THE BUCK STOPS HERE
BY: FRED PRUITT
SEPTEMBER 29, 2002
This morning I was reading one of Norman’s sermons and he bluntly addressed one the questions I have been struggling with over the past couple of weeks.
He said “I don’t see a devil, I don’t see anything – only God everywhere. If he’s a devil, he’s only God in devil form, that’s all.”
How does that jive with Ephesians 6:10-12 and I Peter 5:8-9?
Somewhere I am missing something in my understanding because I am having difficulty getting all of the pieces to fit just right. Will you help me with this?
Harry Truman put a sign on his desk that read: “The Buck Stops Here.” In a nutshell, that is what Norman was saying regarding God.
In our human understanding, we wrestle with these questions: how can God allow suffering, how can God allow evil? You hear people asking, “How can a loving God…?”
Everybody knows the buck stops with God – whether he “determines” evil, or whether he “allows” evil, or whether he “looks the other way,” or however it is we explain or try to get God off the hook when it comes to evil. But bottom line, which of us, when something particularly awful happens, aren’t tempted to look to heaven and at the very least say, “How could you have allowed this?”
Because we ascribe to God omnipotence. All powerful. Omniscient. All knowing. We will even go so far as to say He works all things together for good, etc. So therefore, if God is all-knowing AND all-powerful, then He could prevent evil. So since He doesn’t, whatever the reason it might be that He lets it go on, He’s the one where the buck stops.
Some will say, “Well, God permits evil because of free will.”
Same difference. The buck stops with Him, since He invented free-will, knowing what would happen.
But those are all just thoughts of human fancy.
Let’s look at the perpetrator for a moment. With this background – “God works all things after the counsel of His own will.” (Eph 1:11). And this: “For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope” (Rom 8:20)
Instead of starting in Genesis the place I want to draw attention to is the first & second chapters of Job. This is one of the most interesting books in the Bible, and thought by most Bible scholars to be one of the oldest. The most interesting part in these chapters, to me, is the fact that it says that the Sons of God are before the throne and Satan is milling about among them. God questions Satan about what he’s been up to, and Satan tells him exactly what he’s been doing, walking to and fro in the earth. Unstated was the fact that he was walking to and fro in the earth seeking whom he could devour, as in 1 Pet 5:8, 9, but this was not a fact unknown to the Lord. Between the two of them, they both understood what was going on.
Now God, Who we know also is Love, says to Satan, “Hast thou considered my servant Job?”
Now, why did God put it just like that? Like I said, He knew what Satan was up to. No mystery there. Satan would love to get his hands on one of God’s jewels, like Job, and bring him down. So God, knowing exactly what was in the mind of Satan, offers Job on a silver platter. In other words, God says to Satan, “Listen, I know you’re looking for somebody to destroy and devour, so what about my guy Job?”
No matter how hard we try to explain it away, or not make God responsible for evil, what happens next defies that notion. God says, “Do what you will to his family and possessions, but don’t touch him.” God, knowing FULL WELL what Satan would do, i.e. destroy his children, his flocks, his business, bring him to ruin, (and remember, Job was considered “upright” by the Lord), gave leave to Satan to do it all. So he did. He killed his kids, destroyed his crops, slaughtered or had stolen all his herds, and brought Job to his knees, saying, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.”
Even though Satan had done this, Job did not ascribe the catastrophe to him, but to the One from whom it had really come, the One where the buck stopped.
That wasn’t enough. The scene is repeated in chapter two, only this time the Lord gives permission for Satan to touch his body. So God’s precious upright servant, who has walked with the Lord and lived justly all his life, at the instigation of God, is mercilessly attacked by a ravaging disease of the skin, so that he has boils all over him, and he is almost brought down to despair, yet even then he says, “Though he slay me, yet shall I trust Him.”
Though HE slay me, Job says, referring once again, to God, and not the devil. The devil inflicted the boils, yet Job gives credit where credit is due, for as Jesus said to Pilate, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.“ (John 19:11) Who filled Judas’ heart to betray Jesus, and led the temple guard to the Garden of Gethsemane? Satan. Yet to whom does Jesus ascribe the power, which has brought Him to this point? “From above.”
