Brother Habakkuk is a tired man. He ministers during the ‘death throes’ of the nation of Judah that has repeatedly refused to repent. He has lived righteously and sought to engage his generation with God’s message but seems to see no fruit. He is weary, frustrated, and discouraged. So Habakkuk decides to ask God questions, in chapter 1, many questions which really are one: why is God silent when the wicked devour the righteous? (1:2,13). Why?
The Jewish believers in the New Testament too are growing weary and discouraged. They are being persecuted for their faith, for having forsaken Judaism, for seeking after Christ. They are so discouraged that indeed, they are contemplating on forsaking their new faith and turning back. In effect, they are wondering where God is, why is He not protecting them from the dangers and the assault on their life? (Hebrews 12).
I had an interesting 5-hour conversation with an atheist friend of mine on Thursday, and he asked why God who sees and knows all the plans, intents and effects of the wicked still lets them carry them out.
The dangers believers face are real, and the questions pierce closer to the heart. Brother Habakkuk’s questions are not simplistic, the Jewish believers are not facing philosophical persecution. The questions about the suffering of the righteous may not be exhaustively answered, but it is very important for us, even as we raise these questions, to ensure that our communion with God is very strong and on a solid ground. It is when we trust in God that we are satisfied by His word. His presence must be more valued than propositions, for the question ‘where is God?’ asks for His presence more than His propositional truth.
I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected. Habakkuk 2:1
Habakkuk hides himself as he waits for God to answer. A rampart is a defensive wall of a castle or walled city, having a broad top with a walkway and typically a stone parapet. It is a defensive or protective barrier. What will God say? Will His answer satisfy me?
God answers Habakkuk. In chapter two God speaks of the final judgement of the wicked and how their end is coming. You may see them prosper now, but now is not the end. The Grand weaver is weaving a great story whose sweetness shall be comprehended at the end of the ages, where every book will be balanced. Habakkuk needs to endure, to be patient.
The writer of Hebrews also tells the persecuted Jews to be patient, to endure hardship, they have not yet resisted to bloodshed striving against sin (12:4). After all, there is Christ who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, to the point of death. This should be the strength, the rampart that protects us against discouragement and refresh is when we are weary (v3). And we have many examples of those who have endured wickedness and kept their testimony (v1-2). Hebrews 11 has outlined them, and Habakkuk knows their example.
The faith that overcomes the world is the rampart and bulwark never failing. It is what we need in times of trouble. Keep believing in the faithfulness of God. Keep believing in His goodness and justice amidst much wickedness and injustice. Faith, the writer of Hebrews says, is the substance of things hoped for without which no one can please God, and without which we can’t obtain the promises.
So the first thing God tells Habakkuk when He answers him is ‘the just shall live by faith’ (2:4). Before I tell you of the end of the wicked, Mr. Habakkuk, do you have faith in Me? It is your trust in Me that carries you through the troubles. Habakkuk’s mind changes, and chapter 3 is a great resolve. Though he was weary, God has strengthened him and refreshed him.
Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls—yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills. Habakkuk 3:17-18
Habakkuk’s endurance through ‘chastening’ has purified him, as a legitimate son, who rejoices in God regardless of the circumstances. God will judge the world in justice. But presently, He is doing a work in you and me, through the injustice and wickedness, through our trials. He is making you and me partake of His holiness (Hebrews 12:10).
Sure, the chastening is painful, it is perhaps undesirable for you and I, now. But it is necessary.
Therefore, strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Hebrews 12:12-13
Do not grow weary and discouraged my brethren. Tough times in your walk of faith shall come. They did for brother Habakkuk, they did for our Jewish brothers, and they surely will come for us. Trials will cost us our peace, finances, reputation, name, fame, name it. The will even cost us life itself. But faith ultimately conquers. Our reward may not be here, it indeed is not here, therefore let us set our eyes on Him.
For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. Hebrews 12:18,22-24
Do not grow weary of doing good, for in due time; in due time, you shall reap.