Re-worked / re-posting some thoughts from 2008 on one of my favorite verses in Scripture . . .
So, I read Job 37 this morning, the last words of counsel from Elihu. And as I finished up I thought about what’s coming tomorrow in my reading. I glanced at the first few words of Job 38, “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind”, knowing that God is about to unleash on Job.
You know, you can’t blame Job for being a bit confused about the turn of events in his life. You can’t blame him for asking, “Why?” But you do sense that maybe he could have asked the “why” question a little differently. Less arrogantly, perhaps. Not so demanding. With more reverence, more humility. Maybe God’s response would have been different had Job asked his questions more like Habakkuk.
I really do like this guy, Habakkuk. There is a spirit about him that inspires me. And he too asked God questions.
The first chapter is all about him asking questions. Questions about God’s tolerance of the wickedness within Israel and God’s apparent silence as injustice increased in the land. “How long shall I cry for help? . . . Why do You make me see iniquity?” (1:2-3). And God answers his questions, “Good observations, Hab! And I am going to do something about it. Something that will utterly amaze you. Something you’d never see coming. I’m going to raise up the Chaldeans to judge my people.”
Ok, that isn’t the answer Habakkuk’s expecting. Israel at large may have been bad, but the Chaldeans? Compared to them, Israel looked like a bunch of choir boys. And so the questions come again, “O LORD, You have ordained them as a judgment? . . . O Rock, You have established them for reproof? . . . Why are You silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” (1:12-13).
And, in chapter 2, God answers Habakkuk again. But instead of blasting Habakkuk (like God’s about to do in Job 38) for persisting with his questions, the LORD instead enlightens the prophet and leads him to a place of greater trust and faith.
So what’s the difference between Job and Habakkuk? Why does Job ask, “Why?” and get rebuked for his questioning, while Habakkuk asks, “Why?” and gets answers? The difference, I think, is found in Habakkuk’s attitude.
I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.
(Habakkuk 2:1 ESV)
Habakkuk asked his questions in humility. He didn’t understand why God allowed Israel to continue to sin and so he asked God, “Why?” He really couldn’t understand how God could use such a wicked nation as the Chaldeans to judge Israel and so he asked God, “Why?” But when He was done asking His questions he says in essence, “Ok, now I’ll wait for God’s answer. And I’m fully expecting that I may be corrected in my limited view. That I will find that my understanding of the situation is incomplete. For God knows a lot more than I do. His ways are higher than my ways. His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. And so, I’ll watch and I’ll wait and listen for what God might say to me.”
Far from demanding an audience with God that he might question Him, you sense that Habakkuk is just sincerely confused, and so, he takes his confusion to His God. And then he quiets himself and waits for God. Ready, should God in His purposes determine to graciously provide insight and wisdom, to receive whatever answers, or not, God might give.
I don’t think God minds us asking questions. I do think there is a right way and a wrong way to ask them, though. Our questions should not be such that they question God. Nor should we arrogantly demand an answer from the Almighty. But ours is take our questions and our confusions to the Lord in humble submission to His sovereign purposes. To present our “whys?” before Him knowing that He is Righteousness and Just. And to wait on Him to graciously help us work through the confusion if He chooses.
I don’t think Habakkuk really ended up with full reconciliation in his mind of how God could “partner” with the Chaldeans to judge Israel. Yeah, he was told that God would eventually judge the Chaldeans too, but I gotta think that Habakkuk still had a nagging, “Them Lord? Really??” in the back of his mind. But Habakkuk had asked his questions and God has provided His answer. And that would be sufficient.
Questions? It’s ok to ask them. Our God? It’s imperative that we trust Him.
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deers; He makes me tread on my high places.
(Habakkuk 3:17-19 ESV)
By His grace. For His glory.