Shall There Be Evil In the City And the Lord Not Do It?
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles to the book of Amos, chapter 3, and follow with me as I read from verse 1:

Amos 3:

1 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,
2 You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.
3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
4 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?
5 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?
6 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?
7 Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
8 The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord GOD hath spoken, who can but prophesy?

If your memories are active, you will recall that we read this passage of Scripture at another time when we considered another question which demands an answer, the question that is listed here in this particular paragraph: “Can two walk together except they be agreed?”.

There is another question in this paragraph which demands our attention and one of exceeding importance because it is a question which all of us have asked at one time or other. It is a question which has been the subject of philosophical discussions. I refer to the question that is found in chapter 3, verse 6:

Amos 3:

6 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?

Let that sink in so that we will all know what we are talking about. “Shall there be evil in the city and the LORD hath not done it?” There is evil in the city. If there is evil in your life, if there is evil in your associations, is the Lord responsible for it? That is the question, even more strongly worded according to the original text. Shall there be evil in the city and then anyone even consider that God is not responsible for it? That is the question.

In attempting to find the answer which certainly must be given, I think it would be wise for us to keep in mind at the very outset the word evil here is not a reference to sin. This question is not suggesting that God is responsible for sin. For verification of that, we invite you to turn to the epistle of James, chapter 1, verse 13:

James 1:

13 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:

Put very bluntly, God has nothing to do with sin as a tool, a weapon, in the lives of men. The only thing that God has to do with sin is related to forgiveness and is related to dealing with sin in the life of the believer when forgiveness is refused on his part. God is not responsible for sin. God is not responsible for an evil deed.

An Old Testament passage of Scripture emphasizes that truth. Go back to the book of Habakkuk, chapter 1, and notice verse 13. God had told Habakkuk that it was necessary for him to deal with the nation of Israel by letting a wicked nation completely conquer them; and Habakkuk, though he wanted God to deal with his people, wanted God to choose some other way. As a matter of fact, said Habakkuk, “To me, if You are going to deal in that fashion, You are doing something that is inconsistent with Your character.” Look at verse 13:

Habakkuk 1:

13 Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?

Notice the statement: “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil. Thou canst not look on iniquity…”

God, figuratively speaking, must turn His face away from sin, for He can have absolutely nothing to do with it, other than the manner I have already suggested. You call to mind that when the Lord Jesus Christ died upon the Cross and the full weight of the world was borne out upon Him, the Lord Jesus Christ cried out, “Why hast Thou forsaken Me? Why hast Thou turned Thy back upon Me?”

God, I repeat, is not responsible for sin and He is not responsible for evil. What then is the meaning of the question, “Shall there be evil in the city and the LORD hath not done it?”?

It might be helpful for us to recognize the meaning of the Hebrew word which is translated evil . The Hebrew word is the word ra , and it is translated in other places by the words adversity , affliction, trouble, distress, calamity. Ask the question in that fashion then. “Shall there be adversity in your life and God not have something to do with it? Shall there be affliction, trouble and distress in your life and God not have something to do with it? Shall there be calamity in the city and God hath not done it?”

The New American Standard translation chooses to use the word calamity . They could have used any of the others. They chose to use the word calamity in the text and it reads: “If a calamity occurs in the city, has not the LORD done it?”

So, that is our question. “If there is evil in the city, hath not the LORD done it?” I am sure if we were to open this meeting to discussion, we would receive many answers because man always has an answer right off the top of his head for every question. Numerous times I have heard people answer this question with remarks such as, “God didn't have anything to do with that. God is too loving and too kind and understanding to have caused a thing like that. Don't blame God for everything.” Others have said, “You brought that on yourself. You have nobody to blame but yourself. Don't go around blaming God for things.” They have also said, “The carelessness of man, the phenomenon of nature, are responsible for these calamities. Why even talk about whether God has anything to do with it or not?”

I say these are the answers that men are apt to give, but we cannot be occupied today with the answers of men, for one man's answer is no better than any other man's answer. For all of these debatable questions, we must go, as one has said, to the law and the prophets. We must have the scriptural answer. What does the Bible say about this? Is there a declarative statement that God is responsible for calamity, for distresses, for trouble, for adversities?

Turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of Isaiah, chapter 45. When you arrive there, you will discover that God, through Isaiah, is speaking of a man whom He had on His mind two hundred years before he was ever born. He addressed this man, Cyrus by name, and said in verse 5:

Isaiah 45:

5 I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, [He is talking to Cyrus.] though thou hast not known me:
6 That they [all the world] may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.
7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

No one would question that God formed the light, nor would they question that He formed the darkness, nor would they question that He is the author of peace, but somehow it is difficult for us to believe, because of the picture that we have of God in our minds, that He would create evil. Keep in mind that evil is not sin in the sense that we are speaking of it. It is difficult for folk to believe that God would say, “I am responsible for adversity. I am responsible for trouble. I am responsible for calamity.”

The Bible does not use language to describe trouble and adversity in modern terms, such as automobile accidents, nuclear problems and leaking of gases, etc.; but the principle is plainly declared in the Word of God that God is in full charge of nature, in full charge of disease, and He uses those as He wills.

Turn to the book of Job and notice how that fact is stated there, so that you have a principle by which you may operate in your study of this question. The Bible is a book of principles and it is not necessary to talk about automobiles and airplanes and nuclear weapons. God establishes His principles. Notice in Job, chapter 36, verse 26 through chapter 37, verse 10. We are not going to take the time to read the full portion of that passage, but I gave you the entire passage so you could read and meditate upon it, and then I want to share with you some verses from that portion that emphasize the truth that I am leaving with you. Notice verse 27:

Job 36:

27 For he [God] maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof:
28 Which the clouds do drop and distil upon man abundantly.

Then verse 30:

Job 36:

30 Behold, he spreadeth his light upon it, and covereth the bottom of the sea.
31 For by them judgeth he the people; he giveth meat in abundance.

Through the elements of nature, God ruleth people. He giveth meat in abundance through the forces of nature. Then over in chapter 37, you will notice verse 6:

Job 37:

6 For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth; likewise to the small rain, and to the great rain of his strength.

I do not believe that it snows upon the earth simply because there is some kind of low pressure and high pressure situation. Don't misunderstand me. That is the way man looks upon it and that is sufficient explanation for him and that is the tool which God uses, but it is not an accident. We do not have snow accidentally. We do not have so-called freaks of nature accidentally. Regardless of the scientific reasons which are given for their happenings, it is God who says to the snow, “Be thou on the earth; likewise to the small rain, and to the great rain of his strength.”

Then notice verse 9:

Job 37:

9 Out of the south cometh the whirlwind: and cold out of the north.
10 By the breath of God frost is given: and the breadth of the waters is straitened.
11 Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud: he scattereth his bright cloud:
12 And it is turned round about by his counsels: that they may do whatsoever he commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth.

It is important for the thrust of our discussion at the moment to notice Job, chapter 37, verses 11-12:

Job 37:

11 Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud: he scattereth his bright cloud:
12 And it is turned round [notice] about by his counsels: that they may do whatsoever he commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth.

Nothing could be plainer than that. The elements of nature, using that term very broadly and generally, are subject to God's command. He commands and the elements of nature respond as servants of the Lord, Who is in complete charge of everything that is happening on the earth.

What is our question? “Shall there be a calamity in the city and God hath not done it?” What did Isaiah say? Isaiah said that God said, “I created the calamity.” What does Job say? Job says that God said, “By virtue of the so-called elements of nature, I take charge of things and I pursue my plan and my purpose accordingly.”

Why Do Calamities Have to Occur?

The Scriptural answer to the question, “Is there calamity in the city? Is God responsible for it?”, is yes. God is responsible for calamity in the city. Now, a question that all of us face: We may not agree that God is responsible for calamity. We may say, “I don't want to say that He is responsible for every calamity,” but there is one thing that we all do. I have never met anyone who hasn't done it and that is, we ask the question “Why? Why did it have to happen?” If there is a calamity happening, why did it have to occur?

