What does living by faith look like during times when we don’t understand what God is doing in the world around us?
If we’re being honest, this is a challenge that most of us have to wrestle with: what does it really look like to live by faith and trust in God when we are surrounded by a world full of chaos, sin and confusion?
This was the same struggle of the Biblical prophet, Habakkuk. His nation of Judah had been steadily declining in their spiritual walk for the past 75 years. They had rejected their God and chosen idolatry, leading them to rampant immorality and widespread injustice. While Habakkuk sought God to bring justice in the midst of his nation’s depravity, God’s response was shocking to him. God promises that He will raise up a worse nation – the Babylonians – to come against Judah and bring an end to the injustice in Judah. Habakkuk was shocked! How could a just God use such a wicked nation to bring justice?
Through the message of this book, Habakkuk and the remaining faithful followers of the Lord in Judah have to learn what it means to live by faith and trust God, even when things look hopeless. Through this short, but powerful book we too can learn how to trust God in our circumstances as well, even when the world around us seems chaotic. Remember that even in the most wicked and hopeless circumstances, God can use them to bring about His glory!
Habakkuk’s First Complaint & God’s Answer (1:2-11)
Do you ever feel like God ignores the injustices of our world today?
As Habakkuk looks at the state of his nation, he sees a nation who has drifted far from their God. King Josiah had recently instituted massive spiritual reforms in Judah, yet Habakkuk sees that still most of the nation does not worship God with a true heart. They are still corrupt, selfish, and ultimately disobedient to God. Out of anger and frustration Habakkuk cries out to the Lord against these injustices, however God gives him a response that he is not expecting.
God will bring the correction to Judah that Habakkuk desires, but will do so in a way that Habakkuk doesn’t like: He will raise up the Chaldeans (aka: the Babylonians) to bring about His justice. This was a cruel, arrogant, and ungodly nation, and yet they were the ones that God was going to use to bring about His justice?!? Surely this response came as a shock to Habakkuk, and raised up a lot more questions. Is this just of God? How can he be expected to remain faithful in light of this response from God?
This serves as a challenge for us as well. In the midst of a chaotic world full of corrupt leaders, untrustworthy politicians, rampant injustices, and hostile nations, in whom do we put our trust? What does living in faith look like when the world around us looks chaotic? Will we still trust in God’s consistent character and continue to walk in faithfulness to Him?
Habakkuk’s Second Complaint & God’s Answer (1:12-2:20)
Sometimes in life God acts in ways that we do not understand, and in timing that we do not like. When this happens we are faced with a hard question: will we still trust Him in these circumstances? In a season where things look so different, and our ‘normal’ life is turned on its head, is God still trustworthy? Do we have faith in His process and timing even when circumstances look so different from what we had hoped?
Habakkuk complains about the injustice that he perceives: that God, instead of bringing justice against the greater evil of Babylon, is using Babylon to bring justice against the lesser evil of Judah. Doesn’t this seem completely unjust? Does God not see this huge injustice? Of course He does! God promises Habakkuk that He will bring justice to Babylon, but He will do it in His timing (which happened to be about 80 years later).
The question for Habakkuk is, how will you live in the meantime? “…the righteous live by their faith” (Habakkuk 2:4b NRSV). A major theme of this book is the importance of living by faith. The Hebrew word used is not only referring to a faith of belief, but a faith that results in obedience. Habakkuk has to fully trust in God and remain faithful, no matter God’s response, process, or timing. Charles Spurgeon said, “when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart.” This is the same idea that is being taught to Habakkuk. Though God’s ways and timing are not what Habakkuk had hoped for, he can still trust and have faith in who God is; a God that will bring justice to both Judah and Babylon, but will save those who are faithful. In times like today, we can remember that though we don’t always see how God’s hand is moving, we can trust His heart. He is both faithful and just in all seasons of life. Because of this we live lives of faithfulness to Him.
Habakkuk Praises the Lord (3:1-19)
Why do we praise God?
It is easy to praise God when things are going well, but what about when things are difficult? Is our faithfulness to God dependent on our circumstances? Or is it built on our knowledge of the character of God? The more we know the Lord and trust His character, the more our natural response to difficult circumstances will turn to rejoicing, because He is good. “Though the fields yield no food… I will rejoice in the Lord (3:17-18).
This is Habakkuk’s response at the end of this dialogue with God. He is left in awe of who the Lord is. His life has become an example of what it looks like to live by faith. He recognizes that no matter the situation, the response should always be joy and trust in God. As Habakkuk contemplates his walk with God, he pictures the firm-footedness of a deer, leaping and jumping with ease, “He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights” (Habakkuk 3:19). In the same way, as Habakkuk chooses to walk in faith in God’s character, God will be the one that keeps his footing sure – even in tumultuous situations. Despite the uncertainty and chaos in the world around him, Habakkuk finishes with a recognition of God as the strength that will carry him through all situations. So it is with us today: as we lean on Him and the truth of who He is, we can stand firm through all circumstances that life may throw at us. Though we may not always see His hand at work, we can confidently trust His heart, and this is the joy that we can hold onto!