The Idiom of Permission

Living Abundantly 
According to God's Word Series

In the Old Testament there are many apparent contradictions that revolve around the general theme of God killing or hurting someone. The flood of Noah, the Tower of Babel, the Sodom and Gomorrah incident and the plagues upon Egypt all fall into this category and there are many others. These incidents seem to contradict what we know from the New Testament about our Heavenly Father.

    To understand these records and verses one must understand idioms used in the Bible. An idiom is a usage of words in a culture that have a meaning other than their strict dictionary definitions. For example, in American vernacular if someone says, "Mr. Jones kicked the bucket last week," that is an idiomatic way of saying, "Mr. Jones died last week." In the Old Testament, God uses an idiom in which a verb is used in a permissive sense. What is written as the Lord "smote Uzzah" was actually the Lord "allowed Uzzah to be smitten." God set up His laws and man can break himself on them if he so desires. God also set up the law of gravity, but only a fool would think that God killed a man who jumped off a ten-story building. The man killed himself by violating God's law of gravity. So the true picture in the Scripture is that the adversary kills, hurts, and harms. Man allows this to happen as he attempts to break God's laws.

God uses the idiom of permission for several reasons. The idiom of permission does not glorify the adversary. Imagine how the Old Testament would read if everything the adversary did to man was attributed to him. We would read about the adversary on every page! This would be clearly out of harmony with God's commandment in Exodus 23:13, and would not be a blessing to God's people to read. Furthermore, people in the Old Testament were not equipped to deal with the adversary. If God had revealed the adversary to people who could not deal with him, the people would have become fearful, and been worse off for their knowledge. The adversary was not fully comprehended until Jesus Christ revealed and defeated him (Luke 10:23, 24). Jesus Christ never blamed any sickness, death, or evil on God. The reason that the people in the Old Testament did was due to the fact that God had not yet revealed the adversary. This explains verses like Job 1:21 and I Samuel 2:6. Today most people (even Christians) do not believe in the adversary. They have forgotten the teaching of Jesus Christ and have become "zealous for the law." attributing sickness and death to the true God.

In many examples of this idiom in the Old Testament, the people being hurt were the enemies of God. The question has arisen as to why the adversary would hinder people who oppose God. The people who oppose God set themselves against the law of God and break themselves on it. The Word shows us that the devil is as much hate as God is love and does kill his own people on occasion.

Exodus 23
:13 And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: 
    and make no mention of the name of other gods, 
    neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.

Luke 10
:23 And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, 
    Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: 
:24 For I tell you, 
    that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, 
        and have not seen them
    and to hear those things which ye hear, 
        and have not heard them.

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Job 1
:21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, 
    and naked shall I return thither: 
    the Lord gave, 
    and the Lord hath taken away; 
    blessed be the name of the Lord.

I Samuel 2
:6 The Lord killeth, 
        and maketh alive: 
    he bringeth down to the grave, 
        and bringeth up.

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