Have you ever argued with God? Or complained to God?
Have you ever wanted to know why He did what He did and why He didn’t do what he didn’t do?
Perhaps you were simply offering him advice on how to run the world. Not necessarily the entire universe but the world, or at least your little corner of the world. Do you have a pretty good idea of what you would do if you were God, the changes you would make and how you would do things differently if you were in charge? Let’s ask a few people what they would do if they were God and see how they answer that question.
Voice on the street video if you were God.
I’m not sure if your views were reflecting there, but I kind of liked the concept of snow being ice cream.
The other day someone mentioned to me how much they enjoyed the book of Habakkuk. And I thought, that’s not something you hear very often.
If you have read through the book of Habakkuk, you discover there are a lot of question marks as the prophet asks God what is happening and then asks God to justify his behaviour.
These were questions that the prophet was personally asking, but they were the same questions that no doubt were being asked by people all over Israel.
Included in this little book are the responses that Habakkuk receives from God and passes on to the people of Israel.
The book of Habakkuk is a relatively short book it’s only three chapters long and can be read through in about five minutes.
In most people’s bibles it hardly fills two pages. So, let’s take a look at the book of Habakkuk. What a great name Habakkuk. When I think of Habakkuk I either think of a cat getting rid of a hairball or a Wookie, which is kind of like a big hairball. Why would anyone name their child Habakkuk? Think of the teasing that poor kid got in elementary school.
So, what do we know about Habakkuk other then he wrote this book? Nothing. His name is only mentioned twice in the Bible and those are both in the book that bears his name.
The book was written around 610 BC and is considered one of the Minor Prophets, which has nothing to do with their importance, and simply reflected the length of the book.
And unlike other books, where the prophet speaks to the people on God’s behalf, here Habakkuk is speaking to God on the people’s behalf.
The book is actually divided into two very distinct sections. The first is found in Chapters one and two and contains Habakkuk’s complaints to God and God’s subsequent replies. The second section is found in chapter 3, a portion of which was read earlier, and it is a song of praise composed and sung by the prophet to God.
And while you may never have actually complained to God, I’m pretty sure everyone has felt like complaining to God at some time or another, particularly this year.
Why did this happen? Why didn’t that happen. And some of Habakkuk’s complaints might be how you feel at times.
Habakkuk 1:3 Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight.
Or how about Habakkuk 1:4 The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.
It was written 2500 years ago in Israel, but Habakkuk could be talking about the news in our country today.
Whenever we question God, no matter how we phrase our inquiry The Question Is: Why?
In Habakkuk’s case he had a couple of whys. Why did the righteous suffer? And why did the evil prosper? David asked the same question in the Psalms, in particular Psalm 73. And Job personalized it in the book that bears his name, asking why do the evil prosper, and I suffer?
The word why is used 598 times in the bible so it would appear that there are some questions in there.
Abraham asked why. Moses asked why. David asked why. Peter asked why. Even Jesus asked why. And so, I’m thinking that asking God why isn’t always wrong. As long as we live in an imperfect world and things happen and don’t happen to us the way we’ve planned then we will ask questions.
When things happen the way, we were hoping they would happen we never ask God why. “Why are things going so well God? I was just curious thought I’d ask.” We don’t do that; things go well, and we presume that we deserved it or we were lucky.
A beautiful day is never considered an act of God.
Sometimes when we ask “why” the answer is self-evident.
And many times, the answer is one we don’t want to hear. We ask why and the answer is very plain and very easy to understand, “Because you were stupid.” Now I know that you are thinking, “Well Denn that wasn’t very nice.” No, but true. We ask, “Why did I have to get that speeding ticket?” “Because you were stupid and were speeding.” “Oh, right.” “Why do I have lung Cancer?” “Because you were stupid and insisted on lighting a noxious weed and sucking the poisonous smoke into your lungs.” “Oh, right.”
I remember almost 30 years ago a colleague of mine was in a very serious car accident, and I heard people say, “Why did that have to happen?” They wanted to blame God, or they wanted to blame fate, but the blame lay with my colleague who was rushing home in a bad storm and crossed the centre line into the path of an oncoming car.
A teenage couple gets pregnant and they ask why? Obviously, they had skipped that class in grade 7, grade 8, grade 9 and grade 10.
Not always but many, many times we are the author of our own misfortune. And that’s tough to accept because from the point when the very first couple sinned, we have refused to accept responsibility for our actions.
It’s so easy to play the blame game and try to shift the responsibility onto somebody else.
And so, it’s not our fault that we are fat, and unhealthy it is McDonalds because they make food that is fatting and unhealthy and then obviously, they hire people to sit on us and force feed us that very same food.
