I need to issue an advisory before sharing this story. Some will find the contents of this devotion disturbing. But by sharing it I believe we can shed light on several troubling Bible passages and explain one way in which God executes judgment upon people in this life.
Various news agencies reported the arrest of an East Texas man—21-year-old Alexander Nathan Barter. An undercover agent with the Texas Department of Public Safety had been monitoring “the dark web” in a hunt for potential sex offenders.
And he caught one. It was Alexander Barter. Barter posted a request on the dark web, asking if anyone would be interested in committing rape, murder, and cannibalism on a young woman. Yes, as disturbing as it is, there are dark, perverse individuals who fantasize about such things.
The undercover agent pretended to be as perverse as Barter was. Via email over the next few weeks, the agent and Barter discussed committing such despicable crimes against the agent’s imaginary under-age daughter. Believing this “father” was someone who shared his twisted vision and depraved values, Barter opened up and exposed his dark mind. After conspiring with the “father,” Barter left his home with the necessary paraphernalia to commit his crimes. But police were waiting for him. They arrested him for conspiring to commit multiple crimes, including murder.
You know, in the past I’ve had moral objections to some undercover police work. This is especially so when it involves luring people to commit crimes and then entrapping them. But after reading this story, I’m having second thoughts. I’m glad there was a good person who was willing to travel down the grizzly corridors of the dark web in order to prevent a crime.
Yes, it involved deceit—but only with someone who had sold his soul to do unspeakable evil. Remember that even Jesus remained silent before Caiaphas and Herod (Matt. 26:59–63; Luke 23:8–11). He withheld truth from them, knowing that any truth He gave them would be used for evil purposes. He was practicing what He had previously preached, that we should not cast our pearls before swine nor give what is holy to dogs (Matt. 7:6).
This undercover agent’s actions also his reminded me of a troubling passage in the Bible. In Psalm 18:25–26 (also in 2 Sam. 22:26–27), King David wrote these words:
“With the kind You show Yourself kind. With the blameless You show Yourself blameless. With the pure You show Yourself pure. And with the crooked You show Yourself astute.”
Now that final word “astute” (i.e. clever, shrewd) is actually “crooked” or “perverse.” “With the crooked (Hebrew:‘iqqaysh—twisted, crooked, perverse), You show yourself crooked (Hebrew: hith’pathal—to make or show oneself to be crooked, twisted, or perverse).
Does God actually deal deceptively with the perverse and depraved? Well, yes—as a means of judging them. The concept of God withholding truth from those who consistently reject and abuse it is prevalent in the Bible. In Romans 1:18–32, Paul the apostle explains that this is, in part, how modern man has reached his depraved state. He keeps rejecting the truth about God, so God keeps giving him over to a depraved mind. The final result is that man, by continually rejecting the truth God gave him, eventually becomes incapable of discerning truth.
Paul speaks of the same “judicial hardening” in 2 Thessalonians 2:8–12. There he writes that—in the last days—God will send upon humanity (which has rejected Jesus Christ) a deluding spirit so that they will believe what is false. For, in Paul’s own words, “they did not receive the love of the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (v.12). In other words they resisted God’s efforts to create in them a hunger for the truth, so God gave them over to believe what was false. This was a judicial hardening. God hardened their hearts in judgment for rejecting the truth.
The same dynamics were at work in Jesus’ earthly ministry. In Matthew 11 and 12, Jesus met increased resistance from his fellow Jews. He finally condemned the cities in which He performed most of His miracles. For, despite witnessing His miracles, they still refused to believe His message and repent.
Then in Matthew 13, Jesus switched gears. He began to speak to the people exclusively in parables—with no explanation as to what those parables meant. Only to His disciples did He explain their hidden meaning. Why did He do this? Why did He withhold divine truth from the masses? He did this as a judgment—to withhold divine truth from those who refused to respond to it (Matt. 13:11–15). Jesus said He spoke only to the masses in parables so that “they would see but not perceive and hear but not understand.” For, He explained, “the heart of this people has grown dull and with their ears they can scarcely hear.”
And the same dynamic was also at work in the puzzling story of King Ahab and his phony prophets (1 Kings 22:13-28). This is where the prophet Micaiah told King Ahab that God had sent a deceptive spirit through the mouths of his own false prophets. By doing this God would incite Ahab to pursue his own self-destructive plan. But it was a judgment against Ahab, who had repeatedly rejected God’s message and had killed most of the true prophets of the Lord. Ahab had rejected the truth, so God gave him over to believe a lie.
I see this police agent’s actions in the same light. Yes, he played along with this twisted individual and pretended to be just as evil. But with a man so committed to evil, what other course of action could the agent have taken? Would it have done any good if the agent had gone to Barter’s home and warned him of the dangers of such perverse behavior? Would it have been better if he pleaded with Barter to seek out a pastor’s help? I doubt it. Doing so would have only put him on the alert and caused him to be more cautious in his evil deeds next time.
Tragically, that’s the depraved state in which God finds many people. They have rejected His truth, His kindness, and all His efforts to turn them to Himself and away from evil. Only judgment will stop them in their tracks. So God must allow them to believe a lie, to be deceived, and to plunge to their own self-destruction.
But even with such harsh measures, God can still bring about redemption in the offender’s soul. Many prisoners, who’ve irreparably destroyed their lives, turn to God as a last resort. And by finally turning to God in this life, even the worst of sinners can find the saving and life-changing power of Jesus.
But don’t be that guy, whose life must be in shambles before he turns to Jesus. Respond to the gospel message now.
“Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts. And let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:6–7).
Dear Father in heaven, You have shown me the levels of depravity to which I may fall by failing to heed Your word, by neglecting Your love, and by gratifying my own impure desires. Please rescue me, O God. Save me by any means necessary. Open my eyes and my heart to You and transform me from the inside out.
Bless, also O Lord, our men and women in law enforcement. Please make them successful in their mission and protect them against all danger and harm. Keep them spiritually fit and morally straight as they constantly face the darkest and vilest side of humanity. Protect their families, encourage their hearts, and make them supremely successful as Your instrument of truth and justice throughout America. Amen.
Information from: https://allthatsinteresting.com/alexander-barter-murder-cannibalize
In article photos in order of appearance: Market security by the U.S. Army licensed under CC BY 2.0
Paratroopers demonstrate capabilities to public during Joint Operational Access Demonstration [Image 3 of 12] by DVIDSHUB licensed under CC BY 2.0
Sunset Sniper by the U.S. Marines licensed under U.S. Govt. Work