According to the little book of Scripture called by his name, Habakkuk ministered several decades before the Israelite exile into Babylon. He is known as a prophet, but he was also a watchman and an intercessor. He was faithful and true to his God – but he was discouraged.
Habakkuk: A navigational assist
Habakkuk had served the Lord for many years. Despite his labors, however, God’s covenant nation was grievously overrun with sin, injustice and violence. And so he laments, “How long, O Lord, must I call for help but You do not listen?… Why do You tolerate wrong?… There is strife and conflict abounds…The law is paralyzed and justice never prevails.” (Habakkuk 1:2-4, excerpts)
Like Habakkuk, some of us have cried out to God on behalf of Israel (or other nations) for decades. Yet, much like Habakkuk laments, internal strife and conflict abound. The law is paralyzed; our disunited government dysfunctions. While some measure of justice exists in the land, justice does not prevail. We grieve for God’s beloved people and over widespread disregard of His covenant. And in response, this is what He says: “Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (1:3)
Last year most of us could not have believed or imagined what would soon transpire in Israel and the nations. Few of us expected that God would use the perversely evil dynamics we see today for ultimate good. But He tells Habakkuk–and us–that “ruthless” and “wicked” (1:6,13) forces will indeed overtake the land and the freedom of His covenant people as never before.
At this response, Habakkuk is even more perplexed – and so are many believers today. But the ancient prophet is after God’s heart, determined to align with His purposes. So he stands his ground, waiting in faith to hear more.“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 [prophetically to others] to this complaint.” (2:1, excerpts)
Now, the Hebrew word used here for “complaint,” means complaint. Habakkuk trusts the Lord enough to freely express his personal dismay. And to this honesty God responds. He assures Habakkuk that sovereign justice will ultimately, certainly prevail. “The Lord replied, ‘Write down the revelation. [It] awaits an appointed time…Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay….The righteous will live by his faith’.” (2:2-3, excerpts).
First, the prophet is told to be patient. The upheaval and accomplishment of God’s purposes are going to take time. Circumstances may appear to challenge the fulfillment of His Word, even His character. But what He says will surely come to pass, right on time. Meanwhile, the righteous must live by faith. In the end, what He does will have been wonderfully worth it all.
Finally, God reveals the climax of His shakings, the glorious end result. “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (2:14)
Worth It All
As in Habakkuk’s day, you and I are being called to live by faith as perhaps never before. God is stretching our faith in order to refine and strengthen it. To Him, your faith is of eternal and greater value to than pure gold. (1 Peter 1:7) His refining is to prepare you for joyful fruitfulness, infinite blessing and glory that will not be worth comparing to any passing afflictions.
Some of that blessing and glory will be reaped through the ministry to which He is calling you in this prayed-for era of shaking. Not only in Israel, but around the world, many are opening their hearts to the Lord as never before. This means you and I will likely be called to serve in a spiritual harvest as never before. What joy lies ahead!
Therefore Habakkuk declares,“Lord, I have heard of Your fame; I stand in awe of Your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time, make them known; in wrath, remember mercy…God’s glory covered the heavens…plague went before Him…He stood and shook the earth and made the nations tremble…the ancient mountains crumbled.” (3:2-6, excerpts)
In our day of trouble, may God remember mercy. May He renew His awesome deeds in His perfect timing. May plague go out before Him. May the nations tremble and ancient mountains, which represent false or wrongful strongholds, collapse.
Let us follow in the example of Habakkuk, who re-focuses on the overarching sovereignty, goodness, and faithfulness of God. Though he sees the violent shaking of his day could even mean economic collapse and famine-like conditions, Habakkuk has heard from and encountered Almighty God, whom He now trusts as never before.
The prophet concludes, “I will wait patiently for the day of calamity [meaning, justice] to come on the [enemy] invading us. 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, yet I will rejoice greatly in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (3:16-18, excerpts)
In Hebrew, the name Habakkuk means “Embrace.” The prophet has grappled with God and heard from Him. Now he can embrace God’s will. He trusts Him to lift his spirit to the heights: “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on to the heights.” (3:19)
May I encourage you to wait patiently these days before the Lord, as did Habakkuk? He will reply to you in the time and way that is ultimately best, so you can embrace His will, however challenging. Let Habakkuk’s story impart joy and strength to you as your faith is refined. Then take every opportunity to share your faith! Trust that whatever shakings occur, the Lord is with you in passionate love to the end of the age.