The first entry can be found here:
Why Does God Make Crooks?
First, to test our state to see whether we are in the faith or not?
5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 6 I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. 7 But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. 8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. 9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. 2 Corinthians 13:5–9 (ESV)
An example of such a trial of faith may be seen in Job’s life. Satan denies that Job is what he seems. Job’s friends then accuse Job of hypocrisy. Or in the matter of the Israelites in the wilderness: God left in need and want to try their faith – at which they grumbled. But Joshua and Caleb persevered in trial.
The rich young ruler came to Jesus and sought the key to eternal life, at which point Jesus uncovered the hypocrisy of his life:
17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ ” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Mark 10:17–22 (ESV)
The young man would not submit to the crook of God at that point. He was his own master in the end. Would not agree to God’s determination but rather sought his desires.
Second, to wean us from this world and seek the happiness of the age to come.
When Hamlet realizes that he must revenge his father’s death and thus bring his own life into jeopardy, Hamlet turns on his love Ophelia to send her away. He brings pain into her life to drive her to a better life.
In the same way, God will lay crooks across our lot to drive us off from a sinful love of this world. Our hearts are so prone to make idols of comforts and seek an endless life in a land of death, that God will lay crooks upon that we may see the foolishness of our grasping. Pain in this life can wake us to the reality of this age and force us to seek a true and lasting happiness.
This is the great theme of the first six chapters of Ecclesiastes: there is nothing truly satisfying to be had here. Even when Solomon had gained the whole world he had realized he had nothing:
11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. 12 So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly. For what can the man do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done. Ecclesiastes 2:11–12 (ESV)
Thus, the pain of the crook contains its blessing.
The Prodigal Son, when he could drink deeply of the pleasures he could buy had no thoughts of home. Only when pain began to invade his life did he “come to himself” (Luke 15:17).
We are built to seek rest and happiness, yet in foolishness and sloth we easily seek permanent rest in temporary things. God lays a crook across rest and the straight path of comfort we sought becomes twisted and painful. Like a thorn in our pillow, it pricks us to consciousness and we seek a better rest. Thus, God uses the crook to set us off on the errand of seeking him.
The pain of the crook is one of the great mercies God shows those who are his.
Third, the crook brings us to see our sin: the sting awakes us to conviction. This is a great theme of the prophet:
12 Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, “ ‘Return, faithless Israel, declares the LORD. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, declares the LORD; I will not be angry forever. 13 Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the LORD your God and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, declares the LORD. Jeremiah 3:12–13 (ESV)
It is the realization of the Psalmist:
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. Psalm 119:67 (ESV)
Sin contains its own poison, and often as we continue in unrepentant sin we feel the sting and corruption of sin:
3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah 5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah Psalm 32:3–5 (ESV)
There is a point here which must be made clear: Sin is of such great evil that any suffering is better than any sin. Our Lord in love remained obedient to the Father’s will and suffered death – but the Lord would not in the least instance sin. This is not to say that sorrow, suffering, trial and tribulation are small things – rather the comparison magnifies the evil of sin.
Fourth, God may bring the crook as the punishment for sin.
This is of two sorts. God may simply bring a judgment upon a sin. For example, David sinned in the matter of Uriah and Uriah’s wife. Although God forgave David’s sin – that is, David was not damned for his fault – correction came:
9 Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 2 Samuel 12:9–10 (ESV)
God sent punishment upon nations:
3 Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they have threshed Gilead with threshing sledges of iron. 4 So I will send a fire upon the house of Hazael, and it shall devour the strongholds of Ben-hadad. 5 I will break the gate-bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitants from the Valley of Aven, and him who holds the scepter from Beth-eden; and the people of Syria shall go into exile to Kir,” says the LORD.Amos 1:3–5 (ESV)
A second way in which sin brings punishment is that consequence is often inherent in sin:
17 For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird, 18 but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives. 19 Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors. Proverbs 1:17–19 (ESV)
This principle of sowing and reaping, sowing sin and reaping the consequneces of sin run throughout Proverbs:
1 The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother. 2 Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death. 3 The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked. 4 A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. 5 He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame. 6 Blessings are on the head of the righteous, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. 7 The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot. Proverbs 10:1–7 (ESV)
As the Lord warns through the prophet Jeremiah:
Your evil will chastise you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the LORD your God; the fear of me is not in you, declares the Lord GOD of hosts. Jeremiah 2:19 (ESV)
Fifth, God lays crooks across our lot to bar us from sin. It is the sorry fact that people have been ruined by wealth. Access to money leaves us free to our own devices; while a tighter budget may keep us from indulging in some sin. There are many people who can thank the crook in their lot for keeping them from sin. Sin always seeks opportunity. It was the devil who left Jesus until an opportune time (Luke 4:13). The Lord may act to keep a man from evil, “that he may turn aside from his deed” (Job 33:17). Such preventing grace is a great good to the Christian – though crossing flesh may be painful for the moment.
Hazael could not kill until he was king (2 Kings 10:12). David did not lust after Uriah’s wife until he gained ease and was at rest as king (2 Samuel 11:1-2). Ease and comfort make way for sin. We make think our crook of labor all of trouble – but it may very well protect us from sin:
It was the speech of Mr Greenham, sometimes a famous and painful preacher of this nation, that when the devil tempted a poor soul, she came to him for advice how she might resist the temptation, and he gave her this answer: ‘Never be idle, but be always well employed, for in my own experience I have found it. When the devil came to tempt me, I told him that I was not at leisure to hearken to his temptations, and by this means I resisted all his assaults.’ Idleness is the hour of temptation, and an idle person is the devil’s tennis-ball, tossed by him at his pleasure.
‘He that labours,’ said the old hermit, ‘is tempted but by one devil, but he that is idle is assaulted by all.’
Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 2, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 278.
Sixth, a crook may expose the sin which lay hidden in our heart. A temptation does not put sin into the heart; rather a temptation or trial merely draws sin out of the heart. A temptation punctures the heart and lets the corruption within pour out. Thus, a crook may expose the sin we harbor:
1 “The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers. 2 And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. Deuteronomy 8:1–2 (ESV)
We do not know impatience, until our desire is delayed. We do not know our anger until our will is denied.
Consider Moses: the meekest man on earth (Numbers 12:3), also harbored a strike of pride and anger which was only exposed when the people again demanded water from him (Numbers 20:13; Psalm 106:32-33).
Now such crossing is a positive good to the believer, for sin being exposed can be repented of. David complains, “Who can know his errors? Declare me innocent of hidden faults”(Psalm 19:12). Often pride covers a mass of sin which cowers unexposed until a suitable season. Such a mass of sin poisons our heart, though we do not see it distinctly. Therefore, exposure of such sin does us much good – if only in the humility which it brings to us.
Seventh, the crook in our lot gives us grounds to exercise the grace of God. There are many graces which we cannot exercise until faced with trials. We cannot exercise our faith until we must wait upon the Lord. We cannot exercise patience, until we do not receive that for which we hope. We cannot bear with one another until live with those who fail.
This was a thing true of our Lord:
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. Hebrews 2:10 (ESV)
Now if this is true of our Lord, it must be true of us:
16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:16–17 (ESV)
The crook in our lot, the suffering we face does us good. Not for the suffering itself, but for the end it obtains:
3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3–5 (ESV)
In fact, such trials will not merely do us good for the present, but eternal good:
6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ., 1 Peter 1:6–7 (ESV)