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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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God in History | Habakkuk Series

This is part two of our study series on Habakkuk. What does the Bible tell us about this prophet and his relationship with the Lord and what that might tell us about ours? Each study includes a short reflection for personal or use with others.

“Look at the nations and watch –
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.
I am raising up the Babylonians.”

Habakkuk 1:5-6

Habakkuk’s prayer that God should do something about Israel’s violence and injustice was answered. But not in the way he expected. The revelation that God was working out his purposes in history by rousing the Babylonians, brutal and ruthless conquerors, astonished and shocked him. As far as Habakkuk was concerned, God was not supposed to work with the unrighteous: ‘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).

We may believe very strongly that God is actively involved in our world, both in the larger histories of peoples and cultures, as well as in the smaller and local issues of our individual lives. But however strong that belief, it is often difficult to see just where and how God is at work. Like Habakkuk, we have to acknowledge that God is indeed active, but not always as we expect and not as we, in our heart of hearts, would always wish.

Is a calm sea for the evacuation of troops from the beaches an act of God? Then why not a more decisive intervention at an earlier point? An individual sees God in action when he misses the plane that crashed. But what about the others who were killed?

We need the humility to say that we cannot always see where God is at work. Looking back in faith, we may see his purposes accomplished in surprising ways, in our own lives as well as in the bigger movements of history. But we know that he is patient, not necessarily intervening to prevent the uncomfortable consequences of human sin, perhaps because those consequences will serve a more significant purpose.

In the midst of a very mixed bag of life experiences, we are called to be faithful – in the words of another prophet, ‘to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly’ with our God (Micah 6:8). In the meantime, when we cannot see where or how he is at work, we trust that he does indeed know what is best.

For Further Reflection

  • What is your gut reaction when you hear or read stories of violence and injustice? Why do you respond the way you do? Do you think God shares your view?
  • Think of some other examples from the Bible where – despite appearances – God was at work through unexpected circumstances. Are there any examples from your own life, or from history, where you think God has brought about his purposes using ‘strange’ or even ‘evil’ means?

Author

Margaret Killingray

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