God has granted us incredible grace in the salvation that Jesus’ death and resurrection offers, but that very grace is often used as a theological excuse. It’s dangerous to say that bad things come from God, but there are times when they actually do. What makes them good is how He uses them to help us grow. The great grace God offers doesn’t mean our sins go unpunished.
We see God directly issue what seems “bad” in Numbers 21:5–7. First we’re told: “The people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us from Egypt to die in the desert? There is no food and no water, and our hearts detest this miserable food’ ” (Numbers 21:5). Then, Yahweh sends poisonous snakes that bite the people, causing them to die (Numbers 21:6). Why would a good God do such a horrific thing?
In Numbers 21:1–4, the people had experienced a miraculous victory against the Canaanites living in Arad—a people they were losing to, and should have lost to, until Yahweh intervened. Yahweh showed Himself to be loyal and true; yet, the people still rebelled.
When Yahweh punishes the people with the snakes, it’s not because He wants to; it’s because He needs to. And the result is worth it. The people say to Moses, “We have sinned because we have spoken against Yahweh and against you. Pray to Yahweh and let him remove the snakes from among us” (Numbers 21:7). In their response, they show faith in Yahweh and His ability to change the situation. They also show faith in the leader He appointed to them: Moses.
God sent this “bad” thing because He knew it would be a good thing (compare 1 Corinthians 11:30–32). This knowledge should make us boldly proclaim, as the psalmist does, “For who is God apart from Yahweh and who is a rock except our God?” (Psalm 18:31).
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