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Facing The Difficult Questions Of Life!

Habakkuk 1: 12-17 (especially verses 12 and 13)

It's important that Christians not only read the newspapers and watch the television news
to understand what is happening in the world today; it is also important that we understand
the significance of those events.
We are living in a time when many perplexing problems and dangers are confronting the church.

It is absolutely essential that Christians learn to to interpret events spiritually,
and to understand them in the light of God's Word.
What is utterly abhorrent to us may be exactly what God will use to chastise us
and bring us back to a right relationship to Him.
So, we must not jump to hasty conclusions.

I appreciate how D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones approaches this passage in his book,
"From Fear To Faith".
Martyn Lloyd-Jones uses what we know as logic or reasoning.
He approaches this section by calling it "The Importance Of Right Methods Of Approach."

He points out that most of the problems and perplexities of the Christian life come from
not having the right method of approach which is really using the right logic.
He tells us that it is more important to know the method of approach than having pat answers
to particular problems.

It is true that people are usually looking for a definitive answer to a specific question,
but the Bible does not always provide us with clear, definite answers.
But the Bible does teach us a method.
Lloyd-Jones says that we are apt to panic and jump to false conclusions when the
unexpected happens, and when God is dealing with us in strange and puzzling ways.

Lloyd-Jones points us to Psalm 73;13, 15 where we are taught the danger of speaking without thinking.
" Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency."
And he suddenly said, " If I should speak thus…," realizing that he started speaking without really thinking.

In every situation we must learn how we should act.
The problem may come in a personal way, or it may come to us on the national level.
So, we need to analyze the example of the method of approach which is found many times in the Bible.

The initial method is to stop and think before speaking.

This admonition is seen in James 1:19:" Be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath."
Our problem is that we are quick to speak, and quick to get mad, but we are slow to think.
But Habakkuk says that the first thing we should do is to think.
Before we express our reactions, we must discipline ourselves to think.
It may seem superfluous to emphasize this, but we know that this is where we often go wrong.

Next, we need to restate some basic principles.

So, when we start to think, we must begin further back than our immediate problem..
After this, we must use the indirect approach.

Lloyd-Jones tells us that this is a principle in military planning.
He reminds us that real enemy in World War II was Germany, but the Allies began to defeat
Germany in North Africa.
This was the strategy of an indirect approach.
This kind of approach can be of vital importance in the spiritual life, especially when we are confronted
with a problem such as the one in Habakkuk.
So, we must start our thinking further back, and then, approach the immediate problem with
indirect reasoning.

First, we must remind ourselves of those things of which we are absolutely certain
and which are beyond doubt.
We should write them down and say to ourselves: " In this terrible and perplexing situation
in which I find myself, this is solid ground
."
When we are walking in a land of swamps where we might come to quicksand, and the only way
to get around it is to find solid places in which to walk.

Therefore, in spiritual problems, we must turn to eternal and absolute principles.
The psychology of this is obvious because the moment we turn to basic principles
we will immediately lose our sense of panic.
It is a wonderful way to reassure our soul with those things that are beyond dispute.
So, we must apply these principles to the problem.

When we have done that, we can take the next step.
We must put the particular problem into the context of those solid principles which are before us.
The truth of the matter is that all problems can be solved if they are put into the right context.
This is true when we try to interpret any difficult text of Scripture -- we must consider its context.

We often mistake the meaning of a phrase because we take it out of its context.
But when we put our problem text into its context, the context will usually interpret the text for us.
This is also true of a particular problem that may be bothering you.

When we are still in doubt, then we must commit the problem to God in faith.
This is a final step in this method.
When we are still not clear about the answer, then we must take it to God in prayer
and leave it with Him.
That is what Habakkuk did in chapter 1:13.
In the preceding verse and in the early part of verse 13, Habakkuk was still perplexed,
so he took the problem to God and left it there.

When we have the right method, we can apply it to any problem.
We can apply it to God's strange dealings with a nation and to problems in the world
and to personal difficulties.
So, whatever the problem may be, stop and think, consider the propositions, put it into that context,
and then, if there is still a problem, take it to God and leave it there.

