Gazing at or laboring to get a glimpse at the Glory of God is the most practical thing anyone can ever do.
Habakkuk teaches us this well. One of the ways the small prophetic book of Habakkuk does this is its personal tone. Most of the other prophetic books are very impersonal, you don’t hear a lot about the prophet himself. Usually what we find is God speaking through the prophet to His people dealing with their sin. Habakkuk is not God speaking through His prophet to His people about their issues, it’s God speaking to His prophet, dealing with Habakkuk’s issues. It’s in this way that God means to encourage His people. You see Habakkuk had issues, questions, concerns, and problems that seemed so large, gigantic, and overbearing that it prompted Habakkuk to do what no prophet of God should ever do, complain.
Out of his own frustration rose two main questions he demanded God to answer: 1) God, where are You? and 2) God, why are You doing this?
Right away this is where the small book meets us. What in your life right now seems so large, gigantic, overbearing, and unresolvable that you find yourself growing angry, depressed, confused? Are these issues causing you to ask God the same questions Habakkuk was? I know it may be painful to do, but dig down deep, look over the walls you’ve built up, and get those things that have brought, or are bringing you pain, tears, and sleepless nights in view. Dredge them up from the pits you’ve placed them, put them in front of your face – and get ready, God is about to deal with them.
Here’s where were headed.
a) Habakkuk’s first complaint is 1:2-4, God answers in 1:5-11.
b) Habakkuk’s second complaint is 1:12-2:1, God answers in 2:2-20.
c) The entire third chapter is Habakkuk’s breathtaking prayerful response to God after seeing God respond to his own complaints. So that’s where were headed, let’s go there now.
Habakkuk’s First Complaint – 1:2-4
Right away perhaps some of you notice how similar this language is to the Psalms of lament, like Psalm 13 which start with “How long O’ Lord?” Clearly for Habakkuk the very fact that he is asking the question of “how long” means it has already been long enough. He is tired of living in a violent, immoral, idolatrous, and lawless society, and he is tired of talking to God about it and hearing nothing in return. He even goes as far as to call God “idle.” This is not good. It’s understandable, but it’s inexcusable to speak to God in such a bold accusatory manner. Will the Law ever be upheld? Will justice ever right these wrongs? The wicked surround the righteous, and to Habakkuk, God is nowhere to be found.
This honest anger at God is not rare in the Bible. Job also felt God was absent in the midst of his trials, Israel too in the midst of wandering through the wilderness. And isn’t it the case for you and I, that when we find ourselves in those moments of darkness, or where the clouds of sin (whether our own or another’s) are too thick to see through, or when you’ve prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed and haven’t heard anything in response from God, it’s in these moments where you and I tend to think like Habakkuk here, that God is idle, off on vacation somewhere and unsure of when He’ll return. Most of us can look back into our lives and recall moments where we felt as if we were at the end of our rope, where we only knew despair and gave up all hope. I know most of you have been there, perhaps some of you are just coming out of one of these seasons…perhaps some of you are there now. Just as He did in Genesis 1, into this hopeless despair and darkness, God speaks.
b) God’s First Reply – 1:5-11
In the darkness God speaks. But notice that this probably isn’t how Habakkuk thought God would answer is it? “If I were to tell you how wonderful My rescue is going to be, how I’m going to bring justice, and restore hope to My people, you wouldn’t believe it!” You can almost hear Habakkuk say to himself, “try me.” God says, “I will bring justice to my people, but I’m going to do it through your enemy – the Chaldeans (Babylon).” Perplexing isn’t it? How God answers the prayers of His people?
He answers, always answers, but He comes in His own timing and His own way. Isaiah 55:8-9 remind us that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and that His plans and purposes are higher than our plans and purposes. This would’ve challenged Habakkuk’s faith, and I think it challenges our own today – that God would bring about rescue and redemption and good through what we think of as evil? Proud and strong Babylon will come and judge Judah and Israel, and through this God will work out His grand plot. Joseph said as much after being sold into slavery, wrongly accused, and forgotten in prison. When his brothers found out who he was in Genesis 50:20 he responded by telling them, “As for you brothers, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about as it is this day.” What? So God uses the evil plans and purposes of men to fulfill His own good and perfect will? Yes.
The clearest example of this is the cross of Christ, sovereignly ordained by God to take place, yet carried out by evil and wicked men who wanted to kill the Son of God. Habakkuk, and we too, are being challenged to continue in faith despite what our eyes are seeing and despite what our hearts are feeling – God is always working, even when it seems the darkest. He is governing all events in history for the glory of His name and the good of His people. God’s providence is always purposeful, and always personal.
(Image courtesy of Gilbert Lennox Photography)