Pastor John Piper has arrested my attention with his December 27th Desiring God post. When all the world is shaking its head in horror and disbelief at the evils of our day, Dr. Piper would remind us that any and all good that comes to us in this fallen, rebellious world is pure grace and should rightly amaze us.
He asks, “Where was God when so many good things happened this past year?
“How can God be a God of justice, yet allow so much good to happen to people who dishonor him by disbelieving in him, or giving lip service to his existence, or paying no more attention to him than the carpet in their den, or rejecting the kingship of his Son, or scorning his word, or preferring a hundred pleasures before him?
“How can God be righteous and do so much good to us who are so unrighteous?”
Piper has written more than most on man’s tendency to downplay the gross affront, the stench, that our sin is to a holy God. When our family has enjoyed a particularly breath taking natural scene or a piece of art or music that leaves us speechless, I have tried to remind us that this is a wondrous thing which we dare not take blithely. After all, we live in a fallen world–we are a people of unclean lips and we dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. There should be no expectation on our part that God would leave us with any beauty, whatsoever, outside of Paradise.
Going a step further, why are we not struck down immediately when we profane the holy; struck down like Nadab and Abihu, like Uzzah, like Ananais and Sapphira, like Herod? Struck down when we offer “unauthorized” fire or do not give God the honor that is his due or when we puff ourselves up in our ministry or allow everything but praise of God to pass over our lips?
Dr. Piper informs us that, despite our fallenness, in 2012 alone …
… nine million planes landed safely in the United States;
… the world revolved around the sun so accurately that it achieved the winter solstice perfectly at 5:12 am December 21 and headed back toward spring;
… the President was not shot at a thousand public appearances;
… American farms produced ten million bushels of corn, and 2.8 million bushels of soybeans — enough food to sell $100 billions worth to other nations;
… no terrorist plot brought down a single American building or plane or industry;
… the sun maintained its heat and its gravitational pull precisely enough that we were not incinerated or frozen;
… three hundred million Americans drank water in homes and restaurants without getting sick;
… no new plague swept away a third of our race;
… Americans drove three trillion accident free miles;
… over three million healthy babies were born in America, etc.
If God were to reverse these graces he would do no wrong, leastwise to the children of men—a people who daily disregard the myriad of graces he bestows on the just and the unjust, who deny God’s sovereign rule, who never consider their Maker, who war against his Son, or worse, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God yet hold him up to contempt.
“Where was God in 2012?” Pastor Piper sends us to Scripture to hear God’s answer to this cry.
1. God was reigning from his throne to do his sovereign will.
“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3)
“He works all things according to the counsel of his will.” (Ephesians 1:11)
2. God was reigning from his throne to prevent much sin and harm in the world.
“God said to [Abimelech, the king of Gerar], it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her.” (Genesis 20:6)
“You know what is restraining [the man of lawlessness] now.” (2 Thessalonians 2:6)
3. God was reigning from his throne to give a witness to his goodness and his patience.
“God did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17)
4. God was reigning from his throne to summon the world to repentance.
“Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)
To conclude, I, like Pastor Piper, “bow my head as an undeserving sinner, amazed that I have not been swept away. And even more, that because of Jesus, I am forgiven, adopted into God’s family, and destined for eternal life. God has been good to us. And his best gift is the one that will be there when all the others fail. Jesus, crucified, risen, reigning.”