Now let us notice Habakkuk as he applies this method of reasoning to the two major problems
that troubled him which was the apparent weakness and defeat of God, and then trying
to reconcile God's use of the Chaldean army with God's holy character.

Habakkuk had a problem with God's inaction.
The people were questioning why God allowed the Chaldean army to bring such defeat
and the devastating results to the people of God.
Was He helpless in the face of that enemy's power?
Why does God allow His name and His word to be denied and blasphemed?
Why does He tolerate such things?
Why doesn't God intervene?
Then Habakkuk applies this indirect reasoning to this problem.

He starts with the absolute fact that God is eternal.

After Habakkuk expressed his difficulty, he declares: " Art thou not from everlasting?" (1:12)
Habakkuk presents this proposition.
For the moment he is forgetting the immediate problem, and he is considering
what he was sure of about God.

So, the first thing he said was, " Art thou not from everlasting?"
Previously, he had said in verse 11 that the Chaldeans were proud of their success,
and they attributed their power to their god.
The moment Habakkuk said that, he began to think, " Their god -- what is their god?
It is just something that they have made themselves. Their god, Bel, is of their own making
!"

As he was thinking about this, he reminded himself of something of which he was absolutely sure,
and that was that God is the eternal God, the everlasting God, from everlasting to everlasting.
Habakkuk knew that his God was not like the gods whom men worship.
He is not like that god of the proud Chaldean army.
He is God from eternity to eternity, the everlasting God.

There is nothing more consoling or reassuring when oppressed by the problems of history,
and when wondering what it is to happen in the world, than to remember that the God
whom we worship is outside the flow of history.
He has preceded history.
He has created history.
His throne is above the world and outside of time.
He reigns in eternity.
He is the everlasting God.

He could be reminded of Psalm 90:2: "Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God
."
God is Eternal!
Eternal refers to the endless past, the unending future, and to God's present experience of all time.
God has no beginning as man understands beginning and He has no ending either.
God exists now and knows both the beginning and the end.

This means that we can trust God.
Since He created time as we know it, He lives outside of time and can see the beginning
and the end of our lives and the age of men and the church.
We can live with the peace of knowing that when we die we will be with Him
forever and forever.

Since we are stating that God is eternal, how can we even comprehend eternity?
Maybe thinking about a GOOGOL would help us.
The word, GOOGOL has been around for many years, and I must confess that it is a new term
for for me, so I went searching on the Internet and found some Interesting information.

For instance, in the January 23, 1963, Peanuts strip, Lucy asks Schroeder what the chances
are of them getting married, and Schroeder responds, "Oh, I'd say about 'googol' to one."

The term, GOOGOL, was coined in 1938 by Milton Sirotta nephew of American mathematician,
Edward Kasner, when he was nine years old.
Kasner popularized the concept in his book, Mathematics and the Imagination. (1940).

A "googol" is the large number 1 followed by one hundred zeros in its decimal representation.
The "googolplex" is so large a number that it could not be written on a piece of paper
stretching across the visible universe (some 1,000,000,000 light-years).

So, a GOOGOL is a number -- a very large number.
A thousand is a 1 followed by three zeroes.
A million is a 1 followed by six zeroes.
A billion is a 1 followed by nine zeroes.
A trillion is a 1 followed by twelve zeroes.
So, a GOOGOL is a 1 followed by hundred zeroes.
Such a number is inconceivably large.

A googol is nothing though compared to a GOOGOLPLEX.
A googolplex is a GOOGOL raised to it's GOOGOLTH power.
It is so large that if it were written out on paper, there would not be enough space on our planet
to contain the pages required to fill in the zeroes.
In fact, the pages would more than fill our galaxy!

The reason that it is so hard for us to comprehend eternity is due to the fact that we are creatures of time.
We live in time.
We are creatures of the past, the present, and the future.
This is not true of God.
God is eternal.

Remember the word "before" in Psalm 90:1-2: "Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God
."

Before describes God.
He was before all generations;
He was before the sun, moon, and stars,
He was before the earth;
Before, God was always before!
God is eternal!

Then Habakkuk presents the next solid fact of which he is sure, and that is
that God is self-existent.


