Bible Text: Habakkuk 3:1-19 | Preacher: Rev.M. | Series: Haba-Who? Habakkuk: A Study of God’s Unexpected Work | Well this morning we will be finishing up our sermon series for May titled, Habakkuk: A Study of God’s Unexpected Work, with the final piece called “Song of Praise to Yahweh”. Over the previous three weeks we looked at the person of Habakkuk, this minor prophet of the Old Testament. We also examined the state of things in the kingdom of Judah and found injustice and violence. And then last week we found out just what God had in mind to punish the Judean people through the hands of the Babylonians.
I have to admit that this series so far has been a bit challenging for me in that I keep feelings like I find parallels between what we have read and what is going on in our world right now. There was injustice and violence in Judah, and there is injustice and violence in our country today. These last few weeks have been outright depressing at times. I do not want to watch the news and hear about the latest atrocity. Sarah does not let me watch CNN, MSNBC, or any other major news network for more than a few minutes at a time for my own sanity and mental well-being. And the words of judgment against Judah have been just as hard.
But as I sat down with our scripture passage for today, I felt a sense of peace and encouragement. The header for this chapter reads, “The Lord’s Victory”. Just reading those words alone helped to remind me that God has already won. Jesus already defeated death and sin. The Lord’s victory has already been secured and that idea not only brings me encouragement, it also energizes me to join with God and help be a part of that victory.
You know in life there are many questions. Maybe more than can ever be truly counted or recorded. As humans it is our nature it seems to ask questions as we continue to understand the world in which we live. No matter how much we think we know, there always seems to be more and more questions. And maybe two of the most challenging questions we encounter, especially as Christians are “Why do the righteous suffer?” and “Why does God often appear to remain silent?”. These questions are ones that almost every person struggles with at some point in their lives.
Even the prophet Habakkuk has asked these questions in the first two chapters of the book. A prophet, a messenger of God, has even asked these questions. So, we are in good company if nothing else. But having asked these questions, Habakkuk seems to have found some answers in an unexpected fashion. For him, Habakkuk has found that he needs to adjust his perspective and understanding on the ways that God interacts with and is connected to humanity.
The ultimate answer to difficult questions such as these always seems to take us back to God himself. In Habakkuk’s case, he questioned God, but then in the end came back to the profound answer for all the questions of life. He returned to the theme of the greatness and the majesty of God that we see here in this third chapter of the book. When we read these nineteen verses, we see that for Habakkuk, his doubts have been satisfactorily answered. And because of this he now breaks out in prayer, praise, and joy. Here Habakkuk makes a triumphant expression of undaunted faith.
And I have to admit that this change in Habakkuk, his coming to this new realization and this new attitude is rather impressive. I am not sure everyone could make such a transition to get to this point and this seemingly newfound attitude. But you see for Habakkuk, this prayer we have in the third chapter is celebrating the satisfactory answers that the Lord offers to Habakkuk in light of his complaints. The most important thing that Habakkuk learns, or has reinforced to him is that at all points, God has proven faithful.
Regardless of how bad things seem to be across the kingdom, Habakkuk promises to watch, and to wait, and to hope for God to step in and act. Verse sixteen says, “I hear and my insides tremble. My lips quiver at the sound. Rottenness enters my bones. I tremble while I stand, while I wait for the day of distress to come against the people who attack us.” You see while Habakkuk is dismayed at the method God uses through the Babylonians to punish the Judean people, his dismay is better than having a growing distrust in the sovereign God.
And in this prayer and hymn of praise, Habakkuk extols the virtues of the Lord. He celebrates God’s power in verse two, God’s glory in verse three, God’s wrath in verse 8, God’s mercy in verse thirteen, and of course God’s grace in verse nineteen. Part of the reason that Habakkuk can get to this point and perspective comes from a specific understanding of God’s actions at play here. You see despite all of these horrible and even cataclysmic calamities and judgments that are coming from God’s own hand against his people, those who are justified by faith shall still live by God’s steadfast trust.
