The Goodness of God in the Face of Evil: Remembering Las Vegas (Psalm 11:1-7)

Message: 

Note: You can find the written sermon beneath the three worship music videos.

 

Central Passage (Psalm 11:1-7)

In the Lord I put my trust;
How can you say to my soul,
“Flee as a bird to your mountain”?
2 For look! The wicked bend their bow,
They make ready their arrow on the string,
That they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart.
3 If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do?
4 The Lord is in His holy temple,
The Lord’s throne is in heaven;
His eyes behold,
His eyelids test the sons of men.
5 The Lord tests the righteous,
But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.
6 Upon the wicked He will rain coals;
Fire and brimstone and a burning wind
Shall be the portion of their cup.
7 For the Lord is righteous,
He loves righteousness;
His countenance beholds the upright.

I had been working my way through Genesis and expected to preach on Noah’s faith and how he found grace in the eyes of the Lord despite the depravity and wickedness all around him. But something happened that changed all that. This past Monday morning (one week ago tomorrow), I woke up to news reports of the Las Vegas Massacre or Las Vegas Shooting, a tragic event that has now taken the lives of 59 innocent victims and injured some 527 people. A man by the name of Stephen Paddock, age 64, had been staying at the Mandalay Bay hotel for some 3 days, stockpiling weapons (some 23 firearms) that he’d let no one carry but him around the hotel and store in his room. He’d been a heavy gambler, gambling up to $10,000 a day, at the casino, as if he didn’t care about gambling away all he had. It sounded like the work of a man who intended to take himself out of the world while planning to kill so many others. Paddock owned a few homes, was a wealthy man, a millionnaire, who also lived in a retirement home and, according to his brother, had no ties to violent political organizations, terrorism, or any of the warning signs of a lone ranger who’d commit such a large-scale violent act.

On Sunday night, Country Music Star Jason Aldean was performing at the Route 91 Harvest concert there in Las Vegas when all of a sudden, shots started firing off in quick succession as if an automatic rifle was being used. Many didn’t know how to react, to get up and flee, until bodies started getting hit and falling in front of them. Stephen Paddock shot through the window of his 32nd-floor hotel room onto the outdoor concert crowd and intended to hit and not miss. 59 people have now died in the tragedy, making it the largest mass shooting in modern US history, and 527 have been injured. Some are still in critical condition. An eyewitness interviewed with NBC News said that 45 minutes before the shooting, a woman made her way through the crowd to the front row and said something to the effect of “You all are going to die tonight,” as if she were delivering a message of dire importance to the crowd.

I remember sitting in front of the TV crying Monday evening in front of my grandparents when seeing the video footage on TV that has been replayed dozens of times. I cried because I imagined if that were me or my family or friends who were running from the bullets of a mass shooter who just wanted to take innocent life. In those moments, Paddock didn’t care for his fellow man. To be honest, he didn’t care before that point. He’d been stockpiling weapons for months, with 19 additional firearms in one of his homes and 23 firearms in the hotel (with 1,600 rounds of ammo in his vehicle parked outside the hotel). So, the mass shooting was planned, deliberate, intentional.

And it is in these times, as well as in the events of the Pulse night club shooting, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and other mass shootings that we wonder, “Where is God?” “If God is good, how could He allow bad things to happen?” “How could God stand by and not do something?” And it is in these times that believers need to comfort the hurting while also reminding them of biblical truth. For God has spoken; the Lord has given us His Word to let us know where the blame lies when things of this magnitude happen. And we know from Scripture that God is good, man is evil, and that man is the only one who loves and commits evil acts and violence. And thus, when we look at the Las Vegas Massacre, we mourn the loss of 59 lives and we pray for those who are in critical condition and the injured who have been discharged already.