Now this is the sense in which Norman means “we see only God, and don’t see a devil.” Not that the devil and his works aren’t there, but we see him WITHIN the plan and will of God, even while he acts as an adversary. God uses, and not just uses, but actually provokes Satan to his tasks, the ultimate purpose of course being the “glorious liberty of the sons of God.” (Rom 8:21)
The second part of the phrase, “if we see a devil, then it’s only God in devil form” takes it a step beyond. That sounds out there on the fringes.
It is on the fringes, more exactly on the sharp edge of truth. Because the basic reality of our existence is simply that God is All in all, the Same Person in all, the One True Self in the universe, and that no sentient creature, angel or man, can live except they live and move and have their being in Him. He is the Source out of which all things come, but most especially persons in his image, created to reflect His Person, to mirror Him as the True Source and True Self of which they are but created expressions and forms. When Paul said “our life is hid with Christ in God” he wasn’t just being poetic, but stating a simple truth that Life, Person, Consciousness, Selfhood, ALL these things, are found only in God in Christ. They don’t exist outside of Him, for there is nothing outside of Him, since He is before all, through all, and in all.
Everything in the universe exists and is upheld in the Word of God, which is Christ, and “by Him all things consist.” Therefore any particular form in any realm in the universe, consists in its basis in God, in Christ, upheld and sustained by the Eternal Word of God. That includes any form who is a vessel (container) of honor, or a vessel (container) of dishonor. All are forms of God. All do his will. As Moses did his will, so did Pharoah. That doesn’t excuse Pharoah from his sins, nor Satan.
The reason why this is important, is because seeing the devil as who he really is, unmasked, is how we live in fulfillment of the passages from Ephesians & 1 Peter you mentioned. We “resist the devil” by ascribing to him no power.
“The prince of this world cometh, and he hath nothing in me.” (John 14:30) “Give no place to the devil.” (Eph 4:27) What place? We know in the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have been translated out of the power of darkness into the kingdom of Light. We have passed from Satan unto God. Our “old man” (old union with the god of self-for-self) has been shattered and put in the grave, and a new man has arisen, Christ in me, and we can say now, as Jesus said, “The prince of the this world cometh, and he hath nothing in me.” No foothold, no toehold, no hidden bits of territory that are still his, no – the Lord of Hosts has come to his temple and cast out the moneychangers and thieves, and has turned it into a house of prayer! Therefore we give NO PLACE, anywhere, to the devil. He has no power anywhere! Only God is on the Throne!
Satan’s deceit is to make people think he has a throne of his own, and he is at least as powerful as God, and they live sort of on a 50-50 balance. No, there is ONLY ONE POWER in the universe, as there is only One Person. Whatever “power” Satan has at his disposal he has at the discretion of the Almighty, and uses it at the instigation of the Almighty, even though in his self-deceit he thinks he has his own power and does his own deeds.
But the buck stops with God. God’s purposes aren’t evil, but He uses the agitation of evil, the negativity of evil, to bring about the reconciliation of His universe, and the full manifestation of we His sons in the glorious liberty of the sons of God.
In this way also the sons of God, ourselves, “defeat” the enemy, when we recognize within ourselves only ONE power, only One Self, who lives and moves and has His Being in us. It is there, in the oneness of selves within us, in that we are “one spirit” with the Lord, two yet one, one yet two, He in us, we in Him, that is the secret place of the Most High, the bulwark against the ravages of the storms the enemy sends our way, the fiery darts he likes to throw, for we are safe there. He is our shield and buckler, our Rock of Defense, our high tower.
When you see Satan has no power over you, even though he likes to try to still convince you that he does, then you are free to live without fear in the kingdom of God. Because whatever comes your way, or anybody’s way, you now see to be meant by God to bring life, even if for the moment it looks like death. “O death, where is thy victory, O grave, where is thy sting?” “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 15:55, 57)
You mentioned “pieces fitting together.” For me, the pieces never fit until I saw God as All in all.
Psalm 139:7-12; 7] Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? 8] If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. 9] If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; 10] Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. 11] If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. 12] Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
I hope this helps. I’m also sending after this, something else I just wrote a few days ago, which is almost on the same topic.
All my love,
EDITOR’S NOTE: Cross-reference: See “TWO TREES IN THE GARDEN” by Terri White for corresponding article.
BUCK STOPS HERE, THE [Fred Pruitt] 9-29-02 1