Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Aug 19, Hab 1-3.

Today's readings are Habakkuk 1-3. Tomorrow's are Jeremiah 41-45.

Habakkuk is written somewhere in Jeremiah's time, probably around 620 BC, perhaps earlier. It comes after God uses Assyria to discipline Israel and before God uses the Babylonians/Chaldeans to discipline Assyria and then Judah. The over-arching theme of Habakkuk is God's sovereign authority in using wicked nations to accomplish His divine will in the lives of his chosen people, then judging those evil nations for their wickedness. As Habakkuk accurately prophesies, Babylon will capture God's people, then will be judged.

Habakkuk is another graphic portrayal of the tension between sovereign election and human responsibility. God is completely sovereign over all the events of history. However, human beings are completely responsible for their actions and will be judged accordingly. 

This point is hard for us to reconcile. As a result, many try to rationalize God's actions with explanations that always fall short of what we know the character and nature of God to be. Many explanations rob God of His sovereign authority, "God would never allow that to happen. Evil is outside the will of God.", leaving Him helpless to the whims of evil men, nature and Satan. Others deny God His omniscience, "God does not know what's in the future  because He has given man free will and man's decisions have not yet been made.", leaving Him powerless in the face of the will of man. In truth, many people are uncomfortable with God being sovereign over everything and everyone in creation. The sin of self-determinism and its pitfalls can be traced all the way back to the Garden. 

However, in books like Habakkuk, we hear that God raises up kings and nations to be used in refining His people, then judges those same kings and nations for their behavior. How can this be? Does God judge on behavior?

We see exactly the opposite in the Scriptures in the story of the Jews. Time and again, it is God's grace that determines their fate, not their behavior. If their fate depended on their behavior, they would fare no better than the Chaldeans. The sole difference between the Jews and the Chaldeans is the Jews have been chosen as God's vessels. The Chaldeans have not. As such, it is never the Jews behavior that earns God's grace. Their status is based on God's sovereign election and the transformation He effects in their hearts (Ez 36:26). Why does God choose the Jews? It is His prerogative (Ex 33:19, Rom 9:15). We quickly see that it is the changed heart that is the evidence that they have been chosen. They have a new passion and reverence for God as imperfect as they are. Without grace, without the changed heart, they remain doomed. 

As the story line of the Bible progresses, we see that the heart of every Jew has not been changed, only some. Only those with changed hearts will be redeemed. Their changed hearts will be demonstrated by their faith and their desire to please God. Some of those examples show up in Heb 11. 

If we understand this, it should be wonderful news to those of us who name Jesus Christ as Lord and savior. We have been chosen as well, not by our behavior, but by the grace of God. We don't have to conjure up new hearts, God gives us new hearts as gestures of His grace. Those new hearts are the evidence, the guarantee that we are saved. Yes, at times, our behavior is not in harmony with our new hearts. Those times are reminders that God is still working on us. When they occur, we thank God that His grace is not dependent upon our behavior, but on the work He is doing in us. 

The Assyrians, the Chaldeans, the Babylonians and every other person who opposes God, rejects His only Son and lives in a constant state of rebellion against God are not doomed by their behavior, but by their evil, unregenerated hearts. God has not doomed them to Hell. Their sin dooms them to Hell. They're not, in any way, victims of anything but their own desires, victims of their own evil hearts and God judges them righteously. Those who receive new hearts are judged according to the gift of grace they have received in and through Jesus Christ. 

When we see His grace as that slender thread that rescues us from eternal flames, a thread that comes to us not because of our behavior (Rom 3:23) nor because we have good hearts (Jer 17:9; Mark 7:21)  nor because we made a correct decision (Rom 9:14-18) but merely becasue He is God and has the right and authority to save whom He will save, we will fall to our knees in eternal thanks to Him for saving us. 

No comments:

Post a Comment