Thou Art of Purer Eyes

“Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, And canst not look on iniquity: Wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, And holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?” (Habakkuk 1:13, KJV)

Habakkuk the prophet had a clear picture of God’s character. He recognized God as pure — certainly too pure to behold gross iniquity… and especially the type that the Chaldeans were dishing it out. Knowing this, Habakkuk wondered, “Why does God put up with so much evil?” The prophet used the analogy of a fishing net to describe the enemy’s effectiveness. He noted well the success-driven arrogance shown by their burning of incense and making sacrifices to their false gods. Habakkuk was indignant. He made a strong argument to God that these people were pagans, and that they were overrunning his people! By implication, Habakkuk asked God, “Why don’t you stop them?”

One cannot plow through the Minor Prophets without seeing that God used evil, pagan and arrogant nations to punish Israel, but Habakkuk drilled down deeper still. He made pleas to God while citing God’s intrinsic purity. He said in effect, “How can you, a Holy God, stand still and abide all of this unholiness?” God certainly wants his holiness recognized and proclaimed — indeed, he protects it jealously. In fact, he cannot even abide sin's presence! But if God himself cannot even be in the presence of sin, how does he deal with a world that is positively dripping with it?

If God’s holiness has an imperative, it is that sin must be judged and punished. Fortunately for his holiness, God can accomplish this without being in its presence. How? He uses sinners to punish other sinners. All earthly judgment works this way. And since no one on earth is holy, no one has the right to complain about the soil, unpleasant though it may be. This is a God-ordained process to help keep us safe and secure. But even beyond the justice systems of our relatively civilized nations, God often uses evil nations to oppress his people — yes, even his chosen people — and why not? Do not even earthly fathers punish and thereby correct their children? And isn’t God more exacting?

We humans try to punish righteously. After all, we are created in God’s image, and as such, we have his proclivities. The difference is that God is holy, and everything he does he does to ultimate perfection. We stumble along by comparison. That being said, we must never project our own personal limits over onto God’s dealings with his people of any age. Although his ways may be substantially like ours, God does all things with perfect holiness, this by definition. We never do, this by experience.

Additionally, when God established the physical universe, he established time. Every experience of every human takes place in time and over time. This works to our advantage, but especially with sin. You see, God established limits on the effects of sin by limiting the human life-span. After Adam and Eve’s fall, God revealed that the current earth with its subsequent burden of sin should also have an end, but note this well. The fact that time is running out for a sinful world is a blessing and not a curse for humankind. Would you want to live with a failing body for an additional hundred years? Would you like to see what happens if evil were given an unlimited time to proliferate? Or is enough enough!

God uses time to work his purposes. The fact that he is patient with our imperfections is no proof that he will suffer evil forever. There is a length of time that is exactly right between the offense and the recompense, and he who sees with purer eyes knows what that length of time is. And it is a fool who does not reconcile to God as soon as possible.

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