As a result of this kind of self serving rather arrogant display of faith in a crisis (as if God owes us anything or even wants to bargain with us) there are those who have come to the conclusion that we should never question God. He is God. He is in control. He is all knowing, all powerful, all holy, and all loving – so who are we as the Pot to question God, the Potter?
The Scripture gets twisted there. We need to notice that Paul does tell us in Romans 9 that we are not to repy against God, questioning Him, but in the context what is being questioned is His sovereignty. We cannot ever question God’s character, His holiness, His love and care for us, or His control over all that is. But we cannot say that the Bible forbids us from asking God questions. Job, David, the Prophets, and even Jesus asked God, “Why?” in the Scriptures!
Habakkuk begins his Book of Prophecy by describing a burden he is bearing. The burden consists of his questions for God and of God’s answers to his queries. In fact, Habakkuk begins by questioning God’s judgment. He asks God two questions, “How long?”, and “Why?”
Judah had fallen back into wickedness after the death of Josiah, rejecting his reforms and the revival that they brought. They ran back into iniquity and sin. Habakkuk complains that the people are involved in iniquity and trouble, plundering and violence, and strife and contentions. Society is breaking down, corruption is spreading, people are suffering, and at the root of it all is injustice. The law has been abandoned and the judges who rule are perverting justice.
Habakkuk knows that the Lord has promised to judge such behavior. He knows the warnings from prophets in the past, from the Law (the Torah), and from men of God who are living in the same day as he. So his questions persist.
How long will God not hear his prayer for revival, reform, and restoration in the Land? How long will God not hear? How long will God ignore his pleas for help in the midst of the terrible violence and sin? And why does God allow all of this wickedness to go unpunished? What hope do they have since it seems that after the death of Josiah their God has stopped listening and has even grown indifferent to sin?
God has been listening. He does hear the prayers of Habakkuk. And when He finally does answer the questions He begins by making an announcement. God says, “Look! Watch! Be astonished! Wonder!” He tells Habakkuk that he and the people are going to see things that they cannot believe as He begins to respond to the sins of Judah. He has already been preparing His answer all the while Habakkuk was crying out and praying. It was not that God did not hear, it was that the time was not right for the answer.
But now the answer is given. The Chaldeans (another name for the Bablyonian Empire under Nabopolasser and Nebuchadnezzar) was being raised up by God to come and judge the nation of Judah. In the process of answering Habakkuk’s question, God tells us over twenty things about the Chaldeans and what they will do to the people of God as a penalty from the hand of God for their sin and violent wickedness. Habakkuk had been praying and hoping for revival and reform like he had seen under the reign of Josiah, but instead God tells him that there is this horrible, terrible, astonishing impending judgment that will come to pass very soon.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said of the Book of Habakkuk that we learn several lessons about God and history. First, God controls history. This cannot be doubted as we see the fulfiullment of prophecy and as we see God direct all of creation in order to bring about the incarnation so that He might save His people from their sin. Second, history follows a divine plan. There are no such things as chance, chaos, or accidents. History runs in the channel that God has dug for it. Third, history follows a divine timetable. Everything in its season. God’s timing is not our timing, but when His timing has come, nothing can stop what He is doing.
Underlying these questions from the prophet and God’s answer then we see a very practical theme emerge from this prophecy. Bad things will happen, as they must happen in a fallen and cursed world. But when they do, we do not need to be troubled about it! We must learn to trust in the purposes of the Lord even when we do not know what He is doing or why He is doing it. This is the secret of triumphant faith. Triumphant faith sees all that happens from the perspective that God is in control, history is following His plan, and in His time He will make all things beautiful and good again once more.
Judah was facing violence, injustice, iniquity, and war. But God had a purpose in it and was going to use the Chaldeans to bring about judgment and eventually restoration to His people. In the face of impending doom, Habakkuk’s questions were answered with this fact, God was at work through it all.
Today we face economic hardship, high unemployment, impending inflation and economic collapse. We see all around us injustice, moral decay, corruption, and immorality. Secularism invades the church constantly as we see people run after the world, desiring to be liked by the world instead of valuing a relationship with God. Our young people run headlong after the fads of the day trying to be cool, trying to be an individual by looking just like everyone else, defacing and devaluing their bodies in an attempt to fit in.
A secular worldview dominates the way many people even in Reformed churches think about their lives, worship, and the future. Whole denominations and movements are motivated by mere fads and theological novelty. Pragmatism runs rampant in the ranks of the church, compromise is the language of the day, sin is tolerated and even touted as “using our liberty in Christ” to do whatever we want to do.
On top of it all there are wars and rumors of war. We are fighting terrorism, drugs, poverty, and disease. We fear a nuclear Iran, Mid-East terror cells, domestic threats, an overbearing government, and in spite of our best efforts the world, the flesh, and the devil constantly war against us in our thoughts, words, and actions as we strive to walk by faith at least with some semblance of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
What are we to do? Why has God not answered our prayers for revival? How long should we keep asking when we get no answers? Does God hear? Does He care? Will we ever see great awakenings and revivals like we have seen in the past?
Now we are right where Habakkuk was in asking his questions. And the answer for us is clear. God is in control. He will judge sin. He has a plan and it will unfold according to His timetable.
So what do we do in the midst of all of this mess? In Matthew 24, Jesus tells us:
Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
These things must come to pass. Don’t be troubled. Have faith in God!
Join us Sunday at 10:30 AM for this second message in our series from Habakkuk, “Questioning God“.