Normally this morning I would have read my Bible while enduring a half hour on my elliptical machine, hopped in the shower, grabbed a quick breakfast and driven to work in a rush.
Not so today.
Today, I spent some quality time reading the book of Habbukuk. Go figure.
Most scholars believe that Habukkuk, an Old Testament prophet, wrote the three chapters of his book somewhere between 605 and 595 B.C.. At the time a declining Assyria was threatening Jerusalem and the rising Babylonians were next in line.
Habukkuk expressed two complaints to God, and God answered him.
How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.
There are different interpretations about the identity of the people Habukkuk was complaining about, but I believe he was asking God why he wasn’t doing anything about the increasingly corrupt culture of Judah. Jerusalem wasn’t completely wicked, but there was plenty of violence, destruction, strife and conflict.
God answered that he was going to do something amazing that no one would believe.
I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own.
What? I’ll bet Habukkuk was shocked by God’s response.
Have you prayed similar prayers for your city or our nation? I’ve prayed that violence would cease, that politicians would become honest, that corruption would be found out and end. Let’s face it, when you live in Chicago, those are long shots, but nothing is impossible for God, right?
God may have said, “You’ll be amazed. I’m sending a virus that will bring the world to its knees.”
I think I would ask if there was another way. Habukkuk did.
Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?
It’s a good question. How can a holy God put up with injustice, violence, and all kinds of evil? And then he sends Babylon to discipline Jerusalem? They are far worse!
For over a millennium nations rose up and defeated reigning powers. Israel overpowered the nations of Canaan, Assyria conquered the the northern kingdom of Israel, Babylon trashed Jerusalem and overthrew the southern kingdom, the Persians took out Babylon, Alexander the Great routed the Persians, and then Roman Empire took over. Not one of those nations deserved their success. More likely, the defeated nations deserved annihilation.
God’s response to Habukkuk was that Babylon would eventually also be destroyed and that “the righteous will live by his faith.” (Habukkuk 2:4) Essentially, the message was trust me.
God did not intend to raise up a perfect nation. His plan all along was to save the world through the death and resurrection of his perfect Son. Jesus would do what no one, no nation, no human power could ever do. He would live a sinless life and die taking the penalty for our sins on himself.
Jesus says, trust me.
Habukkuk ended his book with a strong exclamation of faith even when circumstances were difficult.
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.
I don’t know how long the Covid-19 virus will cause disruption or how it will affect me, my loved ones, or the economy. (Toilet paper won’t help.) But I do know that I can trust God.
How about you?