Why does not God intervene? And Does God Care?

"Bewildered." — Yes, thousands are bewildered at the unparalleled destruction of human life of which we are the witnesses — unparalleled not merely as to numbers, but as to the hatred that inspires it, the callous ingenuity with which it is planned, the ferocity with which it is done, and the unspeakable misery and tears that accompany it. They are bewildered because they know that God is good, and also almighty; and they cannot understand why He does not intervene in power and punish the instigators and perpetrators of such crimson deeds, and establish a reign of righteousness on the earth. The scoffer also says, "Why does God allow such things to happen, if He is what you claim for Him?" And in the taunt the blame for all man's misery is cast upon God.

Our concern is not for the scoffer, but for those who truly fear the Lord and whose faith is sorely tried because God does not act as they think they would if they had the power. It is right that for the sake of these the question should be answered.

Do Men Wish for God's Intervention?

In the first place, would men welcome God's intervention? In democratic countries government is according to the popular voice; and whether "vox populi, vox Dei" be true or not, the will of the people carries the day. Let us suppose that in the democratic countries of the world a party could be formed that would adopt as its policy "the unfettered intervention of God in the affairs of the day." What would the answer be to such an election cry? Would the people acclaim the party that raised it? Does any one suppose that they would be returned to power by an overwhelming majority, which would for them be the abdication of all power, for if God did intervene it could only be on His own terms, according to His own inflexible justice and unerring wisdom, in which neither cabinet nor counsellor could have any part?

Let us consider what the intervention of God would mean in this lurid chapter of the world's history: Prussian militarism would be swept into its proper hell, that of course goes without saying, but are there no other evils on earth the cry of which reaches to heaven? God is no respecter of persons. He cannot be flattered or bribed into winking at the evil in one land while crushing it in another, and while Britain, France and America have not broken solemn treaties, devastated fair homesteads, and murdered women and children, yet are there not sins within their borders too horribly flagrant to need enumeration? And would not these meet with God's rebuke as well as those of the Central Empires?

It is pleasant and easy to sit in the seat of the judge and to denounce the vices of others, and to wonder why God does not suppress them, and even to criticize Him for apparent inactivity, as though we were more righteous than He, and to point the finger at the enemy and cry, "Thou art the man." But what if, in answer to our denunciation, there rang out the challenge from some prophetic lips, as of old, "Are there not with you, even with you, sins against the Lord your God?"

How great is the multitude of those who reiterate the prayer "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Will God ever answer that prayer? Yes, He will, when the moment arrives; but when He does, every act that has its genesis in the will of man as opposed to the will of God will receive an instant punishment, and that punishment will be death. "The soul that sinneth it shall die." Are men prepared for that? We know the world a little — its ambitions, and schemes, and ways, and we have read its character in the Holy Scriptures, where it is plainly writ, and we have no hesitation in saying that it will keep God's fingers out of its affairs as long as ever it can; it will tolerate the most infamous deeds within it, if only God will keep out of it; it will hug its own misery rather than invoke God's intervention. But the cause of God's non-intervention is not the feelings of men on the subject.

How and Why God will Intervene

"Will the Balkan States intervene, and on which side will they stand in the great conflict? And will America maintain her neutrality?" These are questions about which there is much doubt and speculation, and a variety of opinions. But there is no doubt about the fact that God will intervene in the course of this world. And lest any should think that by that statement we mean that He will stand between the hosts of combatants as an arbitrator, and inflict punishment on one side and make awards to the other, we hasten to explain that what we mean is that He will enter publicly and in mighty power into this sin-tossed and devil-ruled world and act according to His own will in such a manner that the dullest intellect in the universe will say, "It is the hand of God." That He will do so is as certain as that the sun will rise tomorrow, nay, it is more certain than that, for heaven and earth shall pass away but His Word shall not pass away. And this has been the testimony of all His prophets since he who "walked with God" not less than fifty centuries ago said, "The Lord comes." Nor have the manner and the purpose of His coming been kept secret from men, for that same Enoch prophesied, saying, "The Lord comes with ten thousand of His saints to execute judgment" (Jude 14).

There are two reasons why God must act as His Word declares He will. (1) His rights as Creator and God have been flouted and denied by men. (2) His beloved Son, rightful Heir of all, has been rejected and murdered by the world. The second act was the ratification of the first, it was the considered declaration on the part of the world, come to maturity, that it would uphold at all costs its early decision to be independent of God. It will be admitted, we believe, by every right-thinking person, that if these things have been done, either of them is a more than sufficient casus belli between God and the world; that they were indeed acts of war against God on the part of the world, and that neither of them can be passed over for the sake of peace. If God does not hold the world strictly to account for these things and maintain the eternal honour of His throne in regard to them, He will cease to be God. But that is unthinkable. Then our conclusion, even apart from what His Word has told us, must be, that He must come in judgment.

