Lord, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, you will never die. You, Lord, have appointed them to execute judgment; you, my Rock, have ordained them to punish. Your eyes are too holy to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? (Hab. 1: 12-13).

So, Habakkuk, you got your answer. God is going to sort out the mess in your country by sending the Babylonians against your people. They won’t stand a chance against the Babylonian army. They will be slaughtered or enslaved, and then where will their precious idols be that they so loved to worship? Where will the rulers be who loved to lord it over and oppress the people? What about the apostate priests and false prophets who led the people astray?

Habakkuk was appalled! “God, is it possible that you who are eternal and indestructible because you have nothing to do with evil, will do a thing like this? How can you raise up a godless nation to correct your own people? How can you use these people against your covenant nation?” The Israelites, in spite of Habakkuk’s complaint against them, looked like saints compared with the Babylonians. If he thought his people were bad, what about these vicious killers?

If the prophet’s first dilemma was puzzling to him, God’s answer was even more difficult to understand. Instead of giving him something to hold on to, God had deepened his confusion. From his perspective, what God said He was doing was not solving the problem at all. He was only making it worse. Many of his people were already suffering cruelty and injustice at the hands of their rulers. Now the Babylonians were coming to wipe them out. What sort of a solution was that?

Let’s put their situation into a modern-day context. Who are God’s people? Two categories: Firstly, God’s ancient people, Israel, are still His covenant people. In spite of their rejection of His Messiah, God has never disowned or abandoned them. And in spite of the teaching of some that God has finished with His people, that is not what the Bible says. So why have they suffered so badly since the time of Jesus?

Secondly, the church belongs to God. It is the body of Jesus of which He is the head. He loves His church and is passionate about her because she is His betrothed bride and His representative on earth until He comes. He has entrusted His Spirit to His church to lead her into all truth and to empower her to represent Him and do His works on earth. It is imperative that the church remain pure so that He can reveal Himself to the unbelieving world through her. Why is the church in many parts of the world suffering at the hands of cruel and ruthless killers?

When His people veer off course, God does not force them back to His way. He has to corral them by hedging up their way so that they return to His word and follow His leading because He is the only way to eternal life. Every other path leads to destruction.

So. what does He do? He allows and orchestrates circumstances that are painful and difficult enough to draw us back to Him. Isn’t it true that people often treat God like a celestial 911? They can do without Him until crises come and emergencies arise. Then they begin to shout and scream for His help. Is that the kind of father He wants to be to us?

When we look at the global church today, in many ways it is no better than God’s people were in Habakkuk’s day. Power struggles go on in the individual congregations; money and wealth preoccupy the teaching of many; the church is continually being fragmented because people cannot get on with each other or they are divided by their pet doctrines; church leaders fall into sin and live no better lives than the people in the world; many of the churches are no more than business enterprises or social clubs.

What is God going to do about it? He is raising up the “Babylonians.” What kind of an answer is that? Suffering divides the men from the boys. It either turns people into apostates or sons. People either turn against God when they suffer or they learn obedience as Jesus did.

Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him (Heb. 5: 8).

God is smart. He knows that suffering forces us to choose what we value most and hold on to it. More of that 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.

Luella Campbell

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