What book of the Bible do you read when you are feeling discouragement with the matters of life? I would like to suggest Habakkuk. At first glance, the Old Testament prophecy doesn’t look like a passage to raise your spirits. I recently taught through the book and was amazed by the wisdom I found. Habakkuk is the only one of the Minor Prophets that is a conversation between the prophet and God. If any of us ever want to complain to God, Habakkuk teaches us the right way to do that.
The book begins with Habakkuk saying, “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” Most of us have felt that way at some point. We pray and the answers don’t seem to come. Sometimes things even get worse before they get better. That is how the prophet felt. He saw Israel, God’s Promised Land, falling to the enemy. He saw the Judeans living more like the pagans than the people of God. The “bad guys” were winning and Habakkuk wondered why God allowed that.
God told Habakkuk to wait and watch because he was going to do something that the prophet could never have dreamed of. God told him that he was going to raise up the Babylonians to defeat the Assyrians. One enemy was going to defeat the other enemy. God assured Habakkuk that his plan is not one a person would have thought of, which is why the plan was perfect.
Habakkuk voiced a second complaint. He asked God why he allowed the wars, the killing, and the evil in the world. The prophet said that when the war raged, the people would be caught in the middle, like fish in a net. Habakkuk wanted to know how God would allow his people, even the ones who had remained faithful, to be hurt in the battle between their enemies. It is always hard to understand why the faithful suffer just like the unfaithful.
In Chapter 2, verse 1, Habakkuk teaches us how to complain. He told God, “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.” Even in a crisis of understanding, Habakkuk told God that he would remain faithful and stand his post. We can have doubts and still choose to be faithful.
God answered Habakkuk’s faith by telling him that he was to write down what he heard. God wanted Habakkuk to know his answer was for all the people of that day and for you and I as well. God told the prophet, “For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” The rest of Chapter 2 describes the justice that God will surely bring. Habakkuk 2:14 reads, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Even when the days are dark, God’s people have hope.
The last verse in chapter 2 is: “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” So often, God’s answers come when we find that quiet place to listen. The best place to hear God speak is often a place of solitude.
Chapter 3 is a reverent psalm of praise for the holy power of God and the perfection of his works. Habakkuk ends saying, “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 doesn’t change God’s plan and he doesn’t understand why God will allow the nation to fall. He does know that God will give him the strength to stand, even during the dark days.
Habakkuk is a great example for those who would be faithful. The prophet voiced his complaints and admitted his lack of understanding – but he found his strength in knowing God. I don’t think any of us will ever understand God. How could we? But we can know God, the same way Habakkuk knew him. We just need to remember all God has done, accept what God allows and trust God to make all things right – someday. Until that day, we remain strong in his strength, and capable of whatever he leads us to do.
One day the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord. Until then, we wait – but we wait with great hope! We serve the God of the universe. His children are always safe.