“Yet I will leave some of you alive. When you have among the nations some who escape the sword, and when you are scattered through the countries, then those of you who escape will remember me among the nations where they are carried captive, how I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols. And they will be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed, for all their abominations. And they shall know that I am the Lord. I have not said in vain that I would do this evil to them.” Ezekiel 6:8-10
“For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” Romans 13:3-4
One of the advantages of the prophets’ messages of warning is the inclusion of reason behind what Almighty God was doing. He was not capricious or arbitrary in His dealings with His children, and never left them unattended by His overriding purposes. As vehement as His abhorrence to their sin, and as extreme His punishment, He always had a higher and good end in view.
It seems natural to fret over gripping cruelty and seemingly meaningless destruction in our world. We might feel things are out of control. Do we find ourselves asking ‘Why, Lord?’ more often than, ‘What are You revealing?’? Not in vain does our Lord do anything. He is always purposeful, measured, and in control. We more readily accept this truth when things go smoothly and well, but what about suffering and harsh consequences of sin?
If we step back to see the agonies of this world as a result of sin, and accept that God’s wrath is now being poured out on unbelief and idolatry, and all creation is groaning with hope for ultimate redemption, we can begin to see the not in vain of God’s hand. We can learn the intricacies of His righteousness, holiness, and goodness. We can get in step with our conformation to His image. We can seize each day with hope, and take up our tasks with vigor, believing that nothing we do for Him is for naught, and the best is yet to come. (Genesis 3:14-19; Romans 1:18-20; 8:19-23,28-30; 1 Corinthians 15:58)
Are we caught in a vortex of complaining, or in emotional turmoil over senseless clamor and horror? What if we removed ourselves and took time to think, to humble ourselves and adjust our vision, and tried to see with an eternal perspective? If we take God at His word, and believe He does not allow or impose anything in vain, what are we discovering of His ways? How are we applying His promises and aligning with His greater purposes?
Lord, knowing Your deeds are never in vain, may I daily embrace Your wisdom and plan. Guide me to meaningful, hopeful living among family, neighbors, and colleagues, so they trust and revere You also.