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How Long and Why?

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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August 5, 2020 4:00 am

How Long and Why?

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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August 5, 2020 4:00 am

Since God is all-powerful, why does He allow suffering? Alistair Begg begins this year’s Encore series by addressing this age-old question. Join us as we revisit some of Truth For Life’s most highly requested messages.


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It's a familiar and an age-old question, since God is all-powerful, why does he allow so much suffering and heartache in our world that are subject today on Truth for Life were learning. We can trust God in the midst of hard times as we begin a new series called encore 2020 revisiting the most popular messages of the past 12 months.

Now here's Alister invite you to take your Bible and turn in the Old Testament as to the book of Habakkuk to read just the first four verses the article that Habakkuk the prophet received. How long will the Lord must I call for help, but you do not listen or cry out to you violence but you do not see why do you make me look at injustice.

Why do you tolerate wrong destruction and violence are before me. There is strife and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed and justice never prevails. The wicked Hammon the righteous so that justice is prevented.

Father what we do not know. Please teach us what we are not, please make sense. What we have not, please give us for your son's sake on then I decided that it would be good for us to go to the minor prophets because they are so routinely neglected. It is important to recognize that when we reference this as one of the 12 minor prophets as their repair to the reason that they regarded as being minor prophets. In contrast to the five big ones is not in relationship to their content but is simply in relationship to their land, and in contrast with, for example, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel Hosea, and so on. The minor prophets are all far smaller than those larger books and when we study in this way in this little book of three chapters.

I don't think that we will have reason to regret the time that we spend the temptation for us, especially going into the Old Testament is to immediately assume that we are so far removed from the circumstances that are described in these chapters that they may well have nothing at all really to say to us, but in actual fighters were going to discover, although we are a long way away both chronologically and geographically, we are far closer than we may be prepared to admit when it comes to thinking in terms of the moral and the spiritual condition of the people of God as described here in these three chapters, and, as in all of our study of the Bible. We dare not jump too quickly to application. Last, we do not understand what it is were studying so before if you like. We bring have a kook to Cleveland. We have to go and meet him first in his own setting because it is only as we understand who and where have a kook was that we can then make any kind of sensible application to who we are and to where we are in the time that is afforded to us. We will notice just two things that pay attention. First of all to the prophet and then just say a word concerning the problem that he surfaces. First of all, the prophet, the article that have a kook. The prophet received. If you want. If you're taking notes and you look for subpoints.

The first subpoint that I wrote down is simply biographical content. Biographical content. What is the biographical content actually it is totally nonexistent.

As you can find have a code anywhere else in the Old Testament. At least I've been unable to find in and all that we know of him. We may derive from our study of these three chapters now that tells us something not simply about this individual, but it actually tells us something about the role of the prophet.

The role of the one who is raised up by God to speak to the circumstances of the times in which he lives to bring the burden of God's insights and designs to bear upon those who are his listeners and if you like, we may say, as with true preaching that the significance of the prophet is to be found in what he says or if you like that.

His biography nonexistent as it is, is subservient to the burden that he brings you so I don't understand burden will depending on your translation of the Bible you may have Oracle as the second word in the first verse, or you may have burden as the second word in the first I prepare the word burden. It's in the King James.

I think the burden that have a kook. The prophet received wasn't an Oracle yes but it was a burden. What was the burden, the burden of seeing things as per the insight that God had given him the burden of looking out at circumstances that others had seen but didn't see the significance of what they were seeing, and sulfur have occurred his credentials are all in his call. His significance is all in his sermon no time at all is taken up with personal introductions. Why, because the message is greater than the man and the message is always greater than the man. Despite our preoccupations in 21st-century America with personalities.

The message is always more significant than the man. All of my sermons preached and eventually grass. Their only significance is to be found insofar as they represent any dimension whereby the unerring truth and reliability of God's word itself finds an anchor in our soul, and hence we began with John the Baptist perhaps took you off guard and the asked John who are you, and remember his answers no, I'm not him well are you have no I'm not him. Are you him no, I'm not. And in their frustration they settle, come along now John were going to have to have something to put up on the screen.

We need something for our bulletin.

We need something to tell everybody how significant you are.

And remember, he eventually says I'm a voice crying in the wilderness. I'm a light that is shining for a little while, but he is the light of the world. I I I am a finger that is pointing in the direction of him and he must increase and I must decrease.

