Befitting Rewards: A Theodicy (Part 2)

In an earlier blog post (Part 1) by the same title, Lamb’s Harbinger laid the foundation for explaining God’s goodness in the face of physical deficiencies. However, those explanations are admittedly systematic and do not directly address the claims of the afflicted on an individual level. God’s ability to redeem evils in order to turn them into something good and awe-inspiring goes only so far to console someone who suffers from a chronic illness or a birth defect, which often precipitates depression, suicidal thoughts, etc. We hunger for something more personal, something more exact… some clue that if God really is good and cares, then he cares on the most intimate levels and somehow would account for my plighted condition (Job 6:2; 19:23).

The good news is those feelings are well founded; and, God is every bit as good as you’d think he should be. He does care about us individually in all that we endure. He knows the number of hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7)—or, that we have none at all in the case of some cancer patients. No matter what anyone says, never believe that God is somehow punishing or rejecting you by allowing your condition. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, this present evil world is wracked with disease and blight and death; and yes, that is due to sin’s being present in the world. However, it is near blasphemy to say that one has a congenital illness or disease or deficiency because of his sins or his parent’s sins. Jesus said as much (John 9:1-34). Rather, God wants to reveal his glory through such ones… and as Moses would tell you, God’s glory is His Goodness (Exodus 33:17-19).

Lift up your head, dear one. We are not only remembered and attended by him, he keeps an exact log of our afflictions and grants befitting rewards for them, even for physical “defect” or genetic disease. Consider the following:

The Broken Levite – Leviticus 21:16-24

If one recognizes that God chose the Hebrew people for himself, then he also knows that there were 12 tribes within Ancient Israel. Among those tribes, only one could minister as priests within the nation. Within that tribe, only certain families could minister within the tabernacle and (later) the temple. So, among all the millions in the earth at that time (~1400 B.C.), God selected a few million to be his representative nation. Out of those selected millions, tens of thousands were Levites. Out of the Levites, only a few thousand could minister in the things which concerned the holy temple; and out of those thousands, only a few dozen could minister inside the temple. And, even fewer could offer the bread upon the holy table. We’re talking special designation here.

When one approaches Leviticus 21:16-24 with this knowledge, he comes away with every sense of justice screaming out. Well, sure—when one realizes that these priests were representing the purity of the coming Messiah, Jesus, then he understands the need to keep the symbology going—Jesus was pure for us and offered for us to make us clean in God’s eyes.

Still, the Levite could not have  something as minimal as a blemish (a “beauty mark” or mole). What?! The passage goes on to say the Levite could not be, “a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles.” When I first read this, I cried out the same kind of complaint that I asked God that day on the bus in high school. “GOD, why… why would you narrow down humanity so far to a few selected people, only to allow one of them to be deformed from birth? How is that fair? How depressing and provoking!”

BUT, then, I kept reading and saw something wonderful. [Many paradoxes in the Bible can be resolved if one but continues reading.] Verse 22: “He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy things.” You see, the bread of offering was illegal for anyone to eat (Matt. 12:3-4)… except for these priests. When one also considers that the bread of offering represented God’s provision and sustaining power for Israel (and those believing in Messiah), this takes on even more colorful ranges of empathetic, symbolic meaning.

  • First – God takes care for the “broken.” He sustains them specially with his very own “Bread.” I personally believe that this means:
    • God gives the broken special gifts to make up for their “lack.” This could indicate both physiological gifts or spiritual gifts (even contentment) or gifts of special talent–whatever is needed to sustain them.
    • God gives the broken a special offer of himself, which could extend to automatic redemption of their soul (in cases of inability to reason, as much as Jesus is the Bread of Life) or to special spiritual understanding.
  • Second – whereas all the other Levites had duties, the “broken” had no outward duty, but he had the privilege of eating the MOST holy things in addition to the holy things. This is to say that God saw the broken Levite as having a work differing from the others. The work of the broken Levite was to bear his brokenness as a living witness to the tenderness of God to care and provide, despite the the cursed blight which sin brought upon men. Jesus is the Bread of Life, given to the spiritually broken.

What was the answer God gave to my spirit that gray day on the bus? Well, it was not Leviticus, but it was the truth of Leviticus…. “They are my special ones,” the Spirit whispered to my loud roar. “In the beginning it was not so. Now they show the outside world what all men are on the inside… that every human needs healing within. I look on all with the same pity you feel for them. But, I can do what you cannot.”

And, what God can do does not end there… to be continued…

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