And yet, in our sadness, we should be angry. We have been given the right by God to have righteous anger. We should be angry that a wicked, evil man took the lives of innocent victims. I know that Paddock’s family would likely not want us to call him evil, but the truth is that he is evil. Only an evil person could do what he did. He didn’t just want to end his life, but he took innocent life with him that had done nothing to him, hadn’t been cruel to him, hadn’t harmed him in any way or said anything out of the way to him. He killed the lives of other humans because he wanted to. The Lord tells us to love Him first, but then to love our neighbor as ourselves. The Las Vegas Mass Shooter didn’t love his neighbor. He, like Cain, didn’t realize that all those innocent concert attendees were humans like him that had hopes, dreams, fears, sorrows, cares, and so on. He, like Cain, believed that he wasn’t his neighbors’ keeper, so the 59 lives he took didn’t matter to him. That is the work of Satan, but it is NOT the work of God. God would never move anyone to do what Paddock did.

And so, it is the case today that the atheists are talking about the Massacre, patting themselves on the back by saying, “The Las Vegas Massacre is another testimony to the fact that God doesn’t exist.” But they’re wrong, for the Word of God tells us in Hebrews 11:6 that the one who comes to God for salvation must “believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” So yes, contrary to atheist claims, God does exist. He does exist, and He didn’t approve of the Las Vegas Massacre. It was not part of His plan, and it is not a reflection of who He is. The Las Vegas Shooting is the work of an evil man who took his power to choose and used it to kill his neighbor and murder the innocent. He abused the power of choice that God gave him. The hands he used to load his firearm and shoot into the crowd, the hands he used to gamble away thousands of dollars, could’ve been used to baptize believers, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to give to someone in need, to help deliver a baby into the arms of his or her parents, to find a cure for cancer, to give money to the poor, to donate to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital for cancer research, and so on.

Paddock could’ve been a soldier out at war to help protect the freedoms of American citizens, or been a law enforcement official who would help restore Law and Order in this country. He could’ve done a number of things with his life except die as a mass murderer in the largest shooting in America. The Lord didn’t create Stephen Paddock for violence, He didn’t create him to murder, to kill the innocent, to instill fear and terror into innocent citizens who weren’t doing anything but attending a music concert.

Psalm 11:5, part of our central passage today, says that “the Lord tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.” Did you catch that? The Lord tests the righteous to see if they’re loyal because He loves them, but the Lord does not love the wicked, violent man. He hates him. That’s what the text says: God hates the violent man. Why? Because God so loved the wicked that He sent Jesus, His Son, to die on their behalf. Yes, God loves all of humanity, but when the wicked choose to go their own way and spurn God’s love in salvation, only hate remains. So yes, God hates the violent man. And Stephen Paddock fits this definition, as does Timothy McVeigh who was responsible for the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995, among others.

So today, God has given me the task of preaching a defense for God because, atheists are using this event to suggest that God doesn’t exist, that, if He does, He isn’t a God of love. And yet, that’s simply wrong. God IS a God of love, and He DOES exist. And He hasn’t abandoned His throne in times like these. He is still righteous, still good, still holy, still loving, still gracious, still kind, still upright, still God. No, God hasn’t changed where He stands on good and evil: He is good, has always been good, and will always and forever be good. As the statement says, “God is good, ALL the time.”

Let’s take a look at Psalm 11 in further detail.

Verse 1 says, “In the Lord I put my trust.” This is a Psalm of David, and we know that David had great faith in the Lord. I’m sure you’ve read in Scripture of his being labeled “a man after God’s own heart,” one who, even when he sinned, repented and acknowledged the goodness of the God in the face of his own sin. But we also know David as the young man who slayed the giant Goliath, the 9-foot-9-inch giant that mocked the Israelite army. When David stood before him, he said to the giant, ”

David, no doubt, trusted in the Lord. His confidence wasn’t in himself, but in the Lord. All of us who believe have our trust in the Lord and we can say along with David, “In the Lord I put my trust.”

The next phrase is really a question: “How can you say to my soul, ‘Flee as a bird to your mountain’?” It appears as though someone is telling David to flee from what is happening around him. A bird flees when a storm appears, or when there’s danger nearby. The individual is telling David, “flee as a bird to your mountain”; in other words, “find shade,” “find safety,” “escape the trouble that is nearby.” This is the tendency of all of creation: animals and humans alike flee when trouble is visible. We can see the Las Vegas victims fleeing from the bullets being shot at them from a modified rifle that operated like an automatic from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay on the Vegas strip. Stephen Paddock was shooting at them from above them, where he could see everything that was going on.

