Thursday, January 19, 2017

I Have Heard You Calling in the Night, Part 4

Heard You Calling, continued...

We don’t want to read the next part of the scripture. In this passage, Herod orders the death of the children in Bethlehem, because he is afraid of losing power to a new king.  This is not out of character for Herod. William Barclay says, in his commentary, “Herod was a past master in the art of assassination. He had no sooner come to the throne that he began by annihilating the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of the Jews Later he slaughtered 300 court officers out of hand. Later still he murdered his wife Mariamne, and her mother Alexandra, his eldest son Antipater, and two other sons, Alexander and Aristobulus. And in the hour of his death he arranged for the slaughter of the notable men of Jerusalem. So ordering the death of 20 or 30 young boys – nothing new for Herod.  What does this horrible act say to us?

Horrible things happen in this world.  Horrible, terrible things, that we cannot understand. We are not protected from them, and we will experience the pain of suffering and grief. We may not, thankfully, experience what the parents of these children did, but loss will come to us.

In 1944, Methodist minister, Rev. Leslie Weatherhead, delivered 5 sermons to his congregation in London. Their city was under constant siege – they were seeing death and destruction all around them – including of their church building, City Temple.  Weatherhead’s sermon series during this time was later published as a book called The Will of God. I highly recommend it.   In these sermons, he speaks about God’s will for his people, and how it is accomplished.

He suggestions God’s will can be seen in three parts:

  1. God’s Intentional Will – These are the desires of God’s heart for us, His ideal plan, flowing out of His goodness.
  2. God’s Permissive Will – This is what God will accept, given our choices, good or bad, in particular circumstances, so as to not limit the free will He has given us. 
  3. God’s Ultimate Will – This is how God achieves His ends, given man’s choices, be they good or bad. He works all things together for the good of those He called, who love Him.

Too often, for me, I hear people say, when suffering happens, that it was God’s will.  I don’t believe that. I believe God’s will for us flows out of goodness. Was it God’s will that Herod murder these children? No. Emphatically, no. God has given us free will, and accepts our choices. And yet, there is, thankfully, God’s ultimate will – and God’s ultimate will for us is good, and it will be accomplished, in spite of what we do.

God sent Joseph and Mary to Egypt to protect Jesus. So that the world transforming Christ could live to accomplish God’s ultimate will.  In the meantime, God is present with us – in the good and in the bad. God stays with us, even through our suffering.  God was with the refugees – Joseph’s family, and God was with the parents in Bethlehem, and we can rest assured that God is with us, and remains with us.

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