Then Habakkuk adds something else: " Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord,"
and he uses the great name, " Jehovah". (1:12)
"Art thou not from everlasting, O Jehovah?"
That name, "Jehovah", tells us that God is the self-existing One, the eternal I Am.
" Go and tell them," God had said to Moses, "that I Am hath sent me unto you."
The name, " I Am that I Am means " I am the Absolute, the self-existent One."

The fact is that God is not in any way dependent upon anything that happens in the world
for He is self-existent within Himself.
Not only is He not dependent upon the world, but He would never have created it
if He had not willed to do so.
The tremendous truth concerning the Trinity is that an eternally self-existent life resides
in the God-head -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

So Habakkuk comes to this wonderful reassurance: " I am certain that God is not dependent
upon this world but that He is self-existent; He is Lord, He is Jehovah, the great I Am
."
Now the problem begins to fade.
God is self-existent.
This means that He had no creator, but He always exists, unchanging, from before time
and until time is no more.

God's self-existence also implies his omnipresence in space.
He exists both outside His creation and at every point within it.
And because God is present at every point of time and space.
He is now present at every place and at every time simultaneously.

God's self-existence implies that He fills and sustains all created things
God, as Creator, also fills and sustains all of His creation.
God gives rain. Psalm 65: 9-13.
God preserves man and beast. Psalm 36:6.
He both gives life to and feeds all living things. Psalm 104:10-30.
It is God that gives man his crops and his increase. Leviticus 26: 4-10; Deuteronomy 8:18;
I Chronicles 29: 12, 14, 16.
He provides for the needs of his own people. Psalm 34:7-10; Psalm 37.
Colossians 116-17:"For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth,
visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers:
all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist
."
God is self-existent, and He transcends all time just as He transcends all space. (Isaiah 66:1-2)
For God, there is no fundamental difference between space and time, as there is for us.
He is now present at every point in space and time, because all space and time has
its existence in Him.
Colossians 1:16-17:"For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth,
visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers:
all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist
."
(Also read Psalm 139:7-12.)

Then Habakkuk states another fact of which he is sure, and that is God is holy.

Habakkuk reminds himself that another absolute in God is His holiness.
" Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One?"
He is sure of God's eternal existence, and not only of His self-existence,
and His independence of everything and everybody, but that He is also the " Holy One".
" God is light and in Him is no darkness at all."

We need to understand what the Scripture means when it says that "God is holy."
The Bible refers to the holiness of God more than any other attribute.
The basic meaning of the word "holy" is "to separate."
This means God is completely separate from anyone, anything, any idea, any measurement,
any imagination, any intellect, any power, etc.

God is holy!
"Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou only art holy." (Revelation 15:4)
Everything everywhere is connected to something else, but God is completely separate,
"God is holy!"

Habakkuk comes to another fact of which he is sure, which is that God is almighty.

Habakkuk says in chapter 1, verse12: "O Lord, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God,
thou hast established them for correction
."
Habakkuk is certain that God is all-powerful.
The word in Hebrew translated, " mighty God," literally means, " a rock."
This conveys the idea of the strength and the almightiness of God.
The God who created the whole world out of nothing, said, " Let there be light"
and there was light, has absolute power.

What Kind of God Do You Believe In?
This is an important question because it drives us back to the character of God.
What kind of God do we believe in?
In the end we must rest our faith on the goodness of God.
More and more I am coming to see that this is the crucial issue of life.
Is God good, and does He care for us?
Is God for us or against us?

If you say, "No", you will soon lose your faith altogether.
If you say, "Yes", then Romans 8:28 becomes more than a cliche.
It is the heart of the Christian answer.
If our God is good, and if he cares for us, then we can believe He has all power,
even in the face of sickness, suffering, and death itself.

Remember Habakkuk's logic -- his reasoning.
If you start with your trials and try to reason back to God, you'll never make it.
Start with lung cancer, and it's hard to find God.
Start with divorce, and it's hard to find God.
Start with rape, and it's hard to find God.
Start with bankruptcy, and it's hard to find God.
He's there, but He's hard to see when you start with your own difficulty.

You've got to start with God and reason from what you know about God back to your trials.
We rest our faith on God's goodness.
That's why 2 Corinthians 4:18 says that "we fix our eyes not on what is seen,
but on what is unseen
."

