“My children, suffer patiently the wrath that is come upon you from God: for thine enemy hath persecuted thee; but shortly thou shalt see his destruction, and shalt tread upon his neck. My delicate ones have gone rough ways, and were taken away as a flock caught of the enemies. Be of good comfort, O my children, and cry unto God: for ye shall be remembered of him that brought these things upon you. For as it was your mind to go astray from God: so, being returned, seek him ten times more. For he that hath brought these plagues upon you shall bring you everlasting joy with your salvation. “ (Reference Baruch 4:25-29 )
I have a very difficult time, beloved, reading texts that talk about both destruction and deliverance coming from God. Why would the God of love bring destruction to the Lord’s people just so that same God could bring them deliverance. Would that not mean that God is a passive/aggressive nutcase with delusions and a bizarre rescue complex?
In our society we have people who cause disasters just so they can rescue the victims from that. And we considered aberrant criminal behavior! Why would seek of a God guilty of aberrant criminal behavior? But this is the God that a good portion of the Old Testament talks about. God was seen as the source of all things, good and bad, that happened to the Lord’s people. And even if the “wrath” of God is a punishment for going astray, how can we place this same God in the role of the Divine who sent Jesus to atone for sin?
Now . . . my seminary professors would say I am stirring in to many theologies in the same pot, so no wonder it smells bad. But still, what can we do with these paradoxes? Don’t go looking in historic Anabaptist theology for the answer to that one. They had no problem seeing the hand of God “smiting” them, and then “delivering” them.
The problem is beloved, when Christians go astray and then find disaster, they assume God made the disaster in order to bring them back. But what is actually happening is that because of human free will other people are making choices that bring disaster, and we find ourselves becoming the victims of that disaster. Now if you want to lay that at God’s feet because the Divine continues to add and abet human free will, go ahead. But then don’t ask how a loving God could “allow” such things!
To restate this; God does not smack you upside the head because you have strayed from the Divine and then applies a cold compress to alleviate your pain. God says, “You have been smacked upside the head because the world is a cruddy and dangerous place. Come to Me for refuge and strength and let me bind up your wounds.” God says further, “Sit with me and wait, wait for those who have hurt my followers to be brought to justice.”
Two days ago we read about being patient while God devises “traps” for the wicked to fall into. It might be said and understood that the wrath we are supposed to suffer patiently are these “traps.” But I reject that notion because the writer of Baruch uses the salutation, “My children” which implies not an audience of evil doers but victims who are suffering unduly. It does not say, “You wicked people who have thumbed your nose at God one too many times.”
Beloved, it is hard to wait patiently when you are enduring suffering in this world. It is tempting to cry, “My God, My God! Why have you forsaken me?” It may seem like God has turned the Divine back to you. But Jesus is also to have said, “Into your hands Lord I commit my Spirit.” Beloved, may the Lord be ever with you and may you wait patiently on the Lord’s everlasting joy. Selah!