We would not minimize the deeds of horror which have filled the world with indignation, and for which the perpetrators shall give account to God, but they must take a secondary place in the presence of that terrible act at Calvary, about which the world remains unmoved — the murder of the Son of God, the One who was God manifest in flesh, in whom God was reconciling the world to Himself. This and the world's determination to go its own way, regardless of the will of God, are the great questions at issue that must be taken up by God as against the world. If God takes up the affairs of this world at all, these great questions must take precedence of all others, and that will involve the whole unregenerate world in judgment.

What the Scoffers Say

Here the scoffers ask, Where is the promise of His coming? (2 Peter 3:4). All things continue as our fathers have known them. Men have done as they have pleased with apparent impunity from the beginning. But the scoffers are ignorant of two things: (1) That God did once publicly take account of the ways of the world, when it was filled with violence, and, with the exception of one family, it was totally destroyed by a flood of waters. (2) That a thousand years are as one day in the reckoning of God. The former shows that God is not indifferent to the state of the world, the latter that His ways must not be judged by the ways of men. They live in hours, and days, and years, and must work feverishly lest they be too late to accomplish their purposes. He is the eternal God, whose being is outside the bounds of time, and so He can patiently await the development of all things until the moment is ripe for the manifestation of His glory.

Why God Withholds His Hand

"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

God does not intervene in the affairs of the world, because if He did the whole unregenerate world would be involved in judgment, and this He does not desire. Judgment is His strange work.

What an answer is that to the scoffers, and to those who, ignorant of the reason, presume upon the fact that God has not fulfilled His promise to come in judgment, and so continue to flout His claims. He is not willing that men should perish, He is full of tender pity, and is waiting for their repentance. How fully His character in this respect came out when Jesus was on earth. He did not intervene in public affairs; had He done so He must have assumed the place of the Judge of all — this was indicated on that one solemn occasion when He made a whip of small cords and drove the defilers of the temple from its precincts — but He came not to condemn the world but to save it.

God was in Him reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them (2 Cor. 5:19). And the world murdered Him. But His coming was the proclamation of a great amnesty on God's part, and that amnesty is still in force; it is still the "time, the day of salvation," and God's ambassadors are still here proclaiming the fact. It is true that many of them have been treated in the same way as the Lord was treated, and the more faithful they have been the more have they been hated, but God has not withdrawn them, and as long as they are here they are here to beseech men to be reconciled to God, and the door of repentance for men stands open.

But the withdrawal of the ambassadors is imminent; the Lord's promise to them is, "Surely I come quickly"; and the manner of His coming, and their withdrawal from this world, is plainly told us in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, "For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."

When that event has taken place there will not be a true Christian left on earth, and the world may prepare its forces then to meet God coming in judgment. How vain will be all their power, for when "the great day of His wrath is come, who shall be able to stand?" (Rev. 6:15-17).

How shall the Ambassadors Act?

The ambassadors are still here; God's long-suffering is still being manifested, and His long-suffering is salvation; so we count it, and in so doing we are right (2 Peter 3:15). "I'll tell you why I think this war is allowed," said a grave-looking soldier to us one day, "It is to make men think, and when a man gets into the trenches, as I have been, he does think, too." No doubt he was partly right. The mercy of God in this way makes the wrath of men to praise Him, and men are made to think of the great issues of life and death, and to turn to God, and this leads to their salvation. But how shall we (Christians) who are left in this world, which is not our home, act towards those for whom we are left here, towards the men whom God is not willing should perish? Ah, surely if we understand the times we shall be actively interested in them. We shall beseech them in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God. We shall be diligent in this our business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. As the time draws near of our withdrawal to our own land, which will close the door of hope for the world as it is, we shall be the more persistent in pressing upon men the claims of God's grace, and in making them feel how tenderly His heart yearns for them.

While God does not intervene publicly and make wars to cease in the earth, He still acts providentially, and brings good out of evil for the blessing of men and for His own glory, He sees every wicked atrocity and says, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay." He beholds all the sorrow in the earth, and calls the distressed and broken-hearted to find in Him everlasting consolation, and a peace and hope that the world cannot afford.

Does God Care?

