Any Complaints? Blame God!

Martin Goldsmith 

God is the Sovereign Lord of history and the just judge over all the earth. However, as Martin Goldsmith points out in his most recent publication, “such faith statements seem almost naïve in the light of what we see and hear on television and in the newspapers”. As we struggle to find God in the midst of recent events in Israel and Gaza, consider the wider threat of global terrorism or mourn because of injustice, oppression and sin within our own countries, we often struggle with the question, “Why doesn’t God intervene?” Habakkuk went through a similar dilemma in his day but the answer he received from the Lord was far from what he expected.
When Habakkuk complained about God’s inaction, the Lord told the prophet that he was going to act by raising up the Babylonians to judge Judah. Habakkuk was shocked and began to ask questions concerning God’s character and his eternal covenant with his people: Could Judah really be destroyed? What about God’s covenant with Abraham? How could a holy, righteous God be at work among a people who are as cruel as the Babylonians and use them to fulfil his purposes? Why does God sometimes seem to withdraw and be silent? Is there no end to the suffering God is bringing upon us?

The issues raised are those which resonate with many in the modern situation but Martin Goldsmith points out that, in questioning the Creator, our doubts need to be “bracketed by a deep inner assurance of God”. For this is how Habakkuk prayerfully approached God, and the prophet found himself reduced to silence. Drawing on that experience, Habakkuk was able to see a time when all the earth would be silent before the Lord! Martin Goldsmith describes this as, an “awe-filled silence as they see the splendour of God’s kingdom reign” and he adds, “What a vision!”

Any Complaints? Blame God! is much more than a commentary on the book of Habakkuk. Martin Goldsmith argues that Habakkuk‘s “pictorial teaching would fit well into the postmodern Western world of today”, and he goes on to assert that the Bible “gives little support to dry academic theological language in preaching or teaching!” Thankfully the author practices what he preaches, and his experience of his mission and first-hand knowledge of many cultures combine to fill this book with a wealth of interesting material. Whilst being thoroughly academic, it is rich in devotional material and is replete with anecdotes from across the world, containing quotations from sources as diverse as: David Ben-Gurion; Japanese theologians and missiologists; Harry Ellison; “liberal critics”; John Calvin; “a Chinese lady from Hong Kong”; Vinoth Ramachandra and "an Indonesian leprosy sufferer"!

This book is very practical and relevant, touching on topics such as the “blame culture”, the economic cost of sin, the trinity as a model of humble service and the ultimate purpose of mission. The Hebrew word studies that are scattered throughout the book are also intriguing and informative. For example, finding out that the Hebrew word translated as “creditors” or “debtors” (Habakkuk 2:7) actually means “those who bite” certainly adds a new dimension to the term “credit crunch”!

In addition, Martin Goldsmith’s ability to trace concepts from Habakkuk back to Genesis and forward to Revelation helps to enrich the reader’s understanding of the text in its narrower context. For example, the author parallels Habakkuk 2:14 –“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” – not only with Romans 11:25,26 – where Paul speaks of the full number of the Gentiles coming in and “all Israel” being saved – and also with the picture in Revelation 7:9 of a great multitude from every nation and tribe who stand before the throne and before the Lamb.

The author challenges us to look outward, to widen our gaze and see that God is indeed at work in our world. He points out that the Lord’s justice can represent more of a threat than a promise to his people, for justice leads to judgement. Peace will come but “only to those who won’t abuse it”, for the most important element is neither the judgement of sinners nor the salvation of the Lord’s people but rather “the glorification of the Lord himself”.

Any Complaints? Blame God! is an uplifting and God glorifying book that will, I trust, help Christians to rediscover the richness and relevance of the Hebrew Scriptures. Buy it, read it, and give it to a friend; or better still, gift it to an enemy!

Howard Fleming

Any Complaints? Blame God!
God’s Message for Today – Habakkuk the Prophet Speaks
Martin Goldsmith
Authentic Media, 130 pp
ISBN 9781850788126
Available from Authentic Media

An edited version of this article first appeared in the Spring 2009 edition of the Herald

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