Have you ever found yourself questioning God? You read your Bible, you look at the world around you and you find yourself saying, “what gives?” Or perhaps it was the time you prayed and got an answer which, to the best of your knowledge, seemed worse that the problem you were facing.
Well, that’s pretty much the situation the prophet Habakkuk finds himself in when we encounter him at the beginning of the short book that bears his name. The prophet’s been considering God’s law, he looks at his nation and notices that the leaders of the land have perverted justice. He sees that they’ve been profitting at the expense of the poor. He sees that many in power have disregarded God’s commands and yet appear blessed. All the while noting that the Scriptures he knows indicate that such behavior will incur God’s wrath and judgement – which seems to be absent.
Often we get the idea that people who are trying to follow God and His Word aren’t permitted to question God. There are plenty of passages in Scripture that seem to support that. Most of these passages, on closer review, focus on the underlying attitude and presumptions that are brought with the questions and not necessarily the act of questioning itself. In the first chapter (+ one verse) Habakkuk illustrates several positive characteristics that would serve us well when find ourselves questioning what God is (or isn’t) doing.
- Habakkuk’s problem stems from the fact that he’s wrestling with the Scripture. This is a good thing. It means that Habakkuk not only knows God’s word – he’s engaging it. He knows that the Scriptures promise that God will judge the leaders of the nation when they pervert the Law and justice, when they build their power/wealth at the expense of the people. Habakkuk doesn’t simply “shrug off” the discrepency – he engages the Scripture and is trying to make sense of it in light of what he sees going on around him. FYI – Habakkuk was a prophet, and likely a Levite involved with Temple worship (as evidenced from the musical notation in his closing psalm in chapter 3) so he clearly would have had at least a working knowledge (and ongoing familiarity) of the Scripture.
- Habakkuk takes his problem to God. Whether its the initial concern regarding the discrepency between his understanding of God’s word and what was happening “on the ground” or his later concern that God’s solution to the discrepency was worse than the initial problem (the Chaldeans? They’re worse than us!), Habakkuk doesn’t stew over the problem or stir up controversy among the people. Instead, he takes his concern to God.
- Habakkuk displays humility. Even though the implications of the questions Habakkuk has for God are very serious, there is a sense of humility as he comes to God. In the first verse of chapter 2, Habakkuk expects to be corrected – an acknowledgement that he doesn’t know everything.
- Habakkuk expects God to answer and waits for His reply. The prophet demonstrates great respect for God! He doesn’t simply spout off and storm off like a spoiled brat – as if God had nothing worthwhile to say on the matter. Again, in chp 2, vs 1, Habakkuk declares that he will wait expectantly for God’s reply – like a guard on watch awaiting the return of an advance scout and the vital intelligence he carries.
As we seek to grow in our knowledge and understanding of God, inevitably we will encounter times when God doesn’t act as we would expect. This is normal. In fact, I would be concerned if that never occurred as it would mean that we weren’t truly trying to engage and apply God’s word in our own lives let alone in the world around us. When we reach these points of discrepency, its okay to ask God “what gives?” In fact, if we hope to truly grow, we need to bring these questions to God. When we do, remember, we need to keep our pride in check. We need approach God with the understanding that we don’t know everything – with humility and a teachable spirit. We also must also be ready to wait for His reply. He will answer! He has something to say! We must give Him the opportunity to do so and watch expectantly for His reply.
— Pastor Jim Kushner