I awoke Sunday morning and as is my habit, watched the news while I ate my breakfast. I am not sure why I do that. It seems like I merely punish myself with learning the newest tales of woe from Washington and around the country. The first news story grabbed my attention. ”2 Hattiesburg officers killed; 4 suspects in custody”. This seems to be a near weekly event these days. How did we get here? How did police officers become public enemy #1 with a target on their backs? Policemen and women are like everyone else – there are very good ones and there are of course some bad apples, just like in any profession. But ask yourself what life will be like if the police step back, as human nature suggests that they probably will, and simply refuse to enforce the law, in order to protect their own lives, jobs and reputations? What will our big cities look like if this is the ultimate outcome of constantly trashing the police? How many more innocent people, including children, trapped in high crime areas, will die when the gangs and thugs are running the streets? How many more people will be raped and robbed? Will burned out businesses come back and rebuild when they realize that they are on their own – that the police have “left the building?” You can be sure they will not. God Himself tells us in Romans 13 that the legal authorities “bear the sword” for the good of the righteous, and to punish wrongdoers. Ultimately their authority comes from God. It will not go well for us if the police are prevented from doing their job. Innocent people will surely pay the price.
On another front, Gay activists appear to be easily winning the day in forcing compliance with their views, forcing people whose religious faith prevents them from embracing so called “Gay Marriage” to provide services against their will in celebration of these events. Even “Evangelical” leaders do not seem to have a problem affirming same gender relationships and we are treated to headlines like, ”Feel the Love Tonight? Rick Warren, Elton John Hold Hands, Joke About Kissing Before AIDS Panel”. These are only a few examples – it really appears that evil in many forms is carrying the day. Why is it that rampant unrighteousness seems to be winning on all fronts? Where is God in all of this – when will He take action to stem the tide of evil seemingly engulfing our country and the world?
Then we went to church, and our Pastor, Dan, has been teaching through the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament. This week it so happened that he was teaching on the book of Habakkuk. Interestingly, Habakkuk was asking the very same questions centuries ago!
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?
Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. (Habakkuk 1:2-3)
Habakkuk was devastated to see his beloved nation descending into lawlessness and evil violence, and he wanted God to DO something about it, not just sit idly by! But it seemed to him that God did not care about what was going on, and seemed absent or uncaring. As a result:
So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted (Habakkuk 1:4)
“The law is paralyzed…” What a very relevant word picture for us in our times. Does not the law (and the lawmen) often appear to be paralyzed in the face of evil? The law cannot stop evil – it can only tell the people what is expected of them and exact punishment if one is caught acting contrary to the law. However, it appeared to Habakkuk that the law had become completely impotent to enforce its edicts upon the wicked. Without enforcement to back it up, the law is indeed paralyzed.
But God responded to Habakkuk:
Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.
For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans [Babylonians], that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own.
They are dreaded and fearsome; their justice and dignity go forth from themselves.
Their horses are swifter than leopards, more fierce than the evening wolves; their horsemen press proudly on. Their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swift to devour.
They all come for violence, all their faces forward. They gather captives like sand.
At kings they scoff, and at rulers they laugh. They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it.
Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!” (Habakkuk 1:5-11)
God is telling Habakkuk not to worry, that His judgment is indeed on its way, but it is coming from a source and direction that the prophet would never have suspected, the evil and violent Chaldeans.
Naturally, this is not the type of judgment that Habakkuk expected or wanted. Sure, he understood that his nation was currently steeped in unrighteousness and evil, but the Chaldeans were even more evil and were more vicious. Surely God would not use such a vile instrument to punish His own people! Habakkuk complained to God about the unfairness of using the far more evil Chaldeans to punish Israel, and God informed Habakkuk that His judgment was not going to fall immediately, but would happen when the time was right. And of course, this judgment was indeed carried out when God determined that the time had come.
We talked about this as we drove home from church. We concluded that this would be like God telling us that He was not sleeping, nor unaware of the egregious situation in our beloved nation, and to be assured that His judgment is coming but perhaps from a source or in a way we do not expect. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves, “Is ISIS on the way?”
This is not a thought that is pleasant to me or my sensibilities. I very much hope that our nation is spared any such horrible scenario. I would prefer that God just punish the evil people or remove them from our midst, so we do not have to watch this painful descent into darkness of the land that we love. But God doesn’t always view things as we do, and doesn’t always act in ways that we might prefer. Our nation has been greatly blessed by God, and protected from evil in many ways. People in this country used to generally recognize this. But it seems as if America has come to the conclusion that we no longer need God, and that no great evil can befall us. Unfortunately, many a powerful nation that has now passed from the scene held that belief as well. Are we saying that ISIS will attack and overcome the US? NO. We do not know what the future holds. ISIS could be soon destroyed by some other nation or groups of nations. We only say that as repugnant as the idea sounds to us, as well as to Habakkuk, God does use evil forces to carry out His judgments. As we witness the nation moving ever further from God and His word, it becomes ever more certain that judgment is coming and will come in ways we do not expect. It may be that ISIS will play a part in that judgment, or that some other evil will befall us. But we should be aware that God, while compassionate and slow to judge, will not forever tolerate our nation’s – and the world’s – rejection of Him.
Still, even as He speaks of judgment to come, God leaves Habakkuk with these comforting words:
“Note this: Wicked men trust themselves alone as these Chaldeans do, and fail; but the righteous man trusts in me and lives!”