April 4th, 2016
Habakkuk had chutzpah, that’s for sure.
Could you imagine? After an original complaint in Chapter One, which Yahweh graciously answers, he steps UP the “personal confidence or courage that allows someone to do or say things that may seem shocking to others.” He demands that the God of Israel, Elohim, answer his new complaint. He boldly (or is it foolishly?) tells Him that he EXPECTS an answer – and he’s not going to leave his watch post on a tower of the city walls of Jerusalem until he gets his response from the All-Powerful Supreme Being who created and sustains all things!
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, 2)
We can understand Habakkuk’s perturbations, even if we might not be as brash as he was. He was a Minor Prophet – which just means that his book is relatively short (three chapters), not that his message was not as important as the so-called Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. In fact, his prophecy is exceedingly significant. Habakkuk’s short book contains the verse that the Apostle Paul quoted in Romans 1:17 that was used as a foundation stone of the Reformation: “The just shall live by faith.” The Complete Jewish Bible translates it this way: “as the Tanakh puts it, “But the person who is righteous will live his life by trust.” That key verse about salvation “by grace through faith” is part of Yahweh’s response to this very complaint.
But, again – we can’t blame Habakkuk. He was confused by what he saw. He lived at the time of Jeremiah, at a time when Yahweh had raised up Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, to judge His People, Israel. Even though Israel was wicked and deserved judgment, the prophet couldn’t comprehend why Yahweh would bring such devastation on the Jewish people by people who were worse sinners than THEY were. It didn’t make sense to Habakkuk – “doesn’t Elohim see the difference? The Babylonians are WAY worse than the people of Judah. So – what’s the deal? Is Yahweh unfair?”
The answer is: No! No! A thousand times, No! Yahweh is as loving and kind as He ever was. He’s the One who raised them up, took them out of slavery in Egypt, took them through the desert, and placed them in the Promised Land, the land He had promised them forever. He had expressed His love for His people in a multitude of ways. There was one big difference between the Babylonians and the people of Judah: He expected the people whom He had chosen to present Himself to the world to be faithful to Him. But they were anything but that! By the days of Habakkuk, there was idol worship in the Temple of Yahweh Himself. The Lord described His people in Ezekiel 16 as a foolish prostitute:
30 “How sick is your heart, declares the Lord God, because you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen prostitute, 31 building your vaulted chamber at the head of every street, and making your lofty place in every square. Yet you were not like a prostitute, because you scorned payment. 32 Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband! 33 Men give gifts to all prostitutes, but you gave your gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from every side with your whorings. 34 So you were different from other women in your whorings. No one solicited you to play the whore, and you gave payment, while no payment was given to you; therefore you were different. (Ezekiel 16: 30 – 34)
That says it as clearly as it can be said! Even a prostitute gets paid by her “lovers”, but Israel is so corrupt, she PAYS HER LOVERS!
This is the nation that Habakkuk is addressing. And the Lord answers him: to summarize, the judgment coming will be profound. The judgment coming is more than the people could ever conceive of. Habakkuk’s response to the prophesies of judgment is in 3:16 –
I hear, and my body trembles;
my lips quiver at the sound;
rottenness enters into my bones;
my legs tremble beneath me.
Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble
to come upon people who invade us.
But, after reading the terrifying account of the coming judgment, Habakkuk ends on an amazing upbeat. Despite the coming horrors, Yahweh still loves His People. This is a disciplinary action, the goal of which is to, ultimately, purge His People of sin. Listen to how the prophet ends:
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19 God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.
Despite these frightening possibilities – everything they depend on for living – gone – he says that he will rejoice in the Lord (Yahweh) and take JOY in the God of my salvation. This is genuine faith: in the face of the worst of circumstances, he will know that God – Elohim – is the source of his strength. Yahweh loves His People, and He promises to strengthen them in the worst of times, if they put their complete trust in Him.
Times are going to get rough – in many ways. The judgment of Elohim is already falling on this nation, but the worst is yet to come. If you’re a believer in Yeshua ha Mashiach – Jesus the Messiah – trust Him to be there in the midst of trouble. He promised “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” Trust Him – He is faithful to His Word.
If you don’t know the Savior, now is the perfect time to make His acquaintance. Come to Him while you still have time. It’s very simple to be saved – it costs you nothing because it cost Him [Yeshua] everything. He said it: “Repent and believe the gospel.” Repent means to admit to being a sinner – all of us are sinners; the apostle Paul called himself “the chief of sinners.” Then, humbly come to Him, bringing nothing of your own to Him except your entire self. He said, “Seek, and you shall find.” He meant HIMSELF – if you humbly, sincerely (being completely open and honest) seek Him, you WILL find Him. All who come to Him with nothing to give, like a child, He promised that He would not turn aside – you WILL FIND Him. Then, believe the gospel: the good news that Jesus paid the ultimate price for all of our sins – in 2 Corinthians 5:21, the Word tells us: “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus lived a perfectly righteous life – totally sinless – so that He could die a bloody death as a sacrifice to legitimately pay the cost of OUR sins. He literally died – then, He literally ROSE FROM THE DEAD, proving that His conquest of sin and death was complete. Once you believe this, He will fill you with His Holy Spirit. He, the Ruach Khodesh, will enable you to live a life of righteousness. We don’t gain Yahweh’s favor by keeping the law; we can keep the law because we have Elohim living inside of us.
That’s it – that’s the essence of Messianic faith.
Don’t depend on this world to save you WHEN bad times come – it can’t. Only the Lord can save you. You can then be like Habakkuk – rejoicing even in the worst of times! He will make YOUR feet like the feet of a mountain goat – keeping your balance by trusting in Him.
May the grace (unearned, unmerited favor) of Yahweh be with you!