We read the casualty lists in the daily papers — lists so long that the mind grows sick at the sight of them, and the sighs break unbidden from the breast, and the eyes grow moist as we recognize here and there a familiar name. But do we realize all that those lists mean? Do we hear in them the anguished cry of strong men mortally stricken upon the blood-dyed field? Or realize the vain yearning for the presence and comfort of the dearly loved far away as the mists gather before the eyes; or the deeper horrors to men, perhaps unprepared, of the sure advance of death — that most merciless and strongest of foes? Do we, as we read those lists, visit in thought the mansion and the cottage and see the broken-hearted mother's lips pressed upon the portrait of the darling boy whom she will kiss no more? Do we think of the sorrow not of one mother, but of thousands rising in an infinite sob to heaven? Do we read in them the grief, too great for tears, of the widow, as she sits bewildered and bereaved in the midst of fatherless children, too young to understand their loss. Yes, in a measure we feel these things, we should be unworthy of the name of Christian if we did not, for no true Christian heart is cold and callous to the sorrows of others; but while we feel and sympathize, how powerless we are to help. Then in our helplessness to whom shall we turn, and from whence may the multitude look for succour? Does God see their sorrows, and does He care? That is a question that is being earnestly asked, and what shall the answer be?

There are some who tell us that God does not care, that He is an indifferent spectator of the present agony of humanity, and that He has no interest in the affairs of this world. Is this true evidence as to God's attitude? — if so how hopeless we are — or is it a devil-inspired slander upon His holy person? It must be one or the other.

We acknowledge the greatness of God, every man who is not a blind fool does that. In the wide-spreading heavens we can read by day and by night the story of His power and glory, but is this all we know of Him? If it is, there lies in it no answer to our question. We may be moved to admiration at the grandeur of His limitless glory, but if that is all we know our knowledge yields no comfort, it only makes us feel that from us He is far removed, and we cannot tell whether He cares or not.

But that is not all we know; He has taken a wonderful way of telling us more. He has sent to us, not an angel, but His own Son, and from the lips of JESUS we have learnt that not a sparrow falls to the ground without His notice; that He whose word upholds the mighty worlds that He has formed cares for the weakest, and in our thought, the most worthless of His creatures; and as we consider this we are profoundly affected, for here is revealed His character and compassions. It shows us that He is not distant and indifferent when His creatures suffer, it brings Him near to us in our need, and warms our hearts and awakens our hopes, for we reason that if God pities the sparrow that falls, men are worth more than many of them, and He cannot be careless as to the sorrows and fate of men. We feel that we have need of pity, and without mercy we are wretched beyond expression, but the God who is so compassionate as to think of the sparrows must pity men in their sore travail, He must have mercy for them: we feel this in spite of every contrary voice.

Thank God, this feeling is no delusion, we have solid ground for it. Indeed, it is more than a feeling, it is a deep conviction, A FAITH — founded upon a stable base, formed by a sure and infallible testimony, the word of the God who cannot lie; and were the present sorrow to grow into a world-wide tribulation, we should still sing —

"Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
  But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
  He hides a smiling face."

God has given many proofs that He cares for men, and not the least cogent of these is that He has permitted this great war to commence and continue. He is God, and He is over all, and He could if He saw fit rebuke the ambitions and restrain the wrath of men; this we must concede, for if we deny it we deny that God is supreme, and make evil greater than He. In days of prosperity and ease men place a false value upon things, and they forget God and the hereafter; and present things, which are only illusive and effervescent, assume a substantial appearance. Thus they are deceived by Satan, the god and prince of this world; God has no place in their lives, and they are lured to an eternal doom. But when the things that seemed to be stable are shaken by a mighty convulsion, and when the earth is filled with hatred and lust for blood, the human soul is startled into a sense of insecurity, and longs for something outside and beyond it. And in this result of trouble God's goodness is seen.

If it were impossible for our thoughts and hopes to reach beyond the time-sphere, and if the enjoyment of material things were the only good, if pleasure, ease, and an unruffled life in this world were the highest things to which men might attain, and to lie down in an eternal sleep the lot of all, then these days were dark indeed, the war an unmixed evil, and the God who permitted it were not the friend of humanity. But the truth is that men have immortal souls, that they have been made for eternity, and in comparison with their existence the longest life in mortal flesh is but as a vapour that disappears before the wind; that there is no lasting satisfaction in material things, and that GOD ALONE IS SUFFICIENT TO FILL THE SOUL WITH GOOD.

Now God would turn the thoughts of men to the highest good, He desires that they should find in Him their wealth and joy, and we learn — it has been the experience of multitudes, and it is plainly told in the Scriptures — that it is often only in hours of distress that men will turn to Him. How clearly is this declared in Psalm 107, "Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness. Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High: therefore He brought down their heart with labour: they fell down, and there was none to help. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder. Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!" (Ps. 107.8-15).