We have an answer in the Word of God—a threefold reason, as a matter of fact. It is given to us in Job, chapter 37, verse 13:

Job 37:

13 He causeth it [calamity] to come, whether for correction, or for his land, or for mercy.

There are three reasons God creates the calamity: number one, for correction; number two, for His land; number three, for mercy.

What do we mean when we say that God brings calamity into the city for correction? Let us recognize that correction includes two things. It includes testing and it includes punishment. We may never know, as far as other individuals are concerned, why the calamity has come; but many of us, if we wait quietly before the Lord, will be able to tell whether it is a matter of testing that God is doing or whether it is a matter of punishment. Correction includes both.

You recall what Job said in chapter 2 of the book which bears his name in verse 10. Oh, how he had been tested! You say, “But wait a moment. Wasn't Satan responsible for all of that?” Yes, but who gave Satan the permission to do it? Wasn't it God? Do you remember there in verse 10? He had suffered so much and his dear wife, because she suffered with him, said, “Why don't you curse God and die? Death would be simple.” But notice what he said in verse 10:

Job 2:

10 But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

Notice the word evil . This word evil is the very same word with which we started our discussion. He said, “Yes, it is possible for us to receive calamity, adversity, trouble, and suffering at the hands of God.”

God is to be considered when suffering comes. God is to be considered when trouble comes, and the question each individual should ask is, “Why?”, not why in the sense of rebellion, but, “Why? What am I to learn from this particular unexpected event which has occurred in my life?”

Are you being tested today? Has trouble come and you are saying, “I don't know why this had to be.”? Recognize first that God is in charge, and then see if it is a matter of testing. If it is, then follow the instruction of James: “Count it all joy when you fall into divers testing, for you know that these testings have a purpose in your life and you see by faith the end from the beginning.”

I mentioned to you that correction involved not only testing; it involved punishment. Yes, it is necessary for God to chasten (punish), individuals and punish nations. God does not punish for sin in the sense that He makes both you and Christ pay for it, but He does chasten acts of disobedience in the believer's life. Those acts of disobedience are chastened for the purpose of causing the individual involved to recognize that what he has done has been wrong.

Turn, please, to I Samuel, chapter 12. While you are turning there, you will keep in mind that the nation of Israel had asked for a king. They were not satisfied with God as their King. They wanted to be like other nations of the world and so God said to Samuel, “Give them a king. That's what they want.”

God often does that, but God also said to Samuel, “They need to be taught a lesson.” Notice in I Samuel, chapter 12, verse 16:

I Samuel 12:

16 Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the LORD will do before your eyes.
17 Is it not wheat harvest to day? I will call unto the LORD, and he shall send thunder and rain; that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking you a king.
18 So Samuel called unto the LORD; and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.
19 And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the LORD thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king.

Here is an illustration of national calamity coming because of national sin. I personally believe that we as a nation are living in a very precarious age and I think that we might as well look for almost any calamity that God is pleased to send upon us. I go not into all the details as to why. You are as intelligent as I am. But if you are spiritually oriented, you know that calamity most certainly can come.

God is responsible not only for the calamity that occurs in nations; He is responsible for the calamity that can occur in the lives of individuals. Another illustration is found in II Samuel, chapter 24, a familiar passage of Scripture. You will remember that David numbered his people. There is nothing wrong with numbering the people; it is the reason for the numbering. God told David to number his people one time and He blessed them, but this time David numbered his people for the sake of pride. He wanted to boast of everything that he had been doing. What a great kingdom he had built, and what a great army was his. When he recognized that this was the thing that he wanted to do, he did it. God immediately had to deal with him. God had to permit calamity to come into his life to remind him that what he did was displeasing to the Lord, so there in chapter 24, Gad, the prophet, had come to David and said, “David, it is true. You have sinned.” David had become conscious of it and in verse 13, Gad said:

II Samuel 24:

13 So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days' pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me.

Gad said to David, “Calamity has to come. I am going to give you a choice. Are you going to run before your enemies?”

