In my journey through the Bible this year, I have recently been reading through the minor prophets. So much affliction and hardship and suffering poured out on God's people! And not just on the blatantly idolatrous either - in company with the covenant community, who had mostly wandered to false gods and self-promotion, even the faithful felt the hand of God's judgment. Even those calling their wayward brothers and sisters to repentance witnessed the destruction of their homeland and their families and were carried off into exile.
In Habakkuk, we read the words of a man who is zealous for the glory of the Lord. He is grieved because his countrymen have abandoned their covenant God and pursued violence, injustice, greed, and idolatry. Habakkuk knows that holiness and sin cannot co-exist - he understands that God will judge His people. Soon. On the one hand, Habakkuk is grieved because he passionately desires to see God glorified - but those around him instead profane the name of the Lord. On the other hand, Habakkuk is grieved because he loves his brothers and sisters - he is brokenhearted because they do not honor and pursue God, and because he knows their destruction is imminent. Habakkuk asks the difficult questions of his own soul, and allows us to share in his struggle of trying to understand the heart-wrenching realities of life.
O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you "Violence!" and you will not save? - Habakkuk 1:2. Have you ever felt that way when praying? I have.
O LORD, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD, do I fear. - Habakkuk 3:2 Have you ever prayed from a place of brokenness and desperation, all the while afraid of what the Lord may answer? I have. Like Habakkuk, I have cried, "Oh, Lord...in wrath remember mercy!"
I love Habakkuk's honesty and transparency. It tells me that I am not alone in this difficult journey of faith. And it gives me hope.
How does Habakkuk resolve the soul-shattering tension between God's holiness and my sinfulness? the apostasy of the church? the depravity of the culture around me? The only way possible - through divine intervention. Habakkuk moves from grief and distress to a place of rest and confidence as he comes to understand that only God can reconcile His people to Himself. The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk gives us the promise of the Gospel...
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the LORD, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. - Habakkuk 3:17-19 Here, Habakkuk tells us that God must save us and that, even in the most difficult of times, He will be faithful to do just that.
Now, a lot of folks say the Old Testament is just history. That it isn't greatly relevant to the Christian today. They assert that the God revealed in the Old Testament - who pours out judgment and wrath on His wayward people - has given way to the God of the New Testament - who compromises His justice and sacrifices judgment for fawning love and unwavering blessing. But, in my journey through Scripture, I am also reading in Revelation, and I find that such claims are simply not true. God is still a God of justice, of wrath, of judgment - He dishes out some really nasty stuff. And, He is still a God of love and mercy, accomplishing the atonement for His people that they cannot accomplish for themselves - just like in the Old Testament.
This life is hard for me today, just like it was hard for Habakkuk some 2500+ years ago. And, just as Habakkuk could only find hope and comfort in God, I can find hope and comfort nowhere else. Reading through Revelation this morning, I was struck by how many times I came across the phrase, "Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints..." When life around me is falling apart, when I consider the work of the Lord and am afraid, I am called to remember, to endure, to hold to the faith.
But what if my faith is faltering? What if I grow faint-hearted? Here is the great comfort of Habakkuk - only God can save His people, and He has purposed to do just exactly that. My salvation is not dependent upon the strength of my faith, but upon the strength and faithfulness of my God.
I used to believe that faith was a "work" - something I did myself, a consciousness I mustered up and maintained in my own strength. At some point of crisis when I was a young girl, my mother explained to me that my salvation (and thus my security, hope, joy,...) was based entirely on the work of Christ. Entirely. Not even the faith to believe came from myself, but from God. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells me, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." My mom comforted me by reminding me that my relationship with God was based on faith - and that very faith was itself a gift from God. "Camille, it is not your faith that God considers, but Christ's faith - and Christ's faith was and is perfect." Christ covers all of me, even my fainthearted faith.
With Habakkuk, I stand and proclaim: I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength.
2 days ago