So, tell me, have you read Habakkuk lately?
You know, in the Bible. The Old Testament. One of the prophets.
The English major part of me has paid attention to this prophet only rarely and then only to try to remember if his name, which sounds vaguely like a variety of something legal in Colorado but federally frowned upon, includes two Bs and two Ks or one B and three Ks.
It’s the latter. Like the World War I vintage song I remember singing around the campfire with the Boy Scouts: “K-k-k Katy, beautiful Katy, / You’re the only g-g-g-girl that I adore…”
That song was a run-up to my still-favorite-Boy-Scout-song we crooned about Dutchman Johnny Verbeck’s machine. Its best line: “All the neighbors’ cats and dogs / will never more be seen; / they’ll all be ground to sausages / in Johnny Verbeck’s machine.”
But I digress. (Ya think?)
When the Bible major part of me read that prophet’s “book” years ago, I was rather surprised—and then awed by Habbakuk’s—I mean, Habakkuk’s—incredible, and unfailingly honest, faith. I’d not really spent much time in the Psalms, or, for that matter, the other prophets, or grappled enough with the nature of real faith. I still thought genuine faith was mostly unquestioning, always serene, content, and nice. Habakkuk put the lie to that nonsense. (Read the prophet’s “book.” Three chapters short, it’ll take less time to read than a Reader’s Digest article. And by all means, read it in a modern translation.)
You’ll quickly notice that Habakkuk is not a happy camper. First, he’s intensely frustrated that God seems slow to see his nation’s situation, hear his prayers, and do something. Habakkuk is appalled at his nation’s (Judah’s) sinfulness and is pleading with God to come and bring justice. For a long time, no answer. But then…
Oh, but then God answers. And Habakkuk hates the answer. Yes, the Lord says, I’ve seen the rampant wickedness and injustice, and I intend to deal with it decisively with the kind of eye-popping punishment that will cause the whole world to take notice and be appalled. Here’s how: I’m sending the Babylonians, the fiercest pagan army in the world, to be my whip and wreak havoc. (The Babylonians are about to run Judah right through Johnny Verbeck’s machine. Only worse.)
“But, Lord,” Habakkuk complains, “how can you do this? Those idolatrous cutthroats, those bloodthirsty Babylonians, are far worse even than my terribly wicked nation! How is this fair?”
And God answers. Just wait, Habakkuk. Justice and mercy will both prevail. Just wait until the end of the story. This is not the end. Trust me. And wait.
Waiting is the hard part. Waiting in those many times when God seems silent… Waiting in those times when, well, if this is God’s answer, we might have preferred silence.
Habakkuk makes the choice of real faith, faith with its eyes open: God is God, and I am his. Come what may, I will trust him.
“Even if the sheep die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet will I rejoice in the Lord. The Lord is my strength” (Habakkuk 3).
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Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.