READ: Psalm 122, Zechariah 1, Matthew 4, 2 Thessalonians 2
HELPING GOD . . . WITH EVIL INTENT
There have been days to my shame that I wanted some Muslims to go to hell. My wife and I have now lived in the Arab world for over twenty years, and it can feel like every one of those years was spent banging our heads against a rock. Something rises within me that says: “Fine then! You don’t want Jesus? See how you like eternity without Him!” My disappointment at their delusion and refusal of grace ironically can lead me to lose grace and graciousness towards them.
If we are not careful, we can enjoy God’s punishment of those that have hurt us, of those that have sinned. It is a sin on our part to be unmoved at the plight of the unregenerate. The prophet Zechariah (whose name means “The Lord Remembers”) has an interesting dialogue with an angel. God is reviewing the ease of the nations who helped Him punish Israel and He is unhappy with their resting quietly (Zech. 1:11, 15). God says of them: “They helped, but with evil intent” (v. 15). It is true Israel sinned, it is true that God used Assyria and Babylon to teach them a lesson. What was not true is that God forgot about Israel or abandoned them to their own folly. God’s intention was not for the nations to rejoice in the punishment of His people. Seeing the apathy of His instruments, God declares: “I am returning to Jerusalem with mercy” (v. 16).
We must beware of helping God discipline others if we have no desire to show them mercy. We must be uneasy, discomforted when others are being rebuked, restless in our longing for their restoration, for their “everlasting consolation and good hope by grace” (2 Thess. 2:16). The challenge for us is not when we are involved in the correction of those we like–it is easy to feel compassion for our friends. The challenge is when we are asked to participate in the correction of those we don’t like or those that have harmed us. The human heart is shocking and it is all too easy for godly people to wrongly enjoy rebuking or correcting others, to smugly think the disciplined offender has received what he or she deserves. We are not exempt from “helping God, with evil intent.” God not only remembers the evil ones in their time of discipline, He also notes with displeasure the righteous who have rejoiced at the falling of another man or woman. It is not in the nature of God to enjoy the misery of others–even when they have deserved it. When the sinful suffer, ease and apathy should not be found in us.
Matthew 4:24 reveals a Jesus who delights to heal me from my torments– torments I deserve, torments that result from my own sin, my own folly, my own choices. All those that help God and even help God discipline should agonize with the offender and rejoice that God always remembers and returns with mercy.