Summary: Hope in God, even when He is not doing anything. Trust in God, even when you do not understand His way. Worship God by holding on to what you know about Him.
We hardly hear a sermon preached on Habakkuk, which has only 3 chapters, but we do have some popular verses from this book –
• 2:4 “The righteous will live by his faith” (quoted a few times in NT),
• 2:20 “The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him”, we sings in the Chinese Service every Sunday, and
• 3:17-18 “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, through there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.”
Israel has fallen and Habakkuk ministers in Judah and struggles with the problem of evil in his days. The Assyrians have just fallen to the Babylonians.
• He saw too much of violence and atrocities, and was frustrated at the apparent inaction of God.
We struggle with that too. This book helps us answer similar frustrations that we have today in our own experience:
(1) When God is not doing anything, and we expect Him to.
(2) When God does things in ways we cannot accept.
We will learn from Habakkuk how we can continue to put our hope in God and trust Him, despite these struggles.
• [Read Habakkuk 1:1-11] The structure is simple – Habakkuk complains to God, God answers him, he launches into a second complaint, God replies and then he responds with a song of worship.
(1) HOPE IN GOD, EVEN WHEN HE IS NOT DOING ANYTHING
What makes this book unusual is that it’s about a debate between the prophet and God. You can say Habakkuk was arguing with God.
• Some may feel this is inappropriate, but it is better to debate with God than to ignore Him, to deal with the issues than to pretend that nothing is wrong.
• To question God shows that we are serious, that we still believe Him to be real and who cares about what is happening in our lives.
• In fact, those who do not challenge God may have given up on Him or worst, decided to disbelief Him. It is a sign of apathy.
Habakkuk asks in 1:2 “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?”
• Sound familiar? That’s what we would say.
• Apparently Habakkuk has seen injustice for too long. He has been asking for answers for quite some time now, to issue such a complaint.
• It is difficult when we do not have an answer. We prayed and nothing happens. We waited and nothing has changed.
But nothing stops us from coming to God with our complaints and questions.
• We can pour out your heart to God without fear. The Psalmists do that often – 1/3 of the Psalms are laments – expressing frustrations, disappointments and even anger towards God.
• You don’t have to get to the right mood or say the right words. You don’t even need to pretend they are not there.
In the past, I have this sense of ‘respect’ for God and didn’t want to tell Him off – trying to be nice and courteous – so I ‘hide’ my discontent, my frustration and anger.
I’ve learnt over the years that this is not healthy to our soul, and it is foolish.
God already knows the state of my soul. When I pour out my heart to Him, I am not telling God anything new. By telling Him all that I am grappling with, God heals me and bring me to a deeper understanding of His character and His ways. It builds intimacy, rather than destroying it.
You can be completely open and honest before God. You don’t need to pretend the frustration or anger is not there. Philip Yancey says the real prayer that God listens to could very well be the unspoken words in your heart.
God answers Habakkuk, not rebuke him. He reveals a plan. God always has a plan.
• Even if He is not doing anything, you can put your hope in God because He has a plan.
GOD WILL ANSWER. According to Scriptures, we can safely say, God always answer.
• It’s just that sometimes, that answer comes in the form of a silent wait.
• To us, a wait is not an answer, but to God, it is. Remaining status quo can be an answer – just like telling a child in a shopping mall, “just stay where you are, don’t go anywhere, or don’t do anything, and I’ll come to get you.”
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to do nothing, just wait.
• Psalm 37:7 “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.”