God bless you and greetings in the name of Jesus Christ whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:28).
The Scripture cannot be broken. Therefore, when people break God’s laws, they, in essence, break themselves on the law of God. God gave man His Word. When men believe and act on it, they are blessed and protected. When men rebel and refuse to listen to God’s Word, God can no longer protect them. God recognizes the sanctity of freewill choice. He will never violate man’s free will to choose. When man chooses to break the law of God, he receives the consequences of his disobedience.
If a man jumped off a cliff and killed himself, we would understand that the man was responsible for the consequence of his own death. Even though God is the One Who established the law of gravity, we would not say God killed the man, because the man broke God’s physical law of gravity. Likewise, God is not responsible for the consequences when man breaks the spiritual laws of God. The fact that God declares what the consequences of unbelief are does not mean that He actively imparts them to mankind. Why would a loving God ever want to harm or to kill people? He does not! The Bible teaches in Hebrews 2:14 that the devil holds the power of death. He is the one who brings and causes the calamity, not God.
The account of the death of Saul gives us a good example of how this idiom of permission is used in the context of man’s breaking the law of God.
I Chronicles 10:3-5:
And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him, and he was wounded of the archers. 4 Then said Saul to his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. So Saul took a sword, and fell upon it. 5 And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise on the sword, and died.
It is obvious from I Chronicles 10:3-5 that Saul took his own life. He killed himself. The same account also occurs in I Samuel 31:3-5. However, in Chronicles this record continues and shows the underlying reason for Saul’s death: he broke the law of God.
I Chronicles 10:13-14:
So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord, even against the word of the Lord, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it; 14 And inquired not of the Lord: therefore he [the Lord] slew him [permitted Saul to be slain], and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.
Here we see clearly this idiom of permission. I Chronicles 10:4 says Saul killed himself, and I Chronicles 10:14 says that God permitted Saul to be killed. Saul brought the consequence of death upon himself because he forsook the true God and turned to the devil-spirit realm. The devil is the one with the power of death, and it was he that authored and instigated the death of Saul.
Let us look at some other examples of this idiom of permission.
And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle.
Again, this verse contradicts all the clear verses on the subject. The proper understanding of this verse is that “…the Lord permitted all the firstborn in the land of Egypt to be smitten….” By taking a closer look at the context we will see that there is one verse of scripture which handles the smiting of the firstborn both idiomatically and literally. The first part of the verse handles it idiomatically.
For the Lord will pass through to smite [permit the smiting of] the Egyptians….
The second part of the verse explains what literally happened.
…and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer [permit] the destroyer [the devil] to come in unto your houses to smite you.
The destroyer, the devil, literally and actively killed the firstborn. God simply had to allow it to happen because the Egyptians did not obey His Word. God knew that the devil would act in this manner, so He provided protection for His people in the Passover. God gave the people His Word. If they observed the Passover as He prescribed, putting the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintel, He would protect them and not allow the devil, the destroyer, to kill their firstborn. If people did not obey, God could not protect them, and the destroyer was permitted to kill the firstborn.
The question often arises as to why the adversary would kill his own people. Again, the adversary’s nature is to steal, kill, and destroy, and he succumbs to it even when it means the death of his own people at times. Furthermore, if there is an opportunity for him to kill, maim, or harm and cause God to receive the blame for it, he will. The adversary likes nothing better than to have people attribute evil to God. Now when you read of God actively causing harm, injury, or death, you can identify this as the Hebrew idiom of permission.
Recognizing and understanding the Hebrew idiom of permission allows us to rightly divide God’s Word and not to attribute evil, or folly, to God. The frequency of this idiom in the Old Testament was due in part to the lack of awareness of the spiritual forces at work. It was also due to specific instruction God gave Israel at times to not even mention the names of other gods. Man’s free will to accept or reject the law of God also contributed to its frequent occurrences.