Is God at work?
It is easy for us to look at our circumstances, especially when they seem insurmountably against us, and assume the absence of God. The image we have conjured up when we think of God leaves us with rather skewed apologetics.
God is all loving. He is all good. He is all merciful. Isn’t he?
Habakkuk made a similar assumption when he thought that either God was not aware of the prevailing evil in his nation or God had determined to ignore it. His prayer was a kind of prodding of God to do his duty, of sorts.
God’s answer seemed to be a surprise to the prophet. God was sending the Chaldeans, an even more evil people, to judge the nation. Habakkuk could not believe it.
In fact, after God had given Habakkuk his answer, Habakkuk’s decision was to complain to God and wait for another answer.
Habakkuk stands in contrast to Jesus as Jesus prays, “Not my will but yours” to the Father. Habakkuk’s prayer is more like “You’ve got to be kidding me?”
Most of the time this is where we live. God’s work is often incomplete. We must continue to do our duty and wait on the Lord though. The circumstances we’ve been left in are often less than ideal. In our view God has more work to accomplish but he often gives no indication that he is working at all. Only a long view of history may reveal his providential hand.
“I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.” (Habakkuk 2:1, ESV)
It is then that God reveals to Habakkuk one of the most encouraging truths of all the Scripture. It is the ultimate application of the promises of God. The righteous shall live by faith!
God is not slack in his promise. His justice does not delay. His righteousness will ultimately win the day!
We must trust him.
God says to Habakkuk to write it down, make it plain.
Don’t worry. My plan is taking place. I am at work. I am not lying. Although it seems slow to you, it’s coming.
It reminds me of a line from The Searchers when John Wayne’s character Ethan promises his vengeance to Marty as they look for his sister who was captured by Commanche. Marty thinks they’re giving up when Ethan says:
Ethan: Our turnin’ back don’t mean nothin’, not in the long run. She’s alive, she’s safe… for a while. They’ll keep her to raise her as one of their own till, until she’s of an age to…
Martin: Don’t you think there’s a chance we still might find her?
Ethan: Injun will chase a thing till he thinks he’s chased it enough. Then he quits. Same way when he runs. Seems like he never learns there’s such a thing as a critter that’ll just keep comin’ on. So we’ll find ’em in the end, I promise you. We’ll find ’em. Just as sure as the turnin’ of the earth. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049730/quotes
God’s promise of his righteous judgment is much like Ethan’s promise to Marty. It’s a sure thing.
God hadn’t changed his mind about using the Chaldeans to judge Israel. He merely gave Habakkuk the rest of the story when he told him that afterward he will also judge the Chaldeans.
Before we assume God’s mercy or even his love, we must always know him first as righteous. Gods goodness can only flow from his righteousness. He can have no mercy until he is first just. God is in fact HOLY!
You can bet on that.
Paul quotes Habakkuk when he says: “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”” (Romans 1:17, ESV)
But to what end?
Just as the prophet Habakkuk was charged to tell the people of God’s impending judgement and his covenant faithfulness, so we too must be faithful foretellers of God’s truths.
When we are attacked by such as quarrel with God and his providence as the prophet here seems to have been—beset, besieged, as in a tower, by hosts of objectors—we should consider how to answer them, fetch our instructions from God, hear what he says to us for our satisfaction, and have that ready to say to others, when we are reproved, to satisfy them, as a reason of the hope that is in us (1 Pt. 3:15), and beg of God a mouth and wisdom, and that it may be given us in that same hour what we shall speak.
As we think about our own nation, its struggles, its uncertainty, its sinfulness, never lose sight of the fact that God is holy. All that is wrong is not unnoticed. All that is sin will not go unpunished. Judgement is coming. We must proclaim it as so for it is just as true as God’s very existance.
I don’t know whether God will revive our nation and cause us to once again fear him. I don’t know if Christians will be persecuted in the future. I don’t know if America will completely turn her back on God.
I know this-God has an appointed time for judgement and it’s racing to the end. It may seem slow but it’s coming. It will not delay.
We must wait for it. We must proclaim and defend it. We must live by faith. It’s coming.
Just like the turnin’ of the earth…
Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 1553). Peabody: Hendrickson.