Sermons

Summary: Why does a just God delay justice? How can a loving God allow evil? Why do we think we can judge God by our standards?

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Have you ever felt that God was just like the judge in Luke’s parable? Perhaps you have a problem, a need, a pain, a burning question; you bring it before God, and - nothing happens. You remember what Jesus said about persisting in prayer, so you go on battering at the heavenly gates - for an answer that doesn’t come. How hard it is to keep trusting that God has everything under control, and that not only his goodness but his power can be trusted.

Some people put the question like this: Since there is evil in the world, the idea that God is both loving and all-powerful does not compute. So they give up on one of the two propositions. They conclude that either God doesn’t care what happens to us, or he can’t do anything about it. That’s pretty depressing.

I don’t know whether it’s harder to trust God with everyday personal stuff or with bigger things, like war and peace and prosperity and politics. It’s always easier, of course, when you can find someone to blame... and with the broader social issues you can always find enough sin around to bring a just God to the punishment point. So perhaps you don’t ask the kinds of questions that Habakkuk is asking. But when I first read this book, it was right where I was at. “What can God be thinking of, to let all this stuff happen?” To me this first chapter reads just like the morning news. And the answers are still especially helpful to me during an election season.

It’s interesting to note that some scholars think that the name Habakkuk comes from a word meaning "embrace," because this book is an oddly comforting one, simply because it addresses straight on the great question of why God allows evil.

The problems Habakkuk wrestled with and eventually learned the answer to - thus becoming able to comfort and teach not only his own people but ourselves as well - are exactly the problems you and I wrestle with. For although the prophet lived in a time very different from ours on some levels, particularly in terms of national security, there are also a lot of similarities. Judean society was ruled by corrupt officials, filled with violence and class division, economic oppression, envy and despair. Habakkuk doesn’t pull any punches in his outcry to God:

"O YHWH, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you "Violence!" and you will not save? Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround

the righteous-- therefore judgment comes forth perverted.{Hab 1:1-4}

Doesn't that sound like today? Why, Habakkuk says, does he have to cry "Violence!" and hear no answer? Here is the problem of unanswered prayer from a righteous man, a man of God who is asking on behalf of his people, not for himself. The people are immersed in wickedness; there is unrest, violence, injustice and oppression everywhere he looks. Those who are responsible for setting an example, for teaching righteousness, for maintaining order do nothing about it - indeed, they make it worse. And when matters come before the courts, the courts themselves are found to be corrupt.


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