When a nation is defeated in battle, is that just something that happens? Every nation ought to say, “Is this at the hand of God?” When a nation or an individual is faced with the loss of something great, is it just a happenstance or is God responsible for it? He said, “Shall there be a famine in the land, or shall there be a pestilence go throughout the land?”

I said that this is an individual; it sounds national, doesn't it? But it is individual because David was responsible, and herein lies the thing that makes my heart sad. I have no explanation for it and I am not going to talk about the fairness or the unfairness of God, but it makes my heart sad to know that when God has to deal with me because of my disobedience, quite often somebody could be hurt in the process. You know, we talk about rights and we talk about freedoms and we talk about, “It is my business and I can do what I want to with my life.” Well, you can't. You can't because when God deals with you, others are involved.

David was a very wise man. I have always thought that. You know, God said, “You tell Me what you want,” and David said, “I don't know; I'll let you decide. There is just one thing that I ask of you. Don't let me fall into the hands of man. Don't let man be my judge.”

How many times I have prayed that to the Lord when I know that I have been disobedient to Him: “Lord, do to me what needs to be done, but don't let me fall into the hands of man.” Man is unmerciful and man is cruel and man is unsympathetic, but God is loving and caring. David was right.

You know the rest of the story. A pestilence came throughout all the land and people were dying like flies until God lifted His hand. Shall there be evil in the city and the LORD hath not done it?

Calamities for Correction

Ah, we must say that there is evil in the city because God finds it necessary to correct His children sometimes. Without turning back to Job, chapter 37, did you notice the second reason he gave? He said, “I send these calamities for correction. I send these calamities for my land.”

That may be a bit difficult for us to understand. He lets these calamities happen for our good. If we were to interpret Job, chapter 37, verse 13, with the Job, chapter 38, verses 26-27, we would find that God does what He does for the good of the land, the good of the land in the sense that here is a piece of wilderness. It is not being used for anything and it will not be used for anything and it can't be used for anything as far as man is concerned. Yet God prepares that land, carefully watering it and carefully protecting it for future use. He has something else in mind.

Calamities for our Good

One of the reasons God permits calamities to come into our lives is for our good. Why does this have to happen to me? Because God could look down in the future and recognize that there would be a need and He had to meet the need and the meeting of that need is through the calamity that happened to you.

Don't take the time to turn there but write down Genesis, chapter 50, verses 19-20. You remember the story. Joseph was in Egypt. He had been sold by his brethren. His brethren came down to Egypt, and when they realized the man who had their very life in his hands was actually the brother whom they had sold into Egypt, they became very alarmed about it and began to wonder what was going to happen to them. Joseph told them to be quiet and not to worry. He said, “You meant this thing unto me for evil, but God meant it for good.” Joseph could well have said, when they threw him down into that pit, bound and gagged, never to be set free, “Why did God let this happen?” He lived a long time before he knew, but finally he was told why.

Compare Genesis, chapter 50, with Psalm 105, verses 16-22, and you find the Psalmist's comment on that particular thing, reminding us that Joseph was kept in Egypt all those years and until such a time as God's Word came and God was able to deliver him. Why do calamities come? For our good. We may never know the good, but that is the reason they come.

Calamities in View of His Mercy

There is a third thing. Remember in Job, chapter 37, what we read: For correction, for His land, for our good, for mercy. Yes, difficult as it may be for us to believe, God permits these calamities to come into our lives because He is a merciful God. Illustrations: Look back when you have time to Genesis, chapter 6. God looked down upon the earth and the thought of man's heart was only evil continually, and God said, “I have got to do something about this. If I don't stop this, evil will permeate the whole world.” God sent the flood as an act of mercy, to prevent greater evil that most certainly would come.

Think again about the men at the Tower of Babel. Up, up went the tower and God said, “Let us go down and look this thing over. Let us see the reason this is happening. If we don't stop these men in what they are doing right now, nobody knows what they will do.”

Oh, Dear One, oftentimes God brings a tragedy, God brings a calamity, into your life as an act of mercy. He does it to stop you. If He lets you go the way you are going, God alone knows the sad things that would happen. God brings calamity in view of His mercy.

