Category Archives: Habakkuk

Habakkuk 2: The God of Justice

https://i0.wp.com/communityliteracy.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/kids-car-roadtrip-sanity.jpg“Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” When are we going to get there? That’s the chorus on every long car trip for families with young kids. The PARENTS know the trip will take ten hours. The KIDS don’t understand “ten hours.” So half an hour in, the questions begin. “Are we there yet? When can we stop? He’s on MY side of the seat. She’s TOUCHING me.”

And depending how far away you are, parents have a few strategies: REALISM. “We’ll be driving ALL DAY. Until DINNER TIME. Get USED TO IT”. Or there’s the BLUFF. “We’re nearly there. Almost.” But that loses its impact if you use it TOO early. And then, as the trip gets close to the end, DESPERATION sets in. “Just around the next corner. Just after the next McDonalds. We’ll be there by the time the Colin Buchanan CD finishes again.”

The problem is kids can’t UNDERSTAND distances and times. Parents have a better perspective. And the struggle is how to COMMUNICATE that perspective to kids.

And that’s the sort of thing we’ve got here in Habakkuk Ch 2. God has a MUCH CLEARER PERSPECTIVE on good and evil, on time and patience, and on justice. And Habakkuk needs to LEARN some of that.

Back in Ch 1, he sees the wickedness and injustice all around him. And he wants to know HOW LONG until God sets things right. And God’s told him that he’s raising up wicked and cruel Babylon as his instrument (v6). But Habakkuk can’t understand (v13). Not just how LONG, but HOW. How can God, whose eyes are too pure to look at evil, tolerate the wicked? And how he can just sit back while they swallow up those more righteous than themselves.

It’s the age-old question of why bad things happen to good people. About how and why the all-powerful, all-loving God would LET such evil happen. And, Ch 2 v1, Habakkuk’s going to sit and wait for God’s answer.

Now and not yet

And, interestingly, ironically, God’s answer is, pretty much, “Sit and wait. You want to know how long? My answer is, ‘LONGER’” Look at v2. The LORD replied, “Write down the revelation, for it AWAITS AN APPOINTED TIME.” V3. “It speaks of THE END. And it won’t prove FALSE. Though it LINGER, WAIT for it; It will CERTAINLY come and will NOT delay.” In other words, here’s what’s going to happen. It’s TRUE – you can TRUST it. Just NOT YET! So WAIT a little longer. I’m KING, but you’re just not seeing EVERYTHING yet.

Just like that holiday trip. When do holidays begin? You’re on holidays when you leave your house. The journey is part of your holidays. But it’s also NOT YET holidays. Because you haven’t ARRIVED. And so the kids, and the parents, have to WAIT A LITTLE LONGER for the FULL holiday experience. Are you on holidays? Well, YES and NO.

And it’s the same with God’s kingdom. Is it fully here yet? Well, YES and NO. It’s a consistent theme through the Bible. That God’s kingdom is both NOW. And NOT YET. God IS king. NOW. But he’s also NOT YET king in a way that everyone RECOGNISES. There’s justice still to be brought. Wrongs to be righted. There’s still sin and sickness and death and pain. There’s more to be REVEALED of what it means that God is king. And we have to WAIT FOR IT. That’s the way he’s chosen to EXERT his RULE. Remember what we saw last week in ch 3 of the Westminster Confession of Faith? God has freely and unchangeably planned, from all eternity, everything that comes to pass. And he brings it to pass. He is KING!

But he DOES it in such a way that he’s NOT THE AUTHOR OF SIN. And he doesn’t FORCE people to do what they don’t want to do. In other words, there are some aspects about God’s kingly rule he doesn’t enforce. At least NOT YET.

And much of it is to do with the way he’s made us as human being. Made in his image. Unique in his creation. WE FREELY CHOOSE. And God holds us ACCOUNTABLE for that. And that’s PART of the answer to the question of suffering. Of why God allows evil to continue. Because MUCH of the suffering we see is the result of human greed and sin. Wars, pollution, murder, injustice. The blame is firmly with US, rather than God. And God has his loving, wise reasons for why he’s WAITING to put an end to it. We’ll see more of THAT later.

So, v3, God tells Habakkuk to write down the revelation. Because this is what’s going to happen. It won’t be QUICK. But it will CERTAINLY COME. God can PREDICT it because He’s BRINGING IT TO PASS.