He definitely planned the mass shooting; to have a view that was above everything was a deliberately designed, intricate detail in order to know everything that was happening at every moment. The slightest helicopter in the sky he could’ve shot down at that angle. Paddock didn’t want anything to go wrong. As we talk about Paddock, though, we can identify with the victims. If that had been any one of us, we would’ve taken cover and gone on the run as well. I wouldn’t have wanted to stick around and be killed; I too, would’ve been trying to run and take shelter behind whatever was nearby, whatever I had access to. The crowd at the Jason Aldean concert took cover when they realized the presumed firecrackers were bullets.

In verse 2, David’s enemies are deliberately planning to take down the righteous: “For look! The wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow on the string, that they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart.” While David is being told to flee, the wicked are making preparations to kill the righteous. They have “bent their bow,” which is what you’d expect when someone is preparing to shoot something. They’re “shooting secretly at the upright in heart.” Notice the word “secretly” implies that they’re plotting it in such a way that no one knows what’s going on.

That was the surprise factor behind the Las Vegas shooting: Paddock knew that few would know his plans until he executed them. Where can the righteous go when the wicked are plotting to kill them? If the wicked are plotting in secret, where can the righteous flee to that won’t involve the presence of the wicked? Fleeing to the mountain for safety won’t help because they can still sneak up on the righteous in the mountain. There’s no earthly refuge for the wicked. That seems to be the intention of David with these words here. The righteous can’t flee to any earthly safety because the wicked are always working secretly to “shoot at the upright in heart.”

Verse 3 in the New King James is translated, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” In the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, the translation is as follows: “If the preparations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” In other words, if the bird flees to the mountain but the very preparations to spare his life are destroyed, he is simply a victim of the shooter. The righteous are in the very place of danger if the preparations for their safety are removed. This happened with my home some years ago. I was robbed because, despite the presence of a security system in my home, the thieves figured out how to eliminate the security system: they cut the electricity up the street. At that point, without electricity, my alarm was automatically disabled, and they were able to come to my home when I wasn’t there and get as much stuff as they wanted. The preparations for my home were removed, so what could I do?

The Las Vegas victims and injured were helpless because the preparations for what could’ve spared them, such as having an indoor concert, could’ve spared them. The glass windows that could’ve alerted them that a shooting was taking place, an indoor facility that could’ve deflected bullets, were removed. It wasn’t an indoor concert, but an outdoor concert, one that put them in harm’s way. Isn’t it interesting that Paddock shot at the concert crowd through a window at the Mandalay Bay, but would’ve been unlikely to shoot at the Jason Aldean concert attendees had they been behind glass windows and a more protective structure. He shot at them and killed 59 people and injured about 527 others because the concert was outdoors – removing the barrier of glass windows and strong structures that would’ve likely made him have to enter into the structure to kill them.

Shooting at them at an outdoor concert was the easiest way to accomplish the task with as little disturbance or injury to himself as possible. News reports say that Paddock planned to survive the attack, and that seems to be verified when you look at how he killed 59 everyday people. In a situation as this, what could the righteous do? Very little. Had the concert taken place behind glass windows and a strong building, it’s likely that the death toll could’ve been far reduced from what it was – and few people would’ve been injured. Having an outdoor concert was putty in Paddock’s hands. In fact, it’s why he picked the Jason Aldean concert at which to shoot victims. There was nothing in his way to prevent him from shooting innocent people. The victims and attendees were in a helpless scenario – and the shooter took full advantage of it.

