Thursday, August 18, 2016

What We Cannot See

     I listened to a podcast by one of my favorite preachers Alistair Begg.  He was discussing the book of Habakuk and how it appeared to him that God was not listening to his plea for justice and deliverance for the people of Judah.  The book opens with a cry from the prophet:  "O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?  Or cry to you 'Violence!' and you will not save?" (Habakuk 1:2).  This could well be said even today with all the sin running rampant in our world.  Who among us has not wondered in our hearts why God doesn't instantaneously swoop down and destroy the wicked and restore order.  Like the Prophet Habakuk who questioned what seemed to him to be God's delay, we feel as though God is merely sitting idly by while wickedness seems to win the day.  However, God is never idle.  He was at work then, and is at work now.
     In answer to Habakuk, God says in verse 5:  "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."  God had a plan quite different from what Habakuk had hoped for.  The Prophet wanted the people to be brought back to righteousness and revival, but God was planning justice and judgment on this wayward people.  God's ways are much higher than ours and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).  We cannot see the whole picture, but we do know that our Lord is good and brings things to pass for the welfare of His people.
     As I considered Habakuk's complaint and God's reply, I could not help but think of other men of the Bible who could not understand how God worked behind the scenes until He showed them.  First, we remember the story of Gideon in Judges 6-8.  He was a man called upon by God to defeat the Midianites who had held power over Israel for seven years as a judgment from the Lord.  When the people cried out to God, He chose Gideon to be the champion who would lead them to victory.
     Upon reading the story, we know that Gideon was anything but a bold man.  However, he was obedient and called together men from various tribes to fight the enemy.  He was seriously outnumbered but God told him to limit his army to 300 men.  They were to carry a trumpet and a torch hidden in a pot.  At the right moment, they were to break the pots so the light shone brightly and blow the trumpets.  God did the rest.  When the trumpets blared and the pots were broken, the enemy was surprised and the Lord caused them to turn on one another with the sword.  As the army fled, more of the tribes of Israel attacked them to won the victory.  I cannot imagine any general using this type of strategy to win against the enemy.  However, God worked behind the scenes doing what Gideon and his men could not see.  Their job was to trust in the Lord to win the battle for them.
     A second Bible hero and Prophet Elisha comes to mind when we consider not being able to see what God is doing behind the scenes.  In this instance, the people of Israel had been raided by the Syrians who were warring against them.  Elisha warned the King of Israel which infuriated the King of Syria.  He wanted to seize Elisha so he sent a large army to surround Dothan.  The Bible tells us that when Elisha's servant stepped outside there was a large army surrounding the place.  He asked Elisha what they should do and the prophet replied:  "....Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them" (2 Kings 6:16b).  Elisha asked God to open his servant's eyes to see the reality of the situation.  When the Lord did this, the servant saw on the mountain chariots of fire and horses.  This heavenly army was there to defend Elisha.  Then, Elisha asked the Lord to strike the enemy with blindness and when they could not see, the prophet led them to the king of Israel in Samaria.  No battle occurred.  Instead, there was a feast held and after this, the Syrians left.
Certainly this was not the end of the story and more can be read concerning the Syrians.  However, in these two cases of Gideon and Elisha, God was at work behind the scenes.
     What we must take away from these true stories is that God is constantly at work on behalf of His children.  It may not be evident to us or follow our timetable, but we can rest assured that God is unfolding His plan in this world.  He is sovereign over ALL the affairs of men.  Therefore, no matter how things may look or what circumstances we may face, the ongoing story of God's grace and provision for His people continues.  He never ceases, is not weary, never slumbers and always is the rock upon which we can depend.  Take encouragement from Habakuk, Gideon and Elisha.  Our God is a mighty God and He will do all according to His good pleasure.  To Him be the glory!

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