It will always be so. As long as there is sin that would completely destroy the life of a nation there will need to be a faithful remnant to be a witness to what Sin will bring, a witness to what faithlessness will rob us of and a witness to who we drag down with us when we turn from God. We affect the innocent and bring trouble down on the heads of the righteous. One day if we’re very fortunate we will look at such people, people warm and righteous, and we will realize that their suffering is a result of their being identified with us who are not in God. This happened at some point in the Babylon exile. Please see Isaiah 52:13—53:12.
The righteous had opposed Israel’s treachery and its addiction to the gods and called on the people to trust in Yahweh. But, still, the nation went into captivity and the lovers of God were taken with the guilty. Their homes were burned, their children died, their wives were raped and they were beaten. If God cared and they loved God surely He would have spared them such a “crucifixion”. The guilty thought the faithful people were afflicted by God for their sins (Isaiah 53:4) but it dawned on some that the righteous shared the agony of national punishment due to the guilty and that they suffered it for the guilty nation’s benefit (compare Amos 4:8-13 with its 5 times repeated “Yet…”) And the punishment that was aimed to bring them (the guilty) back to God and peace fell on the righteous and the innocent. God wasn’t punishing the innocent (babies) or the faithful. The faithful felt the pain along with the guilty.
The guilty noted (where it was seeable) how the righteous endured the oppression resulting from their unfaithfulness of Israeland the Gentile forces. And they began to muse and (who knows?) some prophetic voice may have explained to them the truth about the grace and patience of these righteous men and women; men and women who took the mistreatment like sheep being sheared. And in some (for Isaiah 53 is confessional) there came the realization that without the righteous the nation would be swallowed up in darkness. They understood (some did) that it was inevitable that the righteous would suffer along with the unfaithful nation if they maintained their identity with the guilty nation that triggered the exile. (See Romans 8:3 for identity.)
They also sensed that by the empowering God the righteous would see fruit for their suffering and be satisfied. The faithful would be vindicated and their faith well placed. The righteous were a gift of God to the nation (see Isaiah 42:6; 49:1-9 and note the “us” in Acts 13:47) and to all the nations.
These faithful ones were the mold in which Jesus of Nazareth was foreshadowed and it was how He came to be. The sinless One on whom the nation’s hope rested is the one they jeered at and then in their thousands came to understand that the deliverance they looked for was to be found in the very Person they thought was afflicted by God.
I’m getting old and feel the difference but what did I expect? When by faith I came up out of the baptismal water with the living hope fulfilled? Did I expect to be exempted from the hurts that are being experienced by the entire human family? Did I expect to be taken to heaven in an immortal and glorious body at that point? Did I think it was all about me and mine? Was I to be taken from a needy world and was my family to escape all trouble? (John 17:15)
No, our Master has made it clear—suffering and then the glory, that’s how His Body is conformed to the image of its Head (Romans 8:17-18, 29) and it’s how it comes to experience (attain to) the resurrection (Philippians 3:10-11). Our suffering as Christians is the same but not the same as the poor sufferers of the world. Even our death is not the same as theirs though it is the same (see John 6:50; 11:26—”Do you believe this?”). By His grace we are in the world but not of it and it’s sad that their suffering and death is not like ours though it is very much like ours and so often exceeds ours in the depth and dimension of pain.
I wish I knew—deep down, intellectually and emotionally, who I am for I know it would have a transforming effect on whatever pain I endure along with my fellow-humans. I wish you who might read this and who hurt deeply but have given yourself to Him—I wish you could know who you are and the wonder of what He and His Father are doing in and through you. We’d rather they did know but it’s all right that non-Christians currently don’t know; maybe in the end what counts most is that you know. People like you and the Lord Jesus and all the faithful down the years, for all your differences have a lot in common.
(Holy Father, as you have promised we pray through Jesus Christ in confidence and ask you to keep your suffering people near your heart and their hearts near to your own. For your glory, for the glory of the Lord Jesus, for themselves and for all with whom they have influence. This prayer in the Spirit of the Lord Jesus.)