I didn’t grow up going to church, so much of what was in the Bible was new to me, and some of it was really perplexing. For instance, why in the world would any reasonable, sober parent ever name a kid some of the names I kept running into in the Old Testament. The first time I ever said Habakkuk’s name out loud it sounded like somebody was caught between a sneeze and a bad hiccup. Who would do that to a kid? I’ve known lots of folks with Biblical names, but I’ve never met a Habakkuk. If someone with that name had grown up in my hometown, he probably would have been called something like Haba-daba-dodo-kuk … or if he was likable, maybe just Bakkie-Lee. I don’t know if Habakkuk ever had to undergo therapy because of other kids teasing him, but he was definitely troubled by some things God said to him.
A Different Kind of Enemy ~
Habakkuk had been shown visions of an impending invasion. Unlike the one going on in our day, the enemy in his case was not a tiny, invisible little thing that could creep in unnoticed, so ramping up personal hygiene for Habakkuk only meant that he’d get to die clean. God’s people had been stubborn and rebellious against Him and were about to be overrun by hordes of Chaldeans who were just as cruelly indiscriminate in who they killed as the mindless microbes attacking our world today. Habakkuk had no power personally to stop the onslaught coming against his people–no defensive arsenal to deploy against them and no protective barrier to place between him and their insatiable bloodlust. The vision revealed that everything they trusted in would be taken away, and it left him both astonished and perplexed. Why would God allow such a thing, and what could he do in response to it? Many have asked those same questions about the situation in our day as well.
Habakkuk began his response to the coming disaster by outlining a potential set of conditions that would drive any of his people to a state of panic; i.e. the loss of everything they considered to be essential to their personal, social, and economic stability. Then he asked a sobering question. What would I do–what could we do–if everything we depended on went away? The prophet then proceeded to paint his dismal picture with poetic eloquence.
Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls … Habakkuk 3:17 (NKJV)
Wow… To the people of his day, a situation like that would have described devastation beyond their worst nightmares. In our current culture, his message might be akin to something like this:
Though the grocery stores are empty, and the restaurants have nothing to cook; Though the government’s all out of tax money, and the ‘stars’ have no shows to book; Though the talking heads fall silent, and experts can’t be found, and the wealthy elites are scratching for food on the dry crusty ground; Though justice descends on the hoarders when their schemes are finally crushed; and they weep with despair like the rest of us when they watch their last roll being flushed …
Devastation Was Unavoidable ~
Forgive me, I got a little loose with that, but you get the idea. I should be more serious because the impending situation that God’s people faced in Habakkuk’s day was serious beyond measure. They were about to lose everything that equated to security for them. It was more than the loss of wealth and possessions. Habakkuk saw the coming loss of their entire way of life, their culture, their national identity, and for multitudes, the loss of life itself. What was left to trust in at a time like that? His answer then fits our generation, too, and thankfully, we don’t have to lose everything in order to reap the benefits it brings. In a time of unmitigated disaster, here’s Habakkuk’s response.
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength… Habakkuk 3:18-19a (NKJV)
When faced with the loss of all we own, we desperately search for something we cannot lose. When the very ground beneath us is trembling and unstable, we long for an unshakeable rock to stand on. When all that we love about life itself is falling apart, we frantically look for love that never fails and a life that’s immune to death. God’s affirming message to his troubled prophet, and to all the rest of us, is that everything we frantically search for in perilous times is not found in the possessions we’ve acquired. It’s found in Him. The enduring security we all seek is never found in our possessions, or the systems that we think will always sustain us. The kind of absolute security that releases the deep and abiding joy that Habakkuk experienced is only found in a personal and eternal relationship with God Himself. But the prophet’s message wasn’t finished yet. There was more that God would provide.
. . . He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills. Habakkuk 3:19 (NKJV)
No Smooth Road Ahead ~
Habakkuk was facing trouble he couldn’t avoid and there was no smooth road ahead. Painful death and destruction lay on every side and no footing seemed secure. It was like an awkward flatlander having to traverse treacherous mountain terrain where one false step would be the last. God said to Habakkuk, and to all of us, I won’t always make the road easy, but I’ll give you feet designed to keep you stable on the ground you’ll have to stand on. I’ll replace your clumsy clod-knockers with hooves like a mountain deer so you can safely walk where you could never go on your own.
God doesn’t always deliver us from situations that overwhelm us, and sometimes He leads us through territory where we could never survive in our own strength. Sometimes, He calls us to scale inaccessible heights.
Whether this Covid-19 plague is a direct judgment of God or not is not the question to ask. A better one is the one Habakkuk asked. What would we do if every worldly provision we trusted in was suddenly stripped away? Habakkuk found joy and strength in God Himself, and the feet to walk with confidence in places where he could never survive on his own . . . How about you?
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