• 30 October 2023

Chapter 6 – God on the Throne

We often don’t know why illness happens. But we do know this: that God is sovereign over all things and is working everything together for His purpose. He reached Namaan, the commander of the Syrian army, Israel’s public enemy number one, through a disease. Ultimately, Namaan came to realise that there is only one God in the world – the LORD the God of Israel.

God is always in control and working to bring about His will. This is true in every area of life, from geopolitics to finance, and pandemics to personal circumstance. God allows terrible evil to happen, but he may also use that same evil to achieve His purpose. The greatest example of this is Jesus’s death on the cross, which the devil intended to use to destroy the Son of God but was actually the means whereby God liberated His people.

There are two alternatives. Either God is regulating the affairs of humanity or events just happen at random. The Bible leaves no room for uncertainty on which of the two is true.

Just after The Great Depression, A.W. Pink wrote that:

The Bible affirms again and again that God is on the throne of the universe … that every day God is ruling and reigning. Without doubt a major crisis is at hand and everywhere men are alarmed. But God is not. He is never taken by surprise. It is no unexpected emergency which now confronts Him … Although the world is stricken the word to the believer is ‘fear not’. All things are moving in accord with his eternal purpose.*

Naaman was a great man but he had leprosy.

Where is the gospel in this terrible disease? In a highly unlikely source: a little slave girl. She was snatched from her family – presumably they were God-fearing otherwise how would she know what to say to Naaman? It’s reasonable to assume that her family was killed – parents don’t usually let their children be sold into slavery without force. Surely this could not be part of God’s sovereign plan? Someone so weak and defenceless. Someone so insignificant that she doesn’t even have a name!

But it’s true. She was part of God’s sovereign plan to turn evil for good. To this disease-ridden world He sends ordinary, obscure, suffering Christians armed with the wonderful message of hope.

God allows His people to experience evil and suffering but, at the same time, it is our responsibility to react in a way that honours Him. Now, that’s very hard – as I know from my own experience. Humanly we can’t do it. Which is why we need God’s help.

Think about the slave girl. What was her attitude to Namaan’s illness? It wasn’t: ‘At last, God is punishing these wicked Syrians for enslaving me.’ It wasn’t: ‘It’s not my problem.’ It wasn’t: ‘My God is for Israelites only.’ It wasn’t: ‘I can’t do anything.’

Rather, wonderfully, it was to have love and compassion for her enemy: ‘If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy’ (2 Kgs. 5:3).

She took a huge risk. We know this from the greatest Bible teacher of all time. The Lord Jesus tells us in Luke 4:27 that this was the first cure of a leper in that time. What courage this girl had! If she could recommend the prophet Elisha then how much more we can recommend one far greater. This is the answer when people ask us for help.

Christians should expect to suffer. If you are not suffering, thank God for the unusual time in which you find yourself. We must love the suffering people around us and tell them, ‘If only you would seek Jesus of Nazareth! He will cure you of sin and evil.’

* A.W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God (Baker Books, 2000), p. 14.

Excerpt from Hope in the face of suffering – 20 devotions for tough times by Jeremy Marshall

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