Focal Passage: Habakkuk 1:1-6, 12-13; 2:1-4
Have you ever found yourself in a situation you thought was bad, and suddenly you hear it is going to get worse? Maybe it was a sickness turned deadly. Maybe you discovered the job is about to be “phased out.” Maybe your troubled kid turns up in jail. Whatever the predicament is, the outlook is bleak. Then you are like Habakkuk; a man who carried a burden of the suffering of his people.
Habakkuk had questions for God. Not merely questions but complaints. He wanted to know why things were falling apart around him. When Habakkuk considered his surroundings, violence and oppression were everywhere. Strife was ongoing and conflict was escalating. Israel was tearing itself apart from the inside. Wickedness was having a “field day” and it looked like true justice was gone. In the midst of this terrible situation God announces to Habakkuk that things are going to get worse. God is going to use the pagan Chaldeans to enact destruction on Israel. The Chaldeans are swift, merciless, and proud. But they will be allowed to wreak havoc on the people of God.
Habakkuk comes to God a second time and continues to lament the situation. He pleads with the Lord appealing to the nature and character of God. Habakkuk refers to God as, “my Rock.” He correctly asserts God is “too pure to look on evil,” and “cannot tolerate wrongdoing.” Throughout Habakkuk’s second round of complaints his vision is still on himself and his version of fairness. God has already told Habakkuk his plan. Habakkuk is wrestling with and even resisting the clarity of the coming judgment. Habakkuk decides to say his piece, station himself at his post, and wait.
The Lord is kind to Habakkuk in his haste and uncertainty. Bearing the load of suffering is never easy. Waiting on the Lord for an answer of either clarification or a different answer altogether is never easy. The Lord answers a second time and states, “write down this vision; clearly inscribe it on tablets.” In his patience, God is going to be abundantly clear. God’s response is, “the righteous shall live by faith.”
In God’s answer to Habakkuk he contrasts two types of people. On the one hand is the arrogant, proud, puffed-up one without integrity. On the other side is the righteous one. The righteous one shall live “by his faith.” This phrase is picked up by New Testament writers on three different occasions. Paul introduces the phrase in Romans referencing the Good News of the gospel that can be received by faith. Paul repeats almost the exact same concept in Galatians to reiterate one is justified by faith and not by works. Finally, the author of Hebrews states, “the righteous one will live by faith;” he is referencing perseverance for the believer.
Endurance through personal suffering seems to be the thrust of the message God had for Habakkuk. At times people of faith have been called to live in dark times that only got darker. The news for Habakkuk was both good and bad. The bad news is evil is going to flourish a little longer in your sight. You have seen horrible things and will continue to see the arrogant prosper. As a man of faith Habakkuk is to look to the heavens from which his help comes. The Messiah will come and He will set all things right.
Until He does, Habakkuk is to be counted among the people who do not “draw back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and obtain life (Hebrews 10:39).”
— Moore is pastor to adults at First Baptist Church, Clarksville.