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God's View of Justice

Major Lessons from the Minor Prophets  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Somtimes bad things happen and we wonder where God is in all of the misery. There are times when we just can't see God in all of it and we wonder why? Habakkuk had the same question that many of us face all the time, and when we finally understand, it deepens our worship experience.

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If an omnipotent (all-powerful) omnibenevolent (all-loving) God exists, then evil does not. There is evil in the world. Therefore, an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient (all-knowing) God does not exist. This is the question that has perplexed mankind since the dawn of time. This is a question that has been in philosophical circles since at least the early 300’s BC.
We face the very same question today, and the more intellectual people get, the more it gets discussed. In Christian circles, we may sum it up as people have fallen away from God and He is passing judgment over the people in order to get them to turn to Him. As Christians, we have a balancing act that we take part in. On one side, we look at the argument that God is punishing people for their disobedience. This is a legitimate discussion. Sometimes this is definitely the case. In more traditional circles and the ultra-fundamental circles, it can be said that if you’re going through hard times and everybody else seems successful, it is because you have unrepentant sin in your life, and that is why it is always a good idea to go to God and ask Him to reveal sin in your life that you need to turn away from. There is also an opposite side to this discussion that sometimes bad things happen because people take matters into their own hands because of free will.
Then we complicate things with God’s sovereignty. This discussion says that God is in control of everything and we end up back to the discussion of why evil is in the world if God is so loving, kind, and sovereign. The truth of that argument is we live in a fallen world that was disobedient from the very beginning, and according to God’s character, there are consequences to that, and so we end up here in a broken, miserable world, but we can know this for a fact: In the midst of the most perplexing circumstances, we can call on the Lord and have confidence in Him and His truth.
The book of Habakkuk addresses a similar issue, and we are going to look how one person handled this issue with God.

The Speaker

Habakkuk 1:1 ESV
The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.
Not much is known of Habakkuk. His name means “one who embraces.” We identify him by this verse and 3.1. These are the only two times his name is mentioned in the book. Not much else is known about him, but we do know that he was a contemporary of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zephaniah. He mentions the Chaldeans (Babylonians) in 1.6 and that tells us that this was written somewhere in the late 7th century BC around the fall of Assyria and the rise of Babylon as a power (approximately 620-610 BC). Habakkuk has a unique message. Most other prophets would speak to the prophet and the prophet would speak to the people on behalf of God. Here, Habakkuk speaks to God about the people and their sinfulness.

