordains is Right (Luke 22:31-32)

“Simon, Simon, Satan has appealed to sift you like grain, but I have interceded regarding you in order that your faith might not fail. And at the point when you return, undergird your brothers.”

(Luke 22:31-32)

“And Satan answered Yahweh and said, ‘Is it not without cause that Job fears God? Have you not put up a hedge of protection around him and around his house and around all that is his—surrounding him? You repeatedly bless the work of his hands and his cattle cover the land. However, I beg you to stretch our your hand and strike all that is his and see if he won’t curse you to your face.”

(Job 1:9-11)

How similar this event is to the account of Job being tested. The Christian walk is not one that is meant to be an easy walk, but one where we will be tried and tested in every way as we walk along life. Yet notice the promise that Jesus makes to Peter. Satan will make his attack, but Jesus is the one interceding for him. How the same may be said for us as well. Yet, so often, we give in willfully to temptation and in doing so betray that we do not really trust Christ’s intercession as much as we say we trust it. How often the temptation to sin seems an overwhelming pull, yet neither Peter nor Job fell away—they stumbled and sinned, that is clear, but never cursed God and gave in to lessen their burden. Judas, on the other hand, took a different route in his grief.

That raises an interesting question. Why was Christ willing to intercede that Peter might return to faith and not willing to intercede in the same way for Judas? He certainly could have had he chosen to, and had Jesus chosen to, what a witness that would have given Judas—it would have been one much like the Apostle Paul, the one who persecuted and murdered believers. Yet, in God’s electing work, that was not the plan for Judas. Why one and not the other? On some level, we are not really fit to ask, for God has not revealed the fullness of his plan of election. On another level, the answer we must give for God’s electing of Peter and not Judas is that it was done for God’s own glory and for his praise. Though we do not always understand the why’s and wherefores of our God, the praise of his glory should ever be on our tongue—it should be the center of our thought, the joy of our heart, and the awe of our being. Who can say that they are a counselor to God (Romans 11:34)? Indeed, what He does is right and for all of the right reasons—some of those reasons he reveals to us, others he does not—and so it is with God.

Oh, the depths of the riches and of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!  How unfathomable are his decrees and incomprehensible are his ways!

For who is he who knows the mind of the Lord?

Who is he that has become his counselor?

Who is he that first gave to him that he might receive repayment?

For out of him and through him and for him are all things.

For to him is the glory unto eternity, amen!

(Romans 11:33-36)

Whate’er my God ordains is right:

His holy will abideth;

I will be still whate’er He doth;

And follow where He guideth;

He is my God; though dark my road,

He holds me that I shall not fall:

Wherefore to Him I leave it all.

-Samuel Rodigast

The Scandal (Matthew 26:31; Mark 14:27)

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘All of you will be scandalized by me tonight, for it is written, ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’’”

(Matthew 26:31)

“And Jesus said to them, ‘All of you will be scandalized, because it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd and the flock will be scattered.’’”

(Mark 14:27)

“Scandalized?” We mean something a little different today when we speak of a scandal than they did two-thousand years ago, but not as different as you might think. The word that Jesus uses here is the Greek word, skandali/zw (skandalizo), which is where we get the English word of the same root.  Today, we refer to a scandal as any action that we feel is morally wrong and that gets folks upset. There are political scandals, celebrity scandals, and social scandals. We consider them both shocking and outrageous, though we are often drawn to them out of morbid curiosity, which is why scandals sell so many newspapers and magazines.

In Greek, the term skandali/zw (skandalizo) means either to cause someone to fall into sin or to be shocked and offended by someone or something. In other words, a scandal could be much like we use the term today, but it can also refer to a case where something is so far outside of societal norms that people simply cannot accept what is taking place. Typically, though, in the Greek language, a scandal was a statement or an event that would cause others to fall into sin, and certainly the abandonment of Christ by the disciples was just that: sin.  But why would Jesus set his disciples up for such a scandal?

Some, I have heard, have suggested that Jesus permitted this to protect his disciples from arrest or harm, but this view seriously underestimates the power of the Son of God who could call down a host of angels with but a word. Likely a better answer is that Jesus is showing his disciples (and us) the nature of man. In fear, we will flee and fall into sin if left on our own. We do not naturally do what is right thanks to our first parents, Adam and Eve, and these disciples will clearly fall into that pattern. And thus, God permits them their sin to show them their own depravity. After the resurrection, not one of them would be able to say to the other, “I stayed behind, I was faithful while you were not!” No, even the spokesman for the Apostles would have to say, “I denied the Lord not once, but three times.”

There is no room for pride of personal achievement in the service of Christ. We, like the Apostles, would have fled and do flee on a daily basis as it testified to by our actions. When the subject of Christian faith is brought up at the store, at a family gathering, or amongst coworkers, we typically hush up or comment that religion is a personal thing and a decision that everyone has to make on their own. Of course, we do not keep our opinions of politics or economics to ourselves in the same settings. What is the difference? Apart from the fact that one is infinitely more important and objectively more correct than the other, like the apostles, Christ often is a scandal to us. Jesus said, “Confess me before men and I will confess you before my Father” (Matthew 10:32). I wonder sometimes at how often Christ is confessing our names before his Father’s throne.

Beloved, this event would show the Apostles their depravity and would break them and humble them, taking them to the very brink of despair. Judas committed suicide over what he had done (Matthew 27:5). Learn from their failure. Jesus preserved his own through this event, but he permitted their sin nonetheless. If pride is seeping into our lives, God will do the same with us; yet, how blessed is the man who learns from those before him and speaks honestly and boldly about the truth of Christ to the glory of God. May we all strive toward that end.