Wrestling with God (Part 9)
In modern American society, we are highly sensitive to fairness. We want our sports to be fair. We want our jobs to be fair. We want our politics to be fair. But, deep down, we all know life just is not fair. In the first chapter of Habakkuk, the prophet is pointing out the apparent unfairness of God toward His people.
When Habakkuk complained (1:2-4) about the injustice around him and that God was not even listening, God answered him. The answer is found in verses 5-11. Here, God tells the prophet that He is going to do something; and when He tells Habakkuk what it is, he will not even believe it.
Over and over, God’s people strayed and wandered from serving God. Every time, God provided an opportunity for them to return. This must be heart-breaking for God; the people that He loves so dearly refuse to be faithful to Him. If it were me, I could not endure the pain. If I were in God’s place, I would have to do something to end this cycle. I would have to take away their power to choose or maybe even just remove them from the earth. But God’s love is different than mine. It is bigger and more powerful. And it is more enduring.
The attitude of the people is truly unbelievable. There are some passages in Jeremiah and Lamentations that give us some insight. (Remember, the prophet Jeremiah wrote the book of Lamentations and was a contemporary of Habakkuk.)
“They have lied about the Lord
and said, ‘He won’t bother us!
No disasters will come upon us.
There will be no war or famine.
God’s prophets are all windbags
who don’t really speak for him.
Let their predictions of disaster fall on themselves!’ ” (Jeremiah 5:12-13, New Living Translation)
Don’t be fooled into thinking that you will never suffer because the Temple is here. It’s a lie! Do you really think you can steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, and burn incense to Baal and all those other new gods of yours, and then come here and stand before me in my Temple and chant, “We are safe!”—only to go right back to all those evils again? Don’t you yourselves admit that this Temple, which bears my name, has become a den of thieves? Surely I see all the evil going on there. I, the Lord, have spoken! (Jeremiah 7:8-11, New Living Translation)
Not a king in all the earth—
no one in all the world—
would have believed that an enemy
could march through the gates of Jerusalem. (Lamentations 4:12, New Living Translation)
The people were proud and thought that just because they were God’s chosen people that they would suffer no consequences for their actions. They seemed to think that because of God’s covenant they could live as they pleased. Don’t we do that sometimes? As believers we think that all is well and we can do what we please because it is under grace. Paul makes it clear that because of that grace we are not to live as we please.
If you think the people were right and could live with no consequence, read some of these passages:
- Deuteronomy 28:47-50
- 1 Kings 11:14, 23
- Jeremiah 4:5-6
- Jeremiah 5:14-17
- Jeremiah 6:22-23
- Amos 6:14
These verses make it very clear that they were wrong. God would send whatever it takes to correct the nation; plagues, enemies, whatever. I think the same is true for us. God will send discipline into the life of the straying believer. The goal is not punishment. The goal is always restoration. That was true of His people in the Old Testament and it is still true today.
Is it fair that God discipline us? Are you a believer who thinks (or lives like you think) that because you are a believer you can do what you want with no consequence? Did you think that way in the past? How did God change your thinking about this? Please share as you are comfortable.