Why does God allow evil? (Habakkuk 2)

AUDIO: 

MOTIVATE

What do you do when you pray to God and are confused or you question God’s response?

–       You apply for the college of your dreams, but not accepted.

–       You volunteered to sing a solo for the church but the music director says she’ll get back to you. Or says we want you to sing…

o   Solo: So low we can’t hear you.

o   Tenor: Ten or Twenty miles away.

o   Bass: Basically not within ear shot.

–       You interview for a job, but they find someone “more qualified.”

–       You wanted children, but biologically that never happened.

–       You pray for future spouse, but after meeting other singles over the years it seems God doesn’t have a Mr/Mrs Right for you.

–       You’ve been married for double digit years but now your spouse is questioning your relationship.

–       You invest savings in a new business, but end up losing money.

 

We have all been confused and/or questioned God. The issue is if we’ve just merely informed God of the problem or if we’ve invited His word and His ways to be the solution.

Habakkuk sermon logo - Jan 2018

We are reading Habakkuk to know that God can handle our questions. Habakkuk has honest questions, but His doubts don’t lead him to drift away from God but to go deeper in faith. Questions to God are greater than accusations against God. And Habakkuk hears that our faith is our foundation for when we feel frustrated or fear. Too many drift from their faith thinking God doesn’t care or is without control of our circumstances and that we must handle life alone. Supremely, we are reading Habakkuk to have a greater glimpse of God’s greatness.

God isn’t an invisible version of you. Often, we have a high view of ourselves and of our ability to solve problems. And so, we think since God is invisible and in heaven but we are visible and on earth, so we’ll just handle any problems that arise. But that’s not reality, which is why promote reading God’s word and church life together.

Bible reading – especially the prophets – elevates our view and value for God. It’s kind of ironic, the less we read the Bible the less we think we need God while the more we read the Bible the greater we realize our need for Him. We almost think that the more we are in God’s Word then we don’t need God and can handle issues on our own. But the opposite is true.

The closer we are to God…

–       the more sin we see in our life.

–       the more aware we are of weaknesses of faith and spiritual shortcomings.

–       the more challenges we face to do what is right because we always want to honor God.

–       the more spiritual warfare we face because we are becoming a threat to the enemy.

 

Habakkuk Review:

–       Habakkuk 1 complains and asks God how long do we have to put up with immorality and injustice?

o   God responds oddly that He’s going to raise up an even greater immoral and unjust nation to conquer Israel named Babylon. The reason? God was to astound their arrogance and annihilate their pride. This was the only way God could catch their attention; which even then still fell short but would point forward to the ultimate means God would use to bring salvation to His people (Hab 3:13).

–       Habakkuk 2 questions God again, disbelieving God’s actions, attempts to question God’s ways.

o   God responds for the people to have faith (Hab 2:4).

–       Habakkuk 3 prays and writes a worship song about the source of our joy isn’t comfortable circumstances but a faithful God (Hab 3:17-19).

o   Habakkuk shows us that burdens are blessings in disguise, confusion is transformed into confidence by faith in God, fears and frustrations can be overcome by faith, perplexities result in praise because we trust the Lord’s grace and mercy.

 

EXAMINE       Habakkuk 1:12 – 2:20          Why Does God Allow Evil?
2 observations

Evil is a contrast to God’s character (Habakkuk 1:12 – 2:1).

–       God is… (Habakkuk 1:12) All 5 titles reflect what humans need to understand suffering and theodicy.

o   Everlasting: If we remove God’s everlasting then we miss wisdom.

o   LORD: If we remove God’s covenant love then we miss hope and grace.

o   God: If we remove God then we don’t have a sovereign creation.

o   Holy: If we remove God’s perfection then we miss justice.

o   Rock: If we remove God’s power then we miss His protection.

o   Psalm 115:3 “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”

 

–       Habakkuk confuses God’s goodness for cheap grace and presumptive blessing without also judgment of sin.

–       God holiness (“purer eyes”) doesn’t mean He is not in control of evil, but He allows it as a contrast to His ways, for people to repent. God’s response to Israel’s sin was to astound and annihilate their pride by raising up an ungodly nation like the Chaldeans/Babylon. This will surprise and shock Habakkuk, and it does us today. We have difficulty understanding why ungodly nations and people succeed while the godly are shamed. Even greater the challenge is to not view earthly success with divine sanction. God uses flawed people and nations to accomplish His purposes. God’s raising up Babylon did not imply His endorsement of the nation. He noted their lack of self-control (bitterness & haste; impetuous; unthinking hotheadedness), and their self-governance, and selfish arrogance (Hab 1:6-11). But, God was chastening Israel’s own attitudes and correcting their actions.

–       Habakkuk felt like a fish getting hooked, hurt, and consumed (Hab 1:15-17).

è  It’s not enough to merely avoid evil, we must also act for righteousness.

o   No fence riding. Time is up for God’s people to not merely spectate but step in and out.

o   Righteousness implies two elements

  • Discipline: training for godliness (1Tim 4)
  • Like Duolingo learning new language.
  • Dirty: getting dirty by rubbing shoulders and working for causes of justice among unrighteousness, and sharing the gospel of grace among sinners.

