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The Mysteries of Providence

          Have you ever been asked questions like these, or asked them yourself?  Why doesn’t a loving and righteous God do something to stop all the evil in the world?  How could a loving God allow the death of the innocent by the hand of the wicked?  Why do the wicked prosper so?

            These questions are not strange.  They are not even uncommon.  They are not even new; they have been around for thousands of years.  Do not feel strange because you have asked them yourself.  You are not the first to ask them, neither will you be the last.  God understands and He does have an answer for you!

            The time is approximately 586 BC, the Chaldeans, who were also known as the Babylonians were gathering an army in an attempt to overthrow and destroy Jerusalem for the third time.  The Chaldeans were a nation of evil, idolatrous people bent on world domination.  Jerusalem was the last vestige of Jehovah’s people.  Jerusalem was such a strong city that the Chaldeans failed twice before to overcome it. But not this time, God had declared its fall (Ref. Jeremiah 21).

            The prophet Habakkuk whose ministry lasted from approximately 618 BC to 565 BC was from the tribe of Levi, and was a temple singer (Habakkuk 5:19).  He was one of many prophets that had prophesied Jerusalem’s destruction.  He was a contemporary of Jeremiah at home and with Daniel in Babylon.  Habakkuk was known as the questioning prophet, because he asked these same questions of God.  He wanted to know “Why” and “How?” God granted him the answer!  He wanted to know why God permits the destruction of His own people by a hand so cruel and unclean.  He, like many people today, could not reconcile his belief in a good and righteous God with the facts of life as he saw them.  He was troubled with an eternal “Why?”  Just like today, people of faith are troubled with many things that are going on round them.  We ask “Why” a loving and omnipotent God does not do something to stop all the evil in the world.  And “How” could a loving and righteous God allow the death of the innocent whether young or old, by the hand of the wicked? 

            We also see Habakkuk complaining to God about why He would destroy His own people and nation, for he saw these actions as God’s injustice toward mankind. Habakkuk complained also about why God does not answer, why He keeps silent (Habakkuk 1:13), and not show Himself and put an end to all the world’s troubles and doubts.

            Habakkuk had seen the fall of the world empire of Assyria just as Nahum had proph­esied.  Egypt and Babylon had then contended for that place of power at the battle of Carchemish in 6O5 B.C. (Ref. 2nd Chronicles 35:20-27), the battle in which King Josiah was killed.  The Babylonians were conquerors and the great king­doms of the Babylonians and Chaldeans were now united under Nebuchadnezzar.  

            Habakkuk knew only too well that Judah must fall, for he as well as others had prophesied it. But one question arose in his mind that troubled him greatly. Why should any nation as wicked as Babylon conquer a nation like Judah, which he realized was evil, but was less evil then the Babylonians?  It seemed to him that it was just a matter of evil triumphing over evil. What good could come of it he wondered. 

            Doesn’t this seem familiar to what is going on today?  We hear of wars and rumors of wars: nations rising against nations, and kingdoms against kingdoms: famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers’ places.  Many are offended at the Gospel of Christ, betrayal abounds, and hatred toward one another seems to be the norm.  Where false prophets deceive many, iniquity is abounding, innocents are dying all over the world from evil tyrants and dictatorial monarchs.  The love of many is waxing cold!           

            This is why these questions are not strange!  They are not even uncommon.  It becomes understandable why any person aware of these events would feel compelled to ask these questions and have doubts  and questions about God.  Habakkuk did!  And like Habakkuk discovered, God has an answer!

            I would like to point out several very important facts before our discussion of God’s answer will commence.  Habakkuk in all his questionings and turmoil of soul went to God first.  He went directly to the source of his turmoil.  Then after questioning God he waited patiently for Him to answer (2:1).  G. Campbell Morgan said that “when Habakkuk looked at his circumstances he was perplexed (1:3), but when he waited for God and listened to Him, he sang” (3:18-19).

