1. Why Doesn’t God Just Come and Fix the World?

    February 6, 2024 by Kyle Swanson

    Why Doesn’t God Just Come and Fix the World?

    Introduction

    The question posed is often the source of angst, sinful anger, and distrust toward God, incited by the deceitful instruction of all God-haters in this present world. It is, however, an important question to ask and to answer, understanding that God has provided for us a clear and understandable explanation, which showcases his heart of patient love for his people.

    Recently I had the opportunity to preach on a familiar parable. Parables are stories that express general axiomatic principles through situational dilemmas and cultural ethics. Though parables can be helpful, they are like a secret code without a cipher if the meaning of the parable is hidden by the one who is teaching. It is important to understand this, knowing that the true heart of Jesus, and the nature of the coming kingdom was veiled from the masses and kept only for his truest of disciples. Jesus would teach parables in public, only revealing the true meaning to his disciples in a later private setting.

    In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus encountered rejection and scorn from the national religious leadership of Israel, effectively dismissing his divinity, his ministry, and insulting the power of the Holy Spirit, attributing it to the work of Satan. Because they were the leadership representing the predominant religious thought of the day, this rejection of the Messiah (despite overwhelming prophetic evidence that Jesus was indeed the Christ) resulted in Jesus veiling his teaching in the form of parables. These veiled stories, we are told, is a judgment against their actions. Matthew 13:10–11 says, “Then the disciples came and said to him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’ And he answered them, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”

    With that context, I want to share with you something significant that I learned from the parable of the wheat and the tares found in Matthew 13.

    The Setting of the Parable

    Parables require a setting. Like any good story or fairytale, the setting chosen gives the deeper truth a place to flourish. The setting of this parable takes place in a field, and that field has both an owner and an enemy. The owner sets forth to sow the field with good seed, whilst the enemy, under the cover of darkness (always the cover under which sin flourishes), sows the field with noxious weeds intended at choking out and destroying the good seeds of wheat.

    We find ourselves with Jesus having painted this scene, wondering what will happen. The field workers seem anxious and eager to uproot the weeds for the sake of the good wheat, and yet the master of the field seems to have a different intent, setting the stage for the master to share his heart and intentions for this field of wheat, to which he is deeply committed to grow to maturity.

    The Substance of the Parable

    When Jesus set the stage for this common enough, and yet eternally significant story, he established several things for us to know. First, the field is owned by a master. This master employed members of his household to tend the field and care for its growth. Second, these household members did not understand the full plan of the master, nor did they recognize the extent of the evil that was perpetrated onto this field by the master’s enemy. And third, this enemy sought to destroy, by any means necessary, the value of the crop in this field.

    As the servants begin to question the master about his actions, they ask him in verse 27, “did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?” In verse 28 the master replied, “An enemy has done this.”

    At this point, a contrast of actions and will is established as the servants seek to uproot the weeds immediately for the sake of the wheat, but the master halts their plan. His attention immediately goes to the well-being of the wheat crop! He says to the servants, after they ask him if they should go uproot the weeds, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them into bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn” (v. 29–30).

    With this substantial setting, the story has been told. The moral has been expressed, and yet the crowd is left wondering what the true intention of the parable would be. You would think that Jesus would clarify! Instead, he exits the small boat from which he was teaching, surrounded by a massive crowd along the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, and he retreats with his disciples to the refuge of Peter’s house in Capernaum.

    The Symbolism of the Parable

    When he had sat down with his disciples in private, he began to illuminate for them the deeper meaning of the parables he had taught along the shore to the crowds earlier that day. Keeping in mind that he had already expressed to them the reason he was teaching in a veiled format, he now began to reveal to them the secrets of the kingdom that were built into this simple and yet eternally significant illustration.

    He begins to unmask the meaning of each of the symbols as we continue to read down to Matthew 13:36–43. The Master is God. The field is the world. The good wheat are God’s people, the sons of the kingdom, as they are called. The weeds are those belonging to the devil, the enemy who sowed them. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels carrying out God’s will.

    Each of the pieces of the story are shown to have a deeper meaning. A simple agrarian setting, common enough in the land with a common enough outcome has proven to represent a picture of cosmic proportions and eternal consequence. Jesus continues to outline what would happen to the weeds that were sown and to the good wheat in the remaining verses of this explanation. The weeds would be gathered, at the harvest, by the angels, and bound up and burned. The good wheat would be gathered together and taken into the master’s barn.

    The Significance of the Parable

    Here’s where we need to understand the significance of this story, and answer the question posed in the title of this article. Why doesn’t God just come and fix the world? I mean, we all see the destruction caused by evil, the pain of suffering, and the injustice of sin, do we not!?

