Friday, December 6, 2013

Habakkuk 1: O God, why?

Hab 1:12-17 O Lord, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, we will not die. O Lord, you have appointed them to execute judgment; O Rock, you have ordained them to punish. Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? You have made men like fish in the sea, like sea creatures that have no ruler. The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks, he catches them in his net, he gathers them up in his dragnet; and so he rejoices and is glad. Therefore he sacrifices to his net and burns incense to his dragnet, for by his net he lives in luxury and enjoys the choicest food.  Is he to keep on emptying his net, destroying nations without mercy?

When personal and national tragedies happen, people invariably ask, "O God, why did You allow this to happen?" Israel was facing imminent national destruction in the hands of the Babylonians. And Habakkuk asks the ultimate question: "Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?" (1:13).

Yesterday, I chanced upon CNN Piers Morgan's interview of Rick Warren, Adam Lanza's aunt & a father of the victim of last year's Newtown massacre of school children.  On 14 December 2012, 20-year old Adam Lanza shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, before driving to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and killing 6 adults and 20 children. Some of Rick Warren's church members were victims of that massacre. This is what he said this at that time: "when people are grieving, they don't need a lecture, and they don't need an explanation. Explanations don't comfort us. What comforts us is the presence of others, the presence of God, and the first thing we have to do is we have to learn how to release our grief and we need to do that right now." He added that free will (our freedom to choose) is our greatest blessing but also our greatest curse. Unlike animals which have limited freedom of choice, humans in contrast can make choices that can threaten our own survival.

While it's true that God has the power to intervene and many times, He does intervene to protect His people, nevertheless on most occasions, He does not intervene because He doesn't want us to loose our sense of responsibility through our freedom to choose. But He does intervene by using the evil to accomplish a greater good. When His own Son Jesus Christ was betrayed and condemned and nailed to death on the Cross, God did not intervene, except to strengthen Jesus to endure the Cross. For it is out of that evil that God was able to save sinners from their own evil choices. When Adam Lanza killed his own mother and 26 others at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a great evil was committed. But I believe that God has birthed something good out of that evil day. Rick Warren shared how the loss of his own son through suicide has opened up opportunities for bringing healing to many parents who have similar experiences.

One of the patriarchs in the OT, Joseph, experienced a personal tragedy when his own brothers sold him as a slave to the Midianites who in turn sold him as a slave in Egypt to Potiphar's household. This is what he told his brothers years later when he became Prime Minister of Egypt: "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today" (Gen 50:20, ESV). While the devil may instigate gross evil, God can even use that evil to accomplish His good purpose.

Father, we thank You that You have given us the freedom of choice and You will never take it away. Nevertheless, in Your sovereign goodness, You have been able to use every evil to accomplish Your good purpose. Amen. 

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