“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things (Isaiah 45:7).”
Our esteemed brother, Elder George Cottrell of Ohio, has requested our views on the above text, especially on the creation of evil.
Preceding this text, the prophet by the word of the Lord reproved the people of Israel for their propensity to idolatry, and after showing the vanity and extreme folly of trusting in the works of their own hands, presented a powerful contrast between the gods which are made and worshipped by men, and the true and living God who created and upholds all things by the omnipotence of his power and wisdom of his counsel. In drawing the contrast, God by his prophet shows first what their idols cannot do: they cannot save their worshipers, nor afford them the slightest aid, they cannot see, hear or feel, nor can they move themselves, and one of the most important deficiencies is that they cannot declare beforehand events which shall come to pass. And as there are no predestinating idols, so there are no predestinarian idolaters. After showing the vanity of idols, the peculiar attributes and perfections of the true God are very clearly declared and demonstrated by his wonderful works in the creation of the world, by his providential government of all worlds, all beings and all events. “Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient time the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” In illustration of this, he calls their attention especially to the case of Cyrus, whom he had raised up, and whose right hand he had holden, or strengthened, to subdue nations before him, to loosen the loins of kings, to open before him the two-leaved gates of Babylon. To whom also he said, I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight, and break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron. Even this heathen prince was raised up by our God for Jacob, his servant’s sake, and Israel, his elect, and called by his name and surnamed by the Lord of whom he was ignorant. Of Cyrus he saith, “I am the Lord and there is none else: there is no God besides me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me; that they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none besides me. I form the light, and I create darkness: I make peace and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” While heathen mythology supposes a god to preside over each of the several elements of nature, one to control whatever is good, and others to direct the evils, the Lord Jehovah declares himself the only wise God, reigning in the heavens alone, and swaying the sceptre of universal control over all things. All holy beings are moved by him, and devils and wicked men restrained by the supreme power of his might. God makes known, as in the case of Cyrus, from the rising of the sun to the far distant west, and from the rivers to earth’s remotest bounds, that there is no other God ruling in the armies of heaven, and over the inhabitants of earth. How grand and magnificent are the evidences and exemplifications of his eternal power and God-head, as presented in the context, in connection with which the declaration in our text must be considered. “I form the light.” Of the formation of light no finite mind can attain to an adequate conception, nor do we perceive in it any formation. We have been astonished to learn from the sacred record of the creation of this world, that God spake the word and it stood fast; he commanded, and it was done. “God said, Let there be light, and there was light.” And God separated the light from the darkness; and the light he called day, and the darkness he called night. Could any other than the true God have performed this? So also in the spiritual application of the word. “God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” By the formation of light we not only understand that God created it in the natural world, but gave it form when he embodied the fullness of it in the great light which he suspended in the infinity of space, and bade it pour forth its fullest radiance on the earth, to rule the day, and by the shadow of the intervening earth he created the darkness, which he called night, thus separating the one from the other, and claiming both as creatures of his almighty power. The moon and stars he also made as reflectors of the light of the sun, and for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years (Genesis 1:14).
In the new, or spiritual, creation light and immortal life are synonymous terms. This light emanates from God who dwells in the eternal refulgence of his own supreme glory. The formation of light and immortality of eternal deity is by revelation brought to the view of our faith, only in him who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, who is the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person: the image of the invisible God. For in him was life, and the life was the light of men. He is the only and blessed Potentate, who only hath immortality dwelling in the light; the Sun of Righteousness with healing in his wings; the light which came to Zion when the glory of the Lord had arisen upon her. In the infinity of the glorious gospel of the grace of God, in the spiritual firmament of his church hath God set a tabernacle for the sun which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof (Psalm 19:1-6). This light of immortality shines in the hearts of God’s children because God has taken his abode in them, and has made them the children of the light. Like the moon, the church of Christ when her light is come, or when out of Zion the perfection of beauty God is pleased to shine, she reflects this light, as a city set upon a hill whose light cannot be concealed. So also are the members of Christ and ministers of his word and truth, the children whom God has given to his Son, for signs and for wonders, and they are twinkling reflectors of the light of the Sun of Righteousness, as stars in the right hand of him who holds the keys of death and hell. God forms this spiritual light in all who are born of his Spirit, and in all its variety of forms in which it shines upon his chosen Israel.