When we start with what we see around us, we will have a difficult time finding God in the darkest
moments of life.
But when we start with God, He will light up our darkness.

"What a mighty God we serve
what a mighty God we serve
Angels bow before Him
Heaven and earth adore Him
What a mighty God we serve.

He holds the winds in his hand
and he is the great I Am
He is the bright and morning star
and without him, I would fall."

Habakkuk is absolutely certain that God is faithful.

Habakkuk says, " Art thou not from everlasting,O Lord my God, mine Holy One?
We shall not die
." (1:12)
The significance of those words: " My God, mine Holy One, we shall not die."
Habakkuk is recalling that God is the God of the Covenant.
Though God is independent and absolute, eternal, mighty, righteous and holy,
He has condescended to make a covenant with mankind.

He made a covenant with Abraham, to which Habakkuk is referring here.
He was renewed this covenant with Isaac and Jacob.
He renew it again with David.

It was this covenant that entitled Israel to turn to God and say, " My God, mine Holy One." (1:12)
Habakkuk remembers that God has said, " I will be their God and they shall be my people."
For all those saintly prophets, and all who had spiritual understanding in Israel,
this fact was more significant than anything else.
While believing in the eternal attributes of God, they might have been put off by the thought
that such a God might be far away in the heavens and oblivious of their need.
But what linked God to them was the knowledge that He was a faithful, covenant-keeping God.

Habakkuk, thinking of the covenant, is able to say, " My God, mine Holy One";
and he adds " we shall not die".
Whatever the Chaldean army might do, it could never exterminate Israel, because God had
given certain promises to Israel which He could never break.

After stating his propositions, Habakkuk brings his problem into the context of those
absolute and eternal principles.
And this is what he says: " Thou hast ordained them for judgment… Thou hast established
them for correction
."
So, he comes to his answer to this question about the Chaldeans by this reasoning:
" God must be raising them up for Israel's benefit; of this I can be absolutely certain."

He is saying that It is not that the Chaldeans have taken the law into their own hands,
and it is not that God is incapable of restraining them.
Habakkuk is saying that these things are impossible in view of his reasonings.

God is using them for His own purposes (" Thou hast ordained them for judgment;
thou hast established them for correction
"); and God is carrying out those purposes.
Habakkuk is saying that he does not understand it fully, but that he is quite sure that they are not
going to be exterminated.

He believed that this would not be the end of the story of Israel, although, from the description,
there are apparently going to be very few them left and that they would be carried into captivity.
But a remnant will remain, because the Almighty is still God, and He is using the Chaldeans
to do something within the purpose of the covenant.
Habakkuk is saying that God is not showing weakness.
He is not being defeated.
God, because He is what He is, is doing this and doing it for His own plans and purpose.

One day a pastor visited a farmer who was a member of his congregation.
As the pastor climbed out of his car he noticed a windmill on the barn which carried an in scription.
Squinting his eyes, the pastor could just make out the words: GOD IS FAITHFUL.
"Do you mean," the pastor asked, "that God's faithfulness depends on the direction the wind is blowing?"
"O, no!" said the farmer. "The words mean that, regardless of which way the wind blows, God is faithful."

Then Habakkuk comes to the second problem.
If God is all-powerful, and if He is in control of events, how can these events be reconciled
with His holy character?
If we admit That God is almighty and all-powerful, and understand that the Chaldeans are only
instruments in God's hands, and that their success is not due to their own god,
we must still ask how a holy God can allow such things to take place?

Habakkuk applies the same method of reasoning here..

He is absolutely sure that a holy God hates sin and can do no evil.

Habakkuk starts by saying, " I am sure of this -- " Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil,
and canst not look on iniquity."
(1: 13)
Habakkuk is saying that whatever else of which I am not certain, I know that God cannot look
upon evil without hating it.
He does detest evil.
Habakkuk is certain that all evil in the world is utterly abhorrent to God because of His purity,
and that God could not look upon evil with complacency.
He knew that God and evil are eternal opposites.
Everything unjust or cruel is far removed from the character of God.
There is no injustice in God.
He not only tempts no person, but He cannot be tempted with evil.
" God is light and in Him is no darkness at all."

