Summary: When we are forced to live with more questions than answers, we must live by faith.
A few years ago I received one of those tests that Fathers get into trying to be a good “Dad.” We were living in KY at that time, and on that day I had to travel to Scottsburg, IN for a lunch meeting. Trent was in pre-school at the time, except it wasn’t in session that day so I decided I would be a model dad and take him with me. The 1-1/2 hour return trip was pretty uneventful with Trent sleeping off his Ponderosa lunch. But the trip up there was a real learning experience, for both of us.
Trent was really in one of those “question asking” moods. He was learning. Before we even got in the car he had already asked where and why we were taking a trip. In the car he asked about what seemed like every word the radio announcer said. He asked about the airplanes we saw. He asked about a billboard we saw with Dracula on it. “Is he a mean guy?” It was around Halloween, and in Ponderosa he saw a skeleton hanging from the ceiling. “What is that?” “It’s a skeleton, Trent. That is what all your skin is hanging on.” (Look at arm, then back at skeleton) “Is he a mean guy?” “Yea, Trent, he’s mean.” We got back into the car and headed out. Instead of taking the interstate, I went a different way on a back road. “Daddy, why do we say ‘we?’” After asking him to repeat the question, I had to put some deep thought into that one. “Well, son, ‘we’ is a word that talks about ‘us.’ By ourselves it’s just you or me, but if we are together we say ‘we.’” I was pretty impressed with how well I had answered a relatively difficult question. But from the look on Trent’s face, he wasn’t impressed. He was puzzled. “No, Daddy. Why do we say ‘we’? You know, “wee?” I thought about it for a minute and realized that I must have been driving faster than I thought. “I don’t know, Trent.”
It seems that we are born with a thirst to know, and the only way we know how to quench our thirst is by asking questions. We don’t ever lose that urge to ask. When we are young the questions are more the questions of curiosity. “Why is the sky blue?” “Why do I have to eat that broccoli?” When we get older our questions seem to go deeper. They take on more urgency, and they are often asked out of a painful situation.
Read the Bible and you will find a lot of people asking big questions. A childless couple facing an unfulfilled promise ask “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” Hear the desperation in those words as Abraham expects the answer to be no. When everything has fallen apart, his health, his family, his personal fortune; When there is nothing left Job can’t help but ask “Your hands shaped me and made me. Will you now turn and destroy me? Remember that you molded me like clay. Will you now turn me to dust again?”
After being ridiculed by a priest, denounced by his family, rejected by his friends, and having other respected prophets contradict and laugh at him, Jeremiah asks a tough question. “Why was I even born?”
In the face of a storm that threatened to take their life, the disciples in a small boat find Jesus asleep and awaken him with the question, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
If you look closely you will notice something about those questions. The ones asked in the face of unfulfilled promises or personal tragedy. The questions that are on our lips when difficult people try to steal our joy, or when we are facing immanent danger, or even when we face undeserved punishment. When times get tough, people start directing their questions to God.
Right in the middle of that tradition of questioning God stands the prophet Habakkuk. His work is different from every other writing prophet in the history of Israel. What makes it different is that he never says a word to another person. Habakkuk is some-body with a few questions for God, and he’s not shy about asking.
The book opens with a question of frustration. “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you ‘Violence,’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?” The situation during Habakkuk’s life was difficult. As he looks around at the way the world is, the injustice and pain that are a natural part of life, he asks God why He doesn’t do something. (Pause)