Thursday, April 19, 2012

Just Because You're Victorious, It Doesn't Mean You're Better

We often equate victory with God's favor, but is that really the case.  I mean it makes sense to think that if God allows you to win, God likes you better.  It makes sense that good overcomes evil, but again, is that really the case?  We like to think so, especially living in America.  We see our strong military and our ability of overwhelm the defenses of a smaller country as some kind of indication that we are the good guys. We have a certain kind of arrogance that we are for whatever reason "liked" better by God than those so-called "evil" countries we invade.  But what does the Bible say?
"Look among the nations and watch--Be utterly astounded! For [I will] work a work in your days [Which] you would not believe, though it were told [you].
For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, A bitter and hasty nation Which marches through the breadth of the earth, To possess dwelling places [that are] not theirs.
They are terrible and dreadful; Their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves.
Their horses also are swifter than leopards, And more fierce than evening wolves. Their chargers charge ahead; Their cavalry comes from afar; They fly as the eagle [that] hastens to eat.
They all come for violence; Their faces are set [like] the east wind. They gather captives like sand.
They scoff at kings, And princes are scorned by them. They deride every stronghold, For they heap up earthen [mounds] and seize it.
Then [his] mind changes, and he transgresses; He commits offense, [Ascribing] this power to his god."  Habakkuk 1:5-11 NKJV
This should sound pretty unbelievable.  In fact, God warns Habakkuk to prepare to be astounded because he is about to hear something unbelievable.  God is raising up the Chaldeans, otherwise known as the Babylonians.  God raised up the Babylonians.  God raised up a nation we find synonymous with sin and evil.  God is allowing this wicked nation to flourish and dominate.  God is allowing them to have the victory.  Lest you think God is talking about a different kind of Babylon, let's see how God describes them. He calls them bitter and hasty.  He calls them terrible and dreadful.  They are conquering marauders.  They are violent, in fact, God says they come for violence.  They are unstoppable and God has no intention of standing in their way.  Even if that is not bad enough, God also says that they sin and give glory to their own false gods.  There is nothing godly about them.  They are a wicked evil people and they are coming for Israel, God's chosen people. 

Perhaps this makes little sense to you.  Why would God allow evil to flourish?  Why would God allow such a wicked nation to attain such power, even over God own people?  You are not alone, Habakkuk wondered the same thing.
Are You not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O LORD, You have appointed them for judgment; O Rock, You have marked them for correction.
[You are] of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, [And] hold Your tongue when the wicked devours A [person] more righteous than he?
[Why] do You make men like fish of the sea, Like creeping things [that have] no ruler over them?
They take up all of them with a hook, They catch them in their net, And gather them in their dragnet. Therefore they rejoice and are glad.
Therefore they sacrifice to their net, And burn incense to their dragnet; Because by them their share [is] sumptuous And their food plentiful.
Shall they therefore empty their net, And continue to slay nations without pity?  Habakkuk 1:12-17 NKJV
First Habakkuk worships God.  He reminds God of who He is and trusts that while judgement may be coming the nation will continue to survive.  He is trusting that Israel will not be annihilated.  Then he begins to argue with God.  He reminds God that His pure eyes can not look upon wickedness.  Then he says what we are all thinking: "Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, [And] hold Your tongue when the wicked devours A [person] more righteous than he?"  In other words, Habakkuk is saying that he knows Judah is bad (he began this book asking God how long He will allow Judah to continue to sin), but the Babylonians are even worse.  He does not understand why God would allow a greater evil to be the instrument of justice on the lesser evil.  Shouldn't the greater evil deserve judgement before the lesser evil?  He then pleads with God as to how long He will allow Babylon to succeed in their destruction of every nation they come against. 

I think the problem Habakkuk has is one that we all struggle with.  We have such a short view of history.  We forget one very important Biblical principle.
But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day [is] as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  2 Peter 3:8 NKJV
God looks at all of world history from beginning to end and we only see what is before our eyes.  I am sure for a time people thought that Hitler would take over the world.  Was he favored of God during his many victories?  Is God for the atheistic North Korean government?  Is God for the Chinese government who makes teaching about the Lord's return a crime?  Is God for the many empires throughout history who, though acts of evil and conquest, took over vast parts of the world?  The example of God using the wicked Babylonians to conquer His own people tells us otherwise.  God could have easily given Judah the victory, but He chose to give it to the Babylonians.  This was not to bless the Babylonians but to punish His people who turned against Him.  May we not make that same prideful mistake. 

It is easy for us to say that God is on our side while our military seems unbeatable, but all we really can say is that God is allowing us victories to further His own plan for the world.  It does not mean we are righteous or even favored.  It only means God has found some use for us.  We have this idea in America that our military is beyond reproach and that our motives are always fueled by righteous endeavors.  History has shown this not to be the case.  I am not against the military and I know many great Christians serve valiantly in defense of our nation.  I am pretty sure the majority of our soldiers fight with dignity and honor and have every best intention of defending our nation from all its enemies.  I know much of our military would sooner die in battle than allow an enemy invader to harm this nation.  Unfortunately, many of them fall for the same propaganda that the rest of us fall for when making that decision to go to war.  I am not going to comment on any particular war (or war we chose not to be involved in), but I am going to say that what we hear from our leaders is not always the truth. 

That said, we must accept each victory with humility and give the glory to God and not our soldiers.  Babylon made the mistake of crediting their own false gods and eventually paid the price for their error.   We must not think we are more righteous because we win or more favored of God because we are strong.  There have been many unbeatable armies throughout history.  Have you met a Roman centurion lately?  How large right now is the Grecian empire?  Have you ever even met a Babylonian?   Despite their might and all that God allowed them to do, they all ultimately fell to judgement.  Whereas none of those empire still exist, Israel still does.  The land each of them had a turn in conquering have all died while the land they conquered has been rebuilt and its people still distinct.  What looked to Habakkuk to be the triumph of evil all part of God's plan. 

And that is the point of today's post.  Whatever victories we may have, it is all part of God's plan.  It is not our great military planning, modern weapons, well-trained and motivated soldiers, or that God likes us better.  To be honest, if it has to do with any nation, I am sure it has to do with Israel and not us.  Our victories and defeats are not to serve our purposes or the purposes of any nation that should defeat us, but they are for the Lord's purposes and His plan for world history.  And you know what, that is exactly how we should all want it to be.         
Keep silence before Me, O coastlands, And let the people renew [their] strength! Let them come near, then let them speak; Let us come near together for judgment.
Who raised up one from the east? Who in righteousness called him to His feet? Who gave the nations before him, And made [him] rule over kings? Who gave [them] as the dust [to] his sword, As driven stubble to his bow?
Who pursued them, [and] passed safely By the way [that] he had not gone with his feet?
Who has performed and done [it], Calling the generations from the beginning? 'I, the LORD, am the first; And with the last I [am] He.' "  Isaiah 41:1-4 NKJV

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