By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
One of the most difficult feelings that we grapple with is in regards to the work of God. So often in life, as we face different trials or circumstances, we ask the question, “Why isn’t God doing anything?”
Now, this is nothing new: God’s people throughout time have wondered the same thing. For example, we can read about bewildered Gideon who, being told that the Lord was with him, asked:
Judges 6:13-Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.”
Gideon did not understand how it could be that God was with him and his people when they were suffering so terribly. He had heard about the miracles of the Exodus! He had grown up hearing of the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt, about God’s mighty outstretched hand. Yet where was God NOW? How could God allow the evil to continue? Why wasn’t God doing anything at all?
We could consider several others in the Bible who asked this question. Asaph pointed out that he had nearly stumbled when he considered how it seemed the wicked prosper and God does nothing (cf. Psalm 73). John the Baptist, who had such great trust in Jesus Christ, began to doubt and wonder if Jesus was truly the Messiah (Matthew 11:1-6). He had faithfully preached the Word of God to the people, telling them of the Messiah; yet he had been thrown into prison, and would soon be executed! Why wasn’t God doing something?
Job, the patriarch who suffered so terribly in his struggles with the devil, wondered several times why God was allowing him to suffer. In fact, there were times that he thought God Himself had turned against Job and was causing all of his suffering (Job 9:21-24)! He wondered why God did not do something, why God did not answer him. Why wasn’t God working?
It is here that I would like to introduce you to a Prophet named Habakkuk who was asking very similar questions. When he questioned God, he didn’t mince words! Notice what he said:
Habakkuk 1:2-4 (Easy To Read Version)-LORD, I continue to ask for help. When will you listen to me? I cried to you about the violence, but you did nothing! 3 People are stealing things and hurting others. They are arguing and fighting. Why do you make me look at these terrible things? 4 The law is weak and not fair to people. Evil people win their fights against good people. So the law is no longer fair, and justice does not win anymore.
The Prophet asked God point-blank, “God, where are You?!” He had been living in the land for years, preaching the Word of God to the people. The wicked Hebrews had gone so far that they were sacrificing children to false gods! They were committing ritual sexual sins in worship to pagan gods and goddesses! In the midst of it all, Habakkuk was wondering: Where is God? Why isn’t God doing something?
Isn’t that the question that we ask? Isn’t that what we are wondering at times in our life? Wasn’t that the complaint of Gideon? Didn’t Job bring God up on charges about this?
God answered the Prophet Habakkuk with a powerful response:
Habakkuk 1:5 (ERV)-Look at the other nations! Watch them, and you will be amazed. I will do something in your lifetime that will amaze you. You would not believe it even if you were told about it.
Throughout the Book of Habakkuk, God taught the Prophet a very important lesson: just because we do not see God working, and just because we do not see God working NOW, does not mean that God isn’t working!
God was raising up the Babylonians in the Book of Habakkuk to deal with the wicked Hebrews. In this Habakkuk learned some very important lessons. Please notice a few with me.
First of all, Habakkuk learned that even though he could not see God working, God was still very much at work. Several times throughout Scripture, we are reminded that God is working in ways that are beyond our full comprehension. For example, after Jesus arose from the dead, He took a walk with two disciples who were on their way to Emmaus. The Bible tells us:
Luke 24:13-16-Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15 So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.
Cleopas and his friend were wondering where God was and how God could allow the Messiah to be killed. After all, it was Jesus who they were sure would redeem Israel! Yet look what happens. As they are talking about these matters, Jesus Himself is walking with them. They needed to have their vision withheld for a time so that they did not recognize Him, and in this we see a profound lesson: when we cannot see God in the midst of our trials, He is still with us. When we wonder why He isn’t doing something to help us in our circumstance, we can rest assured: He is working in ways that we do not see! Habakkuk also needed to learn this lesson, and so must we.
Second, we learn from Habakkuk’s experience that just because we do not see God acting or working right NOW does not mean that He isn’t working. In fact, to me this is a very real consideration: we need to understand that God works on His timescale, not on ours. Jesus came “in the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4), I.e., at a time that was just right. God has promised that He will exalt and deliver His people “in due time” I.e., at the right or appropriate time (1 Peter 5:6-7). Norman Geisler really brings this out powerfully:
“”The argument against God from evil makes some arrogant assumptions. Just because evil is not destroyed right now does not mean that it never will be. The argument implies that if God hasn’t done anything as of today, then it won’t ever happen. But this assumes that the person making the argument has some inside information about the future. If we restate the argument to correct this oversight in temporal perspective, it turns out to be an argument that vindicates God. 1. If God is all-good, He will defeat evil. 2. If God is all-powerful, He can defeat evil. “3. Evil is not yet defeated. 4. Therefore, God can and will one day defeat evil. The very argument used against the existence of God turns out to be a vindication of God in the face of the problem of evil. …God isn’t finished yet. The final chapter has not been written. Apparently God would rather wrestle with our rebellious wills than to reign supreme over rocks and trees. Those who want a quicker resolution to the conflict will have to wait.” (Norman L. Geisler & Ronald M. Brooks, When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook On Christian Evidences, 64-65 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)
Just because we do not see God acting NOW does not mean that He isn’t.