And from v4, we see the revelation. What the FUTURE will look like. The time when God’s JUST RULE is finally seen. AT THE MOMENT, v4, we see the wicked, puffed up, his desires won’t stand. He’s greedy, and like death, never satisfied. But HERE’S WHAT’S COMING, says God. From v6. A series of WOES. Pronounced on the wicked. Probably Babylon. By his victims. The ones who’ve been on THE RECEIVING end. All the people he’s taken captive will TAUNT him with RIDICULE and SCORN. They’ll be in the prime seats to see JUSTICE COME.

God has RAISED UP wicked Babylon to execute his purposes. He’s the KING who CONTROLS. But he’s also going to PUNISH them for the way they’ve freely chosen to DO that. He’s the JUDGE who holds people ACCOUNTABLE.

And THIS chapter is about JUDGMENT. And what we notice about these woes, and about God’s justice, is that the PUNISHMENT WILL FIT THE CRIME. Have a look with me. V6. Woe to him who steals and extorts. Because the time is coming when THOSE YOU PLUNDERED will plunder YOU. That’s fair! And v9. Woe to him who builds an empire with unjust gain. With bribes and tricks. V11. The city he built will cry out against him. It won’t testify to his SUCCESS, rather his OPPRESSION AND VICE. And v12. Woe to him who builds by VIOLENCE. Because what he’s built will be violently destroyed by FIRE. V13. In the END, all men’s labour – building SOMETHING – comes to NOTHING. And V15. Woe to him who sexually degrades others with WINE. Because he’ll be forced to drink the cup of God’s wrath. Now it’s HIS turn. That’s just and fair! And the victims REJOICE to see justice. And finally, v19. Woe to him who worships idols. Voiceless, lifeless, silent lumps of wood. Because, v20, he’ll be FORCED TO BE SILENT before the LORD in his holy temple. Just like his idols.

And it’s THIS IDOLATRY that’s at the CORE of all the wickedness. Replacing the TRUE God with SOMETHING ELSE means you replace HIS rules with YOUR OWN rules. Or to turn it around the other way. You SHOW that you worship the true God by LIVING HIS WAY. That’s the way the ten commandments are set up. First commandment. One God. Everything else flows from that. No idols, don’t misuse his name, keep the Sabbath. And SO on. So, breaking the FIRST commandment means that everything else is up for grabs.

And, if you THINK about it, this idolatry is a consequence of the now and not yet character of God’s kingdom. It’s BECAUSE there’s a delay in God’s kingdom coming FULLY. Let me explain. God is the supreme king – he raises up and appoints nations. Yet he EXERTS that rule WITHOUT CONSTRAINING OUR WILL. (Now, and not yet). What that means PRACTICALLY is that people go through life making decisions, both good and bad. And the result is/ people think THEY RULE, rather than God. Or the idols they’ve INVENTED rule. And God, generally, doesn’t exert his kingship to prove them WRONG. At least NOT YET.

Look back in Ch 1 v14. Another example of how it works. How man’s INDEPENDENCE leads to IDOLATRY. God’s MADE people like fish. The wicked comes along, and pulls them out with hooks and nets. And then he REJOICES at how CLEVER and POWERFUL he is. Then, v16, he SACRIFICES to his NET, and burns INCENSE to his dragnet. He makes IDOLS out of the things he USES. Nepalese TODAY offer sacrifices to their tractors and ploughs and barns. Because they’re the things that BRING the WEALTH.

It seems ridiculous to us. But the reality is it’s no different to what we see in Sydney TODAY. EVERYWHERE WE LOOK people have success in life. Happiness in relationships. Satisfaction in career, or family. They have possessions, and health, and influence. And they wrongly credit that success to their education, or their looks, or their fitness, or their bank balance. And they WORSHIP those gods. They devote EVERYTHING to them. They PURSUE them, and ELEVATE them to number one priority. That’s WORSHIP! But, ultimately, all those gods are POWERLESS. They’ll always fail. Nothing’s guaranteed. It’s a lesson people have learned this week. With the tragic death of Phillip Hughes. No amount of planning or hard work or privilege can guarantee ANYTHING. EVERYTHING that comes from us, ultimately, is POWERLESS. That’s the point over at the end of Ch 2. V18. An idol someone carves is HELPLESS. Voiceless and life-less and breath-less. It can’t guide or do ANYTHING.

