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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Day 191: John 18:12-18 & Psalm 73 - How Does God Use Even His Enemies to Accomplish His Will?

Today's Reading: John 18:12-18 & Psalm 73

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How Does God Use Even His Enemies to Accomplish His Will?

It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people. - John 18:14, ESV

Annas and Caiphas by James Tissot
Brooklyn Museum
Caiaphas was the high priest, but he was not a good, God-honoring man. His family was very powerful and influential. His father-in-law, Annas, had been high priest, and though he had been removed from office, he still had great influence in Jerusalem. Annas' five sons and his son-in-law, Joseph Caiaphas, each served as high priest over Israel. Caiaphas wanted to protect his family's lucrative position. They accumulated great wealth and influence from the money-changing and animal-selling in the Temple. They saw Jesus as a threat.

But Caiaphas was still the high priest, and as the high priest, he had a key role to play in Jesus' work on the cross. He had prophesied that it was better for one man to die for the people of God than for the whole people to be condemned. Now, he meant that it would be better to kill Jesus, even if it was an unjust death, in order ro keep the Romans from crushing the people in an attempted uprising. But God put the words in His mouth and God intended by them that Jesus would die for the sins of His people; He would be condemned that His people might be spared from God's judgment.

Now, as high priest, Caiaphas was condemning the substitute sacrifice. Just as on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would lay his hands on the scapegoat and then sent it outside the camp to be condemned in the place of the people, Caiaphas laid hands (siezed) Jesus and condemned Him to die outside the city walls. Just as the high priest would offer up the nation's passover lamb, so He offers us Jesus to Pontius Pilate.

Caiaphas wasn't the only enemy of God to be used for God's redeeming purposes. Caiaphas is serving in a similar role to that of Pharaoh of old, a corrupt leader used by God to deliver His people. Earlier in the history of God's people, He had used Joseph's brothers to sell him into slavery and set up the deliverance of God's people. God also used Judas in His redeeming plan.

God can use anyone. God can out words in their mouths and lead them to act to carry our His purposes. He doesn't do so by overriding their wills and forcing them to do what they didn't want to do. Joseph's brothers, Pharaoh, Judas and Caiaphas all did exactly what they wanted to do, but each of them perfectly fulfilled the purposes of God for the good of His people.

These powerful truths should give us great confidence. God uses all things for the salvation of His people and the glory of His name. No matter how evil, selfish, cruel or wicked people may be, they only end up doing what God has planned, for the redemption of His people. Praise God from whom all blessings flow, even blessings that flow to us through the hands of evil men!

Prayer Based on Psalm 73:

Instead of envying or fearing the wicked in the world, we should pray Psalm 73:

Truly You, O God, are good to Your people,
    to those who by grace are pure in heart,
    trusting in Christ and not in themselves for salvation.

But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
    my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
    when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For they have no pangs until death;
    their bodies are fat and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are;
    they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
    violence covers them as a garment.
Their eyes swell out through fatness;
    their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice;
    loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens,
    and their tongue struts through the earth.
And they say, “How can God know?
    Is there knowledge in the Most High?”

Behold, these are the wicked;
    always at ease, they increase in riches.
I thought that it was all in vain that I had sought
    to keep my heart trusting in Christ
    and had washed my soul in the blood of Christ.
For all the day long I was stricken with envy and persecution
    and rebuked every morning by my doubts and fears.

If I had allowed myself to give voice to my envy and doubt,
    I would have betrayed the generation of your children.
But when I thought how to understand this,
    it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
    and when I sought You in worship,
    in Your house and among Your people,
    then I discerned the true end of the wicked.
Truly You set them in slippery places;
    You make them fall to ruin.
How they are destroyed in a moment,
    swept away utterly by terrors!
Like a dream when one awakes,
    O Lord, when you rouse Yourself, You despise them as phantoms.

When my soul was embittered,
    when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant;
    I was like a beast toward You.
Nevertheless, I am continually with You;
    You hold my right hand.
You guide me with Your counsel,
    and afterward You will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but You?
    And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For behold, those who are far from You shall perish;
    You put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to You.

But for me it is good to be near You, my God;
    I have made You, Lord God, my refuge,
    that I may tell of all Your works.  

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