Sometimes God doesn’t make sense?
Those are words many of us have thought before, although whether we’ve voiced them or not is up for debate.
The truth is, sometimes God doesn’t make sense, at least the way we think God should make sense.
One of the fundamental statements that has been made in scripture, and Christianity, is that through the life and death of Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God has broken into the world and the New Creation has started, even in the midst of the old. Yes, the New Creation won’t be finally realized until the end of time, whenever that is, but we as Christians believe that the New Creation has broken in and we are seeing glimpses of it’s coming. We see it when the poor are fed, when the oppressed receive justice, or even in the beauty of creation. We believe the truth of what God has said.
And yet, we also struggle with the knowledge that the world is still evil, and seems to be getting worse. Somewhere we got the idea that if the New Creation is breaking in than the world will get progressively better. It seems to make sense, that if the New Creation is breaking in, than that New Creation reality should be slowly becoming greater while evil and sin become less. But that doesn’t seem to be the reality. War, poverty, disease, and sin still run rampant in the world; possibly more so now than ever. Moral values, at least as they are portrayed in popular culture, seem to be eroding. And God seems to be sitting on the sideline watching it all take place in silence. If there was ever a time for God to break into history and do something new, now seems to be the time. Thus it raises the question, God why are you waiting? Sometimes, God, you just don’t make sense.
The prophet Habakkuk voiced the same questions. While Habakkuk lived centuries before Jesus, and the breaking in of the New Creation, Habakkuk still lived with the promises that God was doing something new, even in his day. Yet Habakkuk looked around at the world he lived in and wondered aloud, where? Where is the new? Where is sin being done away with, and God’s reign and rule being enacted? Specifically Habakkuk wondered, God, why do you let Israel continue to sin with no punishment? If you’ve called them to covenant faithfulness, why don’t you hold them accountable?
God chooses to respond to Habakkuk, but not in the way Habakkuk likes. God says, I am punishing them. Right now, at this moment, I’m raising up the Babylonians who will come in and destroy them, leading them into exile. Israel’s sin will be punished.
This, however, raises an additional question for Habakkuk; one in which Habakkuk says to God, with all due respect, have you lost your mind? That Babylonians are worse than Israel. Why would you use such a wicked nation to pursue your purposes in the world? God, you don’t make sense.
God thankfully responds one more time in gentleness and hope. Habakkuk, you’ve questioned me, so here’s my response. I have seen the end, I know the future of the world and the future leads to the New Creation. The future of the world is good, and it will happen, I can guarantee a good future. If it seems slow in coming, be patient, the good future will come. The one that is puffed up and anxious has difficulty waiting during the time of the announcement and the completion of good news. However, the one who is righteous will live by faith.
In essence God says, I hear your complaint Habakkuk, but ultimately, you have to decide do you trust me, or do you only trust those things you can see or prove around you?
And that’s the question we all have to wrestle with; do we trust God, or only what our eyes can see and prove? Do we trust God even when we’ve considered all of the present circumstances? When God, or the world, doesn’t make sense, are we still willing to live by faith? Will we boldly face the present, and the future, placing our faith in God, even when the present circumstances argue in a different direction?
Habakkuk’s answer comes in the form of a prayer song, which may also be an encouragement for us.
“Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18)
Habakkuk decides that in spite of the circumstances around him, he will choose to live by faith. I pray, that in spite of the circumstances around us, we will choose to live by faith, trusting God to bring about our good future.