The theme of god using evil nations for his own good is extended by Habakkuk, One of Jeremiah’s contemporaries. When Habakkuk cries out to God for justice (1:2-4), God’s response is that he will bring the Babylonians (whom Habakkuk call the Chaldeans) to punish Judah (1:5-11). But Habakkuk pushes this answer, and asks God how he can tolerate using such an evil nation for his purposes:
13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil, and You cannot tolerate wrongdoing. So why do You tolerate those who are treacherous? Why are You silent while one who is wicked swallows up one who is more righteous than himself? (Hab 1:13)
Though Habakkuk waits patiently, God does not directly answer the question (2:1). Instead, God proclaims that he will judge the Babylonians (2:2-20). There is no answer to how God can use evil for his own good, and yet remain holy. But the simple fact remains that he can, and he still is. And what is Habakkuk’s response? He does not seek to enforce God’s judgement on Babylon, instead he sings a psalm recognising God’s complete sovereignty over all of his creation (3:3-11) and his ability to bring about his own justice (3:12-16). In the mean time:
17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will triumph in the LORD; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! 19 Yahweh my Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights! (Hab 3:17-19)
When suffering, Habakkuk does not seek to end it, instead he rejoices in the God who is strengthening him every day, and will bring about his salvation in his time.
(H/T to Jim French’s excellent chapel sermon at Youthworks College on Tuesday. I’ll convince you yet, Jim 🙂