To give AN IDOL credit for the events of life is RIDICULOUS. It comes from a false view of the world. A view where God ISN’T king. But the reality is/ He IS king, but his kingdom isn’t FULLY REVEALED yet.

Not YET. But we get a glimpse of what that glorious future will look like there in the middle of the chapter. Verse 14. The nations exhaust themselves for nothing, building their idolatrous empires. 14 For the earth WILL be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

ONE DAY. EVERYONE will know the glory of the LORD. The glory of JUDGMENT. And the glory of SALVATION. From the least to the greatest. From the east to the west. And God will completely be king of his kingdom. No more now and not yet.

And that’s the goal God is WORKING TOWARDS. And it’s part of the answer for why God delays. He wants MANY to RECOGNISE him before they’re JUDGED. And he’s actively WORKING at drawing people to repentance through the gospel. 2 Peter Ch 3. Peter’s answering scoffers who say that because God’s DELAYED, he’s not coming AT ALL. And Peter replies, v8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

 

First thing he says. What would WE know about time? What’s 3000 years compared to ETERNITY? Nothing!

The SECOND thing he says is that God’s delay is because he’s PATIENT. And because he wants AS MANY AS POSSIBLE to escape judgment and repent. He longs for JUSTICE. But he also longs for REPENTANCE. And so he WAITS. DELAYING JUDGMENT.

So?

And so WE’RE called to DO THE SAME. That’s the FIRST application. OBEDIENTLY WAIT. Just like God commands in v3. “Though it LINGER, WAIT.” We may pray for JUSTICE. But we should ALSO be praying for MERCY. Because GOD wants none to perish, but all to come to repentance. So that’s the way we should be PRAYING. We may not see justice NOW. But if we wait PATIENTLY, we will SEE it.

And it’s not just a wait that happens HERE ON EARTH. There’s a longing for justice and a waiting IN HEAVEN TOO. Revelation 6 describes the souls of Christian martyrs. They’re protected in heaven, safe under the altar. And v10, they call out in a loud voice “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”

They’ve been the victims of injustice. Even to death. And they want to see things put right. And they address God as SOVEREIGN LORD. King Master. He’s King NOW, but he’s also not king ULTIMATELY and COMPLETELY. NOT YET. The day of JUDGMENT is still to come. And they want to know how long.

And listen to God’s answer. 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to WAIT A LITTLE LONGER, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed. God has ordained MORE martyrs to come. And the number’s not complete yet. Which is confusing and heart-breaking.

But there’s comfort, too, in that message. Because it’s all in God’s sovereign control. The number is completely pre-ordained by God. And, while death is terrible and terrifying. It’s the worst they can suffer. Death is a moment. And then the suffering’s OVER. And there’s comfort FOR US that our brothers and sisters in heaven are crying out WITH US. There’s a partnership and a solidarity that’s reassuring.

Another way of describing that obedient waiting is there in Habakkuk 2:4. The righteous live by FAITH. The wicked is puffed up. And his desires won’t ENDURE. But, on the OTHER HAND, the righteous will LIVE BY HIS FAITH. And, although there’s a few ideas about what that means, one of the key ideas is about TRUSTING GOD IN THE GAP. Between the NOW and the NOT YET. Relying on his faithfulness and his kingly authority EVEN WHEN YOU CAN’T SEE it.

You WAIT. But it’s not impatiently, or grumbling. It’s not fuming that you’d do things differently. It’s in quiet submission. Just like 2:20. In contrast to silent, dumb, powerless idols. 20 But the LORD is in his holy temple; LET ALL THE EARTH BE SILENT before him.” God IS on the throne. We’re called to quietly, reverently, trustingly SUBMIT to him. That’s living by faith.

And when we struggle to SEE that. When we’re tempted to impatiently seek our OWN revenge. Or doubt that God really WILL bring in his kingdom completely. We just need to look at the cross. Because the cross is God’s ultimate statement in history that he’s acted justly. That he WON’T let evil flourish. He cares about his own name and about justice SO MUCH that he poured it out on his own Son. Lest he be accused, in his PATIENCE, of EXCUSING or OVERLOOKING sin. Romans 3:25 puts it like this. 25 God presented Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to DEMONSTRATE HIS JUSTICE, because in his FORBEARANCE he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished- 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be JUST and the ONE WHO JUSTIFIES those who have faith in Jesus.