    This is a question that many of us have wrestled with. In philosophy, we call this Theodicy, or the study of the problem of evil, in light of God’s holiness and omnipotence (his all-powerful nature). I mean, is God incapable of fixing the evil? If so, then he isn’t all-powerful, right? If he is all-powerful, but allows evil, then he couldn’t possibly be all-good and holy, right?

    Herein lies the logical fallacy at the heart of these arguments, and in this parable lies the answer! To ask these questions, devoid of God’s heart for the good of his people, is to miss the entire point. To ask without the foundational truth, that whatever it is that God is doing is the ultimate good, according to his definition and practice, subjugates our understanding to his. Truthfully, though, the heart of our heavenly Father is revealed in this parable, and the answer is so simple, yet so profound, it should drive us to our knees in worship and in trust of his sovereign and loving plan.

    You see, in this world, this harvest, the wheat is still growing. The seeds are still germinating, and the harvest is not yet complete. In terms of parables, this means that people are still being born, sinners are still being saved, and souls are continually being regenerated, saved, and transformed into God’s people! Every parable has its limits as far as illustrations go. Weeds don’t turn into wheat. However, God’s intervention can change people’s natures by breathing into them new spiritual life, effectively altering their spiritual DNA. Spiritual weeds can and do become spiritual wheat!

    God’s tarrying, seemingly for ages, watching the evil of this world unfold, does not make him culpable for the evil perpetrated by men, nor incapable of solving it. James 1:13–15 makes it clear that sin and evil are not thrust into our way by God, but rather are fruits of the human heart, sown in evil and stoked by the dark spiritual forces of this world. Matthew 13 makes it clear that God’s heart is not to bring about a swift end to evil, because despite what we see around us, the harvest of God’s righteous elect is not yet complete. Romans 11:25 expresses that God’s plan will continue until, “The fullness of gentiles has come in.” That is, until the elect from all the nations are added to God’s kingdom, he will hold back the reapers because the harvest is not yet ripe.

    Christian, be encouraged by 2 Peter 3:15, which says, “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation…” Peter is encouraging the church to live holy, righteous lives, aligning our hearts with God’s heart, exercising endurance and patience in this evil world for the sake of all of God’s chosen people, who have yet to come to faith!

    Conclusion

    A relatively simple, boring, and seemingly insignificant agrarian parable, explained by Jesus to his disciples, has answered a cosmic question of enormous significance. Why doesn’t God just come and fix the world? Because the harvest of God’s righteous elect has not yet come to full fruition. Imagine if all Christians for all time begged God to come fix the world, and yet you, Christian, had not yet bowed the knee to Christ in repentance and faith! If God followed man’s wishes, you would die in your sins. Instead, his patience saw fit to wait for the exact right moment for you to come to faith.

    In the same manner, aligning our hearts to God’s heart and knowing his intent, we must count the patience of God as salvation for those who are his. These precious souls, who, in the proper course of the progress of redemptive history, will come to faith and be gathered into the righteous harvest of God’s people. When seen in that light, the answer to this question becomes not only plain, but a source of hope and worship of God for his grace, mercy, and sovereign plan of love that, through the darkness, is on display through our lives for the whole world to see.


  2. Learning to Kiss the Heavy Hand of God

    October 12, 2023 by Kyle Swanson

    Learning to Kiss the Heavy Hand of God

    Introduction

    Charles Spurgeon is often credited with saying, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” In that expression it’s hard to see anything other than a man who is fully invested in trusting God. The truth of the sentiment also comes to bear regarding God’s heavy hand of discipline. We could rightly say, “I have learned to kiss the heavy hand that leads me back to the safe refuge of the Rock of Ages.”

    David’s Rebellion

    It was a season of selfishness and sinful rebellion in David’s life. 2 Samuel 11:1 says, “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.” David was king. It was his role and responsibility to execute God’s justice in the land and keep the peace. Instead, he chose to be selfish and take a holiday.

    The text goes on to describe a very familiar scene. In his defenseless afternoon stupor, David went to his roof, spied a beautiful woman bathing, and took her for his own. When she became pregnant, knowing she was the wife of his friend, Uriah, David attempted to cover up his sin by calling his friend back from battle to lay with his wife. When he refused, David sent him back to battle and arranged for a battlefield execution. The army would charge with Uriah at the vanguard; they would then pull back and leave him to be struck down by the enemy.

    Upon the death of Uriah, David took Bathsheba to be his wife. He sought to cover his adultery by claiming that the child conceived was due to their union rather than his lust. Verse 27 of 2 Samuel tells us that nothing David did during this season of his life pleased the LORD.

