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Vol. XIX No. 8
21 November 2021

LIFE AND DEATH

God is our Maker. We are therefore His property. “Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” (Ps 100:3 cf 1 Cor 6:19–20, Isa 43:1). Life is a gift from God—not just physical life but also spiritual life. Every human being owes his life to God, and believers owe their lives to Him two times. We are born into this world not by chance and not by the will of man, but by the will of God or divine appointment (Ps 139:13–14). Further, it is God who causes a woman to conceive, or prevents her from conceiving (Gen 18:10–14, 21:1–2, 25:21, 30:1–2, 1 Sam 1:5, 19–20, Ruth 4:12).

God who gives life can also take away life (Deut 32:39, Job 1:21), and that includes the life of infants and children (see Exod 4:22–23, 11:4–8, Ps 105:36, 135:6, 8). That God struck down the firstborn reveals His absolute sovereignty over life and death, that the life of all human beings including children belongs to Him and He can do whatever He wills according to His wisdom. God owns all life, even the life of infants. The infants do not own their own lives. Their lives belong to God for He brought them into existence (Isa 45:2, Acts 17:25) and sustains their life freely (Col 1:17, Heb 1:3).

Infants and children do not exist independently or autonomously. As such, when God takes them, He does not need to steal or to rob—He simply takes back what belongs to Him (Luke 12:20). Furthermore, we should not presume the innocence of infants or children and wrongly condemn God for taking away their life for in the first place none is innocent (including infants), “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23, cf Ps 51:5). We should never presume to know who deserves justice and who deserves mercy for only God knows all things. We puny human beings know next to nothing of God’s hidden purposes that would cause Him to take drastic actions after the counsel of His own will (Eph 1:11). “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa 55:7–9).

Know that the sacrifice of children by the heathen is an abomination and is condemned (Lev 18:21, Deut 18:10, 2 Kgs 16:3). But know also this—When God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, He was absolutely just and right for He had every right to do so, for Isaac was not Abraham’s but God’s. When God takes away life especially our loved ones, it can be a bitter experience—it grieves us (Ruth 1:13). For instance, when Job’s children were taken away from him, he rent his mantle and shaved his head (Job 1:20) which points to his great sorrow and mournful state. Yet Job with right theology responded in a most godly manner: “[He] fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” (Job 1:20–22). “So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes. Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” (Job 2:7–10). “Job answered the LORD, and said, I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.” (Job 42:1–3).

Indeed, what can we say but this: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counseller? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” (Rom 11:33–36).

Consider how God blessed Job abundantly later on: “Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” (Jas 5:11). Despite the evil that had befallen Job that has been permitted by God, yet God through this shows His great love and mercy on His servant for look at how God blessed and provided for Job at the end, “And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before…. So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses. He had also seven sons and three daughters…. After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations.” (Job 42:10, 12–13, 16).

Do We Have the Right to Life?

John Piper answers: “[T]here is a deep assumption in the hearts of most modern people that we have a right to life in relation to God. That is, he has no right to take our life. And, if he exists at all, he is obliged to do what he can to preserve our lives. Our life, most people feel, is ours. It does not belong to anyone else. And no one, not even God, has the right to take my life when I do not choose. I should be sovereign over my life. And if anyone takes my life, including God, he has done me wrong. That, I think, is the often unspoken form of our view of the “unalienable” right to life. But that is not God’s view. It is not the view of the Bible.…

“Few truths have a greater effectiveness in cleansing our minds from the presumptuousness of thinking we own our lives than to read in Scripture of all the groups and individuals whose lives God took. It is astonishing to me how many people who claim to be Bible-believing Christians react angrily to the statement, no matter how carefully timed or caringly spoken, that deadly catastrophes are part of God’s providence—that they are finally in the control of his wise and just and good and purposeful sovereignty….

“… In fact, my impression is that whenever there is a natural disaster causing human suffering and death, most Christians seem allergic to any claim that the Lord gave and now the Lord has taken. It is as though somewhere they were taught that God does not take human life. It is as though they have never read their Bible. So let’s take an overview of the biblical picture not just of God’s right to take human life but of his actual taking of it.”

The theology behind this is the doctrine of the Fall (Gen 2:17, 3:1–7, 1 Cor 15:22, Rom 5:17). Sin has reigned over all—old and young, adults and infants, rich and poor, men and women, every race and colour. Therefore, the biblical view of death is that every human being dies because of God’s judgment on sin. There is no other explanation. “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation” (Rom 5:18). “Condemnation” is a legal term used by a judge in the courts. Sin’s condemnation as Piper says, “is not a consequence of nature; it is a rendering of the court of heaven—God’s just decision. This doctrine is theologically and historically so basic to Christianity that it is strange how many Christians today treat death as though it is utterly foreign to God’s plan for the world.” Indeed, it is part of God’s nature—His justice and judgement in action!

The Genesis Flood for instance was God’s judgment on the human race. It was so fierce and thorough that even the greatest typhoons and tsunamis we have witnessed are small by comparison. God clearly has absolute rights over life and death. This answers the objections to theodicy (ie, “the vindication of divine providence in view of the existence of evil”). JK

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