During the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua tells the people that they should love their enemies and pray for them because that way they will become children of their father in heaven.
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He then tells them that God makes the sun to shine on good and bad people alike, as well as makes the rain to fall on the righteous and unrighteous, alike.
I have always thought this passage meant that God is such a loving God that even those who reject him and ignore his instructions will be able to receive goodness from him. The sunshine and the rains have always represented life to me, in as much as they both are necessary for growth, so when Yeshua said that God provides sun and rain even to the unrighteous, I felt that this was a good thing.
Recently, though, I have thought differently about this. I read Jeremiah 49 and I saw a totally different meaning to what Yeshua said.
In this chapter of Jeremiah, he is prophesying against the different nations surrounding Israel, and in his prophecy against Edom, he says this in Jeremiah 49:12 (CJB):
For this is what Adonai says: “Those who do not deserve to drink from this cup will have to drink it, anyway, so should you go unpunished? No, you will not go unpunished; you will certainly drink it.”
When I read that, even though it is in a distinctly different part of the Bible and is not the same subject matter as the Sermon on the Mount, I realized that what Yeshua said might be understood in a totally different light.
How many times have we heard people ask “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Now, after this revelation (if you will) of mine, I think one answer might be that it’s because they are “collateral damage.”
God loves all people, even the ones who hate him, and even though he knows every hair on every person’s head (which, finally, I will be able to get cut this evening), when he judges a nation, it is the entire nation. How many times has he told us, through the Prophets, that Israel is his son? Israel is seen by God as a unique and singular entity, meaning that God sees all the people that live in Israel as one. And how many times do we hear the Prophets confess the guilt of the people? Not for an individual or a select few but it is always the “sins of our fathers” or “the sins of your people” that they reference when praying to God for forgiveness. And, again, not for the forgiveness of a person or persons, but of the nation.
I came to realize that when God gives sun and rain in abundance at the right times, which is his blessing to the righteous, the unrighteous will be collateral beneficiaries. But, too much sunshine with too little rain, or too much rain without enough sunny days and you don’t have a blessing, you have a curse. And when God sends his curses on the unrighteous, the righteous will be collateral damage.
In other words, we are sometimes guilty by association. And perhaps that is why when God first gave us his instructions for how to live, he was very clear that those who were not clean were to be separated from the rest of the community and placed outside the camp. For example, in Numbers 16 before the ground swallowed up Dathan and Abiram, Moses told the people close by to separate themselves and get away from them, or they too would be swallowed up.
Too often things happen that we cannot explain, and when we look to God for answers, too often there are none to have. God is so far above us, and he doesn’t really care about our existence on Earth- he is focused on eternity. He is an eternal being, and although he can understand the finite, we, as finite beings, cannot understand the infinite. God has given us this life for one purpose, and one purpose only, which is to choose where we will spend eternity.
If a righteous person is taken from this life along with unrighteous people, then as sad as that may seem to us, it isn’t that bad for the righteous person taken because he or she is now in the eternal presence of the Lord. C’mon, really? What’s the downside of that? This existence is merely a wisp, a mist, and because we have only the amount of time God gives us, and we don’t know how long that is, it is best to make sure we are right with the Lord, first, then try to separate ourselves from evil and unrighteousness as much as possible.
I am not saying to cut off all relationships with non-Believers and run to the mountaintops, living as a hermit, but just to always try to be right with the Lord, and try to associate with the more righteous people as much as you can. It is a fallen and cursed world, and there are more evil and unrighteous people in it then righteous people, so you can never be fully separated from them. But when you know you are living as righteous a life as you can, then even if you end up as collateral damage, it won’t be so bad for you.
When you see good people suffer, it might be because they are collateral damage from someone close to them or something they were associated with. It doesn’t, by itself, means they were guilty of anything. Just like with Job, or the man born blind in John 9:3, whose blindness was not the result of anyone’s sin but so that God’s power and goodness could be made known, we can’t know why bad things happen to good people, nor should we feel it is unfair when bad people receive blessings because the one thing we can be sure of is that in the end, the good are rewarded and the bad receive their punishment.
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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!