In my continued march through the Old Testament prophets, I read through Habakkuk for the first time in my life. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even know Habakkuk was a book of the Bible until I was in college, and even after that I sometimes forgot it was there altogether, or else thought it was part of the apocrypha. Whoops.
But I know it’s there now! And, immediately I loved it. It starts:
How long, 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 wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted. (Habakkuk 1:2-4)
Sometimes I feel like this. There are lots of things I observe that make me want to say, “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?”
There’s a line in the musical Les Miserables that I think of often when I watch the news or turn on social media:
“The law is inside out, the world is upside down!”
Doesn’t the world feel like this right now? Especially if you’re a Bible-believing Christian? Something is profoundly Not Right. The law is perpetually turned inside out. I know God is listening – but, honestly, sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like we’re in that space between Malachi and Matthew where there is no response whatsoever.
But! God responds to Habakkuk:
Look among the nations, and see;
wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
that you would not believe if I told. (Habakkuk 1:5)
Now, of course, God is responding very specifically to a very specific circumstance (specifically, the rebellion of Israel and Judah and the punishments they were in for as a result). But, I think there’s a general principle to be drawn from this, which bears out through scripture.
God is always doing something, and His justice doesn’t sleep. He is also eternal, and therefore His timing is not our timing.
When Habakkuk was inquiring these things of God, God was lining up events, people, cities, stars, and the rest of creation, for his son to be born in a lowly place in Bethlehem hundreds of years later.
Who would have believed it if God had told them?
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 tread on the heights. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
What an encouragement to hold on, trusting in God to fulfill his promises.