In the back of the Old Testament there are twelve books called the minor prophets. They are called minor not because they are less than the majors…Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Daniel. They are called minor because the books are short. Tucked in between Nahum and Zephaniah is a book called Habakkuk. It was written somewhere between 640-609B.C. and most likely closer to 609 B.C. This is an unusual book because it never directly addresses the people of Judah. Instead this is a dialogue between the prophet Habakkuk and God. This book is all of three chapters long. The first two chapters contain Habakkuk’s questions and God’s answers. Habakkuk saw the moral and spiritual decline in Judah, and it troubled him greatly. But God’s response troubled him even more. How could a good and just God use a more wicked nation…Babylon…to punish a less wicked nation…Judah? God makes it clear that both nations will be judged and appropriately punished for their sins. Habakkuk does not fully understand but he trusts God. And he knows God can resolve issues in ways no human ever could.
This is the verse that struck me this morning. It is Habakkuk 1:5. “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 told.” It occurs to me we are in the same place a Habakkuk. Habakkuk looks at the world he lives in and sees injustice, violence, destruction, strife and contention. He reminds God that the law is paralyzed and the wicked surround the righteous. Verse five and following is God’s response. “I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” God could very well say the same thing to us. For the people of Habakkuk’s day…the people of Judah the thing they would not believe is that God would use the dreaded Babylonians to punish them.
Habakkuk lived in the time just prior to Judah falling into Babylon’s hands. In 589 they would be taken into exile in Babylon. But the people of Judah saw themselves as untouchable. Afterall, they were God’s chosen people. No real harm should or could come to them. God replies…you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. So, my question today is this: what is God working out in the world right now that we would not believe even if He told us? What exactly are we to learn from the division, hatred and challenges? God’s people then were comfortable in their lives. Their sins, idol worship and disobedience to God did not seem like a big deal to them. They had convinced themselves what they were doing wasn’t that bad. Are we any different? How many of us have turned a blind eye to injustice, maybe even secretly cheered it on? Do any of us really live in fear for our lives because we are a minority that has no rights or protection? How many of us care about what happens to others, as long as that doesn’t happen to us as well?
Do we watch the current events and think to ourselves…well, they deserved what they got? As people of faith we are called to hurt for our brothers and sisters who are suffering, who do know and experience prejudice and injustice. Jesus hated injustice and today, there is plenty to go around. Jesus hung out with the very people we might see as “less than”. God is at work, there is no doubt. Perhaps the work He is doing will require each of us to look deep within ourselves. He may be calling us to rethink how we see people. Perhaps He is calling us to draw even closer to Him. Maybe, just maybe, He has new adventures for us. Maybe He is planning Ezekiel 36:26-27 all over again. “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
We are comfortable. We can worship when and where we choose. We have been blessed beyond belief. We have nothing to fear. But sometimes we are stiff necked and hardheaded. Living as Jesus has called us to live, is too difficult. And we are more than willing to let someone else do the work Jesus has called all of us to do. But what is it that Jesus is calling us to do right here? Right now. No doubt Habakkuk wondered the same thing. Change is painful. We do not like it, especially when it is not our decision to change. Judah was about to find out just how painful. Are we ready for whatever comes next?
Habakkuk also says this. “Behold his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, BUT, the righteous shall live by faith.” The first part of the verse refers to Babylon as a whole. They too feel invincible, and they rely only on themselves. But the kind of faith Habakkuk has described, and the faith that the New Testament authors affirm is a continuing trust in God and His promises, even in the darkest days. This is a reminder that we are saved by grace through faith.
God is at work. We may not see anything yet, but we will. Habakkuk’s spiritual journey is not unlike most believers. He shows us that in times of doubt and discouragement we should come to the Lord and pour out all our questions. God is not an absentee God. He is intimately involved and active in all that comes to pass so that everything will work towards His purposes. He acts in history to redeem His people so that all might see His glory. God is at work. We do not currently understand what He is doing, but He will make it known in His time and in His way.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W