Though the Fig Tree Does Not Bud Dan Lightfoot1471
(The problem of God & violence)
Be assured we are not talking about the "why". That's a separate question & response. You must build an argument to answer why.
Violence is a reality that plagues our existence.
But be assured: God calls us to peace.
A. In 1900, at age 56, one of the most renowned German philosophers died. He was Friedrich Nietzache. His father & both g-fathers were preachers.
1. But he was a strong skeptic. Popular on U. campuses.
2. He popularized the phrase "God is dead." He surmised that the philosophical blade of the skeptic had plunged into the heart of theism, & God was bleeding to death.
3. But he understood the ramifications of that faith and stated: "If God indeed has died in the 19th century, two things will happen in the 20th century. # 1, a universal madness will break out; and #2, it will become the bloodiest century in history."
4. Both prophecies have turned out to be true. He knew that where God is loved and followed, there would be peace. And where God is not there is violence and destruction.
5. One was true in his own life since he spent his last 13 years in an insane asylum. He would spend days in silence with his godly mother at his side hoping for some kind of response. Then, ironically, he would erupt into words, often passages of scripture he had learned as a child.
B. So here we are. The 20th century has passed & we are at the beginning of the 21st. And for most of us, violence has touched us as never before. We've seen the madness & do not know how to define the vital realities that shape our lives.
1. We debate when life begins. We do not know what life essentially is. We debate the possibilities of exterminating life at will as if it is meaningless.
2. The problem of violence is real. Terrorism is nothing new. It has just burst upon us because of the magnitude of the attack on America.
a. But imagine the terror of a black family whose house has been surrounded by the KKK -- & a husband & father being dragged out & hung for a crime he was innocent of.
b. Imagine the terror of a young woman, kidnapped, raped, murdered
C. God raised the problem of violence in His holy Scriptures.
1. It invaded the first family out of jealousy…(Cain & Abel)
2. 100's of years later a prophet named Habakkuk came on the scene.
a. Prophets usually spoke to the people for God, while priests represented the people to God.
b. But Hab. had such a deep struggle in his own mind, that he needed to ask God a set of questions.
D. Look at them with me. Hab. 1:1-4.
1. It's important to see how the question is raised & to understand the context … Because God never answers in a vacuum.
2. & he often questions the questioner so that He can answer in context.
3. God's answer fits Habakkuk's context. Perhaps we can make some application to our own. 3 questions:
I. "Why is God Silent & inactive?" (1:1-4)
A. I have often wondered if Hab. tho't violence was limited to his context, or if he tho't the question would have pertinence to our time.
B. Think, for e.g., of the last 4 centuries in the microcosm of Europe.
1. 17th century. 3.3 mil. killed in battle. 18th: 5.2 mil. 19th: 5.5 mil. 20th: thru 1970 -- 28 mil. & counting
2. That's Europe alone. Doesn't count the purges of the USSR (60+ mil.) & of China (60+ mil.)
C. There are defining moments in all our lives. Sept. 11, 2001 was one.
1. We hear of massacres in Sudan, terrorism between Catholics & Protestants in No. Ireland, & in Israel.
2. But on Sept. 11 we realized it has happened to US. & it could happen to ME.
3. It was a day of awakening: (an email noted)
a. On Monday some were against prayer in schools. On Tuesday it would be hard to find a school where there was no prayer.
b. M-- separated by race, sex, color, creed.
T--we were all holding hands.
c. M--athletes were heroes. T--we relearned what heroism is.
d. M--some were fighting 10 commandments on Gov't property.
T--same were saying, "God help us" while thinking, "Thou shalt not kill".
e. M--we thought we were secure. T--we learned better.
4. It was a day of paradox.
a. It sent a nation, bent on leaving God behind, to its knees in prayer.
b. We have been hearing from liberal news anchors, Congressmen, Senators, Governors, educators, authors & professors proclaiming their dismay at the attack. Most of them have lobbied for & supported unlimited abortion rights, moral relativism in our schools, doctor assisted suicide, the removal of God from our schools & public square. But now, paradoxically, they describe the events of Sept. 11 as wrong, absolutely wrong, and evil.
