OVER THE COURSE OF THIS PAST WEEK, my daily Scripture reading led me to read through the book written by the prophet named Habakkuk. This short book is broken down into three chapters, but it filled up the pages of my journal with thoughts. I began to place myself in the shoes of this great prophet and tried to imagine what it would have been like to experience my country being conquered by the ancient Babylonian Empire. And thanks to the most recent series in the Hardcore History podcast (Kings of Kings), I was able to visualize this ancient landscape with a little more color.
God had already used the Assyrian Empire as an instrument of judgement to punish the Northern Kingdom of Israel, but God reveals to the prophet Habakkuk that He was going to now use the up-and-coming Babylonian Empire to punish the Assyrians and Habakkuk's own country of Judah. This raises the obvious question that Habakkuk and many of us today struggle to understand;
Why would a good God use such evil empires for His own sovereign purposes and let harm fall on His own special people?
Habakkuk's book reminds us that God works out His plan for human history in mysterious ways, and it is our responsibility to trust Him and live by faith as we await His eventual rescue from the evil empires of this world.
The book itself is written as a dialogue between the prophet and God Himself. In my own humble effort to summarize the book, the dialogue goes something like this:
Habakkuk: God, why are you just seeming to sit idly by while your own people (the Southern Kingdom of Judah) become more and more corrupt and are beginning to look like men who answer to no God whatsoever?
God: I am never sitting idly by and in fact I am currently raising up the Babylonians to use as my own instrument of judgement against my nation of Judah.
Habakkuk: But God, the Babylonians are even more wicked than we are! Why would you allow a more wicked nation to conquer your less wicked people? Is this just how the world and human history will always be - evil empires rising and falling and your people constantly being crushed in the process?
God: No peoples, nation or empire will ever do as they please and escape my judgement. I will judge the Babylonians in due time as well, and one day I will fill the earth with my people for my own glory. And so even when it seems that the evil in this world is prevailing; wait patiently for what I have promised I will do. My people must live by faith and trust me.
Habakkuk: I trust you. I believe your promise, and I will wait quietly and patiently for the day that you make all things right. Even though I know hard times are on the horizon, I will find strength in your faithfulness and choose joy in you alone who has promised me salvation.
How many of us today are letting life's circumstances and chaos dictate our level of joy?
How many of us seem joyless in this Christmas season that is intended to be joyful?
God's prophets learned the discipline of waiting. They learned to faithfully wait for the day that God would establish His everlasting kingdom that would conquer the evil kingdoms of this world. God would prove that their waiting was not in vain when many years later, a baby from Bethlehem began the fulfillment of this promise and was anointed God's chosen King.
As God's kingdom people, we must trust that God will finish what He began in Christ and live by faith for that day God's promise will finally be fulfilled by our King's return.
While we are waiting, may we learn what Habakkuk learned and trust God even when we are confused by His mysterious work.
May we learn the incredible discipline of waiting patiently on the promises of God.
When we reflect on the hand of God throughout human history and how He continues to direct the world towards its designed destination, we can find the strength that we need for all seasons of life, and we can choose joy knowing that all evil has an appointed end.