Habakkuk wasn’t around to see it. But the cross was a demonstration to him that God WASN’T overlooking injustice. He was PATIENTLY WAITING, looking on at evil. Until JUST THE RIGHT TIME. And then, in the most significant event in the history of the world, taking out all his righteous anger for the sins of the world. On his own son. All the sins of Habakkuk. And of Babylon and Assyria and Judah and Australia. Completely satisfying his justice. PAID IN FULL. So that anyone who TRUSTS the work of Jesus can be MADE RIGHT. JUSTIFIED.

And, while there’s still LONGER for US to wait. We have the promise of God’s future kingdom MADE MORE CERTAIN. Because of the demonstration of his commitment and love and justice and faithfulness to us in the cross IN THE PAST.

And so the same message God had for HABAKKUK is the one he has for US. TRUST ME. Live by faith. Live, in the gap between the NOW and the NOT YET, confidently and obediently WAITING. Reverently SILENT before him. Because we’re confident that ONE DAY, the earth will be FILLED with the knowledge of God, as the waters cover the sea.

Habakkuk 1: The God of Surprises

The world’s attention is focussed on the Middle East. But things are pretty grim for Christians in PAKISTAN.

On Tuesday 4 November this year, Christian couple Shehzad and Shama Masih were attacked, then beaten to death by a 600 strong Muslim mob. Their bodies were then thrown into a brick kiln where they worked, and burned. They leave behind four children.

Their crime? Shama had apparently burned some old papers of her father, which included some magical charms. These contained some Arabic writing. Some Muslims found the scraps and assumed they’d burned pages of the Koran. The mullah from the local mosque incited the crowd to gather at the kiln.

But this is just one example of an alarming trend in Pakistan. In September, 2013, 127 Christians were killed in twin suicide bombings on churches in Peshawar.

Al Jazeera reports that since 1990 in Pakistan more than 62 people have been killed outside the legal process for blasphemy. Many of these were Christians.

Police, judiciary and government all seem to turn a blind eye to such violence in the name of religion.

We read these stories, and we WEEP. And we pray, “How LONG, O LORD? There’s violence and injustice. We pray and pray, but you don’t SAVE!” What’s going on?”

It’s a prayer God’s people have prayed for thousands of years. Including the prophet Habakkuk.

To SOME people, a prayer that QUESTIONS God like that seems presumptuous, and arrogant and disbelieving. But God, in his mercy and condescension, has given us this little book of Habakkuk to comfort and teach us, in OUR situations.

It’s an unusual style for a prophecy. Because Habakkuk never actually prophesies to anyone. It’s almost like a few pages out of his personal prayer diary. He asks questions. And then God REPLIES.

So, there in v1, we see it’s an ORACLE that Habakkuk received. A PRONOUNCEMENT. A MESSAGE given by God for those who READ it. To give us answers for OUR questions.

The fact that it’s in our Bibles means God GIVES US PERMISSION to question, like Habakkuk. To express our disappointment. To ask our questions. He’s big enough to COPE.

And that’s really what Habakkuk teaches. That God is BIG. It may not give us all the answers we WANT. But what it DOES give is exactly what we NEED. A bigger picture of WHO GOD IS. And WHAT he’s DOING in his world.

Why don’t you act?

The first section begins at v2. And it’s Habakkuk’s first question. Why don’t you act? He’s praying to God. “How long must I call for help and you don’t listen? I cry out, ‘Violence!’ but you don’t SAVE!?”

And then he goes on to describe the situation around him. It’s Judah, probably around 630 BC. There’s evil INSIDE and evil OUTSIDE. There’s debate about whether Habakkuk’s describing the sins of JUDAH, or ASSYRIA, the invading super-power.

If it’s JUDAH, then the problems begin with the king, King Jehoiakim. Jeremiah 22 has THIS to say about him.

13 “Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his countrymen work for nothing, not paying them for their labor. …17 “But your eyes and your heart are set only on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion.”

And Jewish society COPIES its king. V3. There’s INJUSTICE. The innocent are PUNISHED, and the guilty walk free. And there’s DESTRUCTION AND VIOLENCE. Strife and conflict abounds. Wherever he looks, there’s fights, arguments, and disputes. Everyone looking out for themselves. He’s scared to walk down the street.

And, v4, the law is powerless to STOP it. There’s bribes, and special deals. Justice is PARALYSED. Impotent.

