Before Men and Angels, part 1
Thoughts from reading the Conflict of the Ages (COTA) series. Join the COTA in a Year reading group on Facebook.
In the opening chapter of the series, Why Was Sin Permitted, the stage for the controversy between good and evil is set. In the face of evil and rebellion, whose origin is mysterious, God does something that is simply baffling and perplexing.
God could employ only such means as were consistent with truth and righteousness. Satan could use what God could not—flattery and deceit. He had sought to falsify the word of God and had misrepresented His plan of government, claiming that God was not just in imposing laws upon the angels; that in requiring submission and obedience from His creatures, He was seeking merely the exaltation of Himself. Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 42.
Satan accuses God of injustice and self-exaltation, and the apparatus of evil is more diverse than the apparatus of goodness. Satan makes claims that falsify God’s word. He makes statements that contradict what God says. As a result:
It was therefore necessary to demonstrate before the inhabitants of heaven, and of all the worlds, that God’s government is just, His law perfect. Satan had made it appear that he himself was seeking to promote the good of the universe. The true character of the usurper and his real object must be understood by all. He must have time to manifest himself by his wicked works. Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 42.
The incredible unfairness of the situation is troubling. One accusation, and God has to suffer through this thousands-of-years-long play, this elaborate experimentation with sin that costs Him dearly. The accusation is easy, the defense is long and costly.
Yet the greater wonder to me is that God deems it necessary to “demonstrate before the inhabitants of heaven, and of all the worlds, that [His] government is just, His law perfect.” Why?
Out of all the options to handle rebellion, including ignoring it, quieting it, taking a hands-off approach and letting everyone figure out who’s right, God chooses the one option where He ultimately pays for Satan’s rebellion (and subsequently, the sin of mankind)… And the story hasn’t ended! We are still in the middle of this controversy; God is still in the middle of this demonstration process. I do not understand this, but I do not question that this incomprehensible wisdom behind God’s decision is the highest kind there is.
In the face of Satan’s (verbal) accusations, God takes it upon Himself to demonstrate, by words and action, over a long period of time, the falsity of His opponent. God responds to His creation; He is not unaffected by sin and rebellion.
In fact, God is essentially wooing His own creation to believe Him, placing Himself as the pleader, convincing men and angels that His government is just, His law perfect. This is God, the Creator! The Creator pleading with His creation? It sounds utterly ridiculous.
But such is the humility of God. So humble that it makes me perplexed and uncomfortable. How can this be? He makes Himself subject to His creation.
My natural response in this type of situation would be to appeal to God, “Lord, show Yourself strong.” He is in fact showing Himself strong, but not in the way I think what strong means. And in the end, when all beings in the universe will finally acknowledge the justice and goodness of God, what we will not find is God sitting on His throne looking all smug saying, “I told you so.”
God is a God who is touched by the feeling of our infirmities (Heb 4:15). This is not only true when Jesus becomes our High Priest; this is who He is from the beginning. And these infirmities are not just our feebleness; they include all of our sins and rebellions. God is touched by our sins. He is not unaffected by our rebellions.
In the controversy between good and evil, God is not the One watching the spectacle from above. He is the One being watched. This is humility.
Who is before men and angels? God is.
More of this from the sanctuary later.