And people say “It’s not my fault that I smoke, it’s the tobacco companies’ fault. If they didn’t make and sell tobacco, then I wouldn’t have that problem.” Interesting that nobody ever sues breweries and distilleries, I wonder why that is?
Let me wander into the wilderness of political incorrectness an area that I’m not all that familiar with. A man beats his wife, and she packs up and leaves and he asks why his marriage ended. Duh.
Or a woman cheats on her husband and he files for divorce and she wonders what happened.
When marriages break down, people are often quick to blame those who go looking for greener pastures, instead of working at keeping the pastures in their marriage green.
You ever wonder when you hear someone on the news saying that it’s not their fault, they can’t find work in their community, they economy is a mess and there is no fish or the pulp mill has closed down, and so they have to be on unemployment and social assistance, it’s somebody else’s fault. But if everyone had of taken that view through the years then Toronto and Calgary would be empty for that matter the Mic Macs would have a lot more room in Nova Scotia. We all make choices.
George Bernard Shaw said, “No question is so difficult to answer as that which the answer is obvious.”
Of course, the real question that we are often asking is: why did it have to happen to me and not to somebody else?
Why did I have to get cancer and they didn’t? Or why did I get the ticket and not the person behind me? Why did I get pregnant and not her? And that is a selfish question.
So, sometimes the answer to why? Is; because of something you did.
And sometimes the answer to why? Truly is because of something somebody else did.
Somebody else drove their car over the line. A girl is raped and becomes pregnant. Someone ends up at the mercy of the justice system and is victimized.
We live in a fallen world and as long as people have the freedom to make decisions and make mistakes people will be hurt.
Sometime intentionally and sometimes inadvertently, but that doesn’t make it any easier. But we can’t blame God.
Oh, I know that we can say why didn’t God stop it?
Why didn’t he make the car miss the pedestrian?
Or why didn’t he keep her from walking down that street?
Why didn’t he keep the lady from eating the undercooked bat?
If I’ve only learned one thing from COVID it’s that bat should only be eaten well done.
Sometimes God intervenes and sometimes he doesn’t, and I wish I could explain that, but I can’t. I do know that when he does intervene, he usually remains anonymous.
Here’s a thought, do you ever feel that you should pray for someone, and you do and later you find out that they were in danger and God seemed to miraculously intervene?
Sometimes we feel to pray for someone, and we do and later we find out that there didn’t seem to be any reason why we prayed. Unless of course things happened or didn’t happen that we will never know about.
I wonder if sometimes we miss or ignore those feelings. And if we had of interceded that things would have turned out differently. When you feel you should pray then you need to pray, whether you understand it or not.
People starve to death in third world countries and we ask why and then we pay farmers not to produce certain products, stockpile others and destroy still others.
It’s not a supply problem it’s a distribution problem and a greed problem. And if we wanted to then we could feed the hungry of the world.
And sometimes there is no answer and nobody to blame. A hurricane blows through Haiti and thousands die. But then again, maybe if corrupt leadership through the years had of led the country into development then maybe they would have been better prepared but who knows.
Regardless of what I said earlier, we don’t really know that COVID was the fault of one person eating an undercooked bat, and we may never know for sure how it got its start.
Sometimes stuff just happens and it’s hard to explain why and maybe God does have an explanation but I certainly don’t.
Susan Meissner wrote, “Sometimes asking God for a reason for something is like asking Him why the sky is blue. There is a complex, scientific reason for it, but most . . . are content with knowing it is blue because it is. If we understood everything about everything, we would have no need for faith.”
And sometimes a “Why” doesn’t even deserve an answer “Why is it raining?” or “Why don’t the Leafs win the cup?”
And have you ever noticed that most times when we ask “why me” it’s when what’s happened is negative.
Arthur Ashe, was an American professional tennis player who won three Grand Slam singles titles, he put it into perspective when he said, “The world over – 50 million children start playing tennis, 5 million learn to play tennis, 500,000 learn professional tennis, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5000 reach the grand slam, 50 reach Wimbledon, 4 to semi final, 2 to the finals, when I was holding a cup I never asked GOD ‘Why me?’. And today in pain I should not be asking GOD ‘Why me?’”
So, if we don’t ask God, “why me?” when our marriage is great, what right do we have to ask God, “Why me?”, when our marriage in trouble. If we don’t ask God “Why me?” when we have great health what right do we have to ask “Why me?” when our health is failing?
And sometimes the reality is that we don’t talk to God very much when things are going great.