The space at our disposal will not permit us to quote the whole of this remarkable Psalm. Our readers have their Bibles, and we beg of them to read it for themselves. It is most apposite to our subject. It proves that God does care, that, as we have said, the very sorrows of men, which He allows to come upon them, are used of Him to turn them to Himself for their everlasting good. And the present experience of men confirms the ancient word. Take the confession of Larredan, the French atheist, which we published in our May issue, and which has since appeared in other papers, and is well worth re-quoting: "I laughed at faith and considered myself wise. I no longer retain my gaiety over this derision as I see France bleeding and weeping. It is something consoling to know an eternal homeland which shines with love when the earthly is glowing with hatred … Behold, a nation of dead covers the fields. How difficult to remain an atheist on this vast national cemetery. I cannot. I have betrayed myself and you — you who have read my books and who have sung my songs … I see death, and I cry for life. France, France, turn to faith. I know not if I be alive tomorrow, but this I must tell my friends, 'Larredan dare not die an infidel.' … God lives and I stand far from Him. My soul shall joy mightily if ever I experience that moment when, kneeling, I can say, I believe, I believe in God, I believe. These words are the vespers of humanity, for those who know them not it is night."

Or take this extract from the letter of a British prisoner in Germany: "We should always be prepared to meet our Maker, and I am glad to say that ever since we first mobilized in August last I have been prepared; so should every one be, especially those who have come through this campaign and seen hundreds of soldiers dying on every side of them, their last words being a prayer to God to save them."

Who can tell how many thousands in pleasure-loving and infidel France have been awakened like Larredan to eternal realities as a result of the sorrows that have wrung their souls? Who can tell how many thousands of heroic young soldiers have turned to God as they faced the horrors of death upon the field of battle, and so have been gathered to that eternal homeland for which Larredan longed, who otherwise might have spent long years in the sad service of sin?

But what of the anxious mothers and wives who grow pale at the sight of postman or telegraph messenger, or those who sit overwhelmed by the blow that has fallen upon them? For these, too, God cares, and to Himself He desires to draw them that they may know Him as the God of all Consolation, and so gather eternal blessing from their present grief.

When JESUS was on earth God was manifest in flesh, He was here below showing Himself to men so that they might be ignorant of Him no more, and that revelation of God abides for ever; what God was as made known in Christ He is today for all who seek Him. Every phase of human anguish surrounded the Lord and in the midst of it, and because of it, He was the Man of Sorrows, and at all times and everywhere His tender heart was moved with compassion as He saw it. One instance in which this was manifested must suffice us. There were heavy hearts at Bethany, for Lazarus was sick, and "the Master" knew it, yet He did not move. He could have rebuked that sickness with a word, could have prevented its blight from falling upon that house entirely, but He did not. He waited and allowed the supreme sorrow to afflict them, and so Lazarus died. Did He care? Behold Him as He stands with Mary prostrate at His feet. Listen while she pours out her grief before Him. See her as she looks up through her weeping into His dear face, and see, His cheeks also are washed with tears. Yes, He cares. How beautiful must He have seemed to her that day! How His sympathy must have swallowed up her sorrow! What a revelation of His heart were those tears! What intimacy with Him did Mary's sorrow yield her!

"The bud had had a bitter taste,
  But, O, how sweet the flower."

But Lazarus was restored and so the sorrow was removed. That is true. But it was not upon Lazarus that the pound of spikenard was poured but upon Jesus. Mary had gained infinitely through her great sorrow. Lazarus was not less dear, but Christ was supreme in her love. She had learnt in that silent walk by the side of Jesus to the grave of her brother how fully and tenderly He entered into her grief, how able He was to lift her out of the depths and sustain her by His sympathy, how every question that could arise in her mind as to the rightness of God's ways with her was settled in Himself, and how His love so perfect and true, for it was God's love, was able to heal the wound and fill the void in her heart, and those were lessons, and that was an experience that no mortal words can describe, but the result of it appeared when in silent adoration she poured the precious ointment upon His sacred feet. And what He was to Mary "yesterday," He is "today" to all who will bring their sorrow to His feet. And in Him is God revealed, turning that which seems only evil into everlasting good.

Yes, God cares. He has proved it in a thousand ways, but chiefly in the fact that He gave His only begotten Son to die for men; and we would appeal to the desolate and broken-hearted, and especially to those who as yet know not God, to put Him to the test and bring their woe to Him. He will listen to your cry, pardon your sins, save your souls, pour everlasting consolation in your hearts, and give you a place and portion in that world where "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and where [there] shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, [but where] the former things have passed away" (Rev. 21:4).

Show us a man who says that God does not care, who asserts that He is unmoved by the deep anguish of the human heart, and we will show you a man who bears false witness against the Almighty, and who slanders with the devil's own lie the beneficent and faithful Creator, who longs to be the Redeemer and Father of all.