And even if there IS someone trying to do the right thing, as soon as they pop their head up, they’re SURROUNDED by the wicked. Attacked from every side.

Or it COULD be that Habakkuk’s describing the Assyrian invaders. In which case, the violence and destruction are at a whole DIFFERENT level.

I think that theory probably fits v4 better. The wicked HEM IN the righteous. They SURROUND them, with NO WAY OUT. That’s an invading army!

But whether it’s Judah or Assyria he’s thinking about, the fact that there’s TWO sorts of wickedness going on just makes Habakkuk’s question even MORE real: “Evil is EVERYWHERE. Why doesn’t God DO something?” Why hasn’t God stepped in to SAVE?

For Assyria, why won’t he bring them down?

For Israel, why won’t he send REVIVAL? Why not bring in REFORMATION?

After all, God is completely JUST and RIGHTEOUS. How can he just SEE it all, and DO NOTHING?

And that’s a question that’s been asked, in different ways, for THOUSANDS of YEARS. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why did my wife die? Why was my child born severely disabled?

Where is God when life hurts? Where is God in genocides, and wars, and natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis and bushfires?

It’s a question people have tried to answer many different ways over the years.

Hinduism

For example, Hinduism will talk about KARMA. All actions of the past are BALANCED OUT by events in the present. Evil happens because someone DESERVES it. And if it seems they DON’T deserve it, then the simple answer is they must have done something evil in A PREVIOUS LIFE.

Of course, there’s plenty of Westerners who’ll hold a similar view. They’ll be convinced when something BAD happens to them/ that God’s PUNISHING them for some wrong they’ve done in the past. That’s KARMA!

Buddhism, on the other hand, gives a very DIFFERENT answer. It teaches that suffering only exists because it’s connected to our DESIRE for things. The pain of losing a loved one comes from the desire for LOVE AND AFFECTION. The pain of poverty or sickness comes from the desire for a comfortable life.

So the key to dealing with suffering is to DENY your DESIRES. If you don’t WANT anything, nothing can HURT you.

The goal of Buddhism is to reach Nirvana. Which is really NON-EXISTENCE. Separation from the world. The aim is to switch yourself off from all the desires of the world to such a degree that nothing can HURT you anymore.

Which sounds fine in THEORY, but I’m not sure where happiness can COME from, then. If there’s no real GOD in Buddhism. And you can’t find it in EARTHLY things.

And I’m not sure how it works telling a little boy who’s father’s died/ that the solution is to harden himself to his loneliness and anger and frustration. To convince himself that those feelings aren’t natural or real.

Then there’s ISLAM. Here the key’s about submitting to the will of Allah. And Allah’s will is absolutely determined. So any suffering is the direct result of Allah. There’s a certain COMFORT in that. Even if the REASONS he causes it aren’t known.

In fact, to even QUESTION him is blasphemous. To QUESTION is not to SUBMIT. And so it misses the attractive simplicity of Islam.

 

And then there’s the terrible rationalism of ATHEISM. Which basically says there ARE no reasons. Bad things happening is SHEER BAD LUCK. Your suffering HAS no purpose, or cause. There’s no karma. No justice, no higher being directing things. It’s COMPLETELY RANDOM. Which I think is HEART-BREAKING, and no comfort WHATEVER.

I can’t really understand how suffering drives people to atheism.

And so we come to various “Christian” responses. Some of which are more biblical than others. And there’s two basic assumptions about God they begin with. One: God is ALL-LOVING. And TWO: God is ALL-POWERFUL.

SOME explain suffering by saying God is all LOVING, but something LESS than all powerful. He WANTS to end all suffering. But there’s something STOPPING him. He’s WILLING, but not ABLE.

But this ignores the basic Biblical idea that God is THE SOVEREIGN CREATOR. He MADE everything and he GOVERNS everything.

OTHER people want to say that God is all POWERFUL, but not all LOVING. He COULD stop suffering if he wanted to. But he just chooses NOT to. Either because he’s not that interested (the absent watchmaker, who made the world, wound it up, and has gone on holidays). Or else he’s fickle and spiteful, like the Greek gods. We’re like ants and he’s got the magnifying glass, burning us up for his amusement. In other words, he’s ABLE, but not WILLING.

But neither of those two positions reflect what the Bible teaches. Which is that God is all-powerful AND all-loving. And he’s actively involved with his creation. Which means that, somehow, he SEES the suffering in his world, and he’s got loving reasons for PERMITTING it.