In verses 1-3 here in Psalm 11, we’ve read of the righteous, the upright in heart, and the wicked’s desire to see the upright in heart killed. They “shoot secretly” at the upright in heart in secret, plotting how to kill the righteous when no one knows their plans. Their desire to kill the righteous is premeditated and crafty. As the serpent in the Garden was more crafty than any other beast of the field, so are the plots of the wicked: they are more crafty and ingenious than few would ever want to admit. This is why they are called “criminal masterminds.” Don’t underestimate evil masterminds: they’re not stupid, they’re not ignorant, and they’re not incompetent.

And yet, the question becomes in Psalm 11, does the Lord know what the wicked are up to? Does He know what’s going on? Where is the Lord? Will He come to the defenseless, the upright in heart, who are helpless before the wicked, who can shoot at the upright in secret and kill them? Where is the Lord, who is to be, as David says in another Psalm, their “refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”? David answers in Psalm 11:4 with the words, “The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.”

The Lord is where He’s always been: He’s always been in His holy temple, among His people. He’s always been present with the righteous, even when they worship. God is among His people when they worship, as the temple is the place of worship. But God is not only with His people in the temple when they worship, but the Lord’s throne is in heaven, too. In other words, though the wicked shoot secretly at the upright in heart, though the Las Vegas shooter shot at the innocent crowd from above them, the Lord is in heaven, His throne is in Heaven and He’s even further above than the shooter was. In other words, the Lord saw the perpetrator, saw what He premeditated to do, saw every intricate detail that the perpetrator would put together before the mass shooting last Sunday evening. The Lord was not missing, absent, or blind in His perspective; He is where He’s always been, ever present, and sitting on His throne, ruling and reigning.

God’s sovereignty is not up for attack or debate or question because of the Las Vegas Shooting. The Lord is not less sovereign because of the massacre; God is still sovereign, He’s still on His throne, He’s still God, He’s still Almighty, He’s still all-powerful, He’s still got it all in control. Some atheists want to accuse God of being out of place, absent, or “on vacation” when the Las Vegas Shooting happened, but God was in place: He saw the entire thing. He foreknew the plans of the perpetrator because nothing takes Him by surprise. “His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men,” verse 4 concludes. He sees all, and His vision which is eternal, always watching over all things, tests humanity. There are those who know God is watching over all and walk in righteousness and holiness, but there are the wicked who know God is watching but tell themselves that God doesn’t really see or know anything.

Take Psalm 10: 8-15
He sits in the lurking places of the villages;
In the secret places he murders the innocent;
His eyes are secretly fixed on the helpless.
9 He lies in wait secretly, as a lion in his den;
He lies in wait to catch the poor;
He catches the poor when he draws him into his net.
10 So he crouches, he lies low,
That the helpless may fall by his strength.
11 He has said in his heart,
“God has forgotten;
He hides His face;
He will never see.”
12 Arise, O Lord!
O God, lift up Your hand!
Do not forget the humble.
13 Why do the wicked renounce God?
He has said in his heart,
“You will not require an account.”
14 But You have seen, for You observe trouble and grief,
To repay it by Your hand.
The helpless commits himself to You;
You are the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked and the evil man;
Seek out his wickedness until You find none.

The wicked says that God doesn’t see and that the wicked man won’t be accountable to God; and yet, we know that the wicked man is dead wrong because he WILL stand before God, the Judge of all the earth, and give an account of what he’s done. And as Abraham says, “The Judge of all the earth will do what is right.” God will give righteous judgment over all humanity in the end, even the wicked. As verse 5 says, “the Lord tests the righteous,” He allows adversity in the lives of those He loves to teach us about ourselves and Him and draw us closer to Him, but “the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.” The one who is wicked and loves violence, perpetrators such as the one responsible for the Las Vegas Shooting, are those that God hates. We like to say that “God loves everyone”; and, to an extent, He does. John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world” that He gave Jesus to die for us; that is true. And yet, God hates, despises, the one who does evil. The Lord loves every man, but He does not condone wickedness, violence, and evil. The Lord is a God of peace, not a God of violence, and He doesn’t give His blessing to violent acts no matter the reason.

The Scriptures tell us of the love of God, but they also tell us of God’s hate as well:
Proverbs 6:16-19 says:
These six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
17 A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
18 A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
19 A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren.

