Trusting God's Goodness (Habakkuk)
SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #8
Trusting God's Goodness (Habakkuk)
May 25, 2013
In the waiting
Years ago at a Christian conference, one of the attendees had an unexpected death in the family and had to leave immediately. This sudden loss was brought to the attention of all attending, along with the suggestion to pray for comfort and strength for the young woman and her family. Just prior to the collective prayer on her behalf, the hymn, “It is Well with My Soul” was sung by the congregation which was requested by the bereaved woman. Not a dry eye remained. Indeed not only was the moment very emotional, but solemn, as the very author of this Hymn had written it’s text in a time of great bereavement himself. (Songs can take on deeper meanings when you know the stories behind them.)
Recently, a song called “You are in the Waiting,” played on the radio.” While looking for the lyrics, the story behind the title came to view, and it gave the song an entirely different meaning. The “You” in the song referred to God as the one who is waiting. Included with the lyrics was the author’s personal testimony. For years she and her husband had been trying to conceive a child, with no success. They tried every possible option, including prayer, but nothing seemed to work. God seemed faraway, silent and uninvolved. Thankfully, that impression of God did not last. Desperate, she and her husband continued to pray, and their dependence on God increased. She stated that initially they did not realize God was delaying the answer to their prayers, and that He was working in their hearts despite the appearance of their outward circumstances. She said that it was just that the more they waited, the more they prayed, and the more they prayed, the more they yielded; and the more they yielded, the more their attitude changed. In hind sight, clearly, God was involved in the delay or as the author later wrote “…in the waiting.” Even though, the Lord did not answer their exact prayer to conceive a child, His delay prepared their hearts to receive a different blessing; an adopted child. Thankful, the songwriter later sang, “Thank you Lord for every answer you’ve delayed.”
Habakkuk was in a similar position – not that he was singing, but in that He was waiting on the Lord for the answer to his prayer; waiting on the Lord for comfort and justice. Having seen the immorality, abuse, and violence of countryman to countryman, Habakkuk cried out, “God, don’t you see what is happening? Don’t you care? How long will you allow this to continue?” And God in His mercy answered, “Yes, I see what is going on, and I am displeased. I am not uninvolved I am doing something, but the fruit will not be seen for years to come. I will put an end to this, but it will take time – time to save all who those who will heed.”
God’s answer to Habakkuk was in the form of a promise, a promise which Habakkuk himself was unlikely to see fulfilled. Yet, the promise that God had a plan was to comfort and sustain him. God rightfully expected that His promise, received by Habakkuk through faith would suffice. And, in fact He told Habakkuk just that, ‘the just lives by his faith’ (Habakkuk 2:4). The just would be those who like Habakkuk were crying out to God while living surrounded by unrighteousness.
Faith can be defined as trusting that the word will do that which it said it would and waiting for the word to do it. Habakkuk was to trust that God would fulfill His promise and he was to wait for God to do so. The implication was that Habakkuk should not do something himself, outside of what God had instructed. Faith is also defined as the response of a heart filled with appreciation for God’s work. Habakkuk was being asked to be grateful that God had answered his prayer and would one day do a work which “you would not believe, though it be told you” (Habakkuk 1:5). Thus Habakkuk was to be certain that what he hoped for would happen and what he did not see would be revealed (Hebrews 11:1). To Habakkuk, God’s promise was evidence that what was not seen by human eyes is seen by God; He cares, and is involved in the solution to the problem.
Like Abraham, Habakkuk believed what he heard from God and it was counted to him for righteousness (Genesis 15: 6). The following quote gives us a deeper understanding,
“There is an answer to Habakkuk’s question. It is an answer, not in terms of thought, but in terms of events. God’s answer will happen, but it cannot be spelled out in words. The answer will surely come; ‘if it seem[s] slow, wait for it.’ True, the interim is hard to bear; the righteous one is horrified by what he sees. To this the great answer is given: ‘The righteous shall live by his faith.’ It is an answer, again not in terms of thought, but in terms of existence. Prophetic faith is trust in Him, in whose presence stillness is a form of understanding.”—Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets, p. 143.
The judgment the Lord promised was dreadful. But Habakkuk trusted the Lord. Ellen White says,
“Confident that even in this terrible judgment the purpose of God for His people would in some way be fulfilled, Habakkuk bowed in submission to the revealed will of Jehovah. “Art Thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One?” he exclaimed. And then, his faith reaching out beyond the forbidding prospect of the immediate future, and laying fast hold on the precious promises that reveal God’s love for His trusting children, the prophet added, “We shall not die.” (Habakkuk 1: 12). With this declaration of faith he rested his case, and that of every believing Israelite, in the hands of a compassionate God.” Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, pp. 386-389
Habakkuk is to be an example to us. God is still at work in our lives even if we do not see Him. We read from Ellen White,
“The faith that strengthened Habakkuk and all the holy and the just in those days of deep trial was the same faith that sustains God’s people today. In the darkest hours, under circumstances the most forbidding, the Christian believer may keep his soul stayed upon the source of all light and power. Day by day, through faith in God, his hope and courage may be renewed. “The just shall live by his faith... We must cherish and cultivate the faith of which prophets and apostles have testified—the faith that lays hold on the promises of God and waits for deliverance in His appointed time and way. The sure word of prophecy will meet its final fulfillment in the glorious advent of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as King of kings and Lord of lords. The time of waiting may seem long, the soul may be oppressed by discouraging circumstances, many in whom confidence has been placed may fall by the way; but with the prophet who endeavored to encourage Judah in a time of unparalleled apostasy, let … us ever hold in remembrance the cheering message, ‘The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.... The just shall live by his faith.’ (Hebrews 2:3, 4).” Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, pp. 386-389.
Since, “Faith comes through hearing and hearing by the word”, then it is the Word of God that sustains those who listen and hearken until the end.