Think about the impotent man described in John, chapter 5, verse 14. The Lord healed him, you remember, and He said, “Now, go and sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” The impotency, it would seem, was a calamity brought into his life, but for some reason he did not respond to it. Then he met the Lord and the Lord forgave him and said, “Go and sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”

I am not suggesting to our hearts today that we live in constant fear that God is going to let some terrible thing happen to us. I am simply saying there is an answer to the question, “Shall there be evil in the city and the Lord hath not done it?”

No Calamity Comes Without Warning

May I suggest to you that we ought to have the correct attitude concerning calamity that has come or will come. The first thing I would like to emphasize to you by refreshing your mind concerning in Amos, chapter 3, is that no calamity ever comes in any man's life, no calamity ever comes in a nation's life, without God's first giving the warning.

Did you notice there in Amos, chapter 3, verse 6:

Amos 3:

6 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?
7 Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
8 The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord GOD hath spoken, who can but prophesy?

I ask to provoke you thinking: Could it be in relation to our own nation that the trumpet has already sounded, the lion has already roared, and nobody seems to care? Could it be that in your own life that trumpet has already sounded, the lion has already roared, and you have ignored it and think you can go on in your own way, leaving God out of your life and your plans and doing that which pleases you? Could it be?

Certainly I would not claim the exalted place of a prophet for the preacher today. The preacher is God's answer to the Old Testament prophet. I would not claim that exalted position in the sense of the power that Elijah and men like him had, but have you noticed how God is burdening His prophets? Oh, I know there are a lot of foolish voices, a lot of empty heads. I know that, but all of that taken into consideration, have you noticed how God is burdening His prophets? Could it be that God is revealing to them, by putting a burden on their hearts, that calamity is the next thing on the program?

What do we do? What do we do when we recognize that calamity is coming? When the lion roars and the trumpet sounds, what do we do? Well, there is a good illustration in the book of Jonah, chapter 3, verses 5-10. You remember that when the message came through, the King of Nineveh said, “Everybody repent, from the king down to the lowest person, everybody repent. Who knows but what God will repent Himself of this evil [and there is the very same word] that He is going to send upon us?”

It is still true. “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and confess their sins, God will heal their land and forgive their sins.” The trumpet is sounding. How we need to repent, but let us recognize today that sometimes, for whatever reason, the calamity is already in progress. There is nothing to do to stop it. We are in the midst of it. What can we do?

There is a very practical solution given in the book of Proverbs, chapter 22, verse 3. Notice:

Proverbs 22:

3 A prudent man foreseeth the evil [There is our word again.], and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.

If you see the calamity coming, you are a wise man to hide yourself. If you are foolish, you are going to go right on and be punished. If you find in individual lives calamity at the hand of the Lord, go ahead if you want to and say that it doesn't matter. Go ahead if you want to and say, “I'll do as I please. I will live my own life.”, and reap the results. That is your privilege.

Conclusion

I love what David said, and I close with this. It means much to my own heart. Calamities had come in David's life numerous times of different kinds, and he knew what to do about it. Notice Psalm 57, verse 1:

Psalm 57:

1 Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.

Don't you love that? You may be in the midst of a very great trial right now. A calamity has come into your life. It is there; no use talking about why it is there. What can you do? Just ask God to be merciful and take refuge under His wings until the calamities be overpast.

My, what a refuge He provides. “Shall there be evil in the city and the LORD not be responsible for it?” On the basis of what I have shared with you today, I would say it is impossible. God must be reckoned with.

PRAY WITH US

That the Word of God will continue to have free course throughout the world and that God will continue to raise up believers to carry on His work. Our prayer is to have the Word of God available to any who are seeking it, and as believers, it is our responsibility to help make it available to others. If you are convinced that Dr. Joe Temple's and Tim Temple's expositions of the Bible are worthwhile, let your friends and neighbors know about it. We will be happy to put them on our mailings list at their request.


Home Contact Us Bible Studies Books King James
Abilene Bible Church Living Bible Studies
Dr. Daiqing Yuan Tim Temple Dr. Joe Temple
Some icons on this site used courtesy FatCow Web Hosting

www.livingbiblestudies.org