Limits to Cause and Effect
Today’s reading: I Samuel 7-9; Luke 13:1-21
10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. I Samuel 7:10
1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Luke 13:1-3
While cause and effect relationships exist in our experience, it is not possible to draw perfectly correct conclusions about those relationships because God intervenes in ways we do not always understand.
The Israelites suffered for years under oppression by the Philistines. Finally, they cried out to the Lord for deliverance. Samuel, who was faithful as both a judge and a prophet, called them together for prayer and repentance. Immediately, the Philistines were suspicious of this gathering and saw an opportunity to increase their power over Israel. In the short run, the Israelites were intimidated by the approach of their enemies. It must have seemed to them like the national prayer meeting was a really bad idea that was actually making things worse.
But then God intervened sending a tremendous thundering sound so horrific that the army of Philistea was thrown into confusion and defeat. The men of Israel chased them and struck them down.
In Jesus’ day, there were two incidents which resulted in speculation about causes and effects. Some Galileans were killed by Herod while attempting to offer sacrifices to God. A tower fell on a group of people at Siloam causing their deaths. Were those people merely reaping the consequences of their sins? Jesus denied that those victims were any worse sinners than their neighbors. He warned His hearers to repent or they would also perish.
There can be an apparent disconnect, at least in the short term, between a person’s spiritual life and their outward blessing or suffering. Sometimes evil people prosper in this world. Sometimes godly people face enormous suffering in this life (Psalm 73). Turning to the Lord is not a quick fix for all our difficulties. It may bring on greater difficulties. Ultimately, the Lord promises that His people will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever”, so we plod on in faith waiting for that day (Psalm 23:6b). Are you suffering despite your obedience to God? Plod on in faith. May God give you grace.