Sunday, 15 December 2019

Hope in the midst of political turmoil

In the book of Habakkuk the prophet wrestles with the great question of 'Why?' when considering the things are happening, and are to happen in his land. In personal anguish he first cries to the Lord over the idolatry of the people around him, burdened by the wickedness which he sees, and his sense of how the wicked seem to prevail over the righteous. When the Lord reveals to him his intention to use the Chaldeans as the means of judgement Habakkuk is equally perplexed; why does God permit such a wicked people to overcome God's people and to devour 'the man that is more righteous than he'. Habakkuk's concerns at the prophecy of the Chaldeans' advance are not unfounded, for the events which the Lord revealed to him are such as will bring untold political turmoil to the land of Judah, to the extent that the whole country will be annexed by the Babylonians and the great city of Jerusalem razed to the ground.

These same concerns can be shared by many of God's people in our own day when political upheavals occur in the land. Regardless of our political views there are few of God's people who cannot look around them and see an increasing rejection of God and his law. Like Habakkuk our cry is 'how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save'. Yet political anxieties can also be tied in with the spiritual concerns which we have; no doubt Habakkuk feared for the very future of the people of Israel, that they would be subsumed into the Babylonian kingdom which did 'not spare continually to slay the nations', and would exist no more. When political events seem to turn against us, and our very political and national identity seems in peril, where do we find our hope?

In answering Habakkuk's concerns the Lord does not fill him with a false hope that the coming judgement on the land will be stayed, or that Jerusalem will not fall before its enemies. God does not promise the continuance of our current political and constitutional conditions. What he does provide however are the deeper truths that give real and lasting hope, as opposed to a hope that is only vain and wishful. God reminds Habakkuk of two great things which are important for us to recall today; that his purpose wil be fufilled and his true people preserved, and that although God may use the wicked in his own divine will, they will ultimately be destroyed.

Habakkuk 2:4 contains the great words repeated in the New Testament, and pivotal in the conversion of Martin Luther, that 'the just shall live by his faith'. In spite of all that would be suffered by the faithful remnant in Jerusalem, they would continue to live by faith in the precious promises of God. They knew that although the judgement of God may not immediately fall on their enemies, and that deliverance may not be swift, yet it was nonetheless certain, for the Lord promised that 'the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry'. We know what God has promised concerning his church, that he will build it until every soul foreordained to salvation has been gather in, and will present it spotless before the Father. Let us not allow the temporal events of our day to cause us to lose sight of God's eternal promises. The faithful of Habakkuk's day had that great promise that the Messiah would one day come from the line of David, and by faith they could maintain that belief regardless of what came of the Chaldean's invasion. Whatever may come of political developments in our land, nothing can hinder the eternal promises which God has given to his people, and which will long outlast any political change which we might see in our life. It is in the light of Hebrews 11:16 where God's people are spoken of as those who 'desire a better country, that is, an heavenly' that we must consider all our national and political allegiances. That heavenly country is one that can never be taken from us, nor be stained by the evil intrigues of men.

Although the Chaldean's would be allowed to prosper for a time as an instrument of judgement in God's hand, their time of judgement would likewise come, the warning given of them that 'Because thou hast spoiled many nations, all the remnant of the people shall spoil thee'. There is not an enemy of the church today who will not one day fall before God, as totally defeated as the church is totally triumphant. Every one who has succeeded against the people of God in time, will be utterly cast out in eternity, and every bitter experience that Christ's people have had, will vanish away forever in the light and joy of his glorious presence. Habakkuk's faith in God providence did not leave him in a state of resignation to blind fate; we find him praying in chapter 3 that God would '
revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy'. Whatever may happen around us we have God's promises, and we also have prayer.

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