Living By Faith
"How long O LORD, must I call for help,
but you do not listen.
Or cry out to you, “Violence!” But you do not save.
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.”
THIS ANCIENT CRY from the mouth of an Old Testament prophet resonates with our contemporary cries. “How long, O LORD?” Do you ever wish God would just show up and give you a detailed explanation as to why certain things happen? Do you ever wish you were given a peek into the reason for things and a glance at the wisdom and the reason of God?
Be careful what you ask for. I am not sure we can always “handle the truth” in matters like this.
Habakkuk was wondering when God was going to address the injustice and the wrong that was taking place in his country, the land of Judah. God saw the same injustice that Habakkuk was complaining about and in fact was about ready to respond to it as well. Here is what God was going to do.
“I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own. They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor.”
Habakkuk did not like this answer at all! How could God use the Babylonians as an arm of justice for the sins of Judah? In Habakkuk’s mind this “servant of God” was more evil than Judah. God even called the Babylonians, “guilty men, whose own strength is their god.”
And so Habakkuk responds to God by saying, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”
I get “a kick” out of Habakkuk’s posture after his second complaint. I picture him standing there with his arms folded, somewhat proud of himself for standing up to God. I mean, someone has to do it, right??? So, he says, rather smugly, “I will stand at my watch. I will station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.”
God graciously comes back with a second response to Habakkuk’s complaint. He says to Habakkuk, “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.”
And so, in a rather lengthy response in Habakkuk 2, God acknowledges the sins of Babylon and assures the questioning prophet that in due time, “in the end” – God’s justice will be realized. He says, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” In his reply, God was assuring Habakkuk that he would in “his time” make all things right.
In the middle of God’s lengthy answer, rests “a jewel” for us to grab onto as we await God’s plan for good to be fulfilled. It is found to in Habakkuk 2:4. Here God says, “but the righteous will live by his faith.” Is that not what we do? As we try to make sense of what we know of God and square it with what we see in our world, do we not simply respond with “faith” in God, who is “awaiting the appointed time” when all things will be made right.
And it is with this in mind that Habakkuk responds with one of the greatest hymns of praise you will ever find in the Bible. In fact, I can’t think of a better hymn for a time like this. He writes at the end of Habakkuk 3, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”
So, in summary:
~Live by faith
~Wait patiently on God
~Be joyful in God your Savior and strength
May this ancient cry be your contemporary expression today.
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