Why or Who?

Gadiel Lazcano, Unsplash

Who handed Jacob over to become loot, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned? For they would not follow his ways; they did not obey his law. (Isaiah 42:24)

Jesus promised us we would face trials and tribulations in this life, which means we will be tempted (with alarming regularity) to ask that tormenting question, “Why?” Why me? Why is this happening? Why would a good God allow such suffering in the life of a child he claims to love? (I must hasten to add, it’s not wrong per se to ask why—after all, even Jesus asked why God had forsaken him—so long as we ask with faith.)

In the passage above, Isaiah shows us a better—albeit exceedingly challenging—way. God’s people face enslavement and an invading army. They’re being plundered and pillaged (verse 22), hiding in holes, fleeing the coming devastation. But despite all this, Isaiah doesn’t ask, “Why is this happening to Israel?” but rather, “Who handed Jacob over to become loot?” Asking that question directs his attention to the sovereign God who stands behind it all. He is Creator, Maker, Potter, Savior, and Holy One—all descriptions of God given in this and the next chapter. If he is on his throne, if this is happening on his watch, and under his sovereign rule, then all is well. It might not be easy, enjoyable, or even good—but we know God will sustain us with his grace, keep us in his peace, and work it for our good if we love him.

Eli exemplifies this approach. When the boy Samuel shares God’s devastating word to him—the death of his sons, the end of his line—Eli simply responds, “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes” (1 Samuel 3:18). I may not understand why God is doing what he is doing, I may not like what God has brought into my life, but he is King—and a good, wise, loving, compassionate, faithful, patient King.

He is God. We know enough of his character in the Word and the gospel to trust his plans. Better than asking why, ask who. Who stands behind this? Who orders and sustains all things? Who saved me at the cost of his Son? Can I not trust this most blessed Who?

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