            Notice how Habakkuk goes to God with his questions.  (1:2) O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! Even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!  Habakkuk goes to God with a genuine concern, with respect and with anguish of soul. Notice “O Lord”, an attitude displayed by a mere servant to his master showing absolute respect. He went with a genuine concern of injustice toward God’s elect, which is shown by the word “violence.”  He went to him also with persistence energized by his anguish. “How long shall I cry."  His need for an answer laid heavy on his soul and he was in desperate need of relief.  This desperate need of relief translated into lengthy unending perseverance in his prayer before God.

            There are numerous times in our lives when we too do not understand what God is doing.  And because of our lack of understanding we are overcome by anguish of soul over what seems to be injustice on God’s part.  When those times come upon us and realizing that there is no-one else we can turn to for answers, we must follow Habakkuk’s pattern.

            Habakkuk went to God;

1.         “First.”                                                2.         with “respect.” 

3.         with a “genuine concern.”                   4.         with “anguish of soul.” 

5.         with “perseverance.”                           6.         with "patience" – he waited for God to answer.

            This purity of heart and faith of Spirit which was seen by God in Habakkuk resulted in God answering Habakkuk’s questions. 

            The prophet understood that punishment does not come without sin, nor does sin endure without punishment.  For one of the truths made very clear in the Old Testament is the connection between sin and punishment.  Other prophets, as commissioned by God, first denounced the sins and then foretold the punishment of the impenitent.

            Readers understand that sin is a universal disease.  The Bible makes it abundantly clear that sin has engulfed everyone ever born of a woman (ref. Genesis 6:5; 1st Kings 8:46; Psalm 53:3; Psalm 130:3; Proverbs 20:9; Isaiah 53:6, 64:6; Romans 3:23; 1st John 1:8, 5:19 etc.).  Therefore everyone is under the penalty of sin (Romans 6:23).  Habakkuk was appealing to God’s justice, not as to requiring its infliction, but to the method of that infliction. 

            God answers Habakkuk’s question (2:2) but first instructs him to write it down in big letters for all to read even those passing by in a hurry.  Make the answer easy to understand by everyone who reads it; write it down on tablets, God commanded.  These tables or tablets were commonly boxwood, metal or stone covered with wax, on which national affairs were engraved with an iron pen.  They were then hung up in public, at the prophets own houses, or at the temple, that those who pass by might read them (ref. Exodus 24:12; Daniel 4:13; Jeremiah 17:1; Luke 1:63).  The idea was one of permanency! 

            God’s answer came as a shock to Habakkuk.  For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.”  In other words; know this that the end will come, not now but in its due season.  I will do something that will amaze you even if I told you what it was. 

            God explained to Habakkuk that He was not indifferent to His people.  He wanted them to look beyond the present into the future, because he was already there working.  God called the Chaldeans to be His rod of punishment (Habakkuk 1:6).  God called Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon “His servant” (Jeremiah 25:9).  Judah's continuous sin would reap what it had sown (Habakkuk 2:3).

            God’s answer is one of fundamental truth.  The presumptuous and proud will not continue; and the just alone will live; they will live by faith!  God’s answer contains two parts; the first part is to the proud; the second part is to the just and upright.  God’s answer is in Habakkuk 2:4.  “Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.”

            The source of all sin was and is pride; “I above you God!”  It is especially the sin of all oppressors, true of the Chaldeans, of all antichrists, and shall be true of the antichrist as well. It is the root of all heresy, and of all corruption and rejection of the Gospel. It stands as the type of all opposed to God and what God stands for. 

            Notice, where pride dwells, and how it is described in verse 4.  It is in our very inmost core (“soul”), and it is lacking in uprightness.  It can have no good in it, because it denies God, and God denies it His grace. And having nothing upright in it, it is, to its core corrupt, it cannot stand or abide for long. God gives it no power to stand or he that is consumed with pride to withstand!

