There is nothing new under the sun. What can be said when terror strikes yet again? I find myself deeply disturbed and yet uncomfortably familiar with the hatred and death that is ravaging our world. Another attack, another groaning. “How long, O Lord?”
Our comfort is this: the cross. In Acts 4, we read that John and Peter were praying, on behalf of all the believers, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, that they might continue to speak God’s gospel with boldness. The men had just been arrested for speaking the truth in the public sphere. Here is what they pray:
Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness… (Acts 4:24-29)
Even today, men are gathered together against Jesus. This is their proclamation when the one true God is defamed primarily through misdirected worship and then through gruesome acts against God’s creation. The Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot. The rulers are gathered together, setting themselves up against the Lord.
But all of this is in vain.
Each act of worldly evil is a mere pawn in the hand of God’s sovereign game of chess, where Christ wins the victory and his enemies are wiped out in the end.* They think they are winning, that God is a matter of their own creation and not the other way around. They believe that they rule, when in reality it is God’s hand and plan that are ruling them.
Why would God do this, we ask? Why would God even plan such atrocities and ordain such pain and terror? We do not know the mind of God; his thoughts are very deep.
But we do know this: the cross makes sense of it all.
The cross was the place where evil thought it was winning, yet it was crushed by life. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? Death is swallowed up by life, the life of Jesus Christ, whose horrific execution did not end in the grave but declared that, finally, the snake crusher had come and had stamped out the enemy once for all time.
This is our hope, our comfort, our peace when the world is reeling from evil’s presence. God’s hand and his plan predestin every action and outcome, and we can trust him because we have seen the cross. We have a glimpse of what’s to come and the assurance of safety in God’s presence because of the One who achieved the victory, Jesus Christ the Righteous, who will come with a sword in his mouth to wipe out evil forever.
We need the gospel. We need the cross. O, hasten the day, Lord! And until then, we pray you would grant your servants the boldness to continue to speak your Word, despite the threats that rage around us.
*Thanks to Kaiti Myers for pointing this out to me!