49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation…
And in the original:
49διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἡ σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ εἶπεν: Ἀποστελῶ εἰς αὐτοὺς προφήτας καὶ ἀποστόλους, καὶ ἐξ αὐτῶν ἀποκτενοῦσιν καὶ διώξουσιν. 50ἵνα, ἐκζητηθῇ τὸ αἷμα πάντων τῶν προφητῶν τὸ ἐκκεχυμένον ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου ἀπὸ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης
The word ἵνα ( = so that) is interesting here. It denotes a purpose, not simply God’s reaction to the murder of the prophets. It reminds me of passages that speak of God using evil to carry out His purposes:
Lam. 3:37-38 – Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad (הרעות) come?
Is. 45:7 – I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity (רע) I am the LORD, who does all these things.
Jesus is saying here that God ordained/planned/arranged/allowed the murder of His prophets by the hands of godless Israelites in order to require their blood in judgment from the specific generation that was contemporary to Jesus.
It goes against our general views about God. According to Jesus, who is the bodily manifestation of God the Father (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3), God will use means that we would describe as evil to carry out His purposes and ultimately display His glory.
And the key to us, as God’s children, submitting to this principle is to realise that our Father is not heartless, cold and uncaring, but instead can turn evil into an ultimate good, a blessing for those who belong to Him, who love Him (Rom. 8:28).
How does this fit in with what Jesus is saying? Did God entrap/frame those Israelites into murdering His prophets just so He could punish their children in future generations? No – if there’s anything that would make God the author of evil, this would be it. But Scripture clearly teaches us that He does not tempt anyone, but instead people are tempted by their own desires (James 1:13-14). So it’s biblical to say that God does use evil to carry out His purposes, because He is sovereign even over evil (what a comfort!) but He uses evil because those purposes are being carried in a world that has evil in its very fabric.
It all comes down to the fact that God is holy (Is. 6:3; Rev. 4:8). It is, I think, God’s primary attribute, from which all others “proceed” in a way. It’s the one attribute of God that affects all the others. And the fact that He is perfectly holy demands not only that those who belong to Him are also perfectly holy (which is achieved by the perfect righteousness we receive in Christ), but that lack of holiness, deficient holiness – sin, evil – must be dealt with, often in the form of discipline and punishment. And this is where God, in displaying His holiness to an unholy world will “inevitably” use evil to punish evil. In a perfect world we would all enjoy full, non-obscured communion with our Creator – in this fallen world, the fact that He is holy means that, in order for us to see it, God must use means of evil for our ultimate good.