You guys have voted in the next apparent contradiction for me to debunk today and it is the one found in the following verses.
Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, "Go, number Israel and Judah." -- 2 Samuel 24:1
Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel. -- 1 Chronicles 21:1
Both of these passages are telling the story of the same exact event. So the question is "Who incited David to number Israel?" 2 Samuel says that God did it. 1 Chronicles says that Satan did it. Is the Bible calling God and Satan the same person? Did the author of Samuel (likely Samuel) and the author of Chronicles (likely Ezra) disagree? What's the deal?
The Bible is pretty clear on this. There are philosophies and religions, particularly those of eastern descent, that teach there is one force or being in the universe that is both good and evil. The Bible teaches the opposite. The Bible teaches that God is good, holy, and righteous in all His ways (Psalm 145:17). He alone is omnipotent (all powerful), omnipresent (present everywhere all the time), and omniscient (all knowing).
Satan is a created being. God created him as an angel and Satan rebelled against God. Satan is evil and everything he does is sin. As a created being, Satan is finite which means he has limits and is not omnipotent, omnipresent, or omniscient. This means that Christians should not view the events in the world as a battle between God versus Satan with the fearful question of "Who will win?" The outcome is as sure as the Hulk versus Loki (by the way, I'm hoping to cover the Avengers on Friday) or Michael Jordan versus Lebron James, or you versus me in Super Smash Brothers (consider that challenge issued). God is in full control, power, and authority over Satan at all times. There is no contest.
Why Are They Both Credited with the Same Action?
When we understand that God is ruling above everyone and everything and Satan is below God in all ways, this question becomes easier to answer. Since God is in charge, He can use Satan to accomplish His goals. Its like a King who orders a servant to invite an ambassador to a party. Who invited the ambassador? The King and the servant both did. Its also like a secret agent who allows a bad guy to "break out" of his prison cell and start doing some small crimes again so that the bad guy would lead him to the real villain. Don't read too much into these analogies, but its kind of like that. God is in charge and can accomplish His own plans by using those beneath Him. . . even Satan.
This concept is clearly taught in the Bible. The best place to see this is in the book of Job. Satan asks God for permission to test Job. Satan can do nothing to Job without the permission of God. Even when God allows Satan to test Job, God puts limits on Satan and Satan never goes beyond those limits because he cannot. In the book of Job, it is both God and Satan who test Job, though each do so for very different reasons.
In light of this understanding, it is very easy to see how these verses are not contradicting each other at all. Who incited David? God and Satan. God, in His sovereignty, was able to use Satan to incite David. Both verses from Samuel and Chronicles are true.
How Can God Use Satan and Still Be Good?
While this question wasn't part of the original issue, it is an important question to answer. The best answer comes from the book of Genesis from the mouth of Joseph. Joseph was abandoned and sold into slavery by his own brothers who were angry with and jealous of him. Yet through that, Joseph ended up rising to power in Egypt and saving millions of lives. When his brothers speak to him about this years later, Joseph says, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20)
When God allows or uses Satan to do something, God has a plan that will bring about good for those who love Him. Satan has his own motives, but, as we learned earlier, God always wins that fight.
Once again, the stuff in the Bible that looks like a contradiction is not. Please vote at the top right of the site for the next apparent contradiction that you'd like me to tackle next Tuesday.
Aside from clarifying these passages, here are a few things I'd encourage you to take away from this:
- Praise God that He is able to take the bad stuff in your day and life and use it for good
- Trust God with the hard things you're going through now and ask Him to help you bring good from it
- Rejoice that God is stronger than the devil because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4)