Summary: Observing and grieved by injustice and suffering, the prophet realizes that faith is a way of life and not an answer.
Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:2-4; 3:17-19 “A Way of Life”
Today we enter the season of Advent. It is a time of preparation—for two arrivals. We first are preparing for the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child. This first arrival happened over two thousand years ago. The second arrival is Jesus’ promised return as King of kings and Lord of lords. This arrival is sometime in the future. We are caught in the middle, preparing for the already and the not yet.
One of the elements of a time of preparation is hope. Israel waited in hope for the coming of the Messiah, before the birth of Jesus. We wait for Jesus’ coming when he will usher in a time of justice, equality, peace and prosperity for all.
The Habakkuk texts that we read today help us focus on hope. They address the struggle of hope in the face of hopeless situations, and the decision to hope rather than despair.
A PANORAMA OF PAIN
In chapter one, Habakkuk observes that there is destruction and violence, the law becomes slack and the wicked surround the righteous. All he sees is pain and suffering. Habakkuk was a prophet in Judea, the Southern Kingdom, around the time of Babylonian Invasion. He was witness to the destructive forces of war and the breakdown of society. He cried out for God to intervene, but it appeared to him that God was not listening and that there was no hope. We understand what Habakkuk was going through.
Last year Faye and I were dealing with her breast cancer. Yes, her cancer was discovered in an early stage and yes, it was a "good” type of cancer. Still, there are days when it is difficult to see hope.
Faye and I are not the only ones in such a situation. We look around us and there are others with serious, chronic health issues, families battling addictions, long-term unemployment, battles with depression and battered and bruised relationships. We pray and nothing happens. We wonder if God has turned a deaf ear to us.
There are thousands of people who are refugees from the California wildfires. Around the world tens of thousands of migrants are seeking asylum from war, gangs, drug cartels and other threats of violence. War continues in dozens of countries spreading its death and destruction. Hunger kills 21,000 people around the world each day. We seek to help. We pray, but the problems are so great and we wonder where God is in all of this.
TAKING THE LONG VIEW
In chapter two, God answers Habakkuk. God assures Habakkuk and us that the vision for peace, justice, and prosperity for all is coming. It has its appointed time. The Lord encourages us to wait and be patient.
Waiting is a part of the life of faith. Ours is not an empty passing of time, however. As followers of Jesus, we wait with hope—with a sense of expectation that God is moving in ways that we cannot see nor understand.
We do not wait by idly paging through our cell phone apps. We wait actively. Rolling up our sleeves, we involve ourselves in living out our faith and sharing God’s love and grace. With all of the pain and suffering around us, there are a plethora of opportunities to use our individual gifts and talents to help others. We may not be able to do great things, but we can do small things of love and those small things of love can make a big difference.
MAKING THE DECISION
Habakkuk’s situation does not change in the course of his book, but Habakkuk changes. Habakkuk makes the decision to hope.
We can look around at the pain and suffering in our lives and around us and we can become depressed and discouraged. These rob us of our motivation and drain us of our power.
Habakkuk turns away from the despair that filled the first serves of his book. As he comes to the end of his interaction with the Lord, Habakkuk decides that “Thought the fig tree does not blossom and no fruit is on the vines … Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation.
Hope does not wait for the situation to change. Nor does hope necessarily change the situation. Hope, though, does change us. Habakkuk expresses this change with the words, “God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer and makes me tread upon the heights.”
The year 2018 has passed quickly. Even though it as if Christmas 2017 was just a few days ago, for many of us the year has made us tired and a little jaded about life in general.
Now, the Season of Advent is upon us—the season of hope. The hope of Advent reinvigorates us and empowers us to prepare not only for the coming of the Christ Child, but also for the coming of the King of kings.