So, Habakkuk seems to have made a full turn from where he started in a way. He still desires for the injustice and violence committed by his own people to end and for God to intervene. But where he then questioned God’s use of the Babylonian army in delivering this punishment against the Judean people, Habakkuk now is at least somewhat onboard. But maybe even more important that being in agreement with God’s plan, he has fully put his trust and faith in God.
He now in this chapter is celebrating God’s greatness and character. He talks about how God goes out to save God’s people. And in those same breaths he admits to his own fears of what is to come. Habakkuk owns his own truth of the strength of this faith, but also where he is still afraid of what is to come. But again, in the final verse, Habakkuk also owns where he finds his strength for his life and his faith. “The Lord God is my strength. He will set my feet like the deer. He will let me walk upon the heights.”
This whole hymn speaks so strongly to Habakkuk’s trust in God and given the circumstances he was witnessing; it blows me away even more. The Babylonians coming was pretty much the equivalent of the apocalypse for many nations. This was not just another battle coming between two nations. This was going to be a very one-sided affair, and not in Judah’s favor. And despite this coming destruction, Habakkuk still praises God and fully puts his trust in God.
I wonder if we could be that strong today. I am not saying that we could not, but I wonder how often we really are. How often do we fully put our faith in God in situations that are scary, and we are so unsure? How often do we refuse to admit that we are not in control and try to do it all ourselves? How often do we forget to reach out to God for his intervention, or even for the strength we need to perceiver and survive these challenging situations?
I remember back when Sarah and I had made the decision to pursue this calling from God for me to enter into his ministry. There was a lot to get done and to figure out. We had a house and a mortgage. We both had well-paying full-time jobs. We would have to move. I would have to leave my job. Our income was going to be cut by more than half. We were going to moving away from our friends and families to somewhere we did not know anyone really.
And there were lots of questions. Would I even get accepted into the seminary? Would we be able to afford it? Could I get enough scholarships and financial aid to make this work? Would Sarah be able to handle her work commute changing from ten minutes to an hour? Did I really know what I was getting myself, and my family, into? Would I be able to do it? Would I be able to get passing grades and graduate and be able to answer this call I felt that God had placed on my heart?
But you know what? In all honesty, outside of figuring out the logistics, I never really doubted that this was what I was supposed to be doing. I never panicked about getting through the three years of school and graduating. It never really crossed my mind. Because I trusted God. In the depths of my heart and my very being I trusted that this was what God was calling me to do and God would help us get there and get through it.
And that is what happened in our case. We were able to get rid of our house. We were able to move and find storage for some of our things. I was able to secure both scholarships and financial aid to cover our new costs. Sarah was able to survive her commute each day. In those three years of driving over an hour each way, she was never in an accident. God called us and we answered, fully trusting God throughout.
But I admit that following a call to ministry, at least for me, is nothing like being faced with an insurgent Babylonian army that is sure to destroy the place I live and commit violent acts against those I love. My point though with this comparison is that there are many things in our lives that can be scary or daunting. When a loved one gets sick. When someone loses their job. When something in our life changes and a sense of stability and reliability is lost.
But when we are facing those situations, that is when we need to put our trust in God the most. When we feel like the righteous are suffering, or that God is staying silent amidst one of these challenging times – that is when we should turn to God. That is the time to put our faith in God. We should not just trust God and put our faith in God when everything is going exactly the way we want. We need to constantly and consistently trust God, in all aspects of our lives.
And I know that can be challenging. I know that it can be hard. We like to be in control, or at least think we are. Relying on someone else is counter to a lot of what our society and our world seems to value. We have celebrated sayings like, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” We take pride in completing tasks and challenges with the help of others. We celebrate our ability to be independent. But are we really independent?
We have to remember that regardless of how independent we may thing we are or try to be, there are some things that we cannot do on our own. We cannot save ourselves from sin and death. God and God alone can do that. Jesus was the only one who could suffer, die, and rise again to save the world. I know it is hard sometimes. It really is. But we need to remember to put our faith and our trust fully in God, at all times. Because in the end, God is the only one who will never, ever fail us. God and God alone will always be there for us. We just need to trust God. Amen.