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Persecution in North Korea

by Dr. Shirley VanderSchaaf
(Seoul, South Korea)

In North Korea the suffering is beyond description. The regime is absolutely evil and brutal. Why does God allow His people to be tested so severely?


Hi Shirley

We certainly hear about the dictatorship in North Korea without knowing all the details. God does know all the details and He feels very sorry for the suffering of His people and anyone else. There are pages on this site that address the question of why God allows suffering and the severe testing you refer to so I will not repeat that here.

However, your question brings up the related question of: why does God allow evil men to rule over nations and cause such suffering? There are verses that make it sound like God is always responsible for such men, such as:

"And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:" (Dan 2:21)
"By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth." (Pro 8:15-16)
However, the answer to this, more-specific question is similar to the reasoning for Him allowing suffering in general. God honors the free will of man, including their choice of a king and whatever free-will actions a man might take to become king. (If God does not honor man's free will, He must use force to counteract it - this God will not do.) He even allowed the Israelites to have Saul as their first king. While He is described as "him whom the LORD hath chosen" (1 Sam 10:24), Saul was the sort of man they wanted. God found a man according to their criteria:
"And he had a son, whose name was Saul, a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people." (1 Sam 9:2)
Later, God rejected Saul as king (1 Sam 16:1) and chose David. He described the criteria He looked for in a king:
"... for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart." (1 Sam 16:7)
There is one verse that could be somewhat confusing on this subject:
"This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men." (Dan 4:17)
The word "basest" (Strong's number 8215) would seem to mean "the most base." Base, when used of a person, means: lacking moral worth, cowardly or despicable. This may seem to fit, in many people's minds, the character of the present ruler of North Korea. However, God does not set up such people. Actually, this is a poor translation.

The adjective translated "basest" is the Aramaic word "shefal" meaning low, lowliest or humble. The corresponding verb <8214> means to humble, abase, subdue, or put down. It is used in these ways:
"Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase <8214>." (Dan 4:37)
"And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled <8214> thine heart, though thou knewest all this;" (Dan 5:22)
Nebuchadnezzar recognized, from his own experience, that God is able to humble men - even kings. God can and wants to make men humble; He does not turn them into base (with the meaning of despotic dictators) rulers.

I hope that helps to answer the question about why God allows such things. We hope and pray there will be a change in North Korea and an improvement in the lives of people there.

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