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Wrestling, Waiting, Watching, Walking, Worshiping

Habakkuk 2:4b - The just shall live by faith.

Read Habakkuk 2:1­4.

Habakkuk sounds like a name for chronic arthritis, but it really is a book in the Bible! Look it up in your table of contents, and then read the whole book--it's only three chapters! Seriously speaking, read at least chapter 1 of Habakkuk before proceeding with this paper and you'll gain a much greater appreciation for what's going on in the few verses from chapter 2 mentioned above.

Habakkuk was a prophet to Judah (southern Israel with its capital at Jerusalem) during the 7th century BC. Things were really bad in his day. The laws were either ignored or were twisted and manipulated in favor of the "elite few." The poor were oppressed. There was violence on the streets. Corruption abounded. There was unrest of every sort. Moral values were up for grabs. Only a small minority was still holding on to faith in God. A breakdown of society was taking place before Habakkuk's very eyes (1:1­4). No wonder the sensitive heart of faithful Habakkuk cried out "How long, O Lord, will I call for help?" (1:2). How could God allow such open sin to go unjudged?

Certainly the Christian today can identify with Habakkuk. What better description of the contemporary conditions on our campuses, in our communities, or in our country can we get than in Habakkuk 1:1­4? The soul of the sensitive Christian questions along with Habakkuk, "Why dost Thou make me see iniquity and cause me to look upon wickedness?" (1:3).

God answered Habakkuk's question, but the answer was a real mind-blower for the prophet. "You haven't seen anything yet!" is essentially the Lord's answer in Habakkuk 1:5-11. Habakkuk was told that the wicked and violent and dreaded Chaldeans (the rising Babylonian empire) would overrun Judah. God would actually raise up a pagan nation to judge the sin which was rampant in the land. Again the parallel is too close to avoid mention in passing. Is God permitting the rise of godless communism for the express purpose of judging a country which is rapidly departing from the faith that once characterized it?

Habakkuk got the message, but didn't quite "dig it." He realized that God had chosen this method of discipline when he responded, "Thou, O Lord, hast appointed them (Chaldeans) to judge; and Thou, O rock, hast established them to correct" (1:12). But what Habakkuk couldn't understand was how God could do such a thing! "Why dost Thou look with favor on those who deal treacherously? Why art thou silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they?" (1:13). How can a holy God permit an even more wicked nation than Judah to flourish and take over? Yes, Judah deserves her punishment, but why not the Chaldeans? They're much worse than we are. Sound familiar?

Habakkuk was not the first to wrestle with questions of this sort. A man named Asaph, for example, had really struggled with this before. (See Psalm 73.) Nor was Habakkuk the last believer to wrestle with the whole question of evil. Every growing Christian must grapple at some point with this issue.

The position that Habakkuk took as he reflected upon his unanswered question is beautiful. That's what chapter 2:1-4 is all about. Habakkuk decided that he would simply wait patiently and watch intently for the Lord's answer. He didn't get up tight and frustrated and demand answers of God. He didn't give up with a "God doesn't care about my problems" attitude. No, he waited and watched. If only we could do the same with all our "Why's" and "How come's?"

The guard post or watch tower (note: not ivory tower) was a place from which the watcher could see all around and better discern what was happening as well as guard his own position. This pictures for us the attitude that God would like us to take as we wait for answers to situations we can't understand. Don't stay down on the plain where you can't see very far! Come up to the tower where it's a little easier to catch God's view of what's happening "down there!" (It is only when Asaph went into the sanctuary that he perceived the answer from the Lord--Psalm 73:16­17.) It is possible to turn unanswered questions over to the Lord and wait and watch for His answer. And while we're waiting, let's not give up an inch of ground of our faith in God just because we have some unanswered questions. The watchtower is also a guard post. Guard the truth that Godhas given you.

God answered Habakkuk. God always answers the waiting and watching Christian. The answer was not a "Did He really answer me, or was it only my pre-programmed imagination?" type of answer. God doesn't send cryptograms for answers! The answer God gave Habakkuk was so clear that it could be written down and passed on to others. In fact, God wanted the answer to be broadcast without any waste of time (2:2). Here is the answer that God gave to Habakkuk as to the perplexing problem of evil. Evil does exist (it is not imaginary), but it will exist for a limited time only--and that time is appointed by God. History is not haphazard, but is moving towards a goal and there is "no way" that God's purpose can be threatened or thwarted. It will certainly come to pass right on His (not our) schedule (2:3). When verse 3 here is quoted in Hebrews 10:37 the "it" becomes "He." The goal of history is centered in a person--the Lord Jesus Christ. All evil will be overcome and Christ will be Lord of all.

What is the Christian to do in the meantime? He is to walk by faith (2:4)! We may not understand how a holy God can tolerate the existence of evil and why the wrong person always seems to get the best deal, but the righteous person (and what better deal is there than to be declared righteous by God?) shall live by his faith.

In the five woes that are pronounced upon the Chaldeans (2:5­19), there is contained a universal principle. God assures us that everything evil is under the judgment of God. The seed of self-destruction is in the very soul of the person who is not right with God (2:4). Final judgment is sure to come, but in the meantime the Christian is to be walking by his faith.

In chapter 3 of Habakkuk we see the prophet worshipping the Lord. This should be the outcome of all our wrestlings with God, but too often we become bitter and angry because we don't like to wait and watch and walk. Habakkuk's worship really began in verse 20 of chapter 2, "The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him." Habakkuk learned to silently submit to God's divine rule and judgment--this is worship.

He realized that his only approach to God was a plea for mercy (3:2)--this is worship. He was awed by the glory of God (3:3-4)--this is worship. He reflected on the great acts of God in history (3:5-15)--this is worship. He trembled because he had gone through a deep spiritual experience and he had come to know the reality of a living God who was coming in judgment (3:16)--this is worship. He rejoiced because he knew that in spite of the hard times and difficulties that are a result of evil, the Lord was still his strength and salvation (3:17-19)--this is worship. "Yet I will exult in the Lord" (3:18). This kind of worship comes only from the heart of one who has wrestled, waited, watched and walked.
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