The problem of evil

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The problem of evil                 

Habbakuk 1:1-4 The oracle that Habbakuk the prophet received. How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous so that justice is perverted.

Extra Reading: Habbakuk 1:1-17.    

The book of Habbakuk begins with a complaint. The prophet saw injustice, violence, and evil in his own country, yet God remained silent and invisible. Why didn’t God intervene? Why did he give no answer when Habbakuk called out for help? Habbakuk took these questions directly to God, in prayer. God answered him, but hardly in the way Habbakuk had anticipated. God said he was sending the Babylonians to punish Judah. God’ words described a ruthless, savage army that would tear Israel apart. So Habbakuk complained again. Could this be justice-punishing Judah through an even more evil nation? Deeply perplexed, Habbakuk waited to see what answer God would give to his second complaint. How long he had to wait, we do not know. But God did reply, and his answer is perhaps the best explanation we have of God’s attitude toward evil. It satisfied Habbakuk, so that his book, which begins with a complaint, ends with one of the most beautiful songs in the Bible.

God pointed out two certainties to Habbakuk. First, the violent, proud Babylonians would be paid back with the very weapons they had used on others. Just as they destroyed nations, they would be destroyed. “Has not the Lord Almighty determined…that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?” (2:13). Evil may dominate the earth, but it always wears itself out. The second certainty was God’s character. He may be silent for a time, but not forever. “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (2:14). In chapter 3, Habbakuk “saw” this powerful glory, and his heart pounded. It changed his attitude from complaining to joy. Because the future belongs to God, a believer can cling to the truth embodied in 2:4: “The righteous shall live by his faith.” Habbakuk beautifully expressed this attitude of faith in the last three verses of this book: no matter how hard this life might become, he would rejoice and find strength in the Lord.

Did Habbakuk explain why God allows evil? Not precisely. He did affirm that God has not lost control. Evil is moving towards its own logical end of self-destruction, and God’s glory will someday fill the earth. Habbakuk offers no proof of this, merely the record of God’s communication to him. A believer can find hope and joy through faith in God, regardless of circumstances.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we thank you that the righteous will live by faith. Thank you for helping us to find hope and joy through faith in God. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Rev. Samuel N. Modise 

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