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WHY IS THERE EVIL?

A SERMON DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
15 FEBRUARY 1998

Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
<flh@all-creatures.org>

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES:

Genesis 1:31; 2:9, 17, 24-25;
    3:7, 21; 4:7
Exodus 23:1-3
Joshua 24:15
Isaiah 11:9; 31:1-2

Matthew 5:27-28; 19:8-9
Revelation 21:4

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Some of the most commonly asked questions of truly sensitive people are:

Why is there evil?

Why is there so much evil in the world?

If God is so powerful, why doesn't He put an end to all this evil?

To begin to answer these questions, we first need to come to an understanding of the most common Biblical meaning of "evil".

The basic meaning is rooted in the Hebrew word, "raw", which is used approximately 800 times in the Bible in its various forms.

The most common meaning, as a noun, is the opposite of good, which in Hebrew is "tohb", as in Genesis 2:9 and 17 where God speaks of the tree of the knowledge of good (tohb) and evil (raw).

When used as an adjective, it has the moral meaning of doing what is against the will of God (i.e. evil intent), or of rejecting Him, which, by definition would also include His teachings or commandments, as we are told in Isaiah 31:2, but to keep these words in context let's look at verse 1 also.

1    Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!

2    Yet he also is wise, and will bring evil, and will not call back his words: but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the help of them that work iniquity.
(KJV)

Verse 2 is interesting because it uses the word "evil" as both an act as well as a state of being.

God will bring "evil", the opposite of "good" upon those who do "evil" things, those who transgress the will of God, and those who help them.

God did not want the Israelites to go to Egypt for help.  He wanted them to return wholeheartedly to Him, but the people didn't listen; they transgressed the will of God; they did what was "evil" in the sight of God.

It is here that we also come the closest to understanding why there is evil.

The Israelites had a choice; they had a will of their own; they could choose between obeying God, and not obeying Him.

In this light, Joshua 24:15 is a very interesting verse, for it uses the word "evil" in conjunction with our God given ability to choose.

15    And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
(KJV)

Joshua presents a very interesting aspect of our "free-will" choice.  We are even given the ability to deny the truth and accept the lie.

We can even choose to call good, "evil", and evil, "good".

This may not be right, and it may not be what God desires, but God has chosen to give us this choice.

Listen to the commandment given to us in Exodus 23:1-3.

1    "Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness.

2    "Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong [or evil]. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd,


3    and do not show favoritism to a poor man in his lawsuit.
(NIV)

So, the obvious question arises:  Did God create evil?

I could find no reference in the entire Bible where God is said to have created evil, but there are numerous ones in which He is said to bring evil upon evildoers as we saw in Isaiah 31:2.

That which is "evil" is that which is in opposition to the "goodness" of God.

Thus, if we return to the creation story of Genesis 1 and 2, we see that everything that God created was "good"; in fact, as God looked back upon everything he had created, He said that it was "very good" (Genesis 1:31).

Therefore, by applying simple logic to the situations and questions before us, we come to the conclusion that anything that is done in opposition to the original "goodness" of creation, is "evil".

Even if God allowed it, or conceded it, as a way of paying back the people's "evilness" with "evil", such acts are nevertheless "evil".

God allows our own "evilness" to come back upon our heads to teach us a lesson that we would change our ways, that we would turn away from the "evil", and not devise ways of living in that "evil" state.

The best example of this in the Bible is Jesus' discussion on divorce (Matthew 19:3-9), but for the purpose of our discussion today let's look at verses 8-9.

8    Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.

9    I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."
(NIV)

And if we take this back to the original context of the culture, if a woman was found not to be a virgin at the time of her marriage, it would be annulled.

However, if the marriage went forward, it was to be for life.

Nevertheless, we have made divorce and second marriage an institution in this world, and even though we may not want to accept it, such a state is "evil", as it is against the will and original creation intent of God, as we are told in Genesis 2:24, but as we look at this verse let's also consider verse 25.

24    For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

25    The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
(NIV)

Verse 25 adds another dimension to our discussion.

The reason that Adam and Eve were unashamed is that they  had no lustful feelings; thus, we come to understand that the original "good" created state was to be free of these "evil" feelings.

But the minute they disobeyed God, and ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they allowed this "evil" state to exist in their lives, as we are told in Genesis 3:7.

7    Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
(NIV)

The way that they now looked upon each other was embarrassing, so they sought to cover themselves.

It wasn't that they were living in an "evil" physical state of being, for they were not.  They were still in the same state of being in which God created them.

However, now the spiritual side of their life was contaminated, and they, in their minds, made that which was "good" to be seen as "evil", because of the lust in their eyes.

Let's apply this to another of Jesus' teachings (Matthew 5:27-28).

27    "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.'

28    But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
(NIV)

This particular "evilness" is in the lust of the eye, which has been acquired and not created.

It is not in the original created state of man or woman.

Let's look at something else.

The original created state had no death.

Anything, therefore, that brings forth death is "evil".

When Adam and Eve disobeyed the Lord, their sin ushered in a state of "evil" into the once perfect and "good" created paradise of the Garden.

As we said above the first sign was that of their lustful feelings, the second was their own death, though not visible at the time, it would one day befall them, and every other being.

The death that became apparent was that of the animal or animals who died, and whose skins covered Adam and Eve. (Genesis 3:21)

This death of an innocent animal, a friend, was to so abhor them, that they would never disobey God again.

But even if they never sinned again, "evil" was still present in the world.

But now, they also had the knowledge to discern the difference between "good" and "evil"; they could choose; they could choose that which was "good", or that which was "evil".

And this is exactly what the Lord told Cain (Genesis 4:7).

7    If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."
(NIV)

Cain was given a choice.  He chose the "evil" side of life, and killed his brother.

And prior to this, Abel apparently killed one of the first born of his flock, and brought it forth as a "sin" offering to God.

God accepted it, because Abel was repentant, not because He was happy with the death of that animal.

Life had become cheap.  It was easier to choose to kill an innocent animal than it was to choose to do "good".

The easier choice was nevertheless still "evil", for it was not according to God's original intent of the creation He spoke into existence.

The killing was against the will of God.

And things continued to go down hill from there.

And when people realized they could also make a profit from death and killing, "evil" was multiplied.

Is it any wonder why the prophets spoke out so strongly against this practice, and why Jesus cleansed the Temple.

We don't have time this morning to go into all these prophetic passages; so, consider them your homework assignment.

There are, however, two additional Bible verses that we should consider, for they are intended to give us hope that one day this "evil" will be eliminated, and that we will once again return to the "good" that God desired from the beginning (Isaiah 11:9 and Revelation 21:4).

Isa 11:9
9    They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
(NIV)

Rev 21:4
4    And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
(KJV)

As far as we're concerned, we can and should make a difference in this world, even today, especially today, for God has given us the insight and wisdom to eliminate much of this "evil" from our lives.

God, however, has still given us choice in this matter.  We can choose to eliminate this ever growing "evil", or we can sit back and do nothing, this choice is ours.

But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord according to His original intent, working day and night, to what ever extent possible, to eliminate this "evil" from the earth.

And I pray this is the sentiment of all of us.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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