Summary: From a Sob to a Song: Learn from Habakkuk How the Lord Leads from Confusion to Calm
It started with four highjacked airplanes and three downed buildings resulting in the deaths of 6,000 people. How did you react when you first found out about the attacks? For me it was scepticism. It looked more like a movie than reality. When the frightful facts finally sank in I was reminded once again that no one is safe from violence and bloodshed. Terror and strife are native to every country and municipality. Shootings that are prevalent in many North American cities take the lives of teenagers right here in Edmonton. Strife and contention caused by alcoholism, or financial difficulty don’t just break the hearts and homes of unbelievers; they smash the lives of believers too.
Now if God really loves us, and if he has power over all things why doesn’t he destroy the evil in the world so that we can live in peace? Why does he allow terrorists to operate and strife to infect our families? If you’ve ever asked yourself or God those questions you’re not alone. The prophet Habakkuk also struggled to understand why God seemed to do nothing as the wicked overran the righteous, and he cried out for an answer. Well, what started out as a sob turned into a song; that’s because the Lord led Habakkuk from confusion to calm. How did he do that? Finding the answer will transform our own sobs into songs.
Last Sunday we learned a little bit about the prophet Amos. Today we turn our attention to the prophet Habakkuk. Habakkuk lived about 150 years after Amos - that’s still some 600 years before Christ was born. Unlike Amos, Habakkuk ministered to the southern kingdom of Judah. By this time already the northern kingdom of Israel had been carried off into captivity because of their impenitent sins of foolish boasting, and self-indulgent living. Unfortunately Judah wasn’t much better. Led by King Manasseh, Judah fell to an all time low in morality. Listen to how the Chronicler describes Manasseh. “He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger...Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites” (2 Chronicles 33:6, 9).
Faced with such evil every day Habakkuk and other God-fearing people cried out to the Lord. Habakkuk sobbed, “How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? 3 Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds” (Hab. 1:2, 3). Interestingly Habakkuk’s sob has been echoed by the saints in heaven. The Apostle John reports, “I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Revelation 6:9, 10)
Although it didn’t seem like it, the activities of the wicked had not escaped God’s notice. God not only knew what the wicked were up to he already had plans in place to deal with them. God said to Habakkuk, “Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. 6 I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own” (Hab. 1:5, 6). Just as the northern kingdom of Israel had been carried off by Assyria because of their sins so God would allow Judah to be carried off by the Babylonians.
God’s answer, however, only led to more sobbing from Habakkuk. “O LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgment; O Rock, you have ordained them to punish. 13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (Hab. 1:12b, 13). “The Babylonians, Lord? Aren’t they even worse than the wicked that we have to deal with right now?” Habakkuk wasn’t so sure that God’s cure was preferable to the disease. Although the Babylonians had yet to become a superpower their reputation as being cruel and ruthless fighters was already well known and to fall into their hands would not be an enjoyable experience!
Has that ever happened to you where you pray for God to deliver you from some hardship only to see things get worse? What’s happening? Has God become so busy that he’s forgotten about you? Or even worse, are the events of your life beyond his control? We of course know that neither is true but we do see through the experience of Habakkuk that God is not shy about using hardship to draw us closer to him. Yes, the Babylonians would inflict pain on his people but in the end God would deliver them therefore he wanted Habakkuk and other believers to be patient. God said, “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. 3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. 4 “See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous will live by his faith...For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:2-4, 12).