“Hands that shed innocent blood” and “a heart that devises wicked plans” are two characteristics or traits of the perpetrator in the Las Vegas Shooting. The Lord says that these are things the Lord hates. The Lord hates these actions, and those who persist in them and do not abandon them will ultimately be hated by the Lord. Steven Paddock shed innocent blood, for those who were at the Jason Aldean concert were there to enjoy a normal evening of music, laughs, and fun. None of the attendees had done anything to Paddock; none of them provoked him, agitated him, or said anything to him. The attendees didn’t even know that he was on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Inn. They were unaware he existed and were unaware of his plans, didn’t know him from Adam and didn’t mean him any harm whatsoever.

They were innocent, and he killed innocent life. And the Lord hates hands that shed innocent blood. The Lord hates Stephen Paddock because he took innocent life for no reason. So many are looking for a purpose in the Las Vegas Shooting, but there wasn’t one. Paddock killed out of sheer desire to harm innocent life. And God hates the hands that shed innocent blood in the Las Vegas Shooting, as He hates hands that have shed innocent blood in all other massacres such as Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and others.

Verses 6 and 7 tell us who God is, the nature of His character, and His righteous judgment upon the wicked: “Upon the wicked He will rain coals; fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup. For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright.” First, we read that “the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness” we read in verse 7. Do you hear that, atheists? The Lord is righteous and loves righteousness. God is not a God of evil, He’s not a God who smiles on evil acts, who secretly applauds and “high-fives” evildoers. No; God is a God who loves righteousness, is righteous, and hates evil and evildoers.

This is why verse 6 reveals the Lord’s judgment upon evildoers and those who love violence: “Upon the wicked He will rain coals; fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup.” To the families and injured of the Las Vegas Shooting, know that the Lord will deal righteousness to the perpetrator of this crime. He is in eternity now, having received the reward that was due him for this evil act. He has stood before the Lord and been condemned as an evil man, and Paddock is in Hell at this very hour. Though you may not know it, Paddock is getting everything in Hell, and then some, that he dealt to the victims and injured of the Las Vegas shooting. There is a place of conscious torment for him and other mass shooting perpetrators, and those who physically abuse, rape, and kill innocent life.

Psalm 11:6 says that he will rain coals; fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup. They’ll receive coals of fire, and fire and brimstone and a burning wind. In Genesis 19:24, the Lord rained down fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah for their sexual immorality; in Ezekiel 38:22, the Lord will rain down fire and brimstone upon Gog, the nation that troubles His people Israel in the end times. In Revelation 19:20, the beast and false prophet were “cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone,” where they’ll experience the fullness of God’s wrath against them. In Revelation 20:10, the devil, for whom Hell was created along with the rebellious one-third of the angelic hosts, will have their portion in the lake of fire and brimstone.

Revelation 21:8 also says that murderers will have their share in the lake of fire and brimstone, along with the sexually immoral, idolaters, and other evildoers. Every person responsible for these mass shootings, every person that kills scores of people and then themselves, will have their share in eternal, conscious torment. For everything they’ve done unto innocent life, God will deal it back to them and more. Just as they are conscious of what they’ve done to others, they will be conscious of their burning in Hell. There will be no rest for them, day or night, but they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

The Lord will rain down destruction upon the wicked, because the Lord loves righteousness (He loves acts of good, acts of kindness, acts of love) and hates wickedness. The Lord is righteous: let that sink in. Psalm 11:7 says that “the Lord is righteous.” The Bible as a whole says from page to page that God is righteous. (go to the biblical references on the goodness of God and the wickedness of man below)

Scriptures on the Goodness of God:

1) Ecclesiastes 7:29 –
Truly, this only I have found:
That God made man upright,
But they have sought out many schemes.”

2) Psalm 145:3-9:
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
And His greatness is unsearchable.
4 One generation shall praise Your works to another,
And shall declare Your mighty acts.
5 I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty,
And on Your wondrous works.
6 Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts,
And I will declare Your greatness.
7 They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness,
And shall sing of Your righteousness.
8 The Lord is gracious and full of compassion,
Slow to anger and great in mercy.
9 The Lord is good to all,
And His tender mercies are over all His works.

