Last week I indicated that as we approach Christmas, we will look at some stories of Jesus’ descendants which are not beautiful at all. The main aim of this study is to remind us of God’s greatness, grace and faithfulness as we marvel at how God is able to overcome evil with good.
The story of Tamar which is recorded in Genesis 38 interrupts the wonderful story of Joseph. It is an ugly tale of cheating and unfaithfulness. Yet from it, we still see God accomplishing His will. Please take your time to read it.
Briefly, Tamar pretends to be a prostitute and seduces her father-in-law, Judah to sleep with her. The child that is born from this adulterous union, Perez, happens to be a great grandfather of Jesus Christ. Could God have stopped this from happening? Yes, He could. But why did He allow it? He alone knows best.
However, we can still see from the story that God can use the imperfect things of the world to bring out something perfect. Tamar and Judah were sinful and failed miserably to reach God’s standards. But God stooped in his grace and reached out to them and through them brought out a perfect savior. Those who are in this Savior including Tamar and Judah are counted perfect and righteous basing on the Savior’s righteousness. This is the amazing grace of God.
There is a song that was done by one of our local musicians, Lucius Banda. In the song, the musician asks this question: “You who believe that God ordained everything that comes to pass in this world, tell me, did God really ordain that we should suffer?”
I believe that many share this musician’s concerns. Of course, we may understand that God is not the source of the evil that goes in this world, but we still wonder why He allows evil in this world.
This is the same struggle that Prophet Habakkuk experienced. He knew that God is sovereign. By saying that God is sovereign, we, basically, mean that God is in full control of what happens in heaven and on earth. He carries out all that he wills and nothing can stop His plans. In other words, when we say that God is sovereign, we mean that God is God.
Now it is easier to say and believe that God is sovereign when things are going on alright but in hard and difficult times, our theology is tested. Habakkuk also struggled with the truth of God’s sovereignty when his nation, Judah, experienced evil and violence.
It is believed that the book of Habakkuk was written just before the people of Judah were taken into captivity in Babylon. It was written at the time when one of the evil kings of Judah, Jehoiakim was ruling and this is believed to be between 609-598 B.C. During this time, the kingdom of Judah experienced moral and spiritual decay. People were breaking the Covenant law of God as they willed. Everyone did as he pleased. Violence and injustice prevailed in the land and Habakkuk cried to the Lord in 1:1-4:
O, LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will you not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife, and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth; for the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.
In other words, Habakkuk was saying, God you are good and sovereign, but why do you allow evil, injustice, violence and destruction to occur in this land. How long should I cry for help, Lord?
Then the Lord gave a response in 1:5-11. In summary, God tells Habakkuk that He is not just sitting idle looking at evil in the land of Judah rather He is raising up the Chaldeans or the Babylonians whom He will use to punish the Kingdom of Judah.
Now, the mere mentioning of Chaldeans or Babylonians did not please Habakkuk because these people were even more evil than the people of Judah. Habakkuk did not hesitate but to question God’s wisdom regarding this development. He reminded God that He is too holy to look at evil, why would he then allow an evil nation of Chaldeans to punish God’s own people of Judah?
It is interesting that God did not answer all the questions of Habakkuk. God just told Habakkuk that after He has used the Chaldeans to punish Judah, He would later destroy the Chaldeans and turn their glory into shame (Habakkuk 2:16). God also assured Habakkuk that through what He would do to Judah and the Chaldeans the earth would be filled with the knowledge of His glory (2:14).
After this response from the Lord, Habakkuk was humbled by God’s greatness. He learned that God’s ways are not our ways. He also reaffirmed, in his heart, that indeed God is in full control of whatever goes on in heaven and on earth hence he turned into prayer and worshipped God (3:1-16). Again, notice that Habakkuk worshipped God even though all his questions were not answered. Towards the end of his book, Habakkuk shares with us what a true understanding of God’s sovereignty will do in our lives.
First, an understanding that God is sovereign will bring joy in our lives even though we are passing through hard times. Hear what Habakkuk says in 3: 17, 18:
Though the fig tree should not blossom Nor fruit be on the vines, The produce of the olive fail And the fields yield no food, The flock be cut off from the fold And there be no herd in the stalls, Yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
This is what the realization of God’s Sovereignty does in our life. It brings us joy in the midst of hardship because we realize that God is bigger than our challenges. We can rejoice in the midst of those harsh times because in all things, God works the good of those who love Him and of those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
This is the uniqueness of Christianity. The joy in our hearts does not depend on what is surrounding us but it comes from our faith in God. The storms may rage, but our joy remains steadfast because God perfectly holds the whole world in his hands.
Secondly, when we understand that God is sovereign, we are filled with strength. This is what Habakkuk says in 3: 19:
GOD, the Lord, is my strength. He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places
While some people when they hear that God is in control of everything in heaven and on earth tend to believe that then there is no need to do anything but just seat and watch what God is up to, those who fully understand God’s sovereignty are filled with strength and have a reason to spring into action because they know that God is guiding their steps and He will use them to achieve His intended purpose.
God is in full control. Let this truth give us a reason to go on in life without being discouraged. Let’s know that as God’s children we are not lost in the midst of confusion or hardship we may find ourselves in. Rather, we should be courageous and strong by knowing that even in that confusion and hardship, God’s strong hand is leading us as that Hymn writer wrote:
Sometimes ’mid scenes of deepest gloom,
Sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom,
By waters still, o’er troubled sea,
Still ’tis His hand that leadeth me.
He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful foll’wer I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.
I would like to wrap up with the story of a man named William Cowper. This man was a Christian poet and a composer of hymns but he often struggled with depression. One day at the age of 32, he struggled with a very serious depression and he thought of committing suicide. He took poison, but it didn’t work. He then tried to fall on a knife, but the blade of the knife broke. Two weeks later he tried to hang himself but was rescued before dying.
Then one morning, not knowing what to do, Cowper turned to the Bible and read the entire book of Romans. After reading it, he composed the famous hymn, God moves in a mysterious way. I would like you to pay so much attention to what the third and fourth verses of the hymn say:
You fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
That’s our sovereign God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Behind a frowning providence, he hides a smiling face. This is why I love the fact that He is sovereign.