March 18: Is This “Bad” from God?
Numbers 20–21; 1 Corinthians 3:1–4:21; Psalm 18:31–50
God has granted us incredible grace in the salvation that Jesus’ death and resurrection offers, but that very grace is often used as a theological excuse. It’s dangerous to say that bad things come from God, but there are times when they actually do. What makes them good is how He uses them to help us grow. The great grace God offers doesn’t mean our sins go unpunished.
We see God directly issue what seems “bad” in Num 21:5–7. First we’re told: “The people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us from Egypt to die in the desert? There is no food and no water, and our hearts detest this miserable food’ ” (Num 21:5). Then, Yahweh sends poisonous snakes that bite the people, causing them to die (Num 21:6). Why would a good God do such a horrific thing?
In Numbers 21:1–4, the people had experienced a miraculous victory against the Canaanites living in Arad—a people they were losing to, and should have lost to, until Yahweh intervened. Yahweh showed Himself to be loyal and true; yet, the people still rebelled.
When Yahweh punishes the people with the snakes, it’s not because He wants to; it’s because He needs to. And the result is worth it. The people say to Moses, “We have sinned because we have spoken against Yahweh and against you. Pray to Yahweh and let him remove the snakes from among us” (Num 21:7). In their response, they show faith in Yahweh and His ability to change the situation. They also show faith in the leader He appointed to them: Moses.
God sent this “bad” thing because He knew it would be a good thing (compare 1 Cor 11:30–32). This knowledge should make us boldly proclaim, as the psalmist does, “For who is God apart from Yahweh and who is a rock except our God?” (Psa 18:31).
What currently seems “bad” that is really a result of God responding to your disobedience?
JOHN D. BARRY
- Then the children of Israel came with the whole Congregation to the desert of Zin in the first month, and the people abode at Kadesh: where Miriam died, and was buried there. But there was no water for the Congregation, and they assembled themselves against Moses and against Aaron. And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God we had perished when our brethren died before the Lord. Why have ye thus brought the Congregation of the Lord unto this wilderness, that both we and our cattle should die there? Wherefore now have ye made us to come up from Egypt, to bring us into this miserable place, which is no place of seed, nor figs, nor vines, nor pomegranates? neither is there any water to drink. Then Moses and Aaron went from the assembly unto the door of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, and fell upon their faces: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto them. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take the rod, and gather thou and thy brother Aaron the Congregation together, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes, and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the Congregation and the beasts drink. Then Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he had commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the Congregation together before the rock: and Moses said unto them, Hear now ye rebels: shall we bring you water out of this rock? Then Moses lift up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice, and the water came out abundantly: so the Congregation , and their beasts drank. Again, the Lord spoke unto Moses, and to Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the presence of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this Congregation into the land which I have given them. This is the water of Meribah, because the children of Israel strove with the Lord, and he was sanctified in them. Then Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, saying, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that we have had, How our fathers went down into Egypt, and we dwelt in Egypt a long time, where the Egyptians handled us evil and our fathers. But when we cried unto the Lord, he heard our voice, and sent an Angel, and hath brought us out of Egypt, and behold, we are in the city of Kadesh, in thine utmost border. I pray thee that we may pass through thy country: we will not go through the fields nor the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king’s way, and neither turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we be past thy borders. And Edom answered him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword. Then the children of Israel sai unto him, We will go up by the highway: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, I will then pay for it: I will only (without any harm) go through on my feet. He answered again, Thou shalt not go through, Then Edom came out against him with much people, and with a mighty power. Thus Edom denied to give Israel passage through his country: wherefore Israel turned away from him. And when the children of Israel with all the Congregation departed from Kadesh, they came unto mount Hor. And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the mount Hor near the coast of the land of Edom, saying, Aaron shall be gathered unto his people: for he shall not enter into the land, which I have given unto the children of Israel, because ye disobeyed my commandment at the water of Meribah. Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up into the mount Hor, And cause Aaron to put off his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son: for Aaron shall be gatehred to his fathers, and shall die there. And Moses di as the Lord had commanded: and they went up into the mount Hor, in the sight of all the Congregation . And Moses put off Aaron’s clothes, and put them upon Eleazar his son: so Aaron died there in the top of the mount: an Moses and Eleazar came down from off the mount. With all the Congregation saw that Aaron was dead, all the house of Israel wept for Aaron thirty days. When King Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt toward the South, heard that Israel came by the way of the spies, then fought he against Israel, and took of them prisoners. So Israel vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou wilt deliver and give this people into mine hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities. And the Lord heard the voice of Israel, and delivered them the Canaanites: and they utterly destroyed them and their cities, and called the name of the place Hormah. After they departed from the mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the people were sore grieved because of the way. And the people spake against God, and against Moses, saying, Wherefore have ye brought us out of Egypt, to die in the wilderness, for here is neither bread nor water, and our soul loatheth this light bread. Wherefore the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, which stung the people so that many of the people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned: for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee: pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us: and Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it up for a sign, that as many as are bitten, may look upon it, and live. So Moses made a serpent of brass, and set it up for a sign: and when a serpent had bitten a man, then he looked to the serpent of brass, and lived. And the children of Israel departed thence, and pitched in Oboth. And they departed from Oboth, and pitched in Ije Abarim, in the wilderness, which is before Moab on the East side. They removed thence, and pitched upon the river of Zared. Thence they departed, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, which is in the wilderness, and cometh out of the coasts of the Amorites: (for Arnon is the border of Moab, between the Moabites and the Amorites), Wherefore it shall be spoken in the book of the battles of the Lord, what thing he did in the red sea, and in the rivers of Arnon, And at the stream of the rivers that goeth down to the dwelling of Ar, and lieth upon the border of Moab. And from thence they turned to Beer: the same is well where the Lord said unto Moses, Assemble the people, and I will give them water. Then Israel sang this son, Rise up well, sing ye unto it. The princes dug this well, the captains of the people dug it, even the lawgiver, with their staves. And from the wilderness they came to Mattanah, And from Mattanah to Nahaliel, and from Nahaliel to Bamoth, And from Bamoth in the valley, that is in the plain of Moab, to the top of Pisgah, that looketh toward Jeshimon. Then Israel sent messengers unto Sihon, king of the Armotes, saying, Let me go through thy land: we will not turn aside into the fields, nor into the vineyards, neither drink of the waters of the wells: we will go by the king’s way, until we be past thy country. But Sihon gave Israel no license to pass through his country, but Sihon gave Israel no license to pass through his country, but Sihon assembled all his people, and went out against Israel into the wilderness, and he came to Jahaz, and found against Israel. But Israel smote him with the edge of the sword, and conquered his land, from Arnon unto Jabbok, even unto the children of Ammon, for the border of the children of Ammon was strong. And Israel took all these cities, and dwelt in all the cities of the Amorites in Heshbon, and in all the villages thereof. For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites, which had fought beforetime against the king of the Moabites, and had taken all his land out of his hand, even unto Arnon. Wherefore they that speak in proverbs, say, Come to Heshbon, let the city of Sihon be built and repaired. For a fire is gone out of Heshbon, and a flame from the city of Sihon, and hath consumed Ar of the Moabites, and the lords of Bamoth in Arnon. Woe be to thee, Moab: O people of Chemosh, thou art undone: he hath suffered his sons to be pursued, and his daughters to be pursued, and his daughters to be in captivity to Sihon the king of the Amorites. Their empire also is lost from Heshborn unto Dibon, and we have destroyed them unto Nophah, which reacheth unto Medeba. Thus Israel dwelt in the land of the Amorites. And Moses sent to search out Jazer, and they took the towns belonging thereto, and rooted out the Amorites that were there. And they turned, and went up toward Bashan: and Og the king of Bashan came out against them, he, and all his people, to fight at Edrei. Then the Lord said unto Moses, Fear him not: for I have delivered him into thine hand, and all his people, and his land: and thou shalt do to him as thou diddest unto Sihon the king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon. They smote him therefore, and his sons, and all his people, until there was none left him: so they conquered his land . Numbers 20–21
