This whole experience of reading the Bible all the way through is teaching me so much. Particularly, my slog through the prophets has really taught me how casually I view the Word of God. There are Christians worldwide who crave a Bible to read… and here I am, most days, thinking to myself “Ugh, how am I going to propel myself through the book of Ezekiel?”

Clearly, I need to pray for a heart that delights in all of God’s word – not just parts of it. But even though my attitude isn’t always in the right place, God is always blessing my reading with teaching. This week has been a really good example.

To set the stage a little bit, I fell off the obedience bandwagon HARD over the holidays. I ate sinfully, neglected my Bible reading, and neglected to pray regularly. I felt the Holy Spirit tugging on my heartstrings, asking me to come back. But it’s been a struggle. Kind of like being dragged out of bed to get back to school after a long holiday.

So, back to this week.

In my own personal reading, I was reading Ezekiel. As I mentioned, I have struggled to motivate myself to read all of the pronouncements of judgements on nations whose histories and geographies I only have a minimal grasp. But in Ezekiel 33, which is where I started reading this week, God gives some warnings which are a little more generally applicable:

“Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice, non of his righteous deeds shall be remembered, but in his injustice he has done he shall die.” (Ezekiel 33:13)

This was a good reminder of things I wrote about a few weeks ago, not to trust in works but Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

And then later this week, I turned to my BSF homework, where we are in Hebrews where I read:

“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of truth, there no longer remains an atoning sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgement, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” (Hebrews 10:26-27)

I thought about all the times over the last few weeks when I actively chose to ignore my Bible, or let my head hit the pillow without praying, or ate a second (or third!) cupcake (cookie, whatever) not out of hunger but out of perceived emotional need. And I started getting uncomfortable with my behavior.

And then, for my discipleship group, I read in 2 Peter:

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” (2 Peter 1:5-9)

… … … … woof.

I have decidedly not been supplementing my faith with self-control or steadfastness. I was not bearing fruit. I forgot that I was cleansed from my former sins. In fact, I returned to those sins with the full knowledge of judgement.

You hear a lot in evangelical circles these days that Jesus would leave the ninety-nine to find you, that when you’re lost and alone and afraid He would knock down mountains and break down doors to find you. All you need to do is look up, child!

Well, here’s the thing. Yes, Jesus will come and find you if you are His. But after Jesus comes and finds you, he tends to tell you everything you’ve ever done and it is not a comfortable experience. He wants you to know – like He wanted me to know – that my sin is real, and has real consequences. But praise be to God, who uses His scripture to cut our hearts with the knowledge of our transgressions, and calls us to repentance.

Inside out and upside down

In my continued march through the Old Testament prophets, I read through Habakkuk for the first time in my life. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even know Habakkuk was a book of the Bible until I was in college, and even after that I sometimes forgot it was there altogether, or else thought it was part of the apocrypha. Whoops.

But I know it’s there now! And, immediately I loved it. It starts:

How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?

Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
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 1:2-4)

Sometimes I feel like this. There are lots of things I observe that make me want to say, “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?”

There’s a line in the musical Les Miserables that I think of often when I watch the news or turn on social media:

“The law is inside out, the world is upside down!”

Doesn’t the world feel like this right now? Especially if you’re a Bible-believing Christian? Something is profoundly Not Right. The law is perpetually turned inside out. I know God is listening – but, honestly, sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like we’re in that space between Malachi and Matthew where there is no response whatsoever.

But! God responds to Habakkuk:

Look among the nations, and see;
wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
that you would not believe if I told. (Habakkuk 1:5)

Now, of course, God is responding very specifically to a very specific circumstance (specifically, the rebellion of Israel and Judah and the punishments they were in for as a result). But, I think there’s a general principle to be drawn from this, which bears out through scripture.

God is always doing something, and His justice doesn’t sleep. He is also eternal, and therefore His timing is not our timing.

When Habakkuk was inquiring these things of God, God was lining up events, people, cities, stars, and the rest of creation, for his son to be born in a lowly place in Bethlehem hundreds of years later.

Who would have believed it if God had told them?

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes 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,
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 3:17-19)

What an encouragement to hold on, trusting in God to fulfill his promises.