Friday, June 12, 2015

Habakkuk: Why God Has not Abandoned You

Habakkuk is perplexed. He just can't seem to understand the way that God operates anymore. So much wickedness is prevalent in Israel, and yet He stands by idle. How in the world can He let this continue? 

Habakkuk's bafflement causes him to beseech God to tell him why. Yet Habakkuk was not prepared for the Lord's answer, which we read in Habakkuk 1:5-7
"Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I will work a work in your days which ye will not believe, though it be told you. For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwellingplaces that are not their's. They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves."

Oh, right, that little nation the size of Puerto Rico that is more wicked and evil than us is going to bring us into captivity. I shouldn't have brought this us, Lord; is there any other way?

It is within Habakkuk's attempt at talking God out of it, or maybe just again wondering why God seemed to be turning a blind eye to evil where we get one of my absolute favorite verses of the Bible - Habakkuk 1:13,
"Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?"

So the Lord responds by saying that yes, Habakkuk, the Chaldeans do deserve judgment for their evil deeds, and they will receive... but only after they have taken the Israelites captive.

This seeming neglect for the Israelites on behalf of God leaves Habakkuk worried and distraught. We pick up on his emotions in Habakkuk 3:1-2,
"A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth. O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy."

 Now obviously, Habakkuk is asking the Lord to remember His mercies in the midst of pouring out punishments because quite frankly he is just a tad concerned of what's going on. But Habakkuk answers his own concern by relaying a short history of the Israelite people.

It takes more time than I have here to break down every single bit of his references, but here are a few: the crossing of the Red Sea, the Sun standing still at Gibeon, the acts of Joshua and the conquest, and the defense of the Lord most generally.

Habakkuk's point is perhaps best summarized by New Testament verse Philippians 1:6,
"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:" 

The book of Habakkuk capstones with the last three verses,
"Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments."

Here we see that circumstances may not be great. Indeed, there seems to be as many different bad things going on as Habakkuk could fathom. Yet he is rejoicing in the Lord. Yet he believes that his enjoyment of God will outdo all of that.

And how? "The Lord God is my strength." Habakkuk acknowledges that the Lord will not turn His back on Israel, and will indeed strengthen him to do that which he would not be able to do in the first place.

In fact, Habakkuk uses the image of a goat's foot. It is quite impressive where goats are able to find themselves with their little feet. Thus, Habakkuk is convinced that the Lord is able to strengthen him to do what is extraordinary - show joy in any and all circumstances.

And that reminds me of another often misused verse from the book of Philippians - 4:11-13,
"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

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