“O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear! I even cry out unto You of violence, and You will not save!” (Habakkuk 1:1).
“Why are not times of judgment kept by the Almighty, and why do those who know Him never see His days?” (Job 24:1).
“It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:4).
“How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1).
“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22:1).
This group of sentences may seem like a strange way to begin a piece of writing, especially as it is coming to you during the week of Thanksgiving. But I am most thankful, really, that we read such things in our Bibles. That last statement is from Matthew 27 and it contains the very words of Jesus from the Cross.
These are not murmurs, which are mutterings and mumblings of dissatisfaction and disenchantment and disillusion. These are instead honest reactions to trouble and are addressed decently and in order to God.
Complaints, made in the right context and to the right Person, are necessary and right. In fact, proper complaining is actually a category of meditation that should pull us closer toward the Lord.
It’s important for us to realize just how much we were made for perilous times. Such moments can push us to the breaking point for sure. How we respond in these moments is vital to our spiritual well-being.
We may get overwhelmed at the nature of evil at work around us. This is nothing new, as we see in the opening sentence from the prophet Habakkuk.
Habakkuk saw things he never thought he’d see. He was a prophet during a turbulent time in the kingdom of Judah. The oppression and violence that permeated the days in which he lived mystified and terrified him. He lamented out loud and wrote his thoughts out for us to read.
“Where are you, Lord?” This was the starting point for Habakkuk.
He questioned God; he argued with the Most High. He wondered about the Lord’s concern for him and his people in the midst of the turmoil that came to the society.
The book of Habakkuk offers us a pattern, I think. In it, we are given a guide on how to weather the problems of life with God in mind. The prophet encourages us to turn to Heaven when we feel as if we are living in the midst of hell.
Our temptation in seasons of difficulty, especially in this age of social media, is to spill our guts over a wide area, to unleash a flood of emotions to anyone and everyone. We declare our grievances and make demands for redress and recompense and vengeance.
Habakkuk, in contrast, went straight to God with his issues. He talked things out with the Almighty and as a result he found himself closer than ever to the Lord.
In Chapter 2, Habakkuk declared that he would stand watch and wait for God. And the Lord answered him and gave the prophet sure words, promises that would be fulfilled.
The prophet got no timetable, no schedule that he could follow out. Still, he was told to write these things down so that others would read them and run with the message in the mission of Heaven. He at last came to this conclusion: “…the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him” (Habakkuk 2:20).
Moved to Music
Quietness and confidence, in these we find strength wrote another prophet (see Isaiah 30:15). Our hope must be rooted in the reality that God remains on His throne. His sovereignty is real and trustworthy. Therefore, we can be still.
And in his stillness, Habakkuk was moved to music. Habakkuk 3 is labeled in the Psalter as a prayer of Habakkuk upon “shigionoth” – an obscure Hebrew term that some commentators take to describe a composition fashioned with a strong, expressive tone and formed in the midst of tumult. Thus, we have words from a man so at rest in the Lord that he wrote a loud, almost boisterous tune to address the atmosphere of his day.
Psalm 7 is the other shigionoth song in our Bibles. After relating the persecutions and the enemies surrounding him, the writer concludes his hymn this way: “I will praise the Lord according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high” (Psalm 7:17).Our hope must be rooted in the reality that God remains on His throne. His sovereignty is real and trustworthy. Therefore, we can be still. Click To Tweet
Habakkuk likely knew Psalm 7 and he understood that his hard times might grow even harder. He realized that his fields and vines and stalls might become unfruitful and empty. Even if that were to become the case, Habakkuk exclaimed:
“I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places” (Habakkuk 3:18-19).
Those closing words reveal the prophet in exaltation of living life on the edge. We were made for this. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 5, believers are to walk “circumspectly” – in the Greek akribos, from which the English “acrobat” is drawn. We are sure-footed even in the tight and narrow spots.
The Better View
One of my favorite proverbs says that “it is better to live at the corner of a housetop” (see Proverbs 21:9, 25:24). That position is a precarious one, a place that requires concentration and dexterity. It is also a position that is above. The high places speak to our nearness to God and with them come the view that is better, clearer, and sweeter.
It takes vision and purpose to stand in such places. We are lifted up and look down on the things of the earth. Those things grow small – strangely dim in His Light — as we look out upon what the Lord puts before us and sense that His Face, the emblem of His Presence, is there too. He watches as we watch and wait.
Watchful, waiting faith brings us peace and also the joy of the Lord that is our strength. Let’s look to Him who is our Healer. He has sent us His Word. Let us trust and obey, for this is the Way to be happy in Jesus, come what may.
For more on Habakkuk and his prophecy, check out “Cling to God, Live by Faith,” a message from Thomas Schaller, Pastor of Greater Grace Church in Baltimore.