Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

When Under Siege

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 1:10-11

Humans will have their god.  If it is not the true God, in whose image we are made, it will be an idol made in our own image.  I do not know that anyone is irredeemable.  I tend to think that even the worst of us can live by the grace of God, and that, … as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men (Romans 5:18).  Nevertheless, the unrighteous and the wicked, like the poor, will likely be with us always. 

Habakkuk learned that not only does God allow those who reject and deny Him to live, sometimes He allows them to overcome the godly and the righteous.  As I look around at the world today, I see honor given to those who lie and deceive, concupiscence celebrated, violence and bloodshed glorified and exalted.  Meanwhile those who would follow Christ in obedience, meekness and humility are scorned and ridiculed when they are not directly oppressed.   God has not abandoned His world or His people, but I understand where some might begin to wonder and doubt. 

Though the prophet himself seems to question how it is that a wholly pure and holy God is able to … idly look at traitors and [remain] silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he (Habakkuk 1:13), he knows that there is what is called the ineffable mercy of God.  The Lord, as we are told elsewhere, takes no delight in the death of the sinner.  He is long-suffering that all might repent. 

If, as the determinist Christian might think, God already knows who will be saved and who will be condemned, this space for wickedness would have to have some other purpose.  It might be argued that evil makes the goodness and glory of God more triumphant and radiant as darkness, by contrast, makes a candle more visible.  Rather, I say, the light of God overwhelms the flickering candle of human righteousness as a clear sun rise swallows the light of a lantern.  I believe that God gives us this liberty to decide, to choose, and to freely obey or disobey in His light. 

As there is room for freedom between God and man, so there is action and reaction in the relationship of the righteous to the unrighteous.   It may be that our patience and faithfulness in the face of unjust treatment will be the opening of the door upon which Christ knocks.  I wonder sometimes if more sinners have not been delivered by one who held his tongue than by the most eloquent sermons.  I believe Francis of Assisi said something like that.  

Sometimes, the child of God recognizes the need for correction in his own heart:  O Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof (v.12).  The wickedness that surrounds and even attacks us should make us better, drive us closer to God, and encourage us in our pursuit of holiness.  It is not meant to destroy us, and it will not.  This is where we say, “God is in control.”  He sets the limits.  We shall not die (v.12). 

We may ask – I ask, speaking of persecution or just trouble in general, What have I done to deserve this?  On the other hand, I ask the same question when I look upon the Cross and the infinite grace and mercy of God in my life.  I did nothing to merit that.  Oppression, pain and suffering do not always come because we have sinned in some specific way.  Yet, pain comes.  We can feel sorry for ourselves.  Or, we can embrace the fire and allow it to further refine and purify us.  I know a lot of people who are far better and holier than I am, but I know none living perfected in this world. 


USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"We can feel sorry for ourselves. Or, we can embrace the fire and allow it to further refine and purify us. I know a lot of people who are far better and holier than I am, but I know none living perfected in this world."

Well said, brother! As you mentioned earler in your post, actions speak louder than words.
How we respond to the fire and pain doesn't just affect our own lives in. relationship to God.

Are we lost in the tumultuous sea of self pity or do we sail upon the see of God's mercy and grace, strengthened by His love, forgiven by His blood and guided by His Spirit?

mushroom said...

It's what we have to ask ourselves, indeed. Thanks, Ben.