    David’s Realization

    When David had rested in what he thought was the end of his cover-up, God intervened on his behalf. In 2 Samuel 12, Nathan the prophet came and confronted David with a story of injustice. Upon hearing the story, David was furious. To think of a rich man taking the lamb of a poor man caused David to demand that justice be repaid four-fold. Nathan, however, illuminated David with the reality that, in this example, he was indeed the rich man. It was he who had robbed his friend Uriah of his life and his bride, all because of the lust of his flesh and the greed of his eyes.

    When David realized what he had done, he confessed and repented of his sin. God, in his gracious love for David, allowed for his heavy hand to fall on his life, without which, David may have never seen the error of his ways. The chapter tells us that God covered David’s sin. God would not require his life in payment for what he had done, but the consequences for his newborn son, and for the future of his house, would be dire.

    David’s heart is poured out and exposed for us in Psalm 32 and Psalm 51 during this season of his life. Psalm 32:1 says, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Verses 3–4 goes on to shed light on how David was feeling, even in what he thought was relative success of his cover-up. The Psalm says, “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” Psalm 51 shares David’s penitent heart of confession when he cries in verse 1, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy; blot out my transgressions.”

    David’s Restoration

    When we continue reading in Psalm 32:5, David says, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” In his repentance, David calls all who are godly to offer prayer to the LORD, and in doing so, they will find protection, preservation, restoration, and deliverance from death. God’s instruction through the kindness of his grace will be evident in the life of any believer who seeks the Lord in humility with an attitude of repentance, confession, and desiring forgiveness.

    The result of David’s full confession, which we find in Psalm 51, is that David’s heart is realigned with God. The joy of his salvation is restored. David then says in verse 13, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” The result of God’s heavy hand on David was his confession, repentance, and restoration, yes, but it would also be praising the name of God, bringing him glory, and teaching sinners about his grace. David also confesses a beautiful truth of a true heart of worship. Psalm 51:7 says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

    God’s Heavy Hand as a Grace for Our Assurance

    None of what we read in these two incredible and uplifting Psalms would have happened without the heavy hand of God. David could have gotten away with his sin. God could have left him in his unrepentant sin. God could have chosen not to restore David. But the LORD, in his steadfast covenant love for his people, thankfully does not do this! Hebrews 12 instructs us not to take lightly or disregard the corrective hand of God’s discipline, because God demonstrates the fact that he cares for us in his shaping, molding, discipline of us! Only through his love for us would God care enough to desire a good and righteous outcome in our lives.

    In the same manner, the subject of our assurance of salvation (that is, our sense of God’s closeness and guarantee of our redemption) is addressed in 1 John as a theme. John reminds us that when we sin as a habit or in a high-handed and unrepentant way, we will feel God’s heavy hand through the removal of assurance. Just like when we sin against a loved-one, before that sin is confessed and restoration occurs, there is doubt about the status of the relationship, is there not? We wonder if we will ever have the same level of love for that person or from that person, until confession and restoration happens! In the same manner, removal of assurance serves to draw us back to our loving Father who will never turn us away. This act of God’s heavy hand is a measure of loving discipline, which God employs to call his children back into faithful, obedient, repentant, and restored covenant relationship with him.

    Conclusion

    Occasionally, the heavy hand of God will fall upon us in our lives. All of us have faced it, because we have all sinned. We have all fallen, like David, and tried to cover up our sin instead of exposing it before God. Our Father, though, being righteous and holy, cannot abide with such sin. So, in his love for us, he exercises discipline by laying his heavy hand of gracious reproof upon us, causing us to suffer physical, spiritual, and emotional stress, just like David, until we run to him for restoration. But remember, God’s heavy hand only falls on those he loves! Hebrews 12:6 says, “For the lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

    The next time you are sensing God’s heavy hand upon your life, do not recoil from it. Do not run from it! Instead, know the truth. God’s heavy hand falls only upon his sons and daughters, and it is only extended to those with whom he desires a right relationship. We must see God’s heavy hand as a loving act of the Father in heaven drawing us back to himself, and we must all learn to kiss the heavy hand of God that draws us back to the safe refuge of the Rock of Ages.


  3. Stand Firm And Take Action

    September 28, 2023 by Kyle Swanson

    He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action (Dan 11:32).

    Recently, I had the privilege of speaking at a church conference, where this verse from a relatively obscure portion of Daniel was the theme verse. Each of our messages was geared toward encouraging God’s people to respond in faithfulness during times of tribulation and apostasy, and I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts from a few of the passages I had the opportunity to teach. In doing so, my goal is to call our hearts and dispositions into conformity with the attitude of Daniel 11:32.

    Though this verse happens in a fulfilled and foreign prophetic context, the axiom of truth rings throughout the ages: “The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” Characteristic of God’s people is the willingness and the drive to stay faithful to God, to be courageous and bold, and to act rightly, even in the face of temptation, persecution, ridicule, and relegation to the small minority of cultural ethics.

