Is the World out of Control?

The national and international news media reports a society that just keeps getting worse and worse. The future of the world looks dismal. I have friends who refuse to watch the national evening news because it is so depressing.  I struggle to get through it, and then wonder why I sat through so much bad news.  It does make me sort of grumpy.

I started to study an Old Testament book called Habakkuk, a book very rarely read or studied. His book is considered one of the “Minor Prophets,” not because it is unimportant, but because of its brevity.  He should not be overlooked. I found it both frightening and reassuring – not unlike the evening news.  Called to be a prophet by God, Habakkuk begins by questioning God, verbally expressing what many of us have thought even today: 

“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?” (1:2-3).

At the time of the prophet, the nation of Judah was experiencing social and political corruption and spiritual apostasy (they turned their backs on God). Habakkuk was disturbed by all the wickedness, conflict and oppression which were rampant in Judah.  “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” (1:3-4). Habakkuk questions God a second time: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why, then, do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (1:13).

Haven’t questions like these silently passed through your mind recently (or maybe not so silently)? Today, don’t you turn your eyes away from senseless gun violence, widespread government corruption, anger, hatred and injustice? “How long must this go on??” (2:6).

The Lord answered the prophet in an unexpected way. God declared that he would allow the nation of Babylon to invade Judah, producing even more death and destruction (1:6, the northern nation of Israel had already succumbed to the Babylonians). Ironically, God proclaimed that the defiant nation of Judah would be punished by a more powerful, more arrogant, and a more ungodly nation. Babylon was a “ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own. They are feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor” (1:6-7). Consider, for example, the war in Ukraine! Truly, this is a bit like saying that God would punish America for our rebellion and apostasy by allowing a nation like China or Russia to assault our country. Repeatedly, in the OT prophetic books, God warned his people about what would happen in view of their unfaithfulness and disobedience. Do you think we could learn our lessons from them?

In chapter 2 of Habakkuk, we read five statements of “woe” stated by God concerning rebellious, self-centered, and ungodly people (particularly leaders): they “make themselves wealthy by extortion” (2:6); they “build their realms by unjust means” (2:9). They “build a city with bloodshed and establish a city by crime” (2:12, again, think about the cities in the Ukraine). They “turn their neighbors into drunkards” (2:15, consider the drug lords pushing illegal drugs for their profit). Finally, “woe to those” who worship idols, lifeless, costly, material things that cannot give life to human beings (2:19).

And yet…..we must read the entire book of Habakkuk to understand the real plans and purposes of God.

The third chapter of Habakkuk turns the camera off of people, and focuses it on who God is, and why he acts the way he does. In fact, who are we to question God in the first place?

“His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth. His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden. Plague went before him; pestilence followed his steps. He stood and shook the earth; he looked and made the nations tremble. The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed. His ways are eternal” (3:3-6). How do you describe God except by using such beautiful poetry!

To see God’s actions in our world today and judge his motives is to see one inning of a baseball game and judge the coach.  The prophet concluded, “Yet, I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.”  Though the world may look grim right now, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights” (3:16, 18-19). 

Despite the disobedience of his people, God makes it very clear that eventually the corrupt destroyer will itself be destroyed. Until then, “the righteous will live by faith” (2:4, a passage that is used 3 times in the NT). That is, everywhere, in all time and under all circumstances, God is in control. And, he does not need our criticisms or our instructions on how things should be. I think it would be better to fear God (“awe, respect”) than to fear crazy, inane human beings. Not the richest man in the world, not China or Russia or any American politician is in control. God is. Whew.


Author: Judy

Christian educator, writer, specializing in the New Testament

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