This past Friday, 13 November 2015, we had another reminder that evil exists in this world that the vast majority of humanity cannot begin to understand. Islamic terrorists were willing to die in order to kill as many innocent people as they possibly could in Paris, France. This has led of course to lots of political opinions of how to address the issue of terrorism militarily and also the question of refugees coming to our own country, the United States.
In the middle of all this discussion, though, one passage that Gunnar Hanson, my pastor, quoted on Sunday during a time of prayer that we had regarding the attacks, keeps coming back to me. That passage is Habakkuk 1:2-5.
How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.
“Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.
It is so easy as believers to get caught up in the same discussions and arguments around the political responses to the evil in our world. We can begin to look just like those who don’t know Christ, in that, all of our hope and security seem to revolve around whether our government makes the decisions that we think are the correct ones. This passage in Habakkuk reminds us where our real hope and security lie.
Habakkuk starts off with the comforting thought that evil is not new. Thousands of years ago as Habakkuk is writing this, there was evil present in the world that looked like it was out of control. He talks about the fact that the justice system (the law) Is helpless to do anything about it. Does that sound familiar when we look at the rise of global extremist Islamic terrorism today? For those of us who are believers, we can understand Habakkuk’s opening cry to the Lord asking where are you. He says that he pointed out the violence around him to God in prayer and lifted up the evildoers before the Lord to see God bring judgment on them, but that did not happen as far as he could tell. I remember after 9/11, people everywhere were praying for an end to the evil of terrorism, and then for the safety of troops as they went after those terrorists for the last 14 years. Yet, after all that time terrorism is still a threat. We probably do not take notice as much as we should but groups like Boko Haram are regularly performing acts of terrorism in Africa that almost become normal for us to hear about. We just saw this demonstrated today .
Here is the incredible answer that Habakkuk receives from God, though. Just when Habakkuk is questioning the value of his prayers and the presence of his God, we have God’s response in verse 5, “Look…and be utterly amazed.” If that does not give us hope as a believer then nothing will. God is telling him to look to God and trust him that he has it under control. The interesting thing is that the response from God that you see when you continue reading the chapter, is that the amazing thing he is going to do, is to use godless nations to punish the sin of his people. This was probably not the answer that Habakkuk wanted, but it did show that none of this surprised God and he already planned a response.
We also look around at the evil in this world, and many times begin to look to political solutions, military solutions, bigger fences, better foreign policy and all these other solutions instead of believing that God is in control. We say we believe that God is in control, but we fight for our position and defend our solution like our life and the lives of our family depended on it. The fact is that ultimately everything in our life depends on God. Except for God’s grace and mercy towards me, I would not live another day. For whatever political victory I win here on earth, ultimately, that does not determine my destiny or my reward; and there is no evil on earth that is greater than my God, whose power surpasses that of any earthly government or military.
A response that I have seen several times that is very heartening to me in the aftermath of the back of forth of the appropriate political response to the attack in France is the civility in disagreeing that I see in many of my Christian friends. Facebook, as we all know, can bring out the worst in people who forget how to have civil conversation in cyberspace; but I have seen several diametrically opposed positions discussed without vitriol and anger, and ending in some expression of humility before the other person. The people involved in these discussions have realized the truth that God revealed to Habakkuk, that our position before the Lord is far more important than our need to be right at all costs. We as believers can see and experience the same evil as everyone else in the world, but our faith is not in any government’s ability to control that evil, but in God’s sovereign power over all the affairs of mankind. This is why the best use of our time as believers is to seek God. That does not mean we do not have opinions or the right to argue for those opinions, but it is easier to accept whatever the outcome believing that God is in control whether my idea wins or loses at the end of the day. We do this because we trust that one day, we will “Look…and be utterly amazed” at what God has done.