The New Testament sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) are simple, by Christ’s design, so that even children can understand the basic truths which these signs, actions, and rituals are illustrating. To quote Albert Einstein (in a limited sense), “If you cannot explain it simply, then you do not understand it well enough.” Thus I have been impressed, over the years, with the ability of some to give excellent children’s talks which are very simple, yet meaty and profound for all who will listen. Surely Jesus was encapsulating a world of truth as He proclaimed: “The Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like little children” … but one simple application should be: If only the professional scholars and theologians can grasp a doctrinal point, it may be that the truth claim has more of man than of God in it. With just a few minutes, then, I ask you to consider two questions which children have asked, both of them deserving clear answers.
Last week, a child asked me: “Pastor John, if God has always known everything, then why did He create Satan?” I will interpret and extend his question to ponder: Why did God create the angel Lucifer, knowing that Lucifer would lead an angel rebellion, become the devil, tempt our first parents, and produce the fall of all mankind and of the universe itself? I did not claim that simple answers are easy ones! A word for parents, teachers, and others: Praise the Lord for such questions. They could be evidence that the Holy Spirit is stirring. Do not say: “Shut up! Stop asking silly or hard questions. Just believe and behave. Don’t think. And above all, don’t go poking around behind the curtain, or you may discover that there is nothing there after all!” So much better to respond with something, even an “I don’t know … but let’s dig into that issue together.”
This question (about God’s role in the origin of Satan) is a version of the classical query: “How could there be a good and strong God in a universe with evil and suffering?” Okay, this is an enormous subject, but here is a starting point: Because the universe as it really is (with a Lucifer who would become Satan, with evil and suffering, with pain and sorrow and tears, and with sin under all of it) is the universe which God has allowed and even designed to bring the maximum glory to Himself, to display before Himself, His angels, human beings, and the universe the awesome collection of His own glorious attributes, and in this particular case, to show how He will defeat and destroy His and our archenemy, the devil and all his works.
Here is a second question asked by a child, much earlier than last week, and across many years: “Father, why is this night different from all others?” This, of course, is the classic and scripted prompting by children at the Seder (or the Passover), that annual memorial meal to remind Israel of “Exodus Night,” how the Lord delivered their ancestors from slavery in Egypt to bring them into the Promised Land.
Please recognize the connection of our first question with this second one, for if God really is good and strong, especially attentive to His chosen nation, then why did He allow them to be enslaved in the first place? There are, of course, human reasons for why and how Jacob’s family ended up in Egypt, and it is clear that God held many Egyptians to be guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors. But God allowed, even designed, Israel’s captivity to glorify and exalt Himself in their eyes, and in the eyes of Egypt, Canaan, and the whole world up until this very day.
Recognize, as well, the connection of the Passover and the Lord’s Supper, as Jesus instituted this Christian sacramental love feast at a Seder. The Bible strongly connects the minor redemption (of Israel from Egypt) with the major redemption (of all God’s children from their captivating sin).
Recognize, finally, the connection of the Seder, the Supper, the cross, and the first question. God’s design of a universe where Satan, sin, and sorrow could (would) happen surely had in mind this ultimate and glorious solution, the death of God’s dear Son, as the answer to the very big questions, the solution for all of our needs, and the ultimate display of the glory and grace of God.
Mull over this sentence. If it is true, enjoy its truth, and turn it into personal worship: “God in His grace provided what God in His holiness demanded.” God allowed and designed a fallen universe, filled with fallen people, millions of whom would come to know their Lord as a God of grace, mercy, and faithfulness. There is a popular book with this subtitle: “What if marriage is designed by God, not to make you happy, but holy?!” Well, what if time, space, the universe, and all history are designed to glorify God in His fullness, as He really is? Would not an eternity of informed worship justify 6,000 or more years of drama, if that is the kind of thing it takes for us to get to know God as He really is? Yes, and the cross, with the sacrificed body of Jesus Christ, is at the center.