Habakkuk (hu-BACK-uk) didn’t know whether to curse or cry when he saw sin of every kind around him. Injustice, immorality, greed, violence, and fake religion were just part of his nation’s sin. But God’s answer to all this seemed as bad as the sin. God was sending the cruel Chaldeans to take over Judah. Who could believe God would do that to His own people? “I can’t believe that,” Habakkuk thought.
The prophet could hardly believe God would do that, but God did what He said He would do. He brought disaster on Judah that resulted in a long period of captivity in Babylon. Habakkuk could hardly believe, but he faithfully bowed before the Lord. Then he went out to proclaim God’s message, judgment is coming, “ but the righteous one will live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4, CSB). Then, sometime later God gave him a prayer as the days of judgment drew near, a prayer the prophet recorded in Habakkuk chapter three.
Habakkuk’s prayer began saying essentially “Lord do it again” (Hab. 3:2). He prayed God would dramatically rescue His people and punish those who conquered them. But this prophet’s message was not simply, “God make things good again.” Habakkuk knew God’s people would experience suffering and trouble, the consequences of their sin. But Habakkuk and all those who believed his message knew, too, beyond God’s judgment on sin, God’s people would again rejoice in the Lord, the God of their salvation. They knew that as God had created the sure, steady tread of a deer climbing the heights, God would give a sure, steady faith to those who lived in trust.
Those of us who recognize the Habakkuk’s message “the just shall live by faith” (KJV) from Paul’s writings connect it with being saved by faith, eternally secured in Christ. Paul taught us well. In Habakkuk’s day, though, eternal life was not the immediate focus of the prophet’s word. As God revealed trouble coming to his nation, Habakkuk understood that those who trusted God’s message would live, survive, endure on the basis of their faith. God had and would plant their feet securely, and they would praise the Lord despite crop failures, famine, and war.
Twenty-first century people of faith are challenged by the faith of this ancient prophet and those who believed his message. We hesitate to see God’s hand in the crises that sweep over the world today. Is this God at work? How do we respond, believe, live? We want to think that better days are ahead, but we cannot see a clear path to a peaceful and secure future for ourselves or others in the world. Do we hunker down and hope for the best? Do we fall into the trap of people who have no faith in God, those who put their faith in technology, science, education, social change, human reasoning to create a more desirable future.
If we look back over the last sixty or seventy years it is evident that believers have tried several ways to turn our nation and others back to God. Some announced these days of difficult are the end times and Jesus is coming back to rescue His own, so get ready, repent. Other Christians determined that godly leaders could use political power as a way to turn our present and future back to God. Instead unbelievers looked at Christians as power-hungry and demanding. In more recent years the church tried a softer, seemingly more relevant way to engage the culture. The church offered God’s way as the path to a better, more rewarding, more fulfilling life. But God seems more interested in changing lives than meeting the world’s definition of “better, more rewarding, more fulfilling”.
We can too easily condemn past strategies, but we still long for a nation that honors God. Is there an answer to today’s ever-growing crises? Habakkuk longed for his people to turn back to God and this was the prophet’s prayerful answer.
Lord do it again. Show Your power to redeem.
Though that redemption waits and the intervening years are difficult, our days are in Your hands
In faith we will lift You up, in trust we will walk secure. For Yours, O Lord, is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory forever and ever, Amen.