And that’s where Habakkuk is. Asking how a just, powerful, loving and involved God can let all the wickedness and injustice HAPPEN.

 

God’s answer

Which brings us to God’s ANSWER in v5. Or perhaps more accurately, God’s REPLY. Since he doesn’t give SOLUTIONS. If anything, he just poses more QUESTIONS.

Habakkuk wants to know why God hasn’t ACTED. Well, God’s going to ACT, alright! V5

5 “Look at the nations and watch- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. 6 I am raising up the BABYLONIANS, that ruthless and impetuous people,

God ISN’T the detached, uninvolved watchmaker. He SEES, and he’s going to ACT. V5. “I’m going to DO SOMETHING.” V6. “I am RAISING UP.”

And just to confirm that it’s GOD who’s at work, he’s going to do something EXTRAORDINARY. EXTRA- ordinary. Outside human and earthly processes. He’s going to raise up BABYLON.

You see, at THIS stage, Babylon was just a minor player. On about the same level as Judah. ASSYRIA was the super power. They were the playground bully, stealing everyone’s lunch money.

But within a generation they’d rise up. Or more accurately GOD would RAISE them up. And in 614 BC they’d defeat the capital city, Assyria, then Nineveh in 612, then Harran in 610. And finally the COMBINED armies of Egypt and Assyria at Carchemish in 605? Extraordinary! Unless God had raised them.

But ALSO extraordinary because Babylon had a FEARSOME REPUTATION. Even at THIS stage. Well-drilled and fierce. A law to themselves. Nothing noble or honourable about their tactics. And on top of all that – brutal and proud.

How could God raise a tool LIKE THAT? How could God bring judgment on his people Israel using the WICKED, GODLESS AND PROUD BABYLON.

Reconciling God’s character and actions (1:12-17)

And Habakkuk’s AMAZED. He’d wanted REFORM and REPENTANCE in Judah. He’d wanted DELIVERANCE FROM ASSYRIA. But God’s plan is to use a nation EVEN MORE WICKED THAN JUDAH. And at least as bad as Assyria.

Sometimes, we pray for ONE thing. But God answers our prayer by giving us SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY.

God LOVES us to bring our requests to him. But I wonder, sometimes, whether we’re not better off just bringing a situation to God, and praying that HIS will would be done.

I read a friend’s facebook post this week. Naomi wrote,

“I met a gorgeous 80 yr old woman this week. She told me that she prays at night when she can’t sleep. She said she doesn’t sleep very much, so she prays a lot. Then she said that she doesn’t really know what to pray, so she goes through all the things on her mind and says, “Lord, have your way.” Then she looked at me and apologized. “It’s not a very good prayer, I guess.” I said, “It’s one of the best prayers I’ve ever heard.”

That’s letting GOD be king! Let HIM decide what’s to be done. WE pray to show we TRUST him.

I guess for Habakkuk though, what God needs to do is OBVIOUS. His problem is reconciling God’s CHARACTER with his ACTIONS.

And that’s the focus of Habakkuk’s reply from v12. His SECOND complaint. Look at v13.

13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?

And once again, there’s debate about whether he’s thinking about the PRESENT wickedness of Assyria. Or looking ahead to the FUTURE wickedness of Babylon.

I think he’s probably thinking about Assyria. Which makes this SECOND complaint a RESTATEMENT, or EXPANSION of his FIRST. Rather than something NEW.

And it’s all about reconciling God’s CHARACTER with his ACTIONS. His eyes are too pure to look at evil. And yet he’s tolerating wrong. He’s WATCHING ON while evil FLOURISHES.

In fact, more than just TOLERATING it. He’s RAISING IT UP. He might be sitting BACK while ASSYRIA does its worst. But he’s just announced that he’s going to be actively involved in raising up BABYLON.

Of course, this isn’t an isolated incident. No anomaly in God’s usual way of dealing with people. God’s ALWAYS active in politics!

 

He raised up PHARAOH for his purposes. Israel was quietly and safely growing into a nation in Egypt. Then God sent Moses to Pharaoh with the message, (Exodus 9:16) Let my people go.