The Setting

Historical setting:
Prior to Habakkuk, king Josiah had instituted spiritual reforms in Judah. He abolished many of the idolatrous practices that they had instituted before he took the throne, but when he died, Judah quickly return to their idolatrous worship, and this is what caused Habakkuk to question why God had managed to stay silent and unresponsive to what the nation was doing.
Habakkuk’s first complaint:
In chapter 1, Habakkuk presents a complaint to God:
Habakkuk 1:2–4 ESV
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.
Habakkuk is approaching God with a major concern here. Judah is completely overrun with evil, and it seems that God has remained silent. He asks God, “How long are You going to let this happen?” He wants to know how long God is going to let Judah run around without being punished for their sin.
God immediately responds in verses 5-11, and He responds in a way that Habakkuk probably didn’t expect.God tells him that He is going to use the Chaldeans to punish Judah for their transgressions, and if you read through how god describes them, they are not a gentile people.
Habakkuk’s second complaint:
Then in verses 12-17, Habakkuk responds by basically saying, “Why would you do it that way?” And in chapter 2 look at Habakkuk’s response:
Habakkuk 2:1 ESV
I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.
He realizes that he has come very close to insolence against God, and decides to take a step back and do as he was told.
God’s second response:
God responds a second time and gets us to the heart of the book.
Habakkuk 2:2–4 ESV
And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.
He tells Habakkuk to write the vision and make it plain. He doesn’t want to leave any gray area here, because he wants those that truly understand it to run the race that is set before them in faithfulness. God promises that it will happen, but it will happen in His appointed time. The word appointed is used in reference to things like the festivals that all had appointed times for them to happen. He tells Habakkuk that it will happen in his lifetime (1.5 - for I am doing a work in your days). This reminds us that all things happen in God’s timing and not when we often expect them to happen (cf. ).
Verse 4 is the very heart of the book. God is basically saying that if a person remains righteous and upright, their faith will get them through anything that happens.
Notice something interesting here in verses 5-19. God actually explains Himself to Habakkuk. God basically tells Habakkuk, “I can use whoever I want to cast judgment, and in the end, if they are against me, they will get theirs, and then He pronounces 5 woes against the Chaldeans:
They have taken from others, but eventually the Chaldeans will be debtors to those they have taken from.
Taking things by means of evil plans, will eventually being shame and downfall.
What they have gained, was not a blessing from God, and God will get His just recognition.
They may be strong and fierce now, but eventually they will be nothing.
Their idols and false gods are nothing compared to the living God.
The big contrast:
Notice in verse 20, there is a contrast:
Habakkuk 2:20 ESV
But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”
God is very much alive and He is very much in control. Just because He seems to be silent and indifferent, doesn’t mean that He is in’t aware of whats going on.
The word used for silence is where we get our English word “hush.” It is at this point that when we realize that God is still very much alive, still very much in control, and still very much sovereign, that we can reach that states of silent awe before Him. Just like He said in 1.5, “wonder and be astounded.” God has a way of working things out, and it should never cease to amaze us in any way.
Habakkuk’s response:
Look at chapter 3 and see how Habakkuk responds: with prayer and a hymn. Habakkuk understand what God is doing, and he prays to God in a moment of worship. In verse 2, he recognizes that god will eventually pass judgment on Judah for their sin, and then he asks God to remember His mercy in His wrath.
Verses 3-17 gives us 9 descriptive phrases of God’s character and what He has done. It is only when we have a face to face experience with the one, true, and living God that we can recognize these qualities and have a truly worshipful experience in God’s presence.
The hymn of praise:
In verses 17-19, we read Habakkuk’s hymn of praise that he sings to God. This is the ultimate worshipful experience for a person. When we recognize the sovereignty of God, and what He is capable of doing, it is only then that we can truly enter into His presence and worship Him as He desires us to.
Habakkuk 3:17–19 ESV
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.
No matter what happens, no matter how bad things get, and when the world is falling apart around our ears, we can rest in the knowledge that God is still alive, and still very much in control.
So what does this mean for us? How do we put this in a modern perspective?

Remember the character of God when asking the “why” questions.

I am sure we all have had our moments when we just want to know why. Why did this happen? Why did that baby have to die? Why do people suffer? The list goes on and on. I firmly believe that God desires us to come to Him with these questions, because it is then and only then tat we can truly learn about His character. Sometimes we don’t get an answer, and sometimes the answer isn’t what we expect, and when that happens, we must always take great care to remember God’s character.

Do not question God’s motivation for what He does or why.

Job asked why, and God responded with a series of questions. He asked Job what he knew about the universe, and it was then and only then that Job realized that God is above and beyond anything we can comprehend. We will never understand His sovereign will, and sometimes things don’t make sense. Habakkuk grasped this concept rather quickly. When he realized how close he was coming to offending a holy and righteous God, he decided to return to his post and follow God’s instruction. He didn’t get the answer he wanted, but he decided it was best to do as he was instructed.
Habakkuk 2:1 ESV
I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.
Ask God the why question, but always keep in mind that we may not like the answer, it may not happen in the time frame we like, or it may not happen the way we want it to.

God’s timing and ours are not the same.

We live in an instant gratification society. We expect things to happen right now, when we want it, and God doesn’t work that way.
Habakkuk 1:5 ESV
“Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.
God will deal with those who oppose him, those who cause us strife, those that persecute us, but it may not happen when we want it to or how we expect it to happen. Things will happen according to His time and His will.

Recognize God’s sovereignty.

Ultimately, God has every resource at His disposal to handle all situations and to make Himself known and deal with those who oppose him, and we must recognize this crucial aspect of God’s character. Ultimately it is God that has control over everything, and will use situations for His glory.
In the midst of situations that don’t make sense, we can alway call on the Lord, and we can have confidence knowing that He is true and faithful. We will have situations in our lives that don’t always make sense, and God desires that we come to Him with those questions. When we come to Him with our questions, we learn who God truly is and just how merciful He truly is and ho faithful He will be to fulfill all of His promises and know that he has our best interest at hand if we are His children.
We can rest in God’s promises throughout all of scripture the He is with us every step of the way. God never leaves a promise unfulfilled, and we can only have this confidence through His Son Jesus christ. IF you don’t know what God has done for you through Jesus, please know that God doesn’t want us to leave this life without knowing that Jesus was sent because God loves us enough that even in spite of our sinful nature, Jesus came and lived the perfect life we could not live on our own and gave His life for each of us.
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