Tuesday, September 28, 2010

tension questions: good, evil, & God's sovereignty

Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.
Habakkuk 1:5

The messages found in the small prophetic book of Habakkuk are very powerful. And they come in short quick bursts that nearly knock you down as you read them. Habakkuk wrestles with the deepest theological questions when seeking to understand both a sinful world, and a sovereign God. And the tension that the prophet feels is released in strong questions that sound like accusation. God's answers are more than reassuring. They restore faith's balance with truth from God's own lips.

The first question that the prophet struggles with is basically this: "Why do I see so much evil in my world and why does it seem to go unpunished?" (Habakkuk 1:3) Habakkuk wants to know if God is planning on doing something about the fact that human beings are so evil that they will fight, kill, and destroy lives to get what they want. That was the state Israel had sunk to, and God's law is "paralyzed" (Habakkuk 1:4) as human justice was perverted.

God's answer was surprising. He prepared the prophet for the surprising twist of His judgment on sin. God was already raising up a remedy for this. And it involved a powerful and painful judgment. God was sending the Chaldeans, "a bitter and hasty nation", to march into Israel and be His instruments of judgment on a disobedient and wicked nation (Habakkuk 1:6). God was going to match violent sin with violent judgment. It was not going to pretty (Habakkuk 1:9-11).

That led Habakkuk to immediately struggle with a second tension: "How could God use such a wicked pagan nation to judge His people?" (Habakkuk 1:13) and "Will God make this a permanent state of affairs, ultimately eradicating His covenant with Israel?" (Habakkuk 1:17) These are tough questions that will be answered through the rest of this short book. The second chapter of this book begins with a proper frame of mind..."I will wait to see what he will say to me..." (Habakkuk 2:1) Ultimately, the tension we feel when understanding God's sovereignty is only resolved by God Himself, and we should always look to Him, not our own reason or experience, to know comfort and relief.

That principle is the one I walk away with this morning. We live in an unfair world. Sin has corrupted all human relationships, and the bigger the institution, the more insidious is the sin-warp in it. Sometimes we can't even see or feel it all. Other times we know it is corrupt. That is why no human institution can satisfy our need to fully know God. We must pursue Him ourselves. We must ask the hard questions of God and wait for Him to answer. In the case of this small minor prophet, we can each hear God's answers loud and clear.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

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