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Habakkuk - When Bad Things Happen to God's People

Habakkuk - When Bad Things Happen to God's People

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Published by Ron Lair
A Study in the Minor Prophets: Habakkuk
A Study in the Minor Prophets: Habakkuk

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Published by: Ron Lair on Oct 13, 2010
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02/13/2012

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Habakkuk 
 
 When Bad Things Happen to God's People
"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."
Habakkuk. 1:5
I. Introduction
Have you ever encountered this objection to believing in God
"How can you believe in a loving, all-powerfulGod when there is so much evil and suffering in this world?"? That's a really good question - one that we can't(or better not) toss out some flippant answer. We need to have this dilemma worked out in our own minds and
"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that youhave." 
I Peter 3:15 "Why doesn't God do something about evil?"In the early 80's, a Rabbi named Harold S. Kushner ran smack-dab into this problem when facing his son'sterminal illness. While struggling through the issue, he wrote the best seller - "When Bad Things Happen toGood People" Now, I can't say that I've read the book, but my understanding of Rabbi Kushner's answer issomething like: Either God is not really a loving God to allow suffering and evil OR He's not actually all- powerful otherwise He would eradicate it. In Rabbi's Kushner's mind, you can't have it both ways. He opts for aloving but limited God who isn't quite capable of controlling the problem. There must be a better answer thanthat. Honestly, I won't guarantee that this study will provide a rock-solid answer to the problem. In fact, wemight end up with more questions than when we started. But, just maybe we'll get a better understand of whatare response should be.Although, this is a very timely topic, it's not a new one. We certainly aren't the first generation to struggle withthe problem of evil. Habakkuk agonized over the very same thing many years ago. Like Obadiah, we don't havea lot of info as to who this man, Habakkuk was. It's been speculated that he may have been a Levite serving inthe temple.It seems that we can narrow down the time of his writing a little better than with Obadiah, however. Habakkuk  prophesizes the impending conquest of Judah by the Babylonians in 587 b.c., so the assumption is that he wrotewithin a 25 year period before the fall of Jerusalem.It's likely that Habakkuk was alive during the time of great revival during the reign of Josiah who was king of Judah prior to the Babylonian conquest.II Chron. 34:1-7, 29-321 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. 2 He did whatwas right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.3 In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David. In histwelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of high places, Asherah poles, carved idols and castimages. 4 Under his direction the altars of the Baals were torn down; he cut to pieces the incense altars that
 
 
were above them, and smashed the Asherah poles, the idols and the images. These he broke to pieces andscattered over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. 5 He burned the bones of the priests on their altars, and so he purged Judah and Jerusalem. 6 In the towns of Manasseh, Ephraim and Simeon, as far as Naphtali, and in the ruins around them, 7 he tore down the altars and the Asherah poles and crushed the idols to powder and cut to pieces all the incense altars throughout Israel. Then he went back to Jerusalem.29 Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 30 He went up to the temple of theLORD with the men of Judah, the people of Jerusalem, the priests and the Levites—all the people from the leastto the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in thetemple of the LORD. 31 The king stood by his pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD -tofollow the LORD and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, and toobey the words of the covenant written in this book.32 Then he had everyone in Jerusalem and Benjamin pledge themselves to it; the people of Jerusalem did this inaccordance with the covenant of God, the God of their fathers.But, the revival didn't last forever and 22 years later (if my math is correct) King Josiah was killed in battle andsoon Judah returned to her idolatrous ways. The people went back to worshipping idols and the nation sunk,once again, into terrible corruption. this is the backdrop behind Habakkuk's prophesy.
The Strangeness of God's Ways
Habakkuk's Problem #1 Why Does God Allow Evil in the Land? 1:1-4
Habakkuk looks around him and sees nothing but corruption, injustice, violence, and destruction. And keep inmind, he's not speaking about one of the surrounding pagan nations, but of those who consider themselvesGod's people. He certainly know that these conditions aren't the way things are supposed to be; this isn't theway God intended for His people to live. And so he cries out to God: "How long? How long will you let this gounchecked? Why don't you do something?"Ever feel like that? Ever look around you and see everything seemingly getting worse and worse - maybewondering what kind of world your children or grandchildren will live in - and ask God, "Why don't you dosomething?" Why doesn't He do something about people who victimize our children? Why doesn't He savethose people I've been praying for, for years now? Why doesn't He heal our loved ones who are sick?In many cases, it seems like God is inactive - sometimes it seems as though Thomas Jefferson had it right whenhe said that God is like a watchmaker who builds the watch, winds it up and leaves it alone to wind down on it'sown. Now Habakkuk didn't believe that. He knew that God was keenly involved with His people. He knew that Godwould be willing to act - He just didn't know how or when. What do you think Habakkuk had in mind? Don'tyou suppose he hoped that God would bring revival like he experienced under Josiah? But, let's see how Godanswered him.
 
