I sometimes ask people if they can remember the first thing created by God when He set the worlds in place. They try to recall from Genesis 1 whether He first made light, the firmament, or the heavens. None of those answers is correct. We find in Proverbs 8 that the creation of the physical universe was preceded by something else. In this passage, God's value system–His "wisdom"–speaks in first person. Let's read it together:
The Lord brought me (wisdom) forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began. When there were no oceans, I was given birth, when there were no springs abounding with water; before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, before he made the earth or its fields or any of the dust of the world. I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind. "Now then, my sons, listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways. Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord. But whoever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death." (Proverbs 8:22-36)
What a clear statement of the divine nature! The moral foundation for the universe was not an afterthought that came along when mankind was created. The Ten Commandments did not occur to the Lord after He witnessed the children of Israel's disobedience in the wilderness. No, the meaning of right and wrong emanated from God's own character, and it has always existed. Certainly, it predated the work of creation described in Genesis 1.
What does this mean for you and me? It illustrates the authority behind the moral laws found in Scripture!
They actually outrank the physical laws in significance. In fact, the physical universe will someday pass away and be replaced, but God's moral nature is eternal. And anyone who opposes it "love(s) death."
Now, why have I offered this explanation in a discussion about God's intervention in our lives? Because I believe many of the trials and tribulations that come our way are of our own making. Some are the direct consequence of sin, as we have seen. In other cases, the pain we experience is a result of unwise decisions. We make such a mess of our lives by foolishness and irresponsibility. When one considers the range of sheer nonsense that human beings can generate, it is understandable why author Mark Twain once said, "At times it does seem a shame that Noah and his party didn't miss the boat."
I'm reminded of a deep-sea fishing trip I took with my son, Ryan, when he was about 10 years old. The captain of our boat located a huge school of albacore, which sent 25 weekend fishermen into a frenzy of hyperventilation. We began pulling in fish like crazy. I was so busy with a tuna of my own that I failed to notice what my inexperienced son was doing. Then I looked down at him and saw that he was up to his elbows in a record-breaking backlash. I still can't imagine how that kid could get a perfectly spooled reel of line so thoroughly tangled. It was a hopeless case. Houdini himself couldn't have unraveled it. I had to cut and discard about 150 yards of what Ryan called "string" to get him straightened out.
His knotted, twisted line is symbolic of what many of us do with our lives. We drink too much or gamble compulsively or allow pornography to possess our minds. We drive too fast and work like there's no tomorrow. We challenge the boss disrespectfully and then blow up when he strikes back. We spend money we don't have and can't possibly repay. We fuss and fight at home and create misery for ourselves and our families. We not only borrow trouble–we go looking for it. We toy with the dragon of infidelity. We break the laws of God and then honestly believe we have beaten the odds. Then when the "wages" of those sins and foolishness come due, we turn our shocked faces up to heaven and cry, "Why me, Lord?" In truth, we are suffering the natural consequences of dangerous behavior that is guaranteed to produce pain.
I would not imply that every physical illness or heartache is the result of sin, of course, and we discussed that trap in chapter 5. There are situations, however, where the connection is undeniable. I think of sickness that emanates from abuse of one's body, such as lung cancer resulting from cigarette smoke, or cirrhosis caused by alcoholism, or mental illness precipitated by narcotics usage. These are self-inflicted wounds.
A more relevant example today is the HIV phenomenon. The question is often raised, Has God sent the AIDS epidemic as a punishment for homosexual behavior? I believe emphatically that the correct answer is no! Many innocent victims, including newborn babies, are suffering and dying from the disease. A curse from God would be more specific to the perpetrator. However, the HIV infection is spread by sodomy, drug usage, and promiscuity, so sinful behavior has helped to create the epidemic that now threatens the human family.
Think of it this way. If I choose to leap off a 10-story building, I will die when my body hits the ground below. It's inevitable. But gravity was not designed by God to punish my misbehavior. He established physical laws that can't be violated without great peril. So it is with His moral laws. They are as real and predictable as the principles that govern the physical universe. Thus, He knew (and we should have known) with the onset of the sexual revolution back in 1967 that this day of disease and promiscuity would come. It is here, and what we do with our situation will determine how much we and our children will suffer in the future.
Perhaps a concluding story will help us wrap up this discussion and illustrate where I believe we are headed in the struggle between good and evil.
I heard about a missionary in Africa who returned to his hut late one afternoon. As he entered the front door he was confronted by a huge python on the floor. He ran back to his truck and retrieved a .45-caliber pistol. Unfortunately, he had only one bullet in the chamber and no extra ammunition. Taking careful aim, the missionary sent that single shot into the head of the reptile. The snake was mortally wounded, but it did not die quickly. It began frantically thrashing and writhing on the floor. Retreating to the front yard, the missionary could hear furniture breaking and lamps crashing. Finally, all was quiet, and the man cautiously reentered his house. He found the snake dead, but the entire interior of the hut was shattered. In its dying moments, the python had unleashed all its mighty power and wrath on everything in sight.
Later, the missionary drew an analogy between the python and the great serpent named Satan. Our adversary has already been mortally wounded by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (In Genesis 3:15 the Lord said to the serpent, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.") Thus, the serpent's days are numbered and he knows it. In a final desperate effort to thwart the will of God and deceive His people, Satan has unleashed all his fury. He is fostering hate and deceit and aggression wherever human interests collide. He especially despises the institution of the family, which is symbolic of the relationship between Jesus Christ and His church.
How can we survive in such a dangerous environment? How can we cope with the fury of Satan in his final days? Admittedly, we would stand no chance in our own strength. But listen to what Jesus said about His followers: "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all" (John 10:27-29).
Because of the Redeemer, we need not fear the great deceiver--the father of lies. We are promised throughout Scripture that we are never left to fight our battles alone. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, penned these words of encouragement after a lifetime of service to his Master: "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:1-2).
The Apostle Paul confirmed that sin need not hold power over us. He wrote:
So now, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has in mind for us to be. (Romans 5:1-2, TLB)
That is great news for all who are weary and burdened by the stresses of living. It all comes down to this simple concept: God is not against us for our sins. He is for us against our sins. That makes all the difference.