After affirming this, Habakkuk immediately turns to the perplexing difficulty:
" If this is true of thee, O God, wherefore thou up on them that deal treacherously
and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he
?"
How could God allow these Chaldeans to do this to His own people?
The people of Israel might be bad but the Chaldeans were worse.

Today Christians would say: " I will admit that the church has been backsliding for years,
but the pagans in our world are godless.
How can God allow all the things which are happening?"
Or to put it more personally, people often protest: " I admit I am not everything I might be;
but so and so is worse, and yet he is preaching
."
So, what is the answer?

So, Habakkuk is saying that he commits the unsolved problem to God.

There is no answer In this particular paragraph.
Concerning the first question about the power of God, Habakkuk received a positive answer.
But this problem of the holiness of God is more difficult.

After Habakkuk states his absolutes and brings his problem into this context, there is no clear answer.
Now our everyday experience is often like that.
You apply the same method or logic which has worked so well in other cases,
but there is no immediate or clear answer.
So what do you do in such a case?

We certainly should not rush to conclusions and say,
" Because I do not understand it therefore I wonder whether God is righteous after all."
Oh,no!
If you still do not understand, after you have applied God-given methods, then talk to God about it.
We make a mistake when we talk to ourselves, and then we talk to other people, and ask,
" Why is this? Isn't it strange?"
We must do what Habakkuk did.
We must take the problem to God and leave it with him.
We might be kept in this position for a week, or even months, or even years.
But take it to the Lord and leave it there!

Leave It There
"If the world from you withhold of its silver and its gold,
And you have to get along with meager fare,
Just remember, in His Word, how He feeds the little bird;
Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.

If your body suffers pain and your health you can't regain,
And your soul is almost sinking in despair,
Jesus knows the pain you feel, He can save and He can heal;
Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.

When your enemies assail and your heart begins to fail,
Don't forget that God in Heaven answers prayer;
He will make a way for you and will lead you safely through.
Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.

When your youthful days are gone and old age is stealing on,
And your body bends beneath the weight of care;
He will never leave you then, He'll go with you to the end.
Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.

Leave it there, leave it there,
Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.
If you trust and never doubt, He will surely bring you out.
Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there."

This is what Jesus did when He was on earth.
His problem was that of being " made sin" for the salvation of man.
Jesus knew that His Father could have delivered Him out of the hands of the Jews and of the Romans.
Jesus could have commanded 12 legions of angels and escaped.

But if He was to be made sin, and sin was to be punished in His body, it meant that
He must be separated from the Father.
So, the Son of God was faced with this problem which was the greatest problem
of His human life on earth.

The one thing from which He shrank was being separated from the Father.
So, look what He did.
He did precisely what Habakkuk did.
He prayed and said, "O my Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me:
nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt
." (Matthew 26: 39)

In effect, Jesus was saying: " I do not understand it, but if it is Your will, I am going on."
He took the problem that He did not understand to God, and left it there.

We may say with reverence that the Lord Jesus, perhaps not fully understanding
because He had been made man, nevertheless went on to the cross, being confident
that God's will is always right, and that a holy God will never command anything that is wrong.

This is what we must do with our doubts and our questions we have without a positive answer.
Today, we still ask: "If God is all-powerful, why is there so much suffering in the world?"
"Why do buses crash and why does God allow tornadoes and hurricanes and earthquakes
to destroy cities, and homes and human life?"
"Why does God allow armies to kill innocent people?"
"Why is there so much disease?"
"Why do good people die of cancer?"
"Why doesn't God stop the suffering in the world?"
These are honest questions.

We must learn from Habakkuk how to deal with these pertinent questions.
We must start with what we know about God.
We know that God is eternal.
We know that God is self-existent.
We know that God is holy.
We know that God is almighty.
We know that God is faithful.
We know that God hates sin.
We know that God can do no evil.

So, we know that we can take our serious and disturbing questions to God.
And we know that we can take our unsolved problems to Him and we can leave them with Him
knowing that He will be faithful to His Word and He will do what is best for us.
Oh, what a mighty God we have!
Oh, what a loving God we Have!

Sermon adapted from many sources by Dr. Harold L. White