Habakkuk and Lessons for Today’s World

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Habakkuk starts not with God’s charge against Judah but Habakkuk’s. He complains that God’s people have been wicked, vile, corrupt, and dishonest. He cannot tolerate watching it any longer and he doesn’t think God should or could either. The opening verses of the book of Habakkuk are a call on God to punish his people for what they have done.

What is God’s response to Habakkuk’s prayer? God’s answer is yes…but the kind of yes God gives surprises even Habakkuk. Yes, discipline will come and the people who will bring it are the most wicked, vile, corrupt and violent people on earth…the Babylonians!

Habakkuk’s response? Chapter one ends in astonishment and complaint…it is Hosea saying, “Don’t you know who these people are and what they are capable of?!?” Be careful what you wish for…be careful what you pray for…God may well “deliver” and in ways that are needed but beyond your imagination. God may deliver calamity for a season in hopes for a better future.

After Habakkuk gets done with his second complaint he waits for God’s answer in chapter 2. God’s answer? God is going to do exactly what He said He is going to do…disaster is on the way. Count on it! Chapter 2 starts with a famous verse and ends on another famous verse,

but the righteous person will live by faith.” (2:4)

The Lord is in his holy temple;
    let all the earth be silent before him.” (2:20)

The book closes on a lament by Habakkuk. It is a lament over what is about to take place. It was what Habakkuk asked for but answered in a way that feels to harsh for him…too extreme…too destructive. And yet, Habakkuk will follow the advice of 2:4 – he will live by faith. Here is how the book ends,

16 I heard and my heart pounded,
    my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
    and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
    to come on the nation invading us.
17 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,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.” (2:16-19)

I think we find ourselves in that place at times…prayers prayed that we have no idea how God is going to answer or to what degree His response will come. Answered prayers will not always live up to our standards. Yet we trust that God will do what needs to be done and that we will live by faith. It is faith that allows the people of God to live hopefully and expectantly even though the fig tree doesn’t bud and there are not grapes on the vine…no crops in the field or sheep in the pen…yet we will rejoice anyway!

No matter what you are going through, it may be a prayer gone right…it may be that God is answering a prayer in a way that you didn’t expect that won’t be easy but it will be right. Live by faith and wait expectantly of how He will come through in the end.

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