16 But I have RAISED YOU, (Pharaoh), UP FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.

And later, when he’d brought them out of Egypt, and into the Promised Land, and they’d refused to follow him. God promised to raise up ASSYRIA to punish Israel. Jeremiah 5:15

15 O house of Israel,” declares the LORD, “I am BRINGING A DISTANT NATION AGAINST YOU– an ancient and enduring nation, a people whose language you do not know, whose speech you do not understand. 16 Their quivers are like an open grave; all of them are mighty warriors. 17 They will devour your harvests and food, devour your sons and daughters; they will devour your flocks and herds, devour your vines and fig trees. With the sword they will destroy the fortified cities in which you trust.

He raised up Assyria. And now, in Habakkuk’s time he’s raising up BABYLON.

And so, because God is STILL king, we can say he’s raising up Islamic State in Iraq, and North Korea, and Pakistan and all the OTHER nations intent on destroying God’s people.

And so we cry, with Habakkuk. WHY? How can a JUST GOD look on while INJUSTICE reigns? In fact how can he RAISE up unjust wickedness.

The Westminster Confession puts it really well. It brings all the Biblical evidence together, and in Chapter 3 says THIS. God has freely and unchangeably planned, from all eternity, everything that comes to pass. But he DOES it in such a way that he’s NOT THE AUTHOR OF SIN. And he doesn’t FORCE people to do what they don’t want to do.

God is KING. He PLANS EVERYTHING. But he’s also JUDGE. He’ll hold us to account for our actions. Everything we do is BOTH free/ AND predetermined.

Which I can’t EXPLAIN to you, any more than the Westminster Confession does. Both things are TRUE. Whether you can understand that, or not.

Of course the GREATEST example of that in history was the death of Jesus. Acts 4: The new Christians are meditating on Psalm 2. Why do the nations RAGE against God, and plot in vain? And they apply it to Herod and Pontius Pilate and the Romans and the Jewish leaders. Who all CHOSE FREELY to attack Jesus. And then they pray, v28.

28 THEY DID WHAT YOUR POWER AND WILL HAD DECIDED BEFOREHAND SHOULD HAPPEN.

God plans everything. Humans freely CHOOSE. In Peter’s speech in Acts 2:23 he puts it this way.

23 This man was handed over to you BY GOD’S SET PURPOSE AND FOREKNOWLEDGE; and YOU, with the help of wicked men, PUT HIM TO DEATH by nailing him to the cross.

That just BLOWS MY MIND. I can’t understand it. God is king over these people. He’s PLANNED IT ALL. But at the same time, they’ve CHOSEN their own wicked actions.

And while Habakkuk struggles to see God’s reasons. And while WE might struggle to see what’s good about OUR suffering, or about Christians martyred in Pakistan. At least in THIS historical event, the death of Jesus, the plan is CLEAR. Because Peter continues. V24.

24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

And then v33

33 EXALTED to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

That’s why God planned it that way. So EVERYONE should repent. Bow in submission to the DEATH –CONQUERING KING Jesus.

God’s purposes in Jesus’ suffering was so that God would be GLORIFIED in Jesus.

Which is the identical reason God ordains EVERYTHING in the universe. Ephesians 1:10 says that the mystery of God’s will is to bring everything together under the rule of Jesus.

And so we may not see the PARTICULAR purposes of God in our suffering. But we can trust that God IS at work. And that his ultimate goal is to bring everything under Jesus’ reign. And that, SOMEHOW, your suffering has a part to play in that.

I’ll wait in faith (2:1)

You may not see it YET, and you may not understand it. But trust God ANYWAY.

Which is where Habakkuk’s SECOND reply FINISHES. Chapter 2 v1. With Habakkuk being willing to LIVE WITH THE UNCERTAINTIES. He’s still asking questions. But he doesn’t have to UNDERSTAND everything God’s doing to still TRUST him. I’ll wait in faith. 2:1

I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will LOOK TO SEE WHAT HE WILL SAY TO ME, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.

Might that be US. Let’s be free to ask, with Habakkuk, Why? And HOW LONG? But might we finish up where Naomi’s old friend was. When she didn’t know WHAT to pray, would just leave it with him, and say, Lord, have your way!

And when we struggle to see any good in our suffering. Let’s remember that WE can see things so much more clearly than Habakkuk could. This side of the cross. Because it’s the cross which reminds us that God DOES work good through evil. And that he DOES love us, and WILL work out his best in our lives.

Sure, make a list of all the suffering you’re experiencing. All the things you’re praying for God to fix. Trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or sword. But then, right underneath them, write. Rom 8:32

32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!