Heb 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.
I would like to focus on the last few words of this verse for a moment, “He still speaks”. These words could end each section since each person’s faith in this chapter is being commended to us from God as an example of faith. So in this sense each one’s faith still speaks to us of our great God in which we can still trust explicitly. Abel gives us an example of a believer dying prematurely, in this case by murder. These three words give meaning and comfort to such people and their survivors. We might say that these words direct the preacher at Abel’s funeral as far as what he can say and what he cannot.
What any preacher cannot say when they stand over anyone’s casket and even a very young person is that this is a “senseless” tragedy. To die young or violently or “before one’s time” is tragic but it is never senseless. Potentially Abel could have faithfully served the Lord for many more years and it would have been better for Cain if he had repented of his offering and gotten right with God but when things don’t turn out in the happiest or most fulfilled or even godliest way or even in the worst possible way doesn’t mean that they serve no purpose and are wasted.
This must be true because God is working all things according to his perfect and righteous ends. Sometimes those who deny God’s sovereignty over all things try to justify their view by saying, “If God ordained everything, then he ordained evil and if he ordained evil he is responsible for evil”. Of course, they assume too much because the Bible never attributes evil to God in any way; it is always because of man’s or Satan’s will. And yet the Bible makes it abundantly clear that all things are ordained by God, Isa 45:7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, Isa 46:9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, Isa 46:10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,' I am the LORD, who does all these things.
But think for a moment that what they say is true. They are saying that God only intends good things to happen and that evil or sin is something he does not want to happen. Not only then must God be weak because he could not stop such things as the holocaust from happening but even worse, there is no purpose at all for evil to begin with because God didn’t want it to happened in the first place. Every bad thing that happens to you and everyone else was not God’s intention, he wished it wouldn’t happen but couldn’t stop it and so there is no God honoring purpose for it. It only serves Satan’s evil intentions and man’s but that is it.
With the recent tragedy in Newtown, Conn. We saw this very thing being promoted by the “religious” counselors and commentators. Such things are always attributed to evil (whatever they mean by that) or mental illness or perhaps Satan, but all are very careful to tell us that God had no part in this at all, that he is saddened by such evil and wishes we would do better.
To be sure such actions are against his revealed will to us; such people who perpetrate such things are held accountable by him and will be judged; they are truly sinful actions. But to deny that God had no purpose in decreeing such things to happen as he allows men to carry out their sinfulness is to think that there are other determining forces in the universe besides God alone. It is clear in the Bible that God intended man to fall while not being responsible for it because allowing sin into the world was part of his overall plan to glorify himself. Evil is not a second god doing things that the other God doesn’t like and therefore serving no purpose but it is ordained under the limits that God imposes to bring the entire universe to God’s desired end. Thus all things, even evil, serve the Lord and has meaning in our lives. There is no part of our life’s experience that isn’t completely under the Lord’s control working toward a good and purposeful end for us even though it might hurt at the present time.
Let me give one Biblical example to prove the point. In Isa. 10 God makes it clear that he is sending the Assyrians against Israel because Israel has forsaken the Lord. Yet, he condemns the Assyrians for doing what he has ordained them to do because they are not trying to serve God in this but are just murderous plunderers and rapists and so he tells them they will be judged for their actions. God ordained the very actions that he will judge.
But my desire here is not to explain the unexplainable; how God’s sovereignty and human responsibility work in his providence. But we must accept what God says about how this world works and find comfort in the fact that even in the evil and hard things of life there is purpose and meaning and that someday it will all make sense.
The very last thing we must say about the Sandy Hook tragedy is that it is senseless and that God was unable to stop it. In fact it is because of what the Bible says about fallen man that helps us understand why such things happened at all. It reminds us of just how much we need to preach the gospel because we live in a world living in rebellion to God and unless we repent, we shall all likewise perish just as these did. This after all is what Jesus pointed out when a similar murderous rampage happened in his day, Luk 13:1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. Luk 13:2 And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? Luk 13:3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Luk 13:4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? Luk 13:5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
He didn’t use it as a way to distance God from the events of our lives but to remind us of sin’s consequences and the need to get right with God.