Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?

The utterly astonishing headlines that filled the media websites in the UK in the last 24 hours are epitomised in the one that appeared on the local BBC website yesterday, the anniversary of the launching of the divisive and duplicitous ‘Good Friday Agreement’ some twenty-six years ago.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson resigns after rape charge

The headline is inconceivable and overwhelming and it has left many in Ulster deeply shocked.

The Word of God states: “‭Are‭‭ not‭ two‭ sparrows‭ sold‭‭ for a farthing‭? and‭ one‭ of‭ them‭ shall‭‭ not‭ fall‭‭ on‭ the ground‭ without‭ your‭ Father‭,‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ Matthew 10:29. What that teaches us is the absolute sovereignty of God. Nothing happens that is not under His absolute control.

As I pondered the above news headline and the increasingly horrifying further revelations, such as that issued by the police which indicated that Mrs Donaldson has also been charged, my mind sought refuge in the Word of God!

Jeffrey Donaldson’s wife to face court on charge linked to his sex crimes case

The basic truth of our system of justice states that a person is innocent until PROVEN guilty, nevertheless the political career of Jeffrey Donaldson is over for there is really no come-back from such a situation, even if a court were to find him innocent!

As I pondered this distressing situation, there came into my mind a portion of God’s Word.

Here it is:

“‭Hear‭‭ this word‭ that the LORD‭ hath spoken‭‭ against you, O children‭ of Israel‭, against the whole family‭ which I brought up‭‭ from the land‭ of Egypt‭, saying‭‭,‭ ‭You only have I known‭‭ of all the families‭ of the earth‭: therefore I will punish‭‭ you for all your iniquities‭.‭ ‭Can two‭ walk‭‭ together‭, except‭ they be agreed‭‭?‭ ‭Will a lion‭ roar‭‭ in the forest‭, when he hath no prey‭? will a young lion‭ cry out‭‭‭ of his den‭, if he have taken‭‭ nothing‭?‭ ‭Can a bird‭ fall‭‭ in a snare‭ upon the earth‭, where no gin‭ ‭is‭ for him? shall ‭one‭ take up‭‭ a snare‭ from the earth‭, and have taken‭‭ nothing at all‭‭?‭ ‭Shall a trumpet‭ be blown‭‭ in the city‭, and the people‭ not be afraid‭‭? shall there be evil‭ in a city‭, and the LORD‭ hath not done‭‭ ‭it‭?‭ ‭Surely the Lord‭ GOD‭ will do‭‭ nothing‭, but he revealeth‭‭ his secret‭ unto his servants‭ the prophets‭.‭ ‭The lion‭ hath roared‭‭, who will not‭ fear‭‭? the Lord‭ GOD‭ hath spoken‭‭, who can but prophesy‭‭?‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ Amos 3:1-8.

This portion teaches that nothing, absolutely nothing, happens that is not part of the divine plan and purpose. I looked particularly at the words, “Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?”

The word ‘evil’ is not a reference to moral wrongdoing, for the Lord cannot author that, it being contrary to His nature and will; and though he permits it to be done by others, yet He never does it himself, nor tempts men to it. “‭Let‭‭ no man‭ say‭‭ when he is tempted‭‭,‭ I am tempted‭‭ of‭ God‭: for‭ God‭ cannot be tempted‭‭‭ with evil‭, neither‭ tempteth‭‭ he‭‭‭ any man‭:‭ ‭But‭ every man‭ is tempted‭‭, when he is drawn away‭‭ of‭ his own‭ lust‭, and‭ enticed‭‭,‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ James 1:13-14.

The word “evil” carries the meaning of ‘distress’, ‘hurtful’.

I would just add three simple observations based upon the portion of God’s Word found in the prophecy of Amos.

1. The Lord is still ‘King and Head of the Church’ — He will not allow His Word to be breached by His people with impunity.

“You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities,” verse 2. What unspeakable privileges belong to those God has called to Himself in mercy!

Abuse of such privileges will bring retribution!

We do tend to think that because the Lord is not swift to mark iniquity we can be careless and give little heed to His laws! When we sin and there is no retribution, we are tempted to believe that we may continue doing that thing! That is misunderstanding God’s kindness and abusing His mercy. No good will come of that!

