Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tough Questions

the word for today: Habakkuk 1:1- 2:5

For the past two days we've been talking about Nahum, Assyria and Israel. Now its time to switch gears and talk about Habakkuk, Babylon and Judah.

Here's a quick contrast:

So we are right around the time of the Fall of Judah and Jerusalem, and the prophet Habakkuk is voicing his complaints to God. He asks a series of perplexing questions, not much different than the ones raised today by believers and skeptics alike? He asks:
  • How long will You ignore me? (1:2)
  • How long will You leave me in the lurch? (1:2)
  • Why do I have to put up with all this evil? (1:3)
  • Why don't You do something about it? (1:13)
  • Why are You silent? (1:13)
  • How can your plan possibly include that? (1:13)
  • When will all of this ever end? (1:17)

I am sure that you, me, and the rest of humanity have asked, or at least wrestled with, one or more of these questions. Everyday we are confronted with challenges and difficulties that we cannot explain away: matters of health and sickness, of justice and punishment, of suffering and faith, of good and evil. We wonder how our trust in God can be reconciled in a very damaged and defective world.

Habakkuk feels your pain and then some. His cries to God are heartfelt. He has seen what the cruel Babylonians have done and is trying to match that up with God's promises to His people.

But even more impressive than these questions is God's answer. He in no way dismisses the pain or suffering of His people. He doesn't try to convince them everything is going to be okay. He doesn't say "Oh quit yer belly-achin""!"

Instead, He shares with Habakkuk the most unlikely solution, one that causes "astonishment" and "disbelief." God Himself is using the wicked nation of Babylon to accomplish His purpose (1:5-6). It is not the means that anyone would have expected and certainly not the means that anyone would have wanted. Nevertheless, this "bitter and hasty nation," this "dreaded and fearsome" people, will pillage and devour and sweep Judah right of the map (1:6-11). It just doesn't make any sense!

That is, it makes no sense from a human perspective. Is that typical of God? It makes no sense that under the intense and bloody persecution of the Roman empire that the early church multiplied and flourished. It makes no sense, that under fierce opposition from the Communist regime, Chinese evangelical believers grew from 1 million in 1950, to over 100 million today. It makes no sense that Europe and America, in times of unprecedented freedom and prosperity, have decided to turn their back on God. It makes no sense that the cross, the cruel instrument of death invented and perfected by the Romans, would one day be the very symbol that ruled over them.

Never forget that God's ways seldom make sense from a human perspective. What better evidence of this is there than the Cross of Jesus Christ. It is the answer that no one would have thought of, and yet it is the only answer that can save mankind.

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God....For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

(1 Corinthians 1:18, 21-24)

So go ahead and bring all your doubts and questions and struggles to God, just like Habakkuk. And just like Habakkuk, prepare to be blown away by God's solution.

1 comment:

  1. Fan-flaming-tastic, Pastor Joe!

    You are nailing the essence of these books.

    Thanks so much.