The problem of evil is one of most difficult and troubling of all theological and philosophical issues. Why is their evil and suffering in the world? Why do good people suffer? Why do innocent people suffer?
Polytheistic peoples can explain the phenomenon easily enough. Different gods want different things. The gods are in conflict, and our own sufferings reflect the struggles of the gods. But while this explains the phenomenon, it doesn’t make suffering any easier to bear! The problem so troubling that Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, left his privileged lifestyle to seek an answer to the problem—and all of Buddhism is essentially an answer to the problem of evil. Now note that this is one of the worlds great religions—and all it really has to offer is a remedy for evil and suffering—not any promise of a blissful afterlife or anything else.
For monotheistic peoples, the problem of evil and suffering is even more disturbing. How could a good, loving, all-powerful God allow suffering and pain? Why in particular does he allow good people to suffer?
Book of Job offers one part of answer. But it’s important to realize that the author is not giving us a theological or philosophical explanation of evil. This is a more practical book: how do we deal with evil here? The author drives home the message again and again: the sufferings a person goes through are not always their own fault. This is an extremely important idea, both for those who are suffering and for those who are trying to help/comfort those that are suffering. Also, note how important this idea is in terms of Christian theology. Christ goes to the cross: what does that show? That he deserves it? “If he were not a malefactor, we would not have brought him to you.” “If he were not a malefactor, he wouldn’t have been forsaken by God.” One might think so except for books like Job. Ultimately, I think, Job is a very important foreshadowing of the Gospel. Put Christ in place of Job in the early chapters and you’ll see what I mean.
But Job a solution to the problem of evil in another sense. Simply reading this book is a comfort. *Why?
Lot’s of reasons: but particularly the end: the eucatastrophe, the unexpected but completely appropriate turn around at the end of the book. Job’s words about God are right, including, in particular, what he says about God: though worms destroy this body, yet I know that in my flesh I shall see God.
But also important is Chapter 31. A man ought to live in
this way: but it doesn’t seem to profit! I live my life as much as
I can by God’s rules, and (so it seems) the wicked are better off.
The righteous should be treated as Job had been in Chapter 29.
Job is a great comfort here.
And, I think, also a comfort in that the Lord does seem to accept Job’s laments as part of “the thing that is right.” You can express your sadness, misery, regrets to God without sin!
Well, on to Habakkuk.
Habakkuk is one of the minor prophets (short, not unimportant). Overlaps the time of Jeremiah, sometime before the Babylonian captivity. In some ways, the book is similar to Job. But, unlike the author of Job, this book is written from the prophetic point of view. It is, then, theological—and Habakkuk speaks (in part at least) not from merely the human perspective, but from God’s, and while it is a very brief book, it offers a pretty impressive theoretical answer to the problem of evil.
We see the basic problem of evil in Habakkuk 1:1-4 (rd.).
Note: message a “burden.”
*What’s Habakkuk’s basic complaint? (God isn’t answering his prayer)
*What evils particular bother him?
· Violence (hamas!)—essentially, cruelty
· Spoiling (destruction, robbery)
· Strife and Contention
· Law is slacked
· Judgment doesn’t go forth
· The wicked compass the righteous
· Wrong judgments (a justice system that does injustice rather than justice)
*Why do these things bother Habakkuk?
God’s initial answer is in 1:5-11.
You want justice Habakkuk? No problem. Just wait for a bit… I’m getting all set. Here come the Chaldaeans! (Revived Babylonian empire, stomps on Assyrians—extends empire everywhere: and this is God’s instrument of judgment! Other nations a joke: they “heap up dust” and take the strongholds.
Note also: “mind change”/their God gives them success (Marduk? Nebo?). Great Ziggurat rebuilt by Nebuchadnezzar.
There you go, Habakkuk. There’s the judgment you’ve been praying for. Satisfied?
Well, no—not quite. (Habakkuk 1:12-17).
Swiftness (p. 78, Documents from OT Times).