 

è Why does God allow evil?

o   God could intervene but there wouldn’t be a personal relationship (Hab 1:12 “my Holy One”)

o   God could intervene but there would be no one left (“pure of eyes than to see evil Hab 1:13; cf. Rom 3).

o   God intervenes through Jesus bringing light that is to be multiplied into greater points of light and salt influencing the world’s dark depravity. Unfortunately, churches too often cover their light through sin, mission drift getting involved in selfish earthly kingdoms, and complacent spirituality.

  • Matthew West, “Do Something”

I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”

– – – > Habakkuk 2:1 “I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself in the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me and what I will answer concerning my complaint.”

à Church, it’s time to stand watch, listen to God, and take action.

 

Evil is curbed by God’s eternal judgment (Habakkuk 2:2-20).

–       God’s responds to Habakkuk for His purpose to raising Babylon as judgment on Israel, and His overall relationship to evil.

o   “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it” (Hab 2:2). Isn’t it good that God wants to be known and reveals His person and principles for us to know?

  • God’s Word is both a cherished treasure and embarrassment of riches that we underuse.

–       God’s curbing of evil is slow but not suspended forever; “wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay” Hab 2:3.

o   Romans 2:4 “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance [but don’t presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience]”

o   2Peter 3:9-12 “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some of you count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God”

o   Habakkuk 2:4 “the righteous shall live by faith”

  • Faith is the only escape from God’s final judgment.

–       God condemns evil, both in Israel (Hab 1:3) and Babylon (Hab 2:9); “woe” 5x (Habakkuk 2:6, 9, 12, 15, 19) indicates a cry or call of death or divine threat.[1]
#1 Ego, arrogance and pride manifested in substance abuse, greed, immorality.

o   Habakkuk 2:5 (2:15-16) “Wine is a traitor… [drunkenness leads to depravity]” O how many seek escape with drink & drug. Ironically, while the world drinks to forget the Christian drinks the cup of communion to remember Christ’s work and wisdom in the gospel.

o   Greed, power, fame think it is self-deserved but only “heaped up what is not his own” (Hab 2:6) and all will “weary themselves for nothing” (Habakkuk 2:13).

o   “The cup in the Lord’s right hand will come around to you, and utter shame will come upon your glory” (Hab 2:16). When our glory is in ego and not exalting God then prepare for God’s rebuke.

#2 Exploitation manifested in unjust economic practice, carelessness for poor, systematic enslavement of people, and even murder for self-indulgent profit.

o   Wealth appears to be a protection against our fears but only disillusions and dissatisfies. “Woe to him who gets gain for his house to set his nest on high to be safe from the reach of harm. You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many peoples; you have forfeited your life” (Hab 2:9-10).

  • Earth may be as close to heaven for some, while as close to hell for others. Regardless, this world is temporary but God’s kingdom is eternal; so lay up treasures for eternity (Matthew 6:19-21; Mark 8:35-38).
  • Cutting off many peoples is isolating from those whom God has compassion.

 

o   Cities and nations built with blood and iniquity.

  • The death of one is a misfortune, and the death of a hundred is a statistical marker, but the death of a million is systematic murder from pandemic depravity and spiritual evil. The abortion industry has murdered ~60million image bearers since Roe V. Wade.
  • Habakkuk notes building towns and cities with strategic and systematic practices that disadvantage groups of people for self-indulgent gain (Hab 2:12-13).
  • evil” (Hab 1:13; 2:9) is real in spite of our world’s aversion to label wrongdoing.

#3 Empty Worship manifested in idolatry or syncretism.

o   Habakkuk 2:18-20 “What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trust in his own creation when he makes speechless idols. Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, ‘Awake,’ to a silent stone, ‘Arise.’ Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it. But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”

  • Idolatry is prideful (made after self or selfish desire/pleasure) and purposeless (can’t speak, awake or act and is lifeless). Our issue is often turning God into who we want Him to be and made in our image rather than trusting Him to be the almighty LORD.
  • What brings you profit or pleasure, or what pains you when you can’t have it?
  • Whose acceptance or what speech recognition do you seek frequently?
  • Where do you spend your concentration and capital to “awaken” life?
  • Where do you find rest, silence, contentment, joy, strength? (cf. Hab 2:5, 2:20; 3:18-19)
  • Syncretism is the mixing of bad and good worship practices of God, which ultimately is also idolatrous. Some examples today are the interfaith movement or even ecumenism whose priority excludes the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

è God’s “woe” may be in the future but when it comes it is final. ”The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” (Hab 2:20). There’s coming a day when we will all hush before God’s holiness; there will no longer be excuses, objections, or dismissals, but God will judge the world. So, don’t delay your repentance and faith in Jesus. (cf. Hebrews 10:26-38 “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”).

 

APPLY/THINK

Message from Habakkuk 2 is

◊      First: Justice is unavoidable. This statement and principle is captured in a song by late Johnny Cash, “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJlN9jdQFSc
You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Sooner or later God’ll cut you down
Sooner or later God’ll cut you down

 

◊      Second: Faith is available. God’s righteousness is available by faith. Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted in Romans 1, Galatians, and Hebrews 10… it’s a text that changed the world for the early church’s understanding of faith over works, and later spawned the reformation to recover this doctrine with greater clarity and conviction. The church needs this text once again to reform and revive what it means to trust God in trying times.

 

 

 

[1] R. J. Clifford, “The Use of Hoy in the Prophets,” CBQ 28 (1966): 458–64.

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