In this knowledge, there is peace.
By Peter Bunton
The circumstances of the world, indeed of our personal lives, are constantly changing. At the macro level, we see wars, times of economic flourishing, and times of recession. More recently, the whole world is going through times of constraint due to a global pandemic. Even in matters that seem overtly spiritual, some of us may be experiencing revival and numerical growth, while others are experiencing opposition and retrenchment.
Ever-changing circumstances are nothing new. During the centuries chronicled in the Old Testament, we see the people of Israel experiencing peace and prosperity at certain times and war, subjugation, and exile in others. The Old Testament is a series of writings in which people express their jubilation as well as lament. Yet as we read through the centuries of the people of Israel and their journey with God, we see a common theme: an appeal to God as One bigger than the transitory circumstances in their national life.
The book of Habakkuk begins with the prophet’s complaint over the circumstances of the world in his day: “Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (Habakkuk 1:3-4).
Affliction, Betrayal, and Terror
What must it have been like for the people of Israel in exile? We read of their difficult circumstances in the book of Lamentations. This book speaks of affliction, betrayal, and terror. Neither Habakkuk nor Lamentations ignores the painful circumstances. Yet, in the midst of this, there is always something that points to God and His ongoing involvement in their lives. Even in the lamenting, we also hear of God’s never-ending compassion, goodness and forthcoming salvation (Lamentations 3:22-26). Furthermore, in the midst of significant world upheavals mentioned in Habakkuk, the bigger picture of an almighty God who is able to accomplish His purposes is highlighted: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). This theological perspective enables Habakkuk to turn from complaint to reverence. Even while experiencing great calamity, Habakkuk can say, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:18-19).
It can be difficult to discern what is happening in our world. This is compounded when many voices around us seek to give their conflicting explanations. Sometimes, perhaps all we can do is come back to the very truths of the nature and character of God as revealed to us in Scripture. Therein, we receive reassurance and peace that God is bigger than what we are seeing or experiencing.
History is leading to an ultimate telos, or end, which is the glory of God and the coming of His Kingdom it its fullness. In this knowledge, there is peace.