The God You’d Never Expect (Habakkuk)

Category: Brad's Posts

God Writes Straight With Crooked Lines

Habakkuk is one of the jewels of the Bible, with some of the most aching dialogue recorded between God and man.  It’s those brutally honest questions that identify us with him – he becomes our spokesman, saying publicly what all of us have asked privately.

This is important, because the God you’d never expect is more than an idea to kick around; it’s an acceptance, grudging at times, that there are few tidy theological bows at the end of our theodicy.

After the kingdom was divided, and a remnant deported to Babylon, Israel was at the bottom of the well – and Habakkuk was troubled by the fact that in His sovereignty, God, who cannot look upon evil, would nevertheless use it through the Babylonians to bring about justice.

“Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.  Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?  Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”  (1:13)

In Habakkuk’s understanding of the merit system, there was bad and there was worse.  But, even deep within the Old Testament, we discover a God of grace.

“Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked; but the righteous will live by their faith.”   (2:4, italics mine)

Someone once said, “God writes straight with crooked lines.”   While the divine plan for salvation is a straight, unchanging line leading us directly to God, in His mercy He brings about that perfect salvation through very imperfect means: us.  Through the crooked, meandering, backtracking lines of our lives, even leveraging our sinful, human choices, God’s plan will not be deterred.

Habakkuk discovered that it’s not about who’s bad and who’s worse:  it’s about the grace of God that draws all sinners back to Himself, despite our detours and rabbit trails.  I think this is why Paul quotes this verse in both Romans and Galatians, in his construct of grace:

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”  (Rom. 1.17)

Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”  (Gal. 3.11)

God’s answer to Habakkuk isn’t the one he wanted, but it was the one he needed – the answer all of us need.

“These things I plan won’t happen right away,” God says.  “Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled.  If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.”   (2:2-3)

In other words, I’m on it.  In the words of the great theologian Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Until then, “we walk by faith, not by sight,”  and we eagerly wait for the time when “…creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”  (Rom. 8.21)

Amen.  Come soon, Lord Jesus.