In a weekly email update for St. Etienne Cathedral (Kigali) I have been working through a series of messages looking at the book of Habakkuk for strength to hold on in uncertain times. Here are more of those messages, slightly revised.
The book of Habakkuk gives us guidance for how to live in times of uncertainty. We have already looked at Habakkuk’s first complaint to God and God’s response (Part 1). We saw that in times of uncertainty God says to us, “Watch Me!” Now we will look at Habakkuk’s second complaint and God’s second response: “Trust Me!”
Habakkuk’s second complaint (1:12-17) is a followup to God’s first response. God revealed to the prophet that He was going to use the Chaldeans (Babylonians) to judge the sins of His people. Habakkuk understands that God has “ordained them as a judgement” (1:12), but how can a Holy God use wicked people to accomplish His purposes? God’s purity cannot look at evil, and yet it seems like God is passively watching as “the wicked swallow up” the righteous (1:13). Will God let them go on “killing nations forever?” Like a watchman on a city wall Habakkuk looks to the Lord for an answer (2:1). Again he wants to know what God is going to do about this.
God responds to Habakkuk’s complaint by again indicating that He has a plan (2:3-20). Just as He plans to use the Chaldeans to judge His people, He also plans to judge the Chaldeans for their pride and arrogance (2:6-20). In His holiness God is committed to the holiness of His people (Exodus 19:6), so He will use whatever means necessary to make them holy, even a wicked empire. But this doesn’t mean that God endorses the ways of the wicked. God is not going to give the Chaldeans free reign, He will judge them.
In the meantime God’s people live by faith (2:4). In the midst of uncertainty God is saying to Habakkuk, Trust Me! Faith is a dependance on something that is firm, that can provide stability. In Habakkuk this is trust in the God who is a “Rock” (1:12), and in His word (2:2-3). Faith believes that even if God’s goodness seems hidden, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord” (2:14). Faith prays that even in wrath God will remember His mercy (3:2). Faith waits on the Lord and rejoices in the midst of uncertainty.
God is calling us to trust Him in times of uncertainty. But it can feel like those times are the hardest to have faith. A friend wrote to me this week, saying, “our faith is easily shaken in times of uncertainty.” It is for this reason that we need one another. Sometimes we need the faith of a friend to give us the strength to hold on. As we come together in worship each week we grow in faith and strengthen one another.
In times of uncertainty God says to his people, “Watch Me!” and “Trust Me!” Before we move on to Habakkuk’s response to God in chapter 3, I thought we should pause and reflect on what God’s responses teach us about God.
God’s responses to Habakkuk’s complaints not only reveal answers, they also reveal something about God. It would be easy to jump to the obvious conclusion that God reveals himself as a God of wrath. Certainly God’s wrath will come against his own sinful people and the pride of the Babylonians. But other aspects of God’s character are not so obvious.
I think God’s wrath is actually a demonstration of his faithfulness. We see this in the way God responds to Habakkuk. First, God is open to Habakkuk’s complaints, and he is ready to answer. Second, God knows what is happening and is concerned for his people. Third, God has a plan, he is working for their good, their holiness. In these ways God is showing Habakkuk that even in times of uncertainty he is faithful and he can be trusted.
This message was not only for Habakkuk, but also for the people of Judah who were facing the threat of destruction and exile. God was preparing them through Habakkuk for the difficulties that lay ahead by reminding them that through it all he was faithful. They will find the strength to hold on in uncertainty as they trust in the Lord’s faithfulness.
God wants to reveal himself to us in the midst of our own times of uncertainty. I can remember a time about 8 years ago when life was uncertain. I wanted to know what was coming next, I was waiting for God to show me the future. But a friend asked me what God might want to teach me while I waited in the uncertainty. I was so focused on the destination that I wasn’t paying attention to the journey. What is the Lord trying to teach you in the uncertain times of your life?