Recently, I was listening to a man on the radio — not a preacher, not a teacher, not even a politician, but just a man with a view that was very critical of why God, if there is a God, doesn’t just reach down and straighten things out. Why doesn’t God do something about evil, wrong, injustice, unfairness? As I listened to the man speak, I thought of the prophet Habakkuk. He’s not the best known of all the prophets, but there is a sense to which according to this guy’s thinking and maybe a lot of other people, he is a prophet like many of us.
While most prophets in the Old Testament were spokesmen for God, Habakkuk spoke to God. Maybe he was speaking to God for the people, but he was also speaking for himself. Habakkuk means “wrestler” and certainly he wrestled with God for the people and about the people. Some have called him the Thomas of the Old Testament; he was a doubting prophet and seems to have a question mark for a brain. Why doesn’t God act to do something about all these bad things in our world? He felt as though God was inattentive, inactive, and possibly even indifferent.
In this small book of Habakkuk, God responds to His prophet by his name in the very first chapter. God tells Habakkuk a number of things that help him to see and understand in a little better and broader term who God is and what God does. God sets His preacher straight in his thinking and understanding. In the book, He tells the prophet three things.
A first thing is that God reverses Habakkuk’s thinking. How did He do that? Bottom line – He tells Habakkuk do not blame Me for what the wickedness of man is responsible for. God points out to the prophet that He lives among the heathen and that God is going to do something to correct the direction that things were going that are beyond his understanding. He thought God was not doing anything but indeed, He was and He would be. The difficulties Habakkuk was struggling with were not from God but the results of our own sins. Our sin results in hurt, separations, decay, destruction, and since we live in a world that is infested with sin, the result in us and around us is because of us. So it is that God would raise up an evil and corrupt nation to correct many of the sins, faults, and failures of His own people. God was at work in Habakkuk’s day. He still is active in our day.
The second thing He did was to reveal to Habakkuk what he could not see, would not believe, and did not know God was doing. Our sight is dim. History itself proves that only faith enables us to see at dark times what God is doing. Habakkuk had no idea that God was so active in his time. In too many places and too many ways, we are the same. To be sure, God was not dead, was not inactive nor just resting on His past performances. God was aware and active and involved.
A third thing God does is reaffirm. He shows Habakkuk the total scope of His actions and wants him to understand that you cannot measure who God is or what God is doing in a moment, in a snapshot, in a day. It would take years for a nation to rise up and come and bring correction against Israel. In a day like today, we, like Habakkuk, want instant answers, quick fixes, immediate measures, and often we want God to act so quickly. We lose our own perspective of faith and confidence and reaffirmation in Him to be the God of all ways and days and we can trust Him.
Habakkuk came to understand that though he didn’t see or understand a lot of things, God was moving more powerfully, deeper, wider, clearer, than he had ever imagined. He is today, also. Maybe in a sense Habakkuk is the prophet for us these days, that we don’t need to spend all of our time figuring out the movement of history or the shifts in culture or the depth of inhumanity of man to man, but we should turn to God and trust Him with our lives and of all people on earth be the voice of hope and life and future that can only be seen in God’s redemptive love in His Son, Jesus Christ. Sing His praises. Preach His victories. Present yourself to be used as His servant every day and in every way He touches your life.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Jim Futral