Compare to Moabite stone (p. 197, Doc. From OT)
P><A NAME="Nebuchadnezzar.Inscr.1.1"></A>[1.1] Nebuchadnezzar<BR>
[1.2] King of Babylon,<BR>
[1.3] glorious Prince,<BR>
[1.4] worshipper of Marduk,<BR>
[1.5] adorer of the lofty one,<BR>
[1.6] glorifier of Nabu,<BR>
[1.7] the exalted, the possessor of intelligence,<BR>
[1.8] who the processions of their divinities<BR>
[1.9] hath increased;<BR>
<A NAME="Nebuchadnezzar.Inscr.1.10"></A>[1.10] a worshipper of their Lordships,<BR>
[1.11] firm, not to be destroyed;<BR>
[1.12] who for the embellishment<BR>
[1.13] of Bit-Saggatu and Bit-Zida<BR>
[1.14] appointed days hath set apart, and<BR>
[1.15] the shrines of Babylon<BR>
[1.16] and of Borsippa<BR>
[1.17] hath steadily increased;<BR>
[1.18] exalted Chief, Lord of peace,<BR>
[1.19] embellisher of Bit-Saggatu and Bit-Zida,<BR>
<A NAME="Nebuchadnezzar.Inscr.1.20"></A>[1.20] the valiant son<BR>
[1.21] of Nabopolassar<BR>
[1.22] King of Babylon am I.</P>
<P>[1.23] When he, the Lord god my maker made me,<BR>
[1.24] the god Merodach, he deposited<BR>
[1.25] my germ in my mother's (womb):<BR>
[1.26] then being conceived<BR>
[1.27] I was made.<BR>
[1.28] Under the inspection of Assur my judge<BR>
[1.29] the processions of the god I enlarged,<BR>
<A NAME="Nebuchadnezzar.Inscr.1.30"></A>[1.30] (namely) of Merodach great
Lord, the god my maker.<BR>
[1.31] His skilful works<BR>
[1.32] highly have I glorified;<BR>
[1.33] and of Nebo his eldest son<BR>
[1.34] exalter of My Royalty<BR>
[1.35] the processions (in honor of) his exalted deity<BR>
[1.36] I firmly established.<BR>
[1.37] With all my heart firmly<BR>
[1.38] (in) worship of their deities I uprose<BR>
[1.39] in reverence for Nebo their Lord.</P>
<P><A NAME="Nebuchadnezzar.Inscr.1.40"></A>[1.40] Whereas Merodach,
[1.41] the head of My ancient Royalty,<BR>
[1.42] hath empowered me over multitudes of men,<BR>
[1.43] and (whereas) Nebo bestower of thrones in heaven and earth,<BR>
[1.44] for the sustentation of men,<BR>
[1.45] a sceptre of righteousness<BR>
[1.46] hath caused my hand to hold;<BR>
[1.47] now I, that sacred way<BR>
[1.48] for the resting-place of their divinities,<BR>
[1.49] for a memorial of all their names,<BR>
<A NAME="Nebuchadnezzar.Inscr.1.50"></A>[1.50] as a worshipper of Nebo,
Yav and Istar,<BR>
[1.51] for Merodach my Lord I strengthened.<BR>
[1.52] Its threshold I firmly laid, and<BR>
[1.53] my devotion of heart he accepted, and<BR>
[1.54] him did I proclaim<BR>
[1.55] . . . Lord of all beings, and<BR>
[1.56] as Prince of the lofty house, and<BR>
[1.57] thou, (O Nebuchadnezzar) hast proclaimed the name of him<BR>
[1.58] who has been beneficent unto thee.<BR>
[1.59] His name, (O god,) thou wilt preserve,<BR>
<A NAME="Nebuchadnezzar.Inscr.1.60"></A>[1.60] the path of righteousness
thou hast prescribed to him.<BR>
[1.61] I, a Prince, and thy worshipper<BR>
[1.62] am the work of thy hand;<BR>
[1.63] thou hast created me, and<BR>
[1.64] the empire over multitudes of men<BR>
[1.65] thou hast assigned me,<BR>
[1.66] according to thy favor, O Lord,<BR>
[1.67] which thou hast accorded<BR>
[1.68] to them all.<BR>
[1.69] May thy lofty Lordship be exalted!<BR>
<A NAME="Nebuchadnezzar.Inscr.1.70"></A>[1.70] in the worship of thy divinity<BR>
[1.71] may it subsist! in my heart<BR>
[1.72] may it continue, and my life which to thee is devoted<BR>
(<I>Continued on Column 2</I>)</P>
<P><A NAME="Nebuchadnezzar.Inscr.2.1"></A>[2.1] mayest thou bless!</P>
<P>[2.2] He, the Chief, the honorable,<BR>
[2.3] the Prince of the gods, the great Merodach,<BR>
[2.4] my gracious Lord, heard<BR>
[2.5] and received my prayer;<BR>
[2.6] he favored it, and by his exalted power,<BR>
[2.7] reverence for his deity<BR>
[2.8] placed he in my heart:<BR>
[2.9] to bear his tabernacle<BR>
<A NAME="Nebuchadnezzar.Inscr.2.10"></A>[2.10] he hath made my heart firm,<BR>
[2.11] with reverence for thy power,<BR>
[2.12] for exalted service,<BR>
[2.13] greatly and eternally.</P>
Habakkuk’s complaint now: yes, we’re bad. But do we deserve this? How does it help matters to have an even more unjust power sweep over us?
(Cf. U.S. now. Trade towers judgment of God?) Is there a single reason God should bless America? Should not allow us to go through what Russians, Japanese, Germans, Chinese, Africans, etc. go through????)
Note Habakkuk’s attitude (vs. 1). There is an answer. I’m going to wait for it. A key, a think, to the problem of evil.
Answer to Habakkuk’s complaint: Chapter 2. (Rd. 2 in groups.)
*How is this an answer?
(Woe to those that give neighbor drink to look on their nakedness—kind of appropriate to sexual assault awareness week!)
2:20—Lord is in His Holy Temple: even though earthly temple destroyed!
Key verse: just shall live by faith (2:4). Not Luther’s “justification by faith only” here. Instead, a connection with what’s preceeded: vision for an appointed time, wait: it will come: the just lives by this faith: being obedient, living a righteous life knowing that eventually it works out. And this is enough for Habakkuk. Can handle the evil and injustice of the present and the future if, ultimately, justice is done.
Habakkuk closes (fittingly) with prayer/balances the complaints of the first Chapter.
--prayer for mercy amidst wrath
--vision of judgment
--sun and moon still (Babylonian gods!)
Finally: even when everything goes wrong, there is an ultimate source of joy. (Vs. 18). I will rejoice in God.
My feet—like hind’s feet on high places.
Much in the world to be discouraged about (what makes you discouraged?).
But, ultimately, justice is done—and, again, we have the eucastrophe.
The sudden, unexpected, but completely appropriate and joyful turn of event.