Thinking Like God

  • Randy Karlberg
Man holding a baby's hand

I have been challenged with trying to understand God’s ways quite a bit lately.  A good deal of this mental theological exercise has come to the forefront due to close friends of mine navigating intense health challenges.  The questions seem to continue tumbling out of my head.  “Why do they have to go through this God?”  Or “Are you going to show yourself glorified through physical healing, Lord?”, just to state a couple.  I feel the questions are out of compassion for people, and so I continue to ask questions that could be seen as questioning God’s sovereign will.  Then I am reminded that yes, God does know what it feels like to have someone close to you suffer in what is an unjust situation.  And yes this is because of sin in this world that suffering takes place.  And thus I continue on a journey of trying to think as God does with the happenings of this world. 


There are many Godly, deep thinkers that have written on this topic of suffering and heartache in the world.  I don’t pretend to be able to match their level of thinking on this subject, and I would encourage you to look at articles and books written by John Piper, Tim Keller, and others.  I just wanted to write a bit as to what I have been considering as we struggle through the totally amazing and heart wrenching reality of life in this world. 


One of the things that I think most people can come together on is the suffering of the innocent.  Now I fully understand that many do not agree on who, or some would say, what the innocent are?  Obviously the passions around abortion come to mind when we open this up.  I have passionate views on abortion, and yet that is not the path I am going down in this blog.  But if people were able to agree on the definition of “innocent people” I hold that a huge percentage of those people would have a similar stance on suffering of the innocent.  But could it be that God sees suffering of innocent people as so much more than the physical ramifications of suffering?  Could He have such a higher, more eternal perspective that the result of the suffering outweighs the endured physical harshness? 


I ask this question because as I was reading the other day in Exodus, I noticed something that I had not previously seen.  Genesis ends with the amazing account of God providing for His people to save them from starvation and death.  The beginning of Exodus tells us how successful God’s plan of deliverance was for His people.  Exodus 1:7 says, “But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.”   First, what an amazing plan God put into action.  His people would grow in strength and number under the protection and provision of the strongest nation in the world at that time!  They enjoyed the best of the land, separation from the influences of Egypt (due to the fact that Egyptians considered shepherds an abomination Genesis 46:34), and protection to increase to an astounding number of people.  Including the sons that were born to Joseph in Egypt, the number of Jacob’s family that settled in the Goshen area of Egypt was 70 persons.  After 430 years in Egypt, God brought the Israelites out and led them into the wilderness.  We are told in Exodus 12:37 that the number of men leaving Egypt was about 600,000 not including the women and children, so a conservative estimate would be 1,500,000 population for God’s people.  It would be derelict to not mention the slavery and abuse that God’s people had to go through in the execution of God’s provision plan.  The abuse and persecution are well documented in the first eleven chapters of Exodus.  But let us not forget how God instructed His people to boldly ask their neighbors and slave bosses for items of value when they were beginning their exodus.  The Egyptians enthusiastically gave them what they asked for.  Exodus 12:36 says, “And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked.  Thus they plundered the Egyptians.”  We cannot miss how God takes care of His people! 


Now back to my thought.  What was God thinking when He allowed Pharaoh to order little Jewish boys to be murdered by being thrown into the Nile?  Please hear me.  I am not questioning God’s wisdom nor His authority to do anything He wants.  I am just trying to understand things that are beyond me. 


Exodus 1 tells the incredible saga of the midwives fearing God rather than Pharaoh and thus saving numerous baby boys from instant death.  Exodus 2 tells us that Moses’ father and mother feared God more than Pharaoh as well and so they spared his life.  We all remember how after three months of age they placed Moses in a basket in the Nile and he was found by the Pharaoh’s daughter.  She took pity on him, and as I read between the lines said something like, “I have always wanted to have a baby.  And now I can have this one the easy way.”  It doesn’t take a genius to realize that whatever Pharaoh’s daughter wants, Pharaoh’s daughter gets.  So Moses ends up growing up in Pharaoh’s house and laying the groundwork for his leadership in delivering God’s people.  An amazing tale of deliverance. 


Now a question that jumped out at me was, when did Pharaoh’s order to throw all of the Hebrew baby boys into the Nile end?  Moses spent all of that time growing up in his household and we don’t hear of a termination of the edict.  Then Moses was 80 years old when he came back to deliver the Israelites.  We do not know if the practice of infanticide was terminated before that or not.  But I conclude that it is a reasonable assumption that thousands of baby boys were killed during this pre-holocaust.  So how are we to wrap our minds around what God was desiring to accomplish through Pharaoh’s mandate?  I applaud God moving in the hearts of the midwives.  I gasp at the allowing for the death of these boys.  And yes this is not unlike the death that is going on daily in our country and world today.  Could it be that God was using the tragedy of slavery and infanticide to show the nation of Israel their need to leave Egypt?  Exodus 16 would seem to indicate this.  Did God use this evil to remind Israel of their need for Him?  Or was God preparing the world to see His glory revealed through the exodus of His people?  I can’t say that I know for sure what God was thinking in these or any other times of heartache and strife in this world.  But I do know that the Bible tells us that “God is close to the brokenhearted.”  Whatever our trial, God is walking with us and sustaining us through the struggle.  Sometimes it is best not to ask why, rather to say Lord I need you.  Cry out to the Lord as we are told to do in Psalm 34