Episode 1. The Woes of the Wicked
Sometimes – things just aren’t fair in life. We’re trying to do the best we can, living a pretty good life, honouring God, and nothing seems to be going right. On the other hand – the wicked – they seem to be prospering. What’s going on? I don’t know how you’re feeling today but me, […]
Sometimes – things just aren’t fair in life. We’re trying to do the best we can, living a pretty good life, honouring God, and nothing seems to be going right. On the other hand – the wicked – they seem to be prospering. What’s going on?
I don’t know how you’re feeling today but me, I’m excited about the fact that we’re together again at the beginning of a new week. Call me crazy. But for me there’s something so special about the start of a new week. New possibilities. New challenges. It’s a real joy and a privilege for me to share this time with you.
At the end of last week a letter came in the mail. It’s Friday afternoon. A woman, who as it turns out, had been at the point of suicide. And she wrote that it was something I said on the program that changed her mind and she experienced God’s grace. “Another life saved” are the words she wrote.
And fortunately that has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with the fact that God uses imperfect, fallible people like you and like me, to spread His love around the globe. The apostle Paul once wrote, in 1 Corinthians chapter 1, verse 21:
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
And that’s why I get excited at the beginning of a new week. Because God want’s to join hands with us. With you and with me. To get about His business of using us, imperfect as we may be, to share His powerful, compelling, wonderful, awesome love with the next guy. And that’s something I believe we’re going to be encouraged to do in our short time together today.
Last week on the program we met a man by the name of Habakkuk. An Old Testament prophet. I know it’s a bit of a funny name but he wrote one of the smallest books in the Old Testament. Right towards the end. And it’s called, not surprisingly, Habakkuk. And the whole thing about this book is that this man has a complaint against God.
He’s seen some terrible things happen amongst the tribe of Judah. The southern tribe of Israel. God’s chosen people. Injustices, violence, justice being perverted. And he pours his heart out to God. It’s a real burden. This is what he says, Habakkuk chapter 1:
‘O Lord, how long shall I cry for help and you will not listen? Or I cry ‘violence’ to you 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. Therefore judgement comes forth perverted.’
And we saw on the program, over that last week, how honestly Habakkuk challenges God. Not in some disrespectful way but crying out to God. I love how real it is. You can read it for yourself in the Old Testament book of Habakkuk. From the beginning of chapter 1 through to the 5th verse of chapter 2. It’s not very long so I encourage you to do it.
And God opens Habakkuk’s heart to hear from Him. To the point where God gives him a vision and tells him to write it down. Now my hunch is that the things that Habakkuk was feeling and thinking and saying to God are pretty much the same as the things that we sometimes feel and think and want to say to God too. The world seems so unfair.
You see companies going broke and shareholders losing their investments whilst corporate executives take obscenely large salaries and pay-outs. Tens of millions while little shareholders suffer.
We see people in power. Leaders who should be caring for their people, instead feathering their own nest. We see children dying of starvation and disease while the wealthy west spends more each week on cat and dog food than they do on helping the poor and needy.
We see injustices happening all around us and wonder how long O Lord, how long? Why do you let these things go on? Why? What sort of a God are you anyway?
We spent last week on the program talking about that. This week we get to the conclusion of it all because some amazing things happen in the book of Habakkuk. God speaks and it powerfully changes Habakkuk’s mind and heart. And my hunch is, that as we listen to God speaking this week on the program, He’s going to do exactly the same.
Part of the vision that God gave Habakkuk was about what would happen to the wicked. See the wicked, they seem to be winning so often. But have a look at what God has to say about the wicked. His perspective. His take. Now this comes from the book of Habakkuk, chapter 2, verses 6 to 11:
Will not all of them taunt him and ridicule and scorn saying, ‘woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion? How long must this go on? Will not your debtors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their victim because you have plundered many nations. The peoples who are left will plunder you.
For you have shed men’s blood. You have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them. Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain. To set his nest up on high to escape the clutches of ruin. You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life. The stones of the wall will cry out and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.’
It’s amazing you know, how accurately and powerfully God’s word, of a few thousand years ago now, is able to speak into the circumstances of here and now, today. Interestingly, recently during this financial crisis, what the world economy has been going through, we’ve watched how the apparently rich and powerful have fallen.
These men and women who have built their wealth on debt, on creditors, it was all a pack of cards. It looked mighty and powerful from the outside but inside there was nothing there. Big houses. Shiny expensive cars. Do you know that as the real estate prices plummeted in the city where I live, that part of the market that lost the most ground were the multi multi-million dollar mansions overlooking the water?
‘Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain. To set his nest on high to escape the clutches of ruin.’
Listen to me. So many people in this world are living below the poverty line. So many. So many people are struggling to make ends meet. And what makes it worse is to see the wealth of people who run the economic systems that keep the many in poverty while the few grow wealthy.
So many people are struggling. God, how can you let this happen? How can you let this injustice go on? The wealth of the wicked. Their comfort. Their luxury. They drive past us in their big motor cars. And all of that makes things so much worse.
Please, don’t get me wrong. All who are wealthy aren’t wicked. Some of the wealthiest people I know are the greatest givers to God’s work. In fact, without some of those people, you and I actually wouldn’t be sharing this time together at the moment. But you know what I’m talking about. The pain and the distress of the wealth of the wicked in the face of the misery of the many.
But listen to me. God has heard our cry and His judgement has already fallen. One day His justice will be done. He will not allow the wicked to go unpunished. He will not. Because He’s a God of infinite love and infinite justice:
Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain. To set his nest on high to escape the clutches of ruin. You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life. The stones of the wall will cry out and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.
We see what’s happening but so does God. And you and I can rely in His justice to deal with those who oppress and harm. And in the mean time, in the mean time the most powerful thing that you and I can do is to pray for our enemies. To pray that God will change their hearts and show them mercy.