July 20, 2014 by Beth Hess
Yes, the 3-chapter, minor prophet hidden towards the end of the Old Testament … Habakkuk is my favorite book of the Bible.
Because anything that starts with “Lord, how long must I ask for help and you ignore me?” … well, I just HAVE to see how that one ends.
The book of Habakkuk is a conversation between the prophet and God himself. And it goes (using modern language and some artistic license) a little something like this…
H: God, this isn’t fair! Why do you let bad things happen and do nothing? People who don’t even believe in you are prospering and have a better life than your children do. I don’t like it when life is so hard, especially when it’s hard for the people who love you. I keep telling you how bad it is, and it feels like you aren’t listening.
God: Yes, Habakkuk. I see what you see. Actually, though, it’s worse than you think. I’m going to let it keep happening for awhile. The bad guys are going to rule the good guys.
H: But we will die! You are Holy, and this is not. Why don’t you DO something? I’m waiting for your answer. (there may even have been some foot-tapping)
God: Write this down, Habakkuk, and count on it to happen. I know the end of all of this seems slow in coming. But it IS coming. And it will come Right.On.Time. The evil will not last forever. It will eventually be devoured by its own greed. So don’t worry about it, Ok? What they have coming to them will most certainly come.
H: *Sigh* Ok, God. I will wait. I do remember how you have been faithful in the past, and I trust you can do it again. I know you are God and you are mighty and you will always win. In THAT, I will rejoice. Even while it’s still hard.
I love this little book tucked between Nahum and Zephaniah because Habakkuk and I sound a lot alike. I complain; God settles my spirit. I suspect you know what I’m talking about.
I love that God lets Habakkuk complain and doesn’t scold him for laying it all out there. All the frustration. All the confusion. All the “what the heck.”
I love that God lets Habakkuk complain AGAIN (in fact one version of the scripture subheads the book as Habakkuk Complains, God Answers, and Habakkuk Complains Again) and doesn’t answer with “what did I just say?”
I love that God welcomes the conversation. He listens. He talks. He listens again. It’s not a God who barks orders or demands our silent obedience. He wants to CONVERSE with us. (I promise.)
I love that God trusts Habakkuk with His plan. He doesn’t say, “because I said so” or otherwise quiet the prophet with no real information. If you read the entire book (and I REALLY hope you do), you’ll see God lays before Habakkuk all that will be happening.
I love that Habakkuk determines God’s plan is trustworthy. Though he gets insight on the future, he still doesn’t know the timeline. And he decides to be Ok with that. He decides to be patient.
I love that it ends with praise. The circumstances do not change. Life is still unfair, and the bad guys are still in the lead. But Habakkuk, himself, has changed during a conversation with God. What starts with “Why do you ignore me?” ends here:
Fig trees may not grow figs, and there may be no grapes on the vines. There may be no olives growing and no food growing in the fields. There may be no sheep in the pens and no cattle in the barns. BUT I WILL STILL be glad in the Lord; I will rejoice in God my Savior. The Lord God is my strength. He makes me like a deer that doesn’t stumble so I can walk on the steep mountains.
Yet I will praise. Not, I will praise when it all gets better. Not, I will praise when we win. Not, I will praise when I can see the sunshine or when the flower blooms.
When I’m dirty and messy and whiny and childish and undeserving of your ear, still you listen, Oh God.
For that alone, still I will praise.
(p.s. In the various places you see Habakkuk as underlined, clickable text, I have linked to the book in a variety of versions. I’ve found it a rewarding experience to read it in multiple translations.)
I return each Sabbath for a fresh Word of the Week. For the God-breathed pages to come alive in a phrase or two on which to spend a 7-day feast. To meditate upon. To use as a jumping off point for whatever other words God would have me hear during the week. I would love for you to join the Word of the Week (WOW) discussion by adding your selected verse to the comments … or reflections on any scripture reading.
Linking with Unforced Rhythms — a wonderful community of writers who gather each Monday to share with you HERE.