D. In Habakkuk's day Israel was corrupt. Law was not enforced. Selfish lawyers & cruel officials. Innocent were found guilty. Injustice. Evil. Violence.
E. God's answer: v. 5 -- I am doing something. You just can't see it yet.
1. "Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days -- You would not believe it if you were told."
2. Our faith in God must always overrule our sight. What I know is greater than what I see.
F. "How long, O Lord, How long?" But it was not just violence that Hab. railed about. He kept it in the context of injustice.
II. How Long Must I Look At This Injustice?
A. Plato said: "Justice is the firmest pillar of good government."
1. If justice crumbles, government is destroyed.
B. Aristotle: "Justice alone, of the virtues, is taught to be another's good because it is related to our neighbor, for it does what is advantageous to another, either a ruler or a co-partner. Now the worst man is he who exercises his wickedness both towards himself & towards his friends. & the best man is not the one who exercises his virtue towards himself but he who exercises it towards another. For this is a difficult task. Justice in this sense then, is not part of virtue, but virtue entire. Nor is the contrary injustice, a part of vice, but vice entire."
1. What he was saying in his own secular philosophizing is this: Justice is the core virtue of all virtues. It is not just part of being virtuous.
2. If that's even close to being true, think of what happens in our time.
C. Someone put it in these words: "Ours is an age where ethics has become obsolete. It is superceded by science, deleted by psychology, & dismissed as emotive by philosophy. It is drowned in compassion, evaporates into aesthetics, & retreats before relativism. The usual moral distinctions between good & bad are simply drowned in a maudlin emotion in which we feel more sympathy for the murderer than for the murdered, for the adulterer than for the betrayed, & in which we have begun to actually believe that the real guilty party, the one who somehow caused it all, is the victim & not the perpetrator of the crime."
1. Listen time & again to our courts of law. I don't want to pick on one profession--many noble people are in the profession… but law has almost become a setting in which men can manipulate ideas with verbal skills & intellectual skills & make a shambles of justice.
2. Truth has almost died in our law courts.
a. Robert Shapiro, after the "trial of the century", looked Larry King in the eye & said, "We weren't interested in the truth. The truth was not an issue we were wrestling with."
b. And we have become so used to injustice, that the justice of God has become a problem for us. & people don't believe God is just!
D. Habakkuk decries the violence. And then says, "What about all the injustice I see?"
1. For injustice brings its own kind of violence. Injustice is a terrorist activity, too. It is just a legal way of doing it. And the innocent and helpless have no recourse, no appeal, and no hope.
2. How long, O Lord?
III. What About the Evil That Surrounds Us?
. Unthinkable evil surrounds us, too.
1. Even secular, nonreligious people were astounded when a 17 year old young lady at a graduation dance went to the wash room, gave birth to her baby, put it in a plastic bag, suffocated it & put it in the trash. Cleaned up, went back to the dance floor & asked the band to play her favorite song so she could dance to it.
a. A cleaning woman found it…
b. Article after article wrestled with the dilemma of how one could walk away without any semblance of feeling whatsoever.
B. Hitler once said: "I want to raise a generation of young people, devoid of a conscience, relentless & cruel."
1. Perhaps our world today has done a better job of it than he did.
2. I so thank God that our young people have escaped that defilement. That here is a generation that is led by conscience, relentless in seeking righteousness, and kind to a fault.
3. And yet, young people, your very innocence will make you victims, just as it did Jesus, because there is evil in this world.
4. It is relentless. It is cruel. And it has no conscience.
C. Habakkuk was brilliant in his thinking. He didn't just explode before God & talk about violence. He raised the 3 questions of violence, injustice, & evil. And God begins to respond.
