Habakkuk 1:12-2:1: Back up and wait, God is coming.
In the last post about Habakkuk, we see this prophet open up a dialogue with God. Habakkuk had two problems. Primarily, Israel was living in sin and Habakkuk did not understand why God had done nothing to change their ways. In addition, when God responded with a solution, it was to crush Israel using the Chaldeans. God told Habakkuk that it would get worse before it got better. This is something we all go through with God: pondering on the sheer strangeness of His ways. If God is a good kind loving God why does he allow all the horror and war around us? Now, we've addressed that it's okay, in fact even advisable to doubt and wrestle with God. I want to continue on this train of thought using Habakkuk as a model. How do we interpret what goes on in the world around us? How do we tackle our problems in a righteous way? Again, we have Habakkuk leading with a question and God responding in the remainder of chapter 2.
Back up on to solid ground
The first step to solving a problem is to back up on to solid ground. What do you know for certain, and how can these facts shape what you don’t know? This is how Habakkuk begins to articulate his thoughts:
Are You not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One?We shall not die. O Lord, You have appointed them for judgment; O Rock, You have marked them for correction. — Habakkuk 1:12
Habakkuk here lists what he knows as facts in his life.
- I know God is from everlasting. In verse 11, God said that the Chaldeans would attribute their victory over Israel to their god. But Habakkuk knows the truth. Unlike the god of the Chaldeans, Habakkuk knows that his God is everlasting and holy, and instantly you can feel the confidence in Habakkuk grow as the ground he stands on solidifies. In Exodus 13, God tells Moses The I AM has sent you. Habakkuk is in the same presence of the I AM now and he knows that God came before the Chaldeans. In fact his God created the Chaldeans.
- I know we will not die.What an incredible awareness, to know that God has promised the Christian eternal life. God is faithful. God made a promise with Abraham, that he would never destroy them and they would become a great nation. Habakkuk knows that their story does not end with the Chaldeans. He sings with David the psalmist: The Lord has chastened me severely, But He has not given me over to death (Psalm 118: 18).
- I know that the Chaldeans are an instrument of reproof. When tribulation hits our life, Habakkuk is aware that nothing happens outside of the will of God, and that these problems occur to correct us.
So Habakkuk reaches his answer for the moment by stepping away from the problem and thinking about what he knew was true. At a funeral the other day, a pastor compared every christian to a salesman. He said if we want to be a salesman for Christ in front of others, we need to know our product! There is only one way to tackle problems in this world: back off and think about the God that you know and you love. But you can only do that when you actually know God, and when you do, you’ll get so lost in your thoughts about God that you’ll simply forget about your problems.
There’s a story of an old Indian who used to come to church and sit in the front row and he’d always come a half an hour early. Over time, people became a little concerned about why he was always there early so somebody went over to him and asked, “why do you always come early?” And he said, “Me come early, me sit down, me think Jesus.” If you can step back from the problem and start to think about what you know about God and Christ you’ve got the answer in your hand.
We can use Habakkuk’s steps when confronted with any problem. The first step is to think about God and list out the facts that you’ve learned in your relationship with Him.
Know that He is the great I AM who has been before your problem, and will continue to exist long after your problem.
Know that your God is faithful and Has promised you eternal life with Him, and that this tribulation won’t destroy you completely.
Know that this problem ahead of you is but an instrument of guidance to bring you closer to Him.
Wait. Just wait.
In the next few verses a question pops in Habakkuk’s head. He knows that the state of Israel is bad, but he asks, Why do you use those awful Chaldeans? They really are much worse than us? How can a God who hates evil, use an unholy instrument?
He presents an analogy, where the Chaldeans are these awful fisherman who just keep taking all they can, and worshiping the tools and power that they have over the fish. Habakkuk asks God, are You content to see Your people dealt with as priceless fish, and devoured by wicked people, who offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and burn incense to their idols? Your people, despite their corruption and perversion, are precious, and yet You forsake them to be caught by those wicked Chaldeans?!
And we do the exact same thing, when we compare ourselves to people who we think are worse than us. God, that guy is so much worse than me, but why is his job so much better than mine? Why does he have an amazing life, even though I serve so much harder for you?
It really is quite a valid question. Why do good things happen to bad people.
Regardless of the question, we see the second great lesson from Habakkuk in solving our problems. He backs off, thinks about all the facts and evidence he knows about God, presents a completely valid and testable problem, and then he waits. Waits genuinely and eagerly, on God:
I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected. — Habakkuk 2:1
I love the final part of that verse: And what I will answer when I am corrected. Habakkuk has so much faith that God has a righteous and moral answer. He knows that God is everlasting, and that God is faithful. He knows that the Chaldeans are an instrument of God’s corrective hand. He just doesn’t understand why it has to be an unholy instrument. So in full confidence, he says, when God corrects me, I’ll need to think of something to say! But he knows that God will answer!
And sometimes this waiting process is the most agonizing part of Christianity. The sons of Korah, in psalm 42, poetically describe this longing we have when God is silent. In life, when we stepped back on solid ground like Habakkuk, and there is something deep in our hearts that nags at us. The enjoyment of communion with God is such an urgent need for our soul, like water to a deer, that we know inside we will never be fulfilled until the waiting is over and we are with God:
As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God. — Psalm 42:1
The psalmist continues to express sadness at this perceived distance with God. But then he goes on to challenge his own soul and question why his soul doesn’t trust in God. What do you do when there is this gap between your head and your heart? When you know all the facts, the eternal, loving and faithful nature of God, but your soul just doesn’t love God? You wait on the Lord. Like Habakkuk, you position yourself to feel God’s grace, eagerly waiting for a response.
Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance. — Psalm 42:5
The answers to our prayers may take so long that our souls become disquieted, but it is important to wait on the Lord.
I’ve begun to apply this two step process to my daily life, and you recognize quite quickly that Habakkuk has come up with a fool proof formula to set our minds on God. Don’t freak out. Don’t panic. When presented with a problem, just step back and wait on the Lord.
But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. — Isaiah 41:30