Comedian Bill Maher made this observation, “God knows life sucks. It’s right there in the Bible. The book of Job is all about Job asking God to take away pain and misery. And God says, ‘I can’t take away pain and misery because then no one would talk to me.’”
We don’t have answers to a lot of questions and sometimes we don’t like the answer we have to some questions.
In the case of Habakkuk The Answer Is: Wait.
Often, we have a timeline, and we can’t understand why God doesn’t do everything according to our timeline.
We look at the little bit of the picture that we can see, and we don’t understand it and we don’t know that we only see one portion of a much bigger picture. And maybe that portion we can see is a specific period time.
And when things are going bad, then time seems to stretch out forever, but in reality it’s just a small piece of a much bigger picture.
And so, to answer Habakkuk’s questions and complaints in chapter one, we find God’s response in chapter 2, and that was simply to wait, that the story wasn’t over yet.
Listen to God’s response in Habakkuk 2:3 This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.
I am not the most patient person in the world. As a matter of fact, I’m not the most patient person in this room and there are only five of us here. Truthfully, if there were only two of us here, I probably wouldn’t be the most patient person in the room.
I want things to happen right away. If I do something today, I want results tonight or at the latest tomorrow.
And that isn’t always the way life works or the way God works.
And sometimes just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen. A few weeks ago, I quoted French Naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc Buffon, his words are so good they are worth repeating “Never think that God’s delays are God’s denials. Hold on; Hold fast; Hold out. Patience is genius.”
Being patient isn’t easy, but the end results are usually worth the effort. Aristotle nailed it when he said, “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”
It is so tough when we think it should have happened yesterday or at the latest today and it still hasn’t happened. We’ve heard a lot about COVID fatigue, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that the pandemic isn’t working on our timeline.
Back in March we were so sure that by summer things would be back to normal, and then they weren’t but luckily fall was coming and we knew that things would be under control by then, and they weren’t.
For eight months I was saying, “surely we’ll be able to go away in February”, and then it became apparent that wishful thinking wasn’t going to make it so.
And it’s like that in so many areas of our lives, we can’t understand why we haven’t been healed, why our child is still rebellious, why our spouse still isn’t a believer, why we don’t have the perfect job or why our church still hasn’t grown.
And we need to listen to God for he is probably saying “Wait, the story is not finished.”
I remember one time when Angela and I were at a movie and with 15 minutes to go I leaned over and said, “Let’s leave now and guess how it ends.”
We wouldn’t think of doing that, well actually I did, but that’s just me. But we want to skip out on the movie of our lives before we get to the credits. The prophet Isaiah wrote in one of the verses that we all know Isaiah 40:31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
In some translations it reads, those who wait upon the Lord.
We say why? and God says wait.
And remember that ultimately, we may discover that what we thought we really, really, really wanted or needed wasn’t what we needed after all. But we wouldn’t have made that discover without waiting.
Maybe St. Teresa of Avila had it right when she said “There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers.”
And so, its not wrong to question God, or to ask why? If we are willing to accept the answer.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell may have had something though when he said, Don’t bother asking God for answers about life. Most likely you’re asking the wrong questions.”
But sometimes the answer when it comes is not the answer we wanted or the one we were looking for.
And from Habakkuk we discover that if the answer was not yet, then The Response Is: Trust
The bottom line is that there will come a time that we have to trust that God knows best. Even if what happens isn’t what we think should have happened.
There is a story told in the Old Testament about three guys named, Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego. They were ordered to bow down and worship a statue of the King or be executed. Their response was, “We believe that God will deliver us but even if he doesn’t we still will not bow.”
In the scripture that Chez read for us earlier Habakkuk says Habakkuk 3:17–19 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.
This is the last Sunday of 2020 and for many people they are thinking “Good Riddance.” And while it’s been a tough year in many ways, it certainly hasn’t been the toughest year ever, not even close.
Some historians would point to 1349 when the black plague wiped out half of Europe, others would say it was 1918 when the Spanish Flu killed 75 million people.
If you were to ask medieval historian Michael McCormick he would point to the year 536, when a mysterious fog plunged Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia into darkness, day and night—for 18 months. The loss of sunlight and the drop in temperature resulted in crop failures and starvation from Ireland to China.
Which probably still doesn’t help how you feel about 2020, but might help put it into perspective.
I heard someone say recently that being born in North America is like winning the lottery. And the poorest of us are wealthier than the majority of the world and so there is much for us to be thankful for if we simply stop and think about it.
And when we don’t get our own way, we still need to be able to say “Even though. . . yet I will rejoice in the Lord.”