    The following passages show us biblical examples of faithfulness and courageous action in the lives of Ezra and Abraham, and give us a solid foundation for finding our courage in the sufficiency of God’s character and his Word, in a letter from Peter.

    Ezra Finds Courage from God

    It was a dark and discouraging time in Persia. Though the Jews had been granted the royal decree to return to their land and rebuild the house of Yahweh, they had been gone for seventy years. Their lands had been infiltrated by squatters who made the return to Jerusalem very difficult. They threatened, they sued, they practiced violence, and for forty years the people struggled to rebuild.

    But in Ezra chapter seven we see God move in the heart of the King of Persia. Artaxerxes meets with Ezra and grants him everything he needs, commanding all the leaders of the land east of the river (between Babylon and Jerusalem) to supply Ezra and the returning wave of exiles with gold, silver, wheat, oil, and all of their needs, far beyond measure! Indeed, God moves in such a manner as to show Ezra that nothing, indeed, nothing would stop God from fulfilling his promise to restore the people of Judah to their birthright.

    In Ezra 7:27, the faithful priest blesses the name of the LORD and recognizes his sovereign hand! But importantly for us, in verse twenty-eight he recognizes that because of God’s actions on his behalf, he can take courage! Ezra, imbibed with courage, stood firm in his convictions, regardless of the persecution he would most certainly face, and he took bold action to return to Jerusalem, face the opposition, and honor the LORD by being faithful to rebuild his house.

    Abram Lives Courage for Others

    In one of the most epic and inspiring stories of courage in the whole Bible, we find Abram in Genesis chapter fourteen living near Hebron, watching an extraordinary scene unfold. The kings of the Jordan Valley went to battle against the kings of the region of Babylon, and from his hilltop overlooking the Jordan rift, Abraham watched as the kings from the east decimated the city states of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar.

    Now, a chapter earlier, Abram and his nephew Lot went their separate ways so as to not cause strife between the clans. Lot went to the Jordan Valley, and Abram went to Hebron. So, from Hebron, Abram is watching the country of his nephew be destroyed, and in fact, we learn from Genesis fourteen that these kings hauled away Lot and his family after their resounding victory.

    Now, picture this: four kings from the east come to face five kings from the Jordan Valley. On their way, the four from the east decimate every village, including the villages of the giants (Gen 14:5–6), and most likely annihilated several thousand, if not tens of thousands, of men on this campaign.

    So, what is Abram’s response? What does he opt to do as he sees these events unfold? What would be the righteous thing to do?

    The text tells us that Abram took three hundred eighteen of his finest trained warriors and pursued these kings to the furthest reaches of the land, up to Dan in the north. He then divided his forces and pursued them, overtook them, and defeated them, near Damascus! Now, stop and imagine this. Abram and three hundred eighteen of his warriors just defeated four kings and their armies that had just defeated five kings and their armies, and most likely defeated tens of thousands!

    You see, Abram knew that Lot and his family would be unjustly sold into slavery, abused, tortured, raped, or even murdered. He also knew the principle that self-sacrificing love for others is a true measure of godliness! So Abram, in obedience to what he knew was right, stepped in and saved his nephew and all his family, standing firm and taking action as a godly example of selfless courage.

    Peter Establishes Courage for Us

    Now, for a more direct context, Peter shows us in 2 Peter 1:3 that God, the God of all who hold to a faith of equal standing with his own (namely, those who have repented of their sins and cling to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior), has granted to us all things pertaining to life and godliness. God, in his greatness and mercy, has given us his all-sufficient Word, teaching us all we need to know, including his heart, his mind, and the knowledge of his good plans and the presence of his indwelling Spirit.

    Peter does this intentionally! We know this because just nine verses later Peter tells us his purpose. 2 Peter 1:12 says, “Therefore, I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.” Peter intended to establish his audience in truth, and that truth is that those who are in Christ have everything we need for life and godliness, as described in the Bible.

    Let the reader understand! Peter is telling his audience that they have no reason for fear, no reason for doubt, and no excuse for inaction. We are well-equipped and we are tasked with living our lives to the glory of God, through trial and affliction, and we can find our encouragement from God’s equipping to accomplish our mission.

    Conclusion

    What then should be our response? It is to be like Ezra, like Abram, and know that we can, should, and must take courage. Courage infused from an outside source. Courage granted to us by the character and compassion of God, who has equipped us with everything we need to accomplish his will, to stand firm in a morally decaying world, to take righteous action regardless of the cost, and to represent Jesus the King with courage as his ambassadors. May God grant you that courage today, to be those people who know their God, who stand firm in the truth, and who take righteous action for his glory.