My Dear Friend,
This past week was very challenging, and it will continue to be so. Looking around, and after much prayer, I was brought to the following text from the Book of Habakkuk. It has been an encouragement to me for many years. There is even a worship song that is based on it. I pray that you are well and safe. As always, please know that you are loved and missed. And I do have a feeling that it won’t be too long before we see each other again!
Love in Christ Jesus,
“The righteous shall live by faith.” Habakkuk 2:4b
“Though the fig tree does not blossom and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength.” Habakkuk 3:17-19a
Habakkuk’s Trust and Joy in the Midst of Trouble
Biblical scholars have placed the prophets of the Older Testament into two different camps: “Major Prophets” and “Minor Prophets.” Habakkuk (pronounced ha-BACK-ǝk) is considered to be a Minor Prophet. However, if we consider the terms “major” and “minor” in the usual manner, i.e., “major” being of greater influence, and “minor” being of lesser influence, Habakkuk was anything but a “minor” prophet. In fact, what the Holy Spirit said through him in three short chapters were some of the most profound words God had ever spoken. All that really differentiated “Major Prophets” from “Minor Prophets” was the length of their compositions. How unfortunate that Habakkuk didn’t make the “major league,” just because he was concise! His was a minor-sized work with a major-sized message for us.
In the last few months, we have found ourselves in the midst of great trouble. All of us have been confronted with a hazard that, while invisible to the naked eye, is quite real. At the same time, there has been injustice for some that the whole world could plainly see.
When Habakkuk prophesied God’s word to the people, his world was every bit as troublesome and confusing as ours is today. The way in which he began the prophecy was astounding. Talk about bold! It was tantamount to giving God “a piece of his mind.” He demanded to know, “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (1:1-4, NIV).
Habakkuk was becoming impatient. But the world does not get this broken because God is slow to act. It is because we have always been slow to listen. God did give Habakkuk a response: “It will take a while, but it will happen. Wait for it!”
In the meantime… “The righteous shall live by faith.”
This statement has been the cornerstone of the Church ever since Martin Luther protested against the religious hierarchy’s forcing people to pay money to be forgiven of their sins.
But such faith requires patience. Perhaps the Apostle James’ famous statement, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26) could be augmented by the statement, “Faith without patience is also dead.” Because if every problem we encountered was solved by midnight, there would be no need for faith.
In his original complaint, Habakkuk used words such as “violence,” “injustice,” “wrongdoing,” “destruction,” “strife,” and “conflict.” In the middle of the Book, God informed Habakkuk that the people would also be threatened by surrounding enemies. Could society endure much more than that? Habakkuk saw the possibility. There could be a famine, which was always a threat in agrarian society. The crops and herds would fail, thus causing great poverty and hunger. But Habakkuk maintained that even if such were to happen, he would still trust in God and rejoice.
“Though the fig tree does not blossom and there is no fruit on the vines; though the olive tree fails and the fields are barren; though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, YET I will rejoice in the One who is my salvation. The Lord God is my strength.”
By determining to trust and rejoice in the midst of trouble, Habakkuk’s fear of the future was transformed into faith. His hope would not be crushed. May it be so for us also, as we take time on this day to rejoice in God, who is our strength!