Harold Kushner is a Jewish Rabbi in Boston. He wrote a book entitled, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”. He wrote the book to share a physical crisis that happened in his own home. His son, Aaron, was born with a disease called “progeria”. The doctors explained that this disease causes rapid aging. The doctors told the Rabbi and his wife, “Aaron would never grow beyond three feet in height, would have no hair on his head or any part of his body, and would look like a little old man while he was still a child and would die in his early teens”. The Rabbi goes on to explain how this diagnosis impacted him and his wife. They had been good people and had lived good moral lives, yet tragedy came to their home. It makes me ask the question, “why do bad things happen to good people”? I could give you dozens of examples of this happening over the years of my pastorate.

I think it bothers all of us when we see evil conquer good.  It is not just an issue in our physical and moral lives, but it has become an issue nationally. We watch as nations come under the influence of evil and immoral leaders. [think of Germany] The downward trajectory of our world has become an issue we cannot deny.

The nation of Israel is an example. As we read through Israel’s history in the Old Testament, we see this downward slide. One of Israel’s Prophets gives a perfect example. His name is “Habakkuk”, [the 35th book in the Bible] a little-known prophet with a very big voice. Habakkuk lived just prior to the time of the Babylonian captivity. Israel was on the slippery slope of forsaking all moral principle and God was sending the Babylonian army to imprison Judea. Habakkuk could not believe this news that came from God.
Listen to his prayer; “How many times do I have to yell help! Murder! Police! Why do you force me to look at evil, stare trouble in the face day after day? Anarchy and violence break out. There are quarrels and fights all over the place. Law and order fall to pieces. Justice is a joke. The wicked have the righteous hamstrung and justice stands on its head”. [Habakkuk 1:2-4 Message]

The prophet was deeply concerned as he looked out at the culture he lived in. He has a very frank message for God to come and take notice of what was happening. Intervene, please God!

God answers the prayer of the prophet in an unexpected way. “Something is about to take place and you are going to find it hard to believe. I’m about to raise up the Babylonians to punish you. Babylonians, fierce and ferocious– world conquering Babylonians grabbing up nations left and right, a dreadful and terrible people making up their own rules as they go along…they descend as vultures…they are out to kill. Death is on their minds. They collect victims as a squirrel collects nuts”. Habakkuk 1:6-9 Message]

As the prophet listens to what God intends to do, he cannot believe it. He is astounded at God’s plan of action against His own people. So, the prophet prays; “Holy God, we are not going to die are we? Are you saying you chose the Babylonians for your judgement work? Are you using them to discipline us? You can’t be serious! You can’t condone evil! So, why don’t you do something about this? Why are you silent now? This is outrage! Evil men are going to swallow up the righteous and you stand around and watch?” [Habakkuk 1:12-13 Message]

Have you ever felt that way? God stands and watches as our world get worse and worse, and trouble is our daily diet. God stands and watches it all, and evil triumphs over good.

How does the prophet respond to what God tells him? It is so picturesque. “What’s God going to say to my question? I’m braced for the worst. I’ll climb to the lookout tower and scan the horizon. I’ll wait to see what God says, how He will answer my complaint”. [Habakkuk 2:1 Message] So the prophet climbs up into his tower and watches to see what God is going to do.

I read a sermon every day as a part of my daily devotions. I read a sermon preached by F.W. Boreham, the great English preacher, who addresses this text. He compare Habakkuk to Thomas of the New Testament. They were both doubters and both climbed their tower to see what the future held. If God is in His heaven, why are things as they are? The earth is deluged in wickedness; the innocent are caught like fish in a dragnet; right is on the scaffold and wrong is on the throne.

There are three facets of the Prophet’s faith as he sits in his tower. First, I see the jealousy of his staggering faith. Why the watch tower? I spent two summers on a watch tower scanning for fires. The observer jealously guards his territory, knowing he has something to hang onto. He is jealous for it. Faith gets assailed. What we say we believe becomes assaulted. Is it worth going to the tower to see what God is going to do? Is your faith worth anything and worth fighting for? The prophet thought so.

There is also the vigilance of staggering faith. The prophet says, “I will watch…”. In my experience on a tower, watching became the purpose of being there. It was a vigilant task. The Prophet says, “I will watch to see if the Babylonians will really come. I am going to watch the future to confirm my faith”. There are issues that cannot be solved by any human means. We present the issue to God, but it is beyond our ability  to solve anything. After we present the issue to God, we go to the tower to watch what God is going to do. I will scan the horizon to see if the Babylonians are really coming. My faith becomes vigilant.

Then, there is the issue of the patience of staggering faith. This is challenging in this day when we expect everything to happen instantly. “Though it tarry, I will wait for it”. This facet is being  put into practice right now. The hunter heads into the woods for his animal. With patience, he waits…he waits with hope and patience. How long have you been on the watchtower? How long are you willing to wait for evidence of what God has promised.

We wait and watch from our tower for God to intervene in our world and in our lives. I do not know how long the Prophet waited for the enemy to come, but the day did come when Nebuchadnezzar and his evil forces broke the walls, burned the temple and thousand of God’s people were carries to a foreign land. The Prophet could not understand this, any more than Rabbi Kushner could understand why. Why does evil conquer good? Why do you allow it, God?

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