By the time I was a senior in high school, I had been wearing a necktie on Sundays since I was fourteen. That means I learned to tie a necktie when I was fourteen.

One day I was sitting in the classroom that Edna Elmore used for her English classes. It was free time. There were four of us in the room talking. Three were trying to tie a suitable knot for the neckwear of a dress uniform in the Navy.

They were not succeeding. Each time they tried to tie that tie, it was a mess. Each time I would say, "Use a Full Windsor knot." Over and over the same thing happened. They would try. The tie would be a mess. I would say, "Use a Full Windsor knot."

Of course, the whole time I was trying to sound like I really knew what I was talking about. And, of course, I did not. Finally they handed me the tie. I tried to tie what I had been told was a Full Windsor knot. The tie was much too thick for the knot, and all I produced was another big mess.

How often have we said, "I would not do it that way"? The translation of that statement: "That is the wrong way to do it. If I did it, I would do it the right way."

Quite often, we, in so many words, say, "God, I do not understand the way You do things. More often than not, You simply confuse me with the way You do things. It is very evident to me that Your way will not work. I cannot understand why You do not understand that."

  1. There is an old saying that declares, "Hindsight has 20/20 vision."
    1. When you look from the present back into the past, you can see everything clearly with perfect vision.
      1. You can look back and see so clearly what other people should have done to avoid problems or to make mistakes impossible.
      2. If you are honest with yourself, you can always look back and see what you should have done or could have done.
        1. Very few of us would refuse to change the past if we could.
        2. Why? It is simple. When we look back, we always see with 20/20 vision.
    2. While we can look into the past and see so clearly, we cannot see into the present as clearly.
      1. We rarely see the present as clearly as we see the past.
      2. We never see the future as clearly as we see the past.

  2. When we look at God's actions in the past, we can see so clearly what God was doing and marvel at God's wisdom.
    1. But those people [for whom our past was their present] really struggled to understand what God was doing.
      1. Abraham and Sarah struggled to understand why God waited so long to keep His promise and give them a son.
      2. Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, and Jacob never understood why God decided to work through Jacob instead of Esau.
        1. It certainly was not because Jacob was such a godly man!
        2. It certainly was not because that was the way things were done!
      3. Surely there were times when Jacob's family wondered why God brought them to a home in Egypt through ten brothers selling Joseph into slavery.
      4. Surely there were times when the nation of Israel wondered why God led them to the promised land through the desert when there was a perfectly good highway that went along the Mediterranean Sea.
    2. Looking back, we see clearly what God was doing.
      1. God wanted Abraham and Sarah and, later, Israel to understand that God, and nothing else, made it possible for Abraham and Sarah to have Isaac.
      2. God used Jacob and not Esau because God wanted them to clearly understand that the living God does things His way by His choices--He is sovereign.
      3. God rescued Jacob's family from a famine through the work of Joseph because God wanted Israel to understand that God, alone, took care of them, and nothing else.
      4. God took Israel through the wilderness because He wanted Israel to understand that they could depend on God for every need.
      5. It is not difficult for us to look back and see what God's purposes were--we have the advantage of 20/20 hindsight.
      6. But it obviously was confusing and unthinkable to those who lived the experiences.

  3. Nothing changed.
    1. The apostles and the few remaining believers did not understand the crucifixion.
      1. To them, the crucifixion made no sense.
      2. To them, what made sense was to make Jesus the physical king of Israel.
      3. To them, not even the resurrection made sense.
      4. How could God use a dead man who was resurrected to produce a kingdom?
    2. It makes sense to us because we look back on the events, and we have the explanation.
      1. We have the advantage of 20/20 hindsight.
      2. But it did not make sense to those who experienced the moment.
    3. Just look at us.
      1. Looking back, we understand what God was doing in Abraham's life, and it makes sense.
      2. Looking back, we understand what God was doing in Jesus' death, and it makes sense.
      3. But how many times do we think, "God, whatever are you doing?"
        1. "You are making a mess out of my life!"
        2. "You are not responding to my prayers!
        3. "Your answers to my prayers do not make sense!"
        4. "What you are doing does not make sense!"
      4. We have great hindsight, but we are almost blind when we look at the present.

  4. Allow the prophet Habakkuk to teach us a powerful, needed lesson.
    1. The situation:
      1. Things had been very evil for a long time.
      2. Wicked conditions were getting worse.
    2. "God, you are not doing anything" (Habakkuk 1:1-4).
      1. "Judah is filled with wickedness and violence."
      2. "Conditions are horrible."
      3. "I cry out to You about it, but nothing happens."
    3. God answered Habakkuk (1:5-11).
      1. "I will do something very soon."
      2. "When I do it, you will be utterly amazed."
      3. "I am sending the Babylonians (Chaldeans) to destroy Judah with horrendous violence."
    4. Habakkuk was dumbfounded (1:12-17).
      1. "The Babylonians are horrible, ungodly people."
      2. "How can a holy God use such an unholy people to punish people who are not as wicked as their aggressors?"
      3. "The Babylonians catch nations like a fisherman catches fish in a net."
        1. "They are mean and they are successful."
        2. "Then they worship their net and call it their god."
        3. "Will the Babylonians just go on slaying nations forever?"
    5. Habakkuk declared that he will sit in his guard post until God explained Himself (2:1).
    6. God's answer (2:2-20).
      1. "The righteous person lives by trusting me."
      2. "All I will explain to you is that the Babylonians will also pay the penalty for their wickedness."
    7. Habakkuk responded to God's answer in a prayer (3).
      1. "God, You are too glorious and awesome for me to figure out."
      2. "Dealing with this world's wickedness is Your business, not mine."
      3. "You are God; You are the Sovereign of the creation; and it is not my place to question how You work."
    8. Habakkuk's decision:
      Habakkuk 3:16-19 I heard and my inward parts trembled, At the sound my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones, And in my place I tremble. Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, For the people to arise who will invade us. Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the Lord, will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds' feet, And makes me walk on my high places.
      1. Habakkuk had no doubt that God would do precisely what He said He would do: the Babylonian army would violently, horribly destroy Judah.
        1. He was so certain that it would happen that he trembled inside.
        2. He was so certain that it would happen his lips quivered and he felt like his bones were rotten.
      2. Habakkuk said that he would just wait for it to happen--what a horrible experience that must have been!
      3. He understood the righteous person lived by faith; he would trust God.
      4. This was his decision:
        1. If all the crops fail and there is no food;
        2. If all the livestock die (which meant if our entire economy failed);
        3. I will rejoice in my God.
        4. No matter what happens, my God is my strength.
        5. I will trust God, even when I cannot understand.

[Prayer: God, may we let You be our strength. May our faith not depend on our physical well being, but on our relationship with You. May we live by faith. When we cannot comprehend Your ways, may we not reject them.]

If God revealed to you personally how He would respond to the growing evil in this nation in the future, it would blow your mind. If God revealed to you personally how He would respond to the wickedness in your extended family in the future, it would blow your mind. If God revealed to you how He would respond to the indifference and ungodliness in your immediate family in the future, it would blow your mind.

If God revealed that personally to each one of us, let me predict what our most common reaction would be. "How can the holy God use those methods to address that wickedness?"

If you could know what would happen because of wickedness in our nation and our families, and if it shocked and astounded you, what would you do? Would you understand, "Righteous people live through every experience in life by trusting God."

Is that what you would do?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 3 September 2000

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