GLEANINGS FROM THE SCRIPTURES
By Keith L. Estes
An Arizona mob hanged Pepper Tate when they found a stolen horse in his possession. Later, however, they learned that he had bought the horse quite innocently from the thief. They put an apologetic inscription on his grave, PEPPER TATE- 1805-1847- HANGED BY MISTAKE. The fact that innocent people suffer at the hands of wicked people has always been a problem. Why do the godly suffer? Why do evil people prosper? Why does God allow wars, famines, and floods to injure even His own people?
When people pray, they expect an answer. If nothing happens, they become discouraged and start finding fault with God and His ways of working. Habakkuk was a man like us and he had these same questions. "O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! Even cry out unto thee of violence and thou wilt not save!"
We want instant coffee, instant tea, instant service, no lines of waiting, and a private check out counter just for us. Instant answers to prayer, all of them, in our favor.
Habakkuk's complaint is a bit different from the standard one about the righteous suffering and the wicked prospering. He wants to know why the Lord allows the righteous to suffer at the hands of the wicked.
Answers to prayer must be "yes", we won't accept a "no", and the last thing we want to hear is "wait". In this case God's answer to Habakkuk is "wait". Careers and civilizations that are built on conquest, pillage, and evildoing will eventually fail. Hitler found that as he expanded his conquests he increased the number of those who "went underground" and plotted revenge against him. Behind his far-flung battle line, guerilla warfare persisted. Victory lost more and more of its value, and ultimate defeat became more and more certain.
The price of backsliding is an impending awareness of defeat that grows ever stronger. A person who goes on wronging others must expect that in the end others will wrong him. He who has taken what belongs to others will find them plundering him. It's the old principle that as a man or nation sows, so shall he or it reap. We sometimes call this "poetic justice."
God is never too late, but His timing is not always identical to our wishes. We are creatures of time, but God is beyond time; His yardstick is eternity. He has His own schedule, and when His time comes He will act. Nothing we can do will either hurry Him or delay Him.
Habakkuk saw God's glory and exclaimed, "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." This is how we know that what is right and good and godly will ultimately be vindicated.
When we feel the weight of the world pressing in on us and are tempted to doubt that God either knows or cares or can do anything about it, then we need to learn the three things that Habakkuk discovered. 1. Go to God with our doubts and fears and misgivings. Tell Him frankly that we are unhappy with His silence. 2. Wait for His answer. It will come, ordinarily, through what God has to say to us in His Word, The Bible. In finding it we may need help from others who love to study His word. 3. Ask the Lord to show us Himself. Once a believer has an adequate concept of God's nature and His ways of working, he will find that God Himself is truly the answer to the great, unresolved problems of life-and especially to the problem of why ungodly persons so often are allowed to afflict those who belong to the Lord.
Ref. The book of Habakkuk, The Holy Bible. The Minor Prophets, Scripture Press Pub. Wheaton, Ill.
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