The last few months have been marked by a lot of change… most of it not what we hoped for. We are at a time of much uncertainty, and an apparent turning away from the principles and morals that have guided us as a people and a nation over the years. In the secular world, this shouldn’t be too surprising.
Our trend is toward violence and a loss of value of human life. Freud claimed there were two forces at work in the psyche, the Libidinal, or life drive, and the Thanos, or death drive. The Apostle Paul said that there were two wills at war within him: the old nature that was Hell-bent and the new nature that yearned for God. It was so powerful that Paul said he had to put it to death daily. Sadly, more and more people are choosing not to fight. If they are not partaking in the self-destruction, they are trying to find scapegoats rather than address the human condition.
In the nation of Judah, sometime around 621 BC, a temple prophet named Habakkuk was complaining to God about this very same state of soul within his nation. He was asking God one of those questions that has the potential, when answered, to make you wish you hadn’t asked.
He asks God the same question my oldest put to me last week: “Why does God allow evil to go on?” Answer: really complicated. I’m tempted to say, “go ask Mom”–just kidding. God has a plan that is bigger than our understanding of the times that we’re in. His ultimate goal is to bless His people, but sometimes He has to remind them that they need Him.
At the beginning of chapter one, Habakkuk is impatient for justice because all around him, he sees corrupt leadership and the wicked prospering. God has a plan. Oddly enough, that plan involves the Babylonians. If we were looking for an analogy for the use of the Babylonians as a disciplinary tool, they are about one step short of God hitting the reset button. They aren’t the nuclear option, but they’re no slap on the wrist. After conquering a country, they would take the leadership as slaves back to Babylon with fishing hooks through their noses. The people that were left in the land would be displaced and moved to a part of the country they weren’t familiar with so there was no sense of place or permanence, and all the wealth of the land would go to Babylon.
In chapter 1 verse 12, Habakkuk asks God, “You what? With whom? I know how bad I said we were, but these are idolaters–where’s Your mercy for Your chosen people?” In Habakkuk 2:2,3 God lays out His plan. He tells Habakkuk “you’re going to have to be patient. I know they’re idolators, I know they’re bad. In due time, their wicked deeds will be visited back on them.” In the following verses, he describes Nebuchanezzar’s pride and Belshazzar’s drunken carousing. With eerie accuracy, God describes the end of the Babylonian empire and the yet unwritten future of His people.
In chapter two, God gives Habakkuk two pieces of reassurance. In 2:4, he tells Habakkuk, “My righteous one shall live by faith.” This verse is so important that it is quoted in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:37. The idea being that no matter what was going on, the righteous live by their trust in God, not mankind or circumstance. The final bit of reassurance He gives him is in verse 20: “the LORD is in His holy temple, let all the earth be silent before Him.”
Habakkuk wraps up with a prayer of praise which puts any Hollywood depiction of the power of God to shame. If Hollywood tried to recreate the prayer, they would exhaust their budget. The scope is unimaginable. God is crushing the evil and shooting out rays of light. He is riding down His enemies in a vengeance ride that would put Wyatt Earp to shame.
Habakkuk ends the prayer in verses 16-19 in a way that sounds right up to date with our day. He says he will wait patiently for the LORD’s justice to be fulfilled even if things seem bleak. In verse 18, he says, “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD. I will be joyful in God my Savior.” In verse 19, he reminds us of who should be in our driver’s seat: “The sovereign LORD is my strength. He makes my feet like the feet of the deer, He enables me to go on the heights.” This reminds me of a very literal translation of one of my favorite verses, Isaiah 40:31: “They that bind themselves to the LORD will have their strength renewed. They will soar with wings as eagles, they will run and not tire, they will walk and not grow faint.”
So there it is: whether in Habakkuk’s day or our day, rather than looking around us and becoming depressed by the corruption we see, or jaded to the violence, perhaps a better tack would be to remember that the LORD is on the throne, and He is our refuge and the One in whom we put our trust.