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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Habakkuk, the Prophet who Questioned God

Habakkuk, the Prophet who Questioned God




Habakkuk lived in Judah in about 600 B.C. and was one of the prophets that God raised up to speak to his people.  One of the books of the Bible, Habakkuk, is named after him..


 Habakkuk lived during desperate times when many of the Jewish people had turned from God and were sacrificing to idols.  They had forgotten the poor and on every hand there was bloodshed and violence.  Habakkuk loves God and he loves his people and he is upset and overwhelmed by the evil and the injustice that is taking place all around.  Where is God in all of this?  Doesn’t God care that his people are suffering and the wicked are going free?  Why doesn’t God step in and stop the terrible acts?  Habakkuk goes to God with his questions!


Let’s listen as Habakkuk questions God.  “O Lord, how long shall I cry and You will not hear?  Even cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?  Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble?  For plundering and violence are all around me;  and there is strife and contention!  Therefore the law is powerless, and justice never goes forth.  For the wicked surround the righteous: Therefore perverse judgment proceeds.”  (Habakkuk 1:2-4) 


Habakkuk is hoping that God will answer him and tell him that He will soon come down and show His mighty power and make the Jewish people behave.  Habakkuk is hoping for a quick and simple answer.  But God answers Habakkuk and the answer He gives Habakkuk blows his mind away!  (Habakkuk 1:5-11)


God comes and tells Habakkuk that He does care and He does have a plan.  God’s plan is that He will use the Babylonians – a dreadfully wicked nation- to punish his own people, the Jews.  God describes these Babylonians (Chaldeans) as terribly violent.  They come to take what is not theirs and they are accountable only to themselves for their actions. (Habakkuk 1:7) 


Some years after God revealed to Habakkuk what He was planning to do, it all happened.  Jerusalem was indeed conquered by the Babylonians as God had said. The Jewish people were taken off to Babylon as slaves and Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 B.C.   


Habakkuk is beside himself!  This isn’t the answer that he wanted to hear!  God has presented Habakkuk with an even greater stumbling block.  Is there no hope!  Habakkuk fusses and cries out and falls on his knees and questions God a second time.  Now he is even more upset and confused.


 Habakkuk argues with God and tries to tell God what to do. How can a just God who hates evil send these evil Babylonians against the Jewish people to punish them?  Is this the end for the Jewish people?  Will God allow the Babylonians and other violent nations to go on killing and conquering his people as well as other nations and not put a stop to this injustice?   .


After Habakkuk prays and asks his second question to God, he stops and listens for God:  “I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart.  And watch to see what God will say to me.  And what I will answer when I am corrected.”  (Habakkuk 2:1)  So even though he is distraught, Habakkuk waits and watches anxiously for his God to answer. 


And of course God comes to Habakkuk a second time with the answer.  God begins by telling Habakkuk to write down what He is about to show him.  God wants Habakkuk to share the answers to his questions with all of His people!  Habakkuk’s questions will often be our questions and God’s answers are for us as well!  They are written there in God’s Word, the Bible, for us as our hope.  “Write the vision and make it plain and clear on tablets.” God tells Habakkuk.  (Habakkuk 2:2)


 Then God answers Habakkuk and tells him that indeed He WILL take care of those who have faith in Him and truly He WILL stop evil.  The Day will finally come when all of this will happen.  There will be victory for the faithful and evil doers will be stopped and punished.  God says: “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him: But the just shall live by his faith.”  (Habakkuk 2:4)  This statement about the just living by faith is repeated many times over in the New Testament and is a fundamental of our Christian faith.  


God tells Habakkuk that all of this (the resurrection and final judgment) will be happening at a later time.  God says: “For the vision is yet for an appointed time:  But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.  Though it tarries, wait for it: Because it will surely come.”  (Habakkuk 2:3)  We cannot begin to understand the mystery of God’s time table in dealing with evil but when evil has run its course then God will stop it and make everything right for the ones who live by faith through Christ.


God describes that future day when those who have built a city with bloodshed and iniquity will have labored in vain since all of their efforts will be for nothing.  “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”  (Habakkuk 2:14)  When the final scores are added up, then only the persons who trust God will live. 


Habakkuk is speechless.  He doesn’t know what to say!  All the while Habakkuk had been worrying and focusing on the evil around him in the here and now.  But now God is raising his sights and revealing visions to him of a distant future when there will be the final victory of the faithful and also the fury of the judgment of evil.  Habakkuk is jubilant and overjoyed!  He has no more questions for God.  He has been allowed to see through God’s eyes on to the final glorious outcome!  Habakkuk falls down in worship and praise to God even before his circumstances have changed.  Even while violence is still surrounding him.   


Habakkuk raises his hands to heaven and sings a song of praise to God!  He praises God that God is his strength. That God is just. That God makes his feet like deer’s feet because he can now walk (spiritually) on the high hills.  That he can look past the troubles of today and see that future Day when every valley will be exalted and every mountain and hill will be made low. The whole last chapter of Habakkuk is one big exuberant song of praise to God.   


I especially love the last part of Habakkuk’s praise song, so let me quote it for you.  “Though the fig tree may not blossom - Nor fruit be on the vines: - Though the labor of the olive may fail. -  And the fields yield no food - Though the flock may be cut off from the fold-  And there be no herd in the stalls- Yet I will rejoice in the Lord -  I will joy in the God of my salvation!”  (Habakkuk 4:17-18) 


Habakkuk has finally learned to praise God, even when the crops have failed and when the flock are cut off from the fold. Even when there is nothing to eat and everything around him has gone wrong.  Habakkuk has learned to praise God no matter what.  He has finally learned to praise God because God is the God of his salvation.  And love God because of who He is.  


 Like Martin Luther King Jr.who fought prejudice and injustice at every turn but still experienced hope for the future of his people because he had “been to the mountain top and seen the Promised Land”, Habakkuk had also been given these visions of the mountain top and the Promised Land, and it had changed him as well.


This peak into the future when those with faith will finally have the victory – this vision of the Day when Christ will come again and all will be restored – this radiant hope that is written about everywhere in Scripture isn’t meant to be there just for Habakkuk to enjoy.  It is meant to be there for you and me as well!      
















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