How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.
God’s answer is swift and confusing. In a way, God affirms the confusion and bewilderment of Habakkuk, telling him that he could not possibly understand the things that God is up to and the way He is bringing them about.
“Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.
I am raising up the Babylonians…”
I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint.
Habakkuk's encounter with God reminds me of the wrestling match that Abraham had with God over Sodom and Gomorrah; only this time, the outcome and God’s response is quite different. Habakkuk asks for an answer — and an answer he gets.
Then the Lord replied:
“Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald may run with it.
For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
it will certainly come
and will not delay.
“See, the enemy is puffed up;
his desires are not upright—
but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness—
indeed, wine betrays him;
he is arrogant and never at rest.
Because he is as greedy as the grave
and like death is never satisfied,
he gathers to himself all the nations
and takes captive all the peoples.
And later in chapter 2, God closes His statements with the following challenge:
The Lord is in his holy temple;
let all the earth be silent before him.
Having been given a glimpse of God’s plan and the slightest taste of God’s feelings about idolatry, injustice, and all things that pull the world apart and fight against restoration, Habakkuk finds himself humbled and at odds to be able to comprehend and understand the mind of God.
I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.
Sometimes, we are invited to catch a glimpse of God’s plan. Sometimes, we are kept in the dark.
Habakkuk catches a glimpse and his knees trembled and his heart pounded. Because sometimes we THINK that we want answers — but we really don’t. We really don’t want to know, and even if we did, we wouldn’t even know where to begin. We wouldn’t have the slightest clue how to stand in the face of the future. I believe that sometimes God keeps the future from us in order to enable us to walk into it. If we knew the kinds of things that waited for us on the other side, we’d never choose to walk through the next door. We’d run for our lives
Luckily, Habakkuk has enough trust in the story that God’s telling. He’s able to catch a glimpse of the future, stare opposition in the face, and know that the story of God will get the last word. He’s able to live in the assurance that he will be able to overcome.
One of the most meaningful passages in the Bible appears as the closing to this prophecy of Habakkuk. It’s a verse that I have carried around as my life verse, that no matter what lies around the bend for my life, my family, my world — we will overcome and pursue the story of reconciliation that God is inviting us into.
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.