Habakkuk–Looking to Him for Help

It’s easy to read Scripture and forget that the characters in the Bible were real human beings, with real human problem. We can quickly see them as simple case studies. But God inspired the writers of Scripture to tell very honest, raw, and uncensored stories of their on quest to know and follow God. I find it inspiring and refreshing to see in many characters the same longings, expectations, hopes and disappointments that I myself experience.

So this week I want talk about how on of these human beings looked to God for help–not as mere case studies of what we should our shouldn’t do, but as fellow-pilgrims on this journey of life, seeking a kingdom that is not of this world.

Habakkuk was a prophet at a time in Israel when God was rejected by His own people. But Habakkuk loved God and was devoted to Him. Furthermore, Habakkuk was deeply troubled by the sins of his fellow Israelites. In chapter 1 of his short book, he cried out to God, “How long, O Lord, must I call for help…Violence is everywhere, but you do not come to save. Must I forever see these evil deeds?” Living in the midst of people who had rejected their Maker, Habakkuk felt a desperation for God and His righteous standard.  (Does this sound familiar? Can you relate?)

What causes me to catch my breath is the Lord’s response to Habakkuk. He basically said, “You’re right. Evil does prevail among my people. But don’t worry. I have a plan and it is one that you won’t believe! I’ve selected a nation to overrun them, an evil, power-hungry nation. Exile in a foreign, pagan nation will be their consequence.”

Imagine Habakkuk’s horror. This was certainly not the answer he was expecting from God. How could this be the solution to Israel’s back-slidden state? How could God send a nation more wicked then Israel to punish Israel? Habakkuk was understandably stunned.

I love his response. Chapter two begins with this statement, “I will climb to my watchtower and stand at my guard post. There I will WAIT to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint.”  His faith in God had been shaken by the evil of the Israelite nation, by his own perilous position, and by the apparent apathy of God to this dire situation. In spite of that, when God answered, and Habakkuk found His solution nauseating, Habakkuk responded with an attitude of absolute expectation in this unpredictable God. He knew that God was his only hope. His only answer. Habakkuk did not stop looking to God for help, simply because he did not like what God was doing.

God’s response to Habakkuk was to affirm exactly what He had told him in chapter one. He was bringing disaster on the people of Israel. He was going to judge their wickedness, their bent towards idols, their rebellious rejection of the Truth. This judgement was going to be painful and thorough. But, it would also be just and faithful. God reminded Habakkuk, “You have to trust me. You have to live by faith.”

What Habakkuk did with this reminder is compelling. He sang a prayer to God. In it he recalled the days of God’s goodness to the people of Israel. And he begged God, “In your wrath, remember mercy.” He rejoiced in God’s faithful protection for the Israelites. And he ended with this solemn creed:

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vine, the labor of the olive tree shall fail and the field shall yield no meat, the flocks shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stall–Yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like hinds feet, and he will make me to walk upon high places” (Habakkuk 3:17-19 KJV).

Habakkuk’s prayer of praise has long been one of my favorite passages of Scripture. To think of a real person, with a real love for God, and real disaster bearing down on him writing this, inspires me. Here is my personal re-write:

“Although my nation no longer lives by its godly heritage, and my own family’s failures haunt me. When it seems impossible to pay the bills, and even ‘sure’ investments don’t come through. When my source of all worldly supply is suddenly in question, and the future looks entirely bleak. When consequences of past actions tie me down, and block my path forward;even then, I will look to him for help, and find joy in my Lord. He is my supply, and He is always enough. He grants me the strength to step out of the shadow of shame and stand upon the heights.”

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