            On the other hand those who are truly upright, and whose hearts are in right standing with God, will value the promise, and hold fast to the confidence of the truth of it.  God will in His time make the wicked reap what they had sown and the just who live by faith in the Almighty, would prevail.  Faith in this understanding will keep the righteous close to God through the most difficult and trying times.  They will then live comfortably in communion with God, with dependence on Him, and the expectation of Him.

            The just shall live by faith;” in other words in times of tribulation, distress, uncertainty, questioning and doubt the just will know that they stand with God and God stands with them and for them.  It is only by faith shall the righteous stand.

            This verse is also quoted in the New Testament (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews10:38), for proof of the great doctrine of justification by faith, and of the influence faith has upon the Christian life. Those that are made just by faith shall live, they shall be happy here and forever; while they are here, they live by it; when they get to heaven, faith shall be swallowed up in reality.

            Paul makes this statement; "without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6,). Faith, has one and the same principle, a trust filled reliance on its Creator. This was the characteristic of Abraham the father of faith.  And the characteristic God is looking for in all His children.

            Abraham’s faith was one of unshaken, unwavering, and resolute belief in God who called him, for a purpose he did not understand, or whether it was in leaving his own land and going to a place of which he knew not and for an end which he was never to see.  Or in believing the promise of God for a son in his old age, through whom the Seed was to be and in whom all the nations of the world would be blessed.  Or in the crowning act of offering his only son to God, knowing that he would receive him back from the dead.  Though unknowing or unseeing, through great trials and tribulation, or acts of great courage, Abraham lived by faith and according to Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3, 22; James 2:23, “His faith was accounted to him for righteousness.”

            Habakkuk, after hearing God’s answer to the concerns of his heart rejoices in His God. Listen to the magnificent melody with which his prophecy closes. “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (3:17-18). This song was later set to music and the Jews sang it at public worship.

            After a sincere prayer (Habakkuk 3:1-16), God’s glory appears. Habakkuk realizes that God is in control of everything in the universe and that He is working out His own purpose in His own time. Habakkuk learns that he can trust unconditionally in God. He realizes that he can see through a glass dimly and understand only in a limited sense.  And he must wait for God to reveal His entire program. One must have faith that God’s way is the only way, and the best way.

            Isaiah stated this principle this way; “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off” (Isaiah 55:8-13). 

            Jeremiah also confirmed the same principle by saying: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive” (Jeremiah 29:11-14).

            God cannot always give us a satisfactory answer, because our finite minds cannot grasp the thoughts and concepts of the infinite. For again, His thoughts are high above our thoughts. And His ways above our ways (Isaiah 55:9), we can always trust God to do the best thing for everyone all the time! “In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, and who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

            It is understandable that there are still some readers that are unsatisfied with the answer given herein.  This answer does not help resolve your doubts and questions.  Maybe this illustration will help. 

            Imagine yourself sitting down getting ready to put together a 7,000 piece jigsaw puzzle.  The problem is that the manufacturer forgot to put on the box or the pieces the picture of the puzzle.  You open the box and look at one or two pieces.  But no matter how hard you try, and by what method you use there is no way for you to see what the entire picture is, or how all the pieces are going to fit together.  However; by determination, by hard work and faith, one piece at a time, you eventually see the completed puzzle.  This process takes time – lots of time.  But at the end all your questions will be answered, your doubts are relieved and the entire picture is revealed. This is exactly what God said to Habakkuk when He said; “the just shall live by faith.”  God reassures Habakkuk that through a life of faith, which is not easy under the circumstances of our time, all things will be revealed, and that revelation will be one that is undeniably just and righteous.

            We see through very limited eyes, one piece of the puzzle if you will.  God knows exactly what the entire puzzle looks like and through earnest prayer and faith in our Omnipotent Father someday it will all be revealed and you will understand and see the entire picture.

            1st Corinthians 13:9-10, 12 says; “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away… For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

            There is left only one final question!  Do we have the faith to believe God in spite of not understanding the “How” or the “Why”?  May God help you discover your heart!  Just Live by Faith!!!

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