Third, consider this with me: God often chooses to act through human beings in this world. Because God honors the free will of mankind, He restrains Himself at times from carrying out His full program. For example, because God wants to give every person opportunity to be saved, He has not sent Jesus back yet to initiate the End of the world and the Second Coming (2 Peter 3:9). God is a Being Who respects our free will, and so sometimes often acts through natural means as well as through supernatural ones. Consider Habakkuk: God could have just wiped out all of the wicked people in Judah who were living in sin! Instead, He chose to work through Babylon. By doing this, He was able to allow Babylon to freely choose its’ own destiny; He allowed the people of Israel more time to learn the futility of living apart from and outside of God’s will; and it allowed the people the blessing of seeing what would happen when they repented and turned to the Lord. All of these things (and no doubt much more) came as a result of God working through providential and not merely miraculous means.
Consider further with me. Gideon was asking, “Why isn’t God doing anything?” He didn’t realize (at least, not yet) that God was going to do something-through him! The same can be said about Job. There were times when Job bemoaned his birth and his existence. Who can blame him? He really suffered! Yet while he wondered, “Why am I here?” He had not yet learned that his life would have significant lessons for others throughout time. As I was telling some friends recently in a Bible study, if Job hadn’t been born, we would not be sitting around thousands of years later talking about his life and some of the great lessons that we have learned from him!
Sometimes God works in unexpected ways and through unexpected agencies to carry out His will. Habakkuk learned this lesson, and we need to as well.
Finally, I want to suggest this to you: Habakkuk teaches us that when we don’t understand why God is allowing certain things to happen, we can learn to trust in God to carry out His good will. God declared through Habakkuk
Habakkuk 2:4-Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.
Habakkuk learned the importance of faith: knowing, trusting, and obeying God even when it is so difficult to do. Learning to hold to God even when everything is falling apart is the epitome of faith itself! Habakkuk learned this:
Habakkuk 3:17-19-Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls—
18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
19 The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills. To the Chief Musician. With my stringed instruments.
Job learned this through the midst of his trials! At the end of the Book of Job, Elihu stood up and defended the goodness and the righteousness of God, and then at the end of the Book, God appeared to give Job his audience. The Lord began to question Job, and Job could not answer the questions the Lord asked. The questions were not designed to show God’s superior intellect (although they do); instead, they were designed to show that Job could trust in God’s goodness even when he did not understand why God was allowing the things to happen which were.
“But these questions also point to God’s wisdom and care. These are not simply questions about power. Their function is not simply to remind Job of God’s power, but also to remind him of God’s wisdom and care. The questions are not arbitrary; they move from God’s creative work when he laid the foundations of the world (38:4-7) and controlled the chaotic waters (38:8-11) to his transcendence over the chaos of the wicked and death (38:12-21), control over the waters (snow, rain, rivers) of the earth (38:22-30, 34-38), and his regulation of the stars and seasons (38:31-33). The questions then move to the animal kingdom and God’s management of his living creatures. The questions are not just about knowledge but about care. God asks if Job “knows” (e.g., 39:1), but he also asks whether Job can manage this creation and care for it the way God does. Does Job hunt for the lion (38:39), feed the young ravens (38:41), give the wild donkey his home (39:6), use the wild ox in hi service (39:9-12), care for the ostrich even though she has no sense (39:12-18), and give the horse his strength (39:19)? God asks, “Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom (39:26), or “does the eagle soar at your command? (39:27). Through his power God manages his creation with wisdom and care. God’s creation is not the playground of his power but the nursery of his care. The world is not out of control; God is managing it quite nicely. (John Mark Hicks, Yet Will I Trust Him: Understanding God In A Suffering World, 173-174 (emphasis added, M.T.); Joplin, MO; College Press Publishing Company)
My friends, I want to encourage you to trust in God’s goodness and in His love. Know that He is working, even now and in ways that you may not see, to carry out His good plan. In fact, the very central goal of that plan is to bring mankind to salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that Christ built His church (Matthew 16:18-19), and in the church we are reconciled with God again (Ephesians 2:16). The Son of God died for us, was buried, and arose again the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). He invites all sinners to come to Him for salvation (Revelation 22:17). Why not today repent of your sins and be baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38)? If you are a prodigal child of God, why not today be restored by repenting of your sin and confessing it to Him (1 John 1:9)?
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.