2. There have been occasions when the Lord shows His holy disapproval of sin amongst His people.

“‭For‭ he that eateth‭‭ and‭ drinketh‭‭ unworthily‭, eateth‭‭ and‭ drinketh‭‭ damnation‭ to himself‭, not‭ discerning‭‭ the Lord’s‭ body‭.‭ ‭For‭‭ this‭ cause‭ many‭ ‭are‭ weak‭ and‭ sickly‭ among‭ you‭, and‭ many‭ sleep‭‭.‭ ‭For‭ if‭ we would judge‭‭ ourselves‭, we should‭ not‭ be judged‭‭.‭ ‭But‭ when we are judged‭‭, we are chastened‭‭ of‭ the Lord‭, that‭‭ we should‭‭ not‭ be condemned‭‭ with‭ the world‭,‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ 1 Corinthians 11:29-32. The folly of the Corinthian believers was severely punished.

When that happens, He would have all of His people to take note and fear!

When the Lord struck Uzzah for his folly, it is said David was ‘afraid’! “‭And when they came‭‭ to Nachon’s‭ threshingfloor‭, Uzzah‭ put forth‭‭ ‭his hand‭ to the ark‭ of God‭, and took hold‭‭ of it; for the oxen‭ shook‭‭ ‭it‭.‭ ‭And the anger‭ of the LORD‭ was kindled‭‭ against Uzzah‭; and God‭ smote‭‭ him there for ‭his‭ error‭; and there he died‭‭ by the ark‭ of God‭.‭ ‭And David‭ was displeased‭‭, because the LORD‭ had made‭‭ a breach‭ upon Uzzah‭: and he called‭‭ the name of the place‭ Perezuzzah‭ to this day‭.‭ ‭And David‭ was afraid‭‭ of the LORD‭ that day‭, and said‭‭, How shall the ark‭ of the LORD‭ come‭‭ to me?‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ 2 Samuel 6:6-9.

When Ananias‭, with‭ Sapphira‬‬, sought to deceive the Lord, they were struck down by God. In a day of blessing, sin is most severely punished amongst those enjoying the mercy! “‭But‭ a certain‭ man‭ named‭ Ananias‭, with‭ Sapphira‭ his‭ wife‭, sold‭‭ a possession‭,‭ ‭and‭ kept back‭‭ ‭part‭ of‭ the price‭, his‭ wife‭ also‭ being privy‭‭ ‭to it‭, and‭ brought‭‭ a certain‭ part‭, and laid‭‭ ‭it‭ at‭ the apostles‭’ feet‭.‭ ‭But‭ Peter‭ said‭‭, Ananias‭, why‭ hath Satan‭ filled‭‭ thine‭ heart‭‭ to lie‭‭ to the Holy‭ Ghost‭, and‭ to keep back‭‭ ‭part‭ of‭ the price‭ of the land‭?‭ ‭Whiles it remained‭‭, was it not‭ thine own‭‭‭? and‭ after it was sold‭‭, was it not‭‭ in‭ thine own‭ power‭? why‭‭ hast thou conceived‭‭ this‭ thing‭ in‭ thine‭ heart‭? thou hast‭‭ not‭ lied‭‭ unto men‭, but‭ unto God‭.‭ ‭And‭ Ananias‭ hearing‭‭ these‭ words‭ fell down‭‭, and gave up the ghost‭‭: and‭ great‭ fear‭ came‭‭ on‭ all‭ them that heard‭‭ these things‭,‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ Acts 5:1-5. There was a realisation that God did not take sin amongst His people lightly!

Sadly, all too often that foolish notion takes hold of the hearts and minds of Christians!

3. The Lord would have His servants emphasise these truths for the good of God’s people.

“Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets . . . who can but prophesy‭‭?‭” verses 7-8.

He requires His servants to explain the matter should it happen! There is a tendency to silently ignore such an event as the intervention by God in the affairs of men to the exposing of sin. Yes, we are to avoid the error of the three ‘friends’ of Job and presumptuously pass harsh criticism on those so afflicted. The Lord was not pleased with Eliphaz‭ the Temanite‭, Bildad‭ the Shuhite‭, and Zophar‭ the Naamathite‬‬‬‬‬, for they has misread the circumstances of Job and passed inexact criticism upon him. “‭And it was ‭so‭, that after‭ the LORD‭ had spoken‭‭ these words‭ unto Job‭, the LORD‭ said‭‭ to Eliphaz‭ the Temanite‭, My wrath‭ is kindled‭‭ against thee, and against thy two‭ friends‭,‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ Job 42:7.

“‭Wherefore‭, my‭ beloved‭ brethren‭, let‭‭ every‭ man‭ be‭‭ swift‭ to‭ hear‭‭, slow‭ to‭ speak‭‭, slow‭ to‭ wrath‭:‭ ‭for‭ the wrath‭ of man‭ worketh‭‭ not‭ the righteousness‭ of God‭,‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ James 1:19-20.

Such counsel is to be heeded today! God’s servants should be underlining these truths to His people in these dark times.

Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
30th March 2024