The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.

‘How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralysed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted (Hab. 1: 1-4).

I have chosen this short prophetic book from the Old Testament for our next meditation because it is as relevant for us today as today’s newspaper. In my country, I could be reflecting on information from any of our national newspapers. If ever there was a time for us to heed this message, it’s now because it would be so easy for God’s children to be thrown off balance without God’s perspective on earthly circumstances.

This short message was not directed at the prophet’s people or the nations round about him. This was his personal encounter with God. From his perspective, things looked pretty bad. In spite of the fact that his people were God’s people, wherever he looked, he saw violence and injustice. They were in a covenant relationship with God. They were supposed to obey Him and follow His ways so that they could be a witness to the ungodly people around them that their God was the true God and that He was holy.

But they were no different from the heathen. Why? Because they had abandoned the God who delivered them from slavery in Egypt, and replaced Him with the vile idol gods of their neighbours. Wherever Habakkuk looked, he saw the effects of their idolatry. His own people were just as evil as the heathen and he could not understand why God allowed them to carry on living wicked lives. Why did He not step in and do something?

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? How often I hear the same complaint, not only from God’s people but also from those who don’t even acknowledge Him. “If God is a God of love, why did He allow this, that or the other to happen?” For His own people, the goings on around them is a cause for doubt and fear. For the unbeliever, it’s an excuse to reject His authority and ignore their accountability to Him.

First of all, this way of thinking comes from a misunderstanding of who God is and how He works. People, and even His own people, think that God is some kind of puppeteer who has people on a string and makes them move the way He wants them to move. They forget that God honours the gift He gave humankind when He made the first man – free will – and He never overrides their freedom to choose, not matter what they do. He cannot and will not make people do what they do not choose to do or be.

Secondly, they forget that man chose to overthrow God’s authority over hm. Adam was deceived. He listened to the devil’s insinuation that God was unloving and unfair. The result is the mess the world is in right now. What goes on in the world is not God’s fault – it’s ours. Human wickedness created the chaos without God’s help because we chose to make our own rules, and now the world is ensnared in its own evil ways.

Thirdly, God must follow His own rules. He is perfectly just. He cannot simply step in and arbitrarily change the way people behave. He is not indifferent to their suffering. In fact, He has reassured His people again and again that He is always with them. He suffers with them. He grieves over what people do to each other. This is not what He intended the world to be like.

However, He can only work through people’s choices.  Does this mean that God is powerless to intervene in an apparently hopeless situation? Is He subject to human beings? What kind of a God is He? How can we have confidence in Him when it seems that man is in charge? What’s the use of praying when God seems not to hear us or when He sits on His hands and does nothing?

Don’t you love Habakkuk’s honesty? God did! He did not swat him out of existence for questioning Him. He is like that. We are allowed to question Him as long as it not in defiance or disrespect. God always responds to us when we come to Him in humility – remembering that He is God and we are not. Whatever we may think, and however wrong we may be, there is no excuse for losing our holy fear of God or speaking to Him disrespectfully.

Habakkuk was genuinely looking for answers. So was another of God’s righteous people, Job, but God did not answer Job in the way He answered Habbakuk. Job accused God of being unjust and God did not take his accusation lightly. In Habakkuk’s situation, he was puzzled because of God’s seeming indifference to the situation and His inactivity in spite of the prophet’s urgent pleas for help. God wanted him to understand the bigger picture because, as a prophet, he had a job to do – to be a spokesman for God to the people. He had to interpret current events in the light of God’s character and ways.

God responded to Habbakuk’s questions with a surprising and disturbing answer – which we shall discuss tomorrow.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Check out my blogsite at www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com

Luella Campbell

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