And I create darkness. Darkness is simply the absence of light. In the natural creation, the earth was without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the great deep until God formed the light, so darkness covered the earth and gross darkness the people, until God said, Let there be light! Then leaping forth from his chambers, the Sun of Righteousness sprang into the firmament of his church, scattered the sable cloud, dispelled the horrid gloom, and scattered round his kingdom the refulgence of celestial day. This is the day which the Lord hath made and over which he is the great ruling light. But how does God create darkness, or absence of light? In nature it is simply by the revolution of the earth, by which earth’s shadow falls upon us, and the light is hidden from our eyes, then with us it is night, wherein the psalmist says, “All the beasts of the forest do creep forth.” So when earth, or earthly things, are suffered to separate between us and the Sun of Righteousness, we also walk in darkness and have no light. In the fifteenth verse of this same chapter it is said, “Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Savior.” It is his beams that form our light, and if he hides them from us, we are left in darkness, and it is thus all our darkness is created.
I make peace and create evil. By peace and evil, we understand his providential judgments in dealing with his people, and with the children of men: presiding in power and majesty over all the works of his hands. He makes peace in silencing the raging elements of nature, as when the Redeemer commanded the tempest to be still, in providence when he curbs the angry passions of princes, kings and potentates of the earth. “Come,” says the psalmist, “behold the works of the Lord; what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth, he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder, he burneth the chariot in the fire (Psalm 46:8,9).” And in the kingdom of the saints, he is our peace. The Prince of Peace, who has reconciled us to God, and made peace by the blood of his cross. Experimentally God’s children learn that all their spiritual peace and comfort cometh down from God our Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ. “There is no peace to the wicked, saith your God.” But, “Great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them.” All the peace which Christians can enjoy in time or in eternity is made by him. In the world, says Jesus to his disciples, ye shall have tribulation, but in me ye shall have peace. But our brother desires us to dwell more particularly on the creation of evil. We are aware of the difficulty arising in the minds of God’s little ones upon this subject. That God is a being of infinite perfection, spotless purity, who cannot look on sin with approbation, is as he has revealed himself unto them; but how he at the same time can be the creator of evil is hard for them to conceive. There is a mystery of Godliness and a mystery of iniquity in both of which God will be glorified. We all readily admit that God is the sole creator of all things that exist in heaven, earth and hell. And in his creation he has presented to our wondering eyes an endless variety. We can hardly conceive of any being or thing now existing that has not its opposite. The serpent and the dove, angels of light and angels of the bottomless pit, light and darkness, heat and cold, good and evil: and is there anything existing that God has not made? He has created all things for himself, even the wicked for the day of evil. In all the creation God has made nothing that can bear a comparison with himself. His creatures are not gods. None of them possess as creatures his peculiar attributes or perfections. Yet all things are and were created for his pleasure, and he is above them all, and will bend them all to his government. In the sublime language of Job, “He stretcheth out the North over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing. He compassed the waters with bounds, until the day and night come to an end. The pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at his reproof. By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens, his hand hath formed the crooked serpent. Lo these are parts of his ways; but how little a portion is heard of him? But the thunder of his power who can understand (Job 26:7,10,11,13,14).”
But the term evil as used in our text we understand to mean judgments, calamities, afflictions and chastisements which are sent upon the children of men. They come not up out of the ground, nor do they fall upon us by chance. God’s careful providence watches over us, and no evil can come nigh our dwelling except meted out in weight and measure, time, duration and result, by the unerring wisdom and power of God himself. As it is written, “Is there evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” Job said, “Shall we receive good from the Lord, and not evil?” That is, shall we receive prosperity, and not adversity, pleasure and not pain, joy and not sorrow? Wars, famine, and pestilence are evils, which come and go at God’s command. And persecution and oppression are under his control. Men are used by him as his sword and his hand; devils and wicked men are restrained or suffered to vent their malice, as God ordains. And under this conviction we are instructed to pray God to, “Lead us not into temptation, but to deliver us from evil,” and to shield us in the day of evil. As in our text light is contrasted with darkness, so is evil contrasted with peace. “I make peace and create evil.” By withholding peace and bringing evil upon them, that is. The Israelites received evil at the hand of the Lord for their rebellion and idolatry when he sent fiery serpents into their camps, and when he caused their enemies to triumph over them. And so in his dealings with his children, sometimes he sends on them fiery trials, deep afflictions, sore temptations which disturb their peace, and bring labor, sorrow and grief upon them for the trial of their faith, and as chastisement for their faults.
“I the Lord do all these things.” This is consoling to the afflicted saints who have confidence in God. They know what he appoints for them is best, though it may call them to pass through flames or floods, for they know that all things work together for good to them, and they are led to say, “It is the Lord, let him do as seemeth him good;” for so said Eli, when the Lord brought evil on him and upon his sons.
February 1, 1865.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6
Pages 143 - 148