 
God's Answer #1 1:5-11
Wow! I don't think this is what Habakkuk expected at all! You think that God's inactivity is hard to understand, just wait until He acts!Habakkuk had it all planned out in his own mind. He thought he knew exactly what his people needed. Maybe alittle discipline, a little spanking - but mostly a good dose of revival. Then they'll turn back to God andeverything will be great. But, that wasn't God's plan.God's plan was to raise up a ruthless, pagan nation who's ambition was nothing less than seizing for themselvesthe entire known world. If Habakkuk knew this, I wonder if he would have even offered the prayer? Can youimagine how he felt at that moment? We look at these events with the benefit of hindsight, so God's reply mightnot seem so shocking to us. But try to imagine this: You've seen the hypocrisy, profiteering, rampant sin, andheresy within the church in America. for some time, you've been fervently pleading with God to act. You hopefor a sweeping revival to hit the nation. finally, God speaks... and he tells you that He's answering your prayers by raising up radical Islam to take over the church. These people who use car bombs and swords as their method of evangelism! That's just how shocking God's revelation to Habakkuk was!I think it's probably a fairly common experience that God answers our prayers in dramatic but unexpectedways... sometimes so unexpected that we may not even recognize the answer. I'm real careful about telling Godto do 'whatever it takes.' You never know to what measures he'll go to, to accomplish the task.John Newton once said that he prayed to experience God more, to know Him in a much deeper way. Heexpected some amazing vision (maybe like Isaiah's vision of The Lord in His temple), some awesome blessing.But, what he got was months of dark depression where God seemed a million miles away, where he feltcompletely abandoned by God. That wasn't Newton's plan. But, God led him into the depths of suffering so that Newton would learn to be totally dependent on Him. When the lesson was learned, only then did God bring himup and bless him.When you think about, though, isn't that the way God often works? We're hard headed. We usually don't learn alesson or drastically change our ways without some pain or hardship. Ever pray for patience? And whathappens... God encompasses you in a halo and suddenly you have supernatural patience, right? No. He putsvarious maddening situations in your path, until you fall into bed exhausted from the trials of the day.Eventually, we'll find ourselves conditioned to understand the lesson.
Habakkuk's Problem #2 Why Does God Use the Wicked to Punish The More Righteous? 1:12-2:1
So, Habakkuk is trying to understand God's answer. It certainly is a lot to digest. I like the way he starts out hisreply to God. "
O LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, we will not die." 
He's trying totake in things that he can't really fathom, so he starts with something that he's fully convinced of. God is eternal.He exists outside of history. In fact, He created history and certainly is in control of it. God will be around longafter the calamity is past. Whatever happens, you can be sure that God is in control and the ultimate outcomewill be good. Whenever life seems to be coming at us head on, when we feel overwhelmed with whatever isgoing on in our lives or in history, it's good to just take a step back and say: "This I know, my God was there before it started, He'll be there when it's over; He created it."

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