Have you ever argued with God?  Or complained to God? 

Maybe you wanted to know why He did what He did do, 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.  Video

I’m not sure if your views were reflected there, but I kind of liked the concept of snow being ice cream, but it sounds kind of sticky to me.

If you have ever read through the book of Habakkuk, you will have discovered there are a lot of question marks as the prophet asks God what is happening and then asks God to justify his behaviour.  Questions that the prophet personally asks but 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.  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.

Regardless, what do we know about Habakkuk other than 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 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.  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 almost 3000 years ago in Israel. Israel has been conquered by the Babylonians and struggles with being under foreign rule and oppression.

We hear a lot about colonization lately, and it often seems that it was an isolated thing that only happened in North America and Africa, but the nasty English.

Most of you know we just got back from our 40th-anniversary trip that took us to ten different countries in 21 days.  And one thing that I discovered is that everyone was colonized at some point in their history.  The Irish talk about the English, the English talk about the Normans, the Estonians talked about the Russians, the Swedes talked about the Danes and the Danes talked about the Swedes and the Scots blame the Pesky Vikings.

We sometimes think that all that is happening in the Middle East was because the Zionists moved there in 1949.  But the Jews were there 3000 years ago, there were just driven out and then they returned.

But Habakkuk wasn’t just speaking about the political situation, but about life in general, and he could have been talking about what’s happening in our society and government these days.   

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 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 over 600 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.

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.  I saw this sign on Facebook the other day.

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 35 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 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 girl gets pregnant, and she and her boyfriend 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 is the tobacco company’s fault. If they didn’t make and sell tobacco, then I wouldn’t have that problem.” 

I always find it interesting that nobody ever sues breweries and distilleries for all the damage and heartache that booze causes. I wonder why that is?  We’ve just passed the 26th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death.  And if you were alive back then, you know that there was a lot of blame to go around.  But nobody blamed the fact that both Diana and her boyfriend had been out drinking as well as their driver. 

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 then asks why his marriage ended.  Duh, or a woman cheats on her husband and he files for divorce and she wonders what happened. 

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, the economy is a mess and there is no fish or the pulp mill has closed, 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 much smaller than they are and for that matter the Mic Mac would have a lot more room in Nova Scotia.  We all make choices in how we respond to life.

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 isn’t so much “why?” as “why me?”; why did it have to happen to me and not to somebody else?

Why did I have to get cancer and they didn’t?  Why did I get the ticket and not the person behind me? I love the story of the guy who got pulled over and asked the officer that very question.  He said, “I was in a line of people speeding, why did you pull me over?” And the policeman asked, “You ever go fishing?”

“Sure,” replied the man. To which the policeman smiled and asked, “Did you catch them all?”

And so, we ask, “Why did this have to happen to me?” 

And “Why me?” is a selfish question.

So, sometimes the answer to why? Is, It’s because of something you did.

And sometimes the answer to “why?”, is truly, it’s because of something somebody else did. 

Somebody else drove their car over the line.  Putin invades Ukraine. 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 mistakes people will be hurt. 

Sometimes it is intentional.  Most of you can remember where you were and what you were doing twenty-one years ago today. Who was to blame for 911? The simple answer of course is the terrorists who flew the planes.  But their decision to strike out at the US didn’t happen in a vacuum.  They felt that they had a reason for doing what they did, and that can be debated forever and ad nauseum.

Sometimes tragedies happen, and they are the result of a decision that someone has inadvertently made.  They never intended for anyone to be hurt.

The truck driver who ran the stop sign and hit the bus in Humboldt four years ago didn’t do it intentionally.  It wasn’t his intent to kill those young men, but that doesn’t make it any easier. 

And when that happens, we can’t blame God. Well, actually we can and often times we do.   We wonder, couldn’t God have stopped the truck? Or slowed the bus down so it wasn’t at the intersection at the same time as the truck?

We ask, why didn’t God make the car miss the pedestrian, why didn’t God keep her from walking down that street?  

Sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn’t, and I wish I could explain that, but I can’t.

Here’s a thought.  I’ve mentioned this before, 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 because we prayed, 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, pray.

And I wonder how many times, those feelings that keep us from stepping into traffic, or from not going further in a relationship, or not going to a party, are often passed off as intuition or good luck when they were actually God intervening.

And we make a decision to listen or not.

We’ve all heard the statement, “There but for the grace of God.” Not because God favours some people over others, but some people listen, and some don’t. It doesn’t have as much to do with God’s grace as much as our obedience.

People starve to death in third-world countries, and we ask why? And then we pay farmers not to produce certain products, to stockpile others and destroy still others.

I’ve said it before, world hunger is not a supply problem it’s a distribution problem and a greed problem.  And if we wanted to, we could feed the hungry of the world. And when there is a disaster, those who respond are usually responding to God’s prompting. 

Next time there is an earthquake, or a tsunami, or a war.  Take the time and research what organizations are responding. Time and time again you’ll find that the organizations at the top of the list are organizations like World Hope, World Vision, Samaritans Purse and other similar faith-based organizations.

And sometimes there is no answer and nobody to blame. 

A hurricane blows through Haiti and thousands die, perhaps if corrupt leadership through the years had led the country into development, then maybe they would have been better prepared but who knows? 

When hurricane Juan ripped through Halifax twenty years ago, only one person lost their life. A paramedic was killed when a tree fell on his ambulance. 

Sometimes stuff just happens and it’s hard to explain why and maybe God does have an explanation, but I certainly don’t.

And sometimes a “Why” doesn’t even deserve an answer “Why is it raining?” Because it is?  “Why don’t the Leafs win the cup?”

We don’t have answers to a lot of questions, and 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 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. 

God’s response to Habakkuk was simply to wait.  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, 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 tonite, at the latest.  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.  French Naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc Buffon, said “Never think that God’s delays are God’s denials. Hold on; Hold fast; Hold out. Patience is genius.”

It is so tough when we think it should have happened yesterday or at the latest today and it still hasn’t happened.  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, 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.  One night 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 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.

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 discovery without waiting.

A lot of us are kind of like Margaret Thatcher who said, “I am extraordinarily patient provided I get my own way in the end.”  

But sometimes the answer, when it comes, is not the one, we want or the one we were looking for.  And from Habakkuk, we discover that 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.

We learned that lesson from Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. If you don’t remember the story it’s told in the third chapter of the book of Daniel. 

They were Israelites who were taken prisoner by the Babylonians.  At one point everyone in the kingdom was ordered to bow down to a statue of the King, and if they refused, they would be executed.

The three young men refused and when they stood before King Nebuchadnezzar he mocked them and asked where their God was.  He offered them one more chance to bow down to the statue, and their response is found in, Daniel 3:16–18 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.  But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

In the scripture that was read 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.

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.”

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