Episode 1. How Long and Why?
Things in life just aren’t fair somethings. And we look at those injustices and wonder – God why do you let this happen. How long will you let it go on? Turns out, we wouldn’t be the first person to have asked God those questions. Have you ever been in a place, a tight spot, […]
Things in life just aren’t fair somethings. And we look at those injustices and wonder – God why do you let this happen. How long will you let it go on? Turns out, we wouldn’t be the first person to have asked God those questions.
Have you ever been in a place, a tight spot, a difficult spot? Things aren’t going right. Things just aren’t fair. It’s ugly. It’s painful. It’s uncomfortable. And you think to yourself, “God, what is going on here? What are you doing? Why are you letting this happen? This is so unfair!”
Kind of an odd question isn’t it? Because, chances are, we’ve all been in that place. Sometimes it seems like God lets things go on forever. Things that just aren’t right. Things that are so unfair. And it’s easy for you and me to start thinking, “well God, why do you let this go on? I mean, you could step in any time and act. You can end injustice. You can end pain. You can do whatever you like. I come and ask you, day after day. I pour my heart out to you. You’re supposed to be the God of love and justice aren’t you? Isn’t that the whole point? Isn’t that who you are?”
Today we’re kicking off a series called How Long O Lord, How Long. It’s something we’re going to be talking about over the next couple of weeks. “How Long O Lord, How Long?” Now it turns out, you and I, aren’t the first ones to ask God that question.
If we think back to our past, you to yours, me to mine, we think back to times where injustice has plagued our lives. For me it was a time of betrayal. Deep betrayal. And it seemed to me, at the time, that those people who betrayed me also came out on top. Not only had they been dishonest. Not only had they done things that they should never had done. They stripped me of much of my dignity and my worth.
It was a time in my life where I often went to God. Sometimes, in fact often, through tears and deep pain. And I had two questions to ask God. Why and how long? How long God can this go on?
What about you? What do you see in your past? Maybe even your present. Maybe even as you look forward to the future such as it is. What do you see that causes you to ask those questions? God – why and how long?
I’m always so conscious when I sit here and share things with you that, well, you might be listening to this program in a place that’s safe. Perhaps uncomfortable. Perhaps not quite where you’d like to be right now. But in the scheme of things, pretty safe. And yet the next person, that person could literally be in an incredibly dangerous place in a refugee camp where children are dying of AIDS. In a jungle fleeing from soldiers or rebel fighters. In a village, should I stay, should I go?
For every person that’s sitting today listening to this program in the relatively wealthy, relatively safe comfort of a middle class home in a country like Australia or England or the US. For every one of those there are thousands, tens of thousands, listening in their places of poverty and injustice, war and oppression. That’s the reality. So when we talk about those questions. “Why?” and “how long O Lord?” For many, many people listening today, these are questions which are matters of life and death.
And that’s why we’re going on a journey these next few weeks on the program. A journey to discover what God is up to when we ask those questions of Him. Because when we’re in that place where we cry out, “God, why and how long!?” When we’re in that place, we feel incredibly alone. But it turns out we’re not.
I want to introduce you today to a man, Habakkuk. He was an Old Testament prophet who was exactly, exactly in that place. In fact, we’re going to be looking at the discussion that he had with God from that very place, today, this week, next week on the program.
As I’ve sat and read this conversation, this ping-pong match between Habakkuk and God, I’ve been really amazed. Amazed at these two things. Firstly, how Habakkuk learned and grew and found himself in a completely different frame of mind as a result of his discussion with God. And secondly, how amazing God’s plans were. How big and sweeping and surprising His plans were compared to Habakkuk’s narrow human perspective.
Today, I just want to share with you the cry of Habakkuk’s heart. This is just one man crying out to God. Have a listen. You can read it for yourself in Habakkuk in the Old Testament, chapter 1 beginning at verses 1 to 4. This is what it says:
The oracle of the prophet Habakkuk saw. O Lord how long shall I cry out for help and you will not listen. Or cry to you violence and you will not save. Why do you make me see wrong doing and look at trouble. Destruction and violence are before me. Strife and contention arise. So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous. Judgement comes forth perverted.
This oracle of the prophet literally means an utterance, a burden, a load on his heart. Habakkuk comes before God with a heavy heart to ask God some serious questions. He’s pouring out the burden of his heart.
What burden? “Well God, you haven’t answered my prayer. How long will I cry out to you for help? Where are you? What are you doing? Look at what’s going on here. I’ve been telling you about this violence. Crying out to you and you don’t say anything. Wrong doing. Trouble. Destruction. Violence. Strife. Contention.”
This is all the stuff that was going on in the nation of Israel back when Habakkuk was writing in the late 7th century BC. God’s people, God’s own people were doing this stuff. And the one thing that was meant to prevent this, God’s law, God’s justice, even that’s become slack and blunted and there’s no justice at all. The wicked outnumber the righteous. They surround them. Judgement is perverted.
Pretty bad stuff. Hard to imagine a less desirable combination of circumstances than wrong doing, trouble, destruction, violence, strife, contention. And on top of all of that – injustice.
We’re going to look at how God deals with this. How He answers tomorrow on the program. But right now I just want to rest a moment in Habakkuk’s burden. The burden that this man has in his heart. The cry of his heart to his God.
See it’s easy to imagine that when we front up to God we have to put on our Sunday best. We have to make sure we have our act together and be strong and confident and bold. A great man or woman of faith. But here it is in the Old Testament, in the Bible. One of God’s own prophets crying out from the wilderness of his despair. Sharing with God the deepest burden of his heart. “God, look at what’s going on here amongst your people. Look at the violence. Look at the wrong doing. Look at the injustice. God, why are you letting this happen? How long are you going to let this go on?”
As we’re going to see, over the coming days on the program, the cry of this mans heart opened him up to a journey of discovery with God. He didn’t necessarily discover the things he wanted to discover. God is not going to dance to any mans tune. But by the end of it all, Habakkuk was a profoundly changed man. This man who came crying out to God out of this terrible circumstance. Well this dialogue he has with God changes his heart.
It happened because he poured his heart out to God and then dared to listen to what God had to say. And by the end of this book in the Old Testament, Habakkuk is singing God’s praises and yet none of his circumstances have changed.
I wonder, I wonder if there’s not something in that for you and for me.