I think that's part of the significance of the absolute total absence of biographical emphasis here it it runs through the prophetic words actually know more about some than others, but even the things we know about the phone not that you found a compelling order. Amos, for example, in what is he have for his credentials is a keeper of fig trees and attender of sheep and now here we have at our conference this week. Amos now we we were going to put something in the bulletin about Amos, but really there's nothing much to put it.

Many had a few fig trees in the he was looking after sheep but is rather embarrassing, so we just we just left it out but I tell you what. When he stood to his feet and began to preach, it was all forgotten that there is an important lesson here, then I want to point it out, especially for young men who are here to feel that God may calling them to to the preaching role, let me tell you what the key is in one verse and is Isaiah 66 to where God says this is the one I esteem. He who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word that in the very core of the individual called to the task.

That is a genuine self effacement which understands the compelling nature of the call.

It says something not only concerning the individual, but it says something concerning the reality of that which is called to do to speak prophetically and to preach and I've been reading the most recent book by David Wells for these last few days and boring all my colleagues with quotes from it, but I have three more for you right now as it could do as the book draws to a close and I've I've slowed down to just about a page a day because of enjoying it so much and I will have a few pages left. This is this is what Wells is saying to the 21st century says preaching is not a conversation I chat about some interesting ideas.

It is not the moment in which postmoderns hear their own private message in the biblical words. One unique to each one who hears and then go their own way, no, this is God speaking. He speaks through the stammering lips of the preacher where that preachers mind is on the text of Scripture and his heart is in the presence of God. God, as Luther put it lives in the preacher's mouth. This is the kind of preaching that issues a summons which nourishes the soul which draws the congregation into the very presence of God so that no matter what aspect of his character, his truth is working in this world is in focus really with all gratitude, encouragement, and sometimes a rebuke.

We have been in the very presence of God. That is what great preaching always starts preaching lives between two worlds, the world of God's truth and the world we inhabit in our minds and daily life. If preaching does not bridge these two worlds effectively. The church inevitably stumbles where preaching negotiates these worlds there, one is likely to find spiritual authenticity. The biographical content almost totally lacking. Secondly, the historical context in which he speaks. We have more to say I could take you to various chapters but I'm not going to for want of time. I simply want you want to say to you that if you keep the picture of Daniel in mind and all that happened to Daniel when he was dragged away into Babylon you have in that timeframe, and in that incident, the fulfillment of that which have a kook is called upon to speak to his generation and what God burdens him with both to see and then to say finds the greater part of his fulfillment in those events concerning the invasion of Babylon and the captivity of God's people and if you want to delve into it. Then you will find that the king at this time was to hire Karen and if you look up Joy or Kim that will help you will take you into second Kings. And if you look in the prophecy of Jeremiah, you will discover that the same king Jehoiada Kim is mentioned therein. Jeremiah and gives to us the understanding that have a kook was a younger contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah. They didn't live at all of the same time, but he lived during the same year and it is out of that historical framework that this prophecy emerges so the prophet is biographical content is absent, the historical context may be discovered.

If you search of the Scriptures.

The problem that he surfaces is, therefore, is in verse two and following how long the Lord must I call for help or you do not listen but he is really describing here and surfacing is essentially the discrepancy between revelation and experience.

How can he reconcile what he knows of the character and purpose of a good and powerful God with all that he sees around him.

That's what he's asking, how can it possibly be that you will guard our good and powerful and yet violence and moral ineptitude and chaos conferences on every star at every point a collapsing economy diminishing productivity food shortage violence, social injustice and wholesale disregard for God's law just a run through that little list immediately says that somebody well maybe this business for isn't as far removed from from where we live as I thought collapsing economy diminishing productivity food shortage violence, social injustice and wholesale disregard for what God has said in his work. That's a problem is not, and you will notice in verses 2 to 4 that the problem was internal it what this wasn't a problem of the people who were outside the framework of God's family. It was those who were then within God's family when he is describing here is that God's people are very far from what God had designed for the when God put them together and called them out and establish them. He explained to them very clearly. All the plans he had for them and he says to them in Exodus 19. You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt and how I carried you on Eagles wings and brought you to myself.

Now, if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all the nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine.

You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, and these are the words are to speak to the Israelites and are they there are no there far from there.

The problem is an internal problem and the problem is a continual problem because it was no end in sight because it was no apparent intervention or action on the part of God. And when you look at those verses, you realize the problem is essentially twofold God's timescale verse two. How long is this going to go on. And God's tolerance verse three. Why do you make me look at injustice and why do you tolerate wrong. It's a very contemporary question is, is a question on the lips of every thoughtful believer. How long will this go on and why is it that this good God whom we serve this moral God that we serve this all-powerful God that we set tolerates declension in spiritual and moral dry rot amongst those who profess to be the followers of his son.