IV. God Responds In A Series of Questions
A. Read 2:18-20
1. Men need to see, to touch, to understand, to be in control.
2. So they make gods they can see, touch, understand & control. Perhaps of wood or stone, but most likely of philosophy, or science.
3. But God says they are all actually made of lies & wishful thinking. There is no breath in them, no voice, and no power.
4. And no matter what happens in the world, God is still there.
5. The questions come:
a. "Where was God when that girl suffocated her baby?"
b. "...on Sept. 11?"
6. "Hush before Him, all the earth. The Lord is in His holy temple."
a. He is where He was when His own Son died on the cross for you.
b. He is in charge.
c. He is where He was when the Chaldeans invaded Habakkuk's people in vengeance for their violence, injustice, & evil.
d. He is where He will be when we stand before Him in judgment.
e. He is where He is now, holding out salvation and deliverance to you. Freedom from your sin, a place in His family, a hope of heaven.
B. Steve Turner, Journalist from the UK -- Mocking the philosophies we have poured into the lives of our youth.
"We believe in Marx, Freud & Darwin. We believe everything is OK as long as you don't hurt anyone to the best of your definition of hurt, & to the best of your definition of knowledge. We believe in sex before, during, and after marriage. We believe in the therapy of sin. We believe that adultery is fun. We believe that sodomy is OK. We believe that taboos are taboo. We believe that everything is getting better, despite evidence to the contrary. The evidence must be investigated, & you can prove anything with evidence.
"We believe there is something in horoscopes, UFO's and bent spoons. Jesus was a good man just like Buddha, Mohammad, and ourselves. He was a good moral teacher, although we think His good morals were actually bad. We believe that all religions are basically the same, at least the ones that we read were. They all believe in love and goodness; they only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God and salvation.
"We believe that after death comes nothing, because when you ask the dead what happens, they say nothing. If death is not the end, then the dead have lied, and then it is compulsory heaven for all, excepting perhaps Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Khan.
"We believe in Masters and Johnson. What's selected is average. What's average is normal. What's normal is good. We believe in total disarmament. We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed. Americans should beat their guns into tractors, and the Russians will be sure to follow. We believe that man is essentially good; it is only his behavior that lets him down. This is the fault of society; society is the fault of conditions; conditions are the fault of society. We believe that each man must find the truth that is right for him & reality will adapt accordingly; the universe will readjust; history will alter. We believe that there is no absolute truth, except the truth that there is no absolute truth. We believe in the rejection of creeds & the flowering of individual thought."
"If chance be the father of all flesh, disaster is his rainbow in the sky. & when you hear 'State of Emergency', 'Sniper Kills Ten', 'Troops on Rampage', 'Youths Go Looting', 'Bomb Blasts School', it is but the sound of man worshipping his maker."
C. So, where is God? Where He has always been. It is we who have strayed.
1. God is! Of what value is an idol? Or an image that teaches lies?
2. "The Lord is in His Holy Temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him."
3. Two weeks ago the heart of our nation was penetrated. The nation was unusually united by shock and grief. Our anger has burned hot. Our patriotism has soared. We have united in prayer. We have stood in silence.
4. May it not stop there. This could be the spark that ignites a return to values long lost, and to an explosion of faith.
5. "The Lord is in His Holy Temple." And He invites you to live with Him there. Come to Him in a confession of faith. Come to Him in penitence over your sin. Come to Him in the death & resurrection of baptism. -- Let all the earth keep silence before Him."
Prof. Nathan at the U. of N.Y. had a student ask, "Sir, how do I know that I exist?" To which the prof. answered, "And who shall I say is asking?"
"If a tree falls in the forest with no one there to hear it, does it make a noise?" Why do they think about that?
Thankfully a Christian philosopher responded to the question.
"There was a young man who thought God
Must find it exceedingly odd,
When he sees that this tree continues to be
When there's no one about in the quad.
Young man, your astonishment's odd.
I am always about in the quad.
And that's why this tree will continue to be
Since observed by, yours faithfully, God."
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