- And I could not speak unto you, brethren, as unto spiritual men, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, and not meat: for ye were not yet able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you, envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For when one saith, I am Paul’s, and another, I am Apollos’s are ye not carnal? Who is Paul then? and who is Apollos, but the ministers by whom ye believed, and as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. And he that planteth, and he that watereth are one, and every man shall receive his wages, according to his labor. For we together are God’s laborers: ye are God’s husbandry, and God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, as a skillful master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon: but let every man take heed how he buildeth upon it. For other foundation can no man lay, than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. And if any man build on this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, timber, hay, or stubble, Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by the fire: and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work, that he hath built upon, abide, he shall receive wages. If any man’s work burn, he shall lose, but he shall be saved himself: nevertheless yet as it were by the fire. Know ye not that ye are the Temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man destroy the Temple of God, him shall God destroy: for the Temple of God is holy, which ye are. Let no man deceive himself: If any man among you seem to be wise in this world, let him be a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God: for it is written, He catcheth the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth that the thoughts of the wise be vain. Therefore let no man rejoice in men: for all things are yours. Whether it be Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, whether they be things present, or things to come, even all are yours, And ye Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. Let a man so think of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and disposers of the secrets of God: And as for the rest, it is required of the disposers, that every man be found faithful. As touching me, I pass very little to be judged of you, or of man’s ijudgment: no, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself, yet am I not thereby justified: but he that judgeth me, is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who will lighten things that are hid in darkness, and make the counsels of the hearts manifest: and then shall every man have praise of God. Now these things, breethren, I have figuratively applied unto mine own self and Apollos, for your sakes, that ye might learn by us, that no man presume above that which is written, that one swell nor against another for any man’s cause. For who separateth thee? and what hast thou, that thou hast not received? if thou hast received it, why rejoicest thou, as though thou hadst not received it? Now ye are full: now ye are made rich: ye reign as kings without us, and would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you. For I think that God hath set forth us the last Apostles, as men appointed to death, for we are made a gassing stock unto the world, and to the Angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, and ye are wise in Christ: we are weak, and ye are strong: ye are honorable, and we are despised. Unto this hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place, And labor, working with our own hands: we are reviled, and yet we bless: we are persecuted, and suffer it. We are evil spoken of, and we pray: we are made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things, unto this time. I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I admonish you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel. Wherefore, I pray you, be followers of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timothy, which is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, which shall put you in remembrance of my ways in Christ as I teach everywhere in every Church. Some are puffed up as though I would not come unto you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and I will know, not the words of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness? 1 Corinthians 3:1–4:21
- For who is God besides the Lord? and who is mighty save our God? God girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way upright. He maketh my feet like hind’s feet, and setteth me upon mine high places. He teacheth mine hands to fight: so that a bow of brass is broken with mine arms. Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation, and thy right hand hath stayed me, and my heels have not slid. I have pursued mine enemies, and taken them, and have not turned again till I have consumed them. I have wounded them, that they were not able to rise, they are fallen under my feet. For thou hast girded me with strength to battle: them that rose against me, thou hast subdued under me. And thou hast given me the necks of mine enemies, that I might destroy them that hate me. They cried, but there was none to save them, even unto the Lord, but he answered them not. Then I did beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did tread them flat as the clay in the streets. Thou hast delivered me from the contentions of the people: thou hast made me the head of the heathen, a people, whom I have not known, shall serve me. As soon as they hear they shall obey me: the strangers shall be in subjection to me. Strangers shall shrink away, and fear in their pure chambers. Let the Lord live, and blessed be my strength, and the God of my salvation be exalted. It is God that giveth me power to avenge me, and subdued the people under me. O my deliverer from mine enemies, even thou hast set me up from those that rose against me; thou hast delivered me from cruel man. Therefore I will praise thee, O Lord, among the nations, and will sing unto thy Name. Great deliverances giveth he unto his king, and showeth mercy to his anointed, even to David, and to his seed forever. Psalm 18:31–50