3) 1 Chronicles 16:34, Psalm 106:1 –
Praise the Lord!
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.

4) Psalm 34:8-16:
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
9 Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints!
There is no want to those who fear Him.
10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.
11 Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Who is the man who desires life,
And loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

5) Nahum 1:7 –
The Lord is good,
A stronghold in the day of trouble;
And He knows those who trust in Him.

6) Psalm 27:13 –
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

7) James 1:13-18 :
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

8) 3 John 1:11 : 11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.

Verses on the wickedness of man (mankind):

1) Ecclesiastes 7:20:
For there is not a just man on earth who does good
And does not sin.

2) Genesis 6:5-8 : 5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

3) Genesis 8:20-22:
20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.

22 “While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
Cold and heat,
Winter and summer,
And day and night
Shall not cease.”

4) Psalm 36:1-4
An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked:
There is no fear of God before his eyes.
2 For he flatters himself in his own eyes,
When he finds out his iniquity and when he hates.
3 The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit;
He has ceased to be wise and to do good.
4 He devises wickedness on his bed;
He sets himself in a way that is not good;
He does not abhor evil.

5) Jeremiah 17:5-10:
5 Thus says the Lord:

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
And makes flesh his strength,
Whose heart departs from the Lord.
6 For he shall be like a shrub in the desert,
And shall not see when good comes,
But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness,
In a salt land which is not inhabited.
7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.
8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.
9 “The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
10 I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings.

6) Luke 11:13- 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

He is the very opposite of evil, the very opposite of wickedness, the very opposite of cruelty. He is everything Adolph Hitler is not, everything Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden are not, everything that the perpetrators of our day are not. He is Goodness itself, and when we think of Goodness, we can’t help but think of God. And in His goodness, He looks upon the upright, the godly, with favor. We can believe that there were Christians killed in the Las Vegas Shooting; those who died in the Lord are precious to God, and the Lord looked upon them with favor in this life – and they are with Him forever in eternity.

We see from Psalm 11 that God is righteous, that He loves righteousness, and that He will bless the upright in heart. And yet, just as David experienced persecution and trouble from evildoers, we live in a world where we cannot avoid the wicked who “shoot at us in secret” by plotting mass shootings, by vowing to put an end to innocent life for reasons that are unholy (to say the least). We live in a world where godly folks, like ungodly folks, die at the hands of perpetrators who only want to harm life or “make a statement” by taking the lives of innocent bystanders instead of dealing with their problems in a more acceptable way. We cannot avoid death at the hands of these perpetrators. No matter how innocent we are, we cannot control the actions of those who decide to take up arms and slaughter innocent life out of a mere desire to harm others.

Paul identified with this in Romans 8 where he says:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

“Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness,” and even “the sword,” the representation of death, are all things that believers go through. Paul then quotes Old Testament Scripture, specifically, Psalm 44:22, to tell us that we face death all day long. Some of us believers actually die for our faith around the world every day for professing and proclaiming the name of Christ. And yet, while death and suffering are unavoidable, and God allows adversity, we can know that even in these times, nothing separates us from Christ and thus, God’s love.

The Lord hates violence, the Lord hates the loss of human life because the Lord has told us in Genesis 9:6 and through the life of Cain (that we studied last Sunday) that God made man in His image (and thus, man’s life is to not be taken). And God mourned the loss of life in the Las Vegas Shooting. God foreknew it would happen, but He mourns the loss of life and His anger is kindled by the perpetrator’s actions. And yet, even in the loss, those aware of their last few moments of life were never alone; they felt God’s love, even as their lives were taken by random bullets. Even in their last moments, those who believed in Jesus were not separated from the love of God. For if you have Jesus, you always have the love of God with you, in every situation, no matter how tragic.

 

In Memoriam,

Pastor D.M. Richardson

The Essential Church

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