But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.” – Habakkuk 2:20
Depending on your perspective the Christ event, His advent drops into the chaotic ebb and flow of human history or the events of human history are simply the backdrop of God’s eternal purpose; the latter is certainly more likely, depending on your perspective.
Habakkuk is four chapters of grappling with the two most confusing questions on the planet. First, why does God allow ongoing evil, especially in the midst of God’s people; secondly, how does a holy God use an evil nation to discipline His own people. If God is holy how does He justify using evil? The problems have existed since the Fall of Adam and Eve. The challenge is understanding the mind of Christ.
My thoughts are simpler than that – if we look at human history as our starting point then Christ’s advent is an interruption in the affairs of human history. If we look at the Christ event from the vantage point of the architect of all life then this is a strategic incursion in God’s purposes which includes the ebb and flow of human activity. What is the point of these semantics?
First, if human history is our starting point then God is someone who jumps in periodically to change or alter events. If we begin from God’s perspective then the Christ event is one piece of the unfolding plan of God through time and eternity. It is not an isolated event that is to be glimmer of hope for a short life-span, it is the defining moment in eternity made visible in human history that radically changes everything. Most of this hinges around who we think has control of our destiny. Obviously we would like to think we control our fate but that would leave God inept to accomplish His purpose. If God is in control then we struggle with our claim- to free will.
But in a world with such evil, suffering and pain, there is a complicated issue that if God is in control, as Habakkuk observed, then how does a holy God deal with this evil and suffering? The extent of moral and natural evil overwhelms that which appears good and right. In Habakkuk’s context the Chaldeans, described as “fierce and impetuous, dreaded and feared, those who are an authority unto themselves are being used by God to discipline His own people (1:6-7).
The subject usually becomes excessively complicated and tedious but not irrelevant. Resolving such matters helps develop our confidence in God or it may undermine our faith. The normal struggle is reconciling His Sovereignty and our free will, which is difficult for our finite minds.
But the context of the Christ event occurs in the darkness of human history and the convoluted distraction of moral evil and a people of faith. It is, in fact, the very reason for Christ’s coming. Herod will choose to slaughter every child in the region under two years of age to protect his own interest. God uses this horror to provide no other option for Mary and Joseph but to flee into Egypt for their own well-being and to protect the Christ-Child. Events that seem totally driven by the human condition and yet, mysteriously fulfills the heart of prophetic Scripture (Hosea 11:1; Matt. 2:15).
We may not resolve the eternal conflict of how God operates and remains consistent with His own character but we do know that God is not afraid to step into the sinful mess of the human condition, saturated with selfishness, human pride, sin, evil and the sort and redeem broken human beings that are inevitably lost apart from His intervention. In the words of Habakkuk, “the Lord is in His holy temple, the earth keeps silent before Him.” He is still on His throne, He is working out His purpose.
When we consider Christ Advent we have to remember that although much of our understand may be shrouded in mystery, confusion and the blur of our finite understanding, there is a God who demonstrated His great love for us in such a way that He gave…. He gave His one and only Son… for the redemption of our lives. It speaks to the monumental and irresolvable depth of our need and the immutable perfection of His redemption – the Lord Jesus Himself.
May your Christmas cause you to reflect on His great love and mercy towards His fallen creatures… me and you!