Well will have to wait until next time to begin to consider God's action, but let me just give you a couple of observations.

In conclusion, first of all, it would be helpful for us to follow the prophets example in learning to call on the Lord for help.

Notice what he's doing here. He's taking his complaint to the only place we are to take it, take it to the Lord. How long will Lord, must I call for help. This is something that's been going on for a while and he's calling at the right place. He recognizes what the psalmist says my help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. Secondly, we are to be thankful that God is not so unkind as to answer all our prayers when we won them answer is I said unkind, but God is not so unkind as to answer our prayers in our timeframe.

The delays of God. From our perspective are always purposeful.

He may be dealing with our selfishness.

He may be dealing with an area of disobedience in our lives. He may be delaying from our perspective in order to teach us how to trust him in the waiting room.

He may be actually saving us from ourselves, but surely a reason why the Bible calls us on frequent occasions to wait upon the Lord and then notice that God's delay in winding up history actually doing something dramatic is meant to lead men and women to repentance. When people ask why doesn't this God of yours, do something we need to learn to be able to say this God of ours has done something and tell them the story of the cross we need to be able to say this God of ours is going to do something and tell them about the bar of his judgment and we need to be able to say this God of the Bible is doing something and that is he is showing kindness to those who deserve his raw, in order that he might give them time to come to repentance. Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you towards repentance and finally we need to make clear to ourselves that the history of Habakkuk's era was under God's control and that that is true in every age. Learning to see that the events of our world with her and have a group stay or in our own day are all tied in their significance to God's eternal purpose and relationship to his kingdom. And if we will keep our gaze.

There focused on the gospel focused on this great good news focused on King Jesus focused on the fact that his perspectives on the unfolding story of world history are far more comprehensive than we could ever imagine.

And yet remain absolutely focused on the person of his son Jesus and of the triumph of his resurrection and the glory of his ascension and the absolute certainty of his return. Then all of our cares and all of our cancers.

All of our disappointments and all of our failures. All of our heartaches and heartbreaks and confusions may be brought under the all embracing security of God's sovereign part.

He understands when light Habakkuk, we cry out how long and why. And the answer of his word is finally given to us expressly in Jesus and in the triumph of Revelation allowing Christians in an earlier era to use words like these to help them as they went off to their work on a Monday morning.

God is still on the throne and he will remember his own, though trials may process and burdens the stresses he never will leave us alone. God is still on the throne and he will remember his own and his promises true. He will not forget you. God is still on the throne. The comforting message for challenging times.

Alistair Begg will be back in a minute with the closing prayer so please stay with us your listing to Truth for Life.

This is the first message of a new series called encore 2020.

This is something we look forward to each year as we take time to revisit messages that have been especially popular over the past 12 months which no you don't have to wait for encore to hear your favorite studies again. All of Alister's messages are available online free of charge. Many of them have transcripts available as well. We love producing clear relevant Bible teaching to help you grow in your faith toward that end, our team spends a great deal of time selecting books on biblical topics for you to add to your library this month were highlighting a book that is a little different from our normal offerings. It's a biography of a famous athlete.

Eric little you may recognize that name from the Oscar-winning film chariots of fire, the movie tells the story of Eric Lytle's victory in the 400 m race at the 1924 Paris Olympics a timeless moment in sporting history. Lytle refused to run the hundred meter is preferred event because the heat were held on Sunday and that's the Lord's day will Eric little story didn't end in 1924 learn about Moodle's decision to enter the mission field is faithful service to God while he lived in China and his eventual death in service to the gospel will send you a copy of the biography running the race as a thanks for your donation in support of this ministry. Give online at or call 888-588-7884 if you'd prefer to mail your donation along with your request for the book right to Truth for Life at PO Box 39, 8000, Cleveland, OH 44139. Now here's Alister to close with prayer.

Father, we thank you that your word shines light into their confusion and darkness of our days and we thank you that when we turn all these years back into the prophecy of Habakkuk as we delve into it and try to make sense. All that we find that it pushes is out, and on and on until we turn our eyes upon Jesus will look full in his wonderful face and the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and his grace we pray. Gracious God, that as we bring our questions and our concerns to remote find in you the answer that we so desperately require and in Jesus name we pray. Amen Bob Lapine hoping you'll join us Thursday for another encouraging message from encore 2020. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by truth for line Learning is for Living

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