Grace CRC Midweek Devotion: Week Fifteen

Grace CRC Midweek Devotion: Week Fifteen

Scripture:  Read Habakkuk 3. Focus on verses 17-18

Devotion – “Finding Jesus in the Psalms” from The Worship Initiative: From Protest to Praise: We know very little about an ancient Hebrew named Habakkuk, a man who prophesied some six hundred years before Christ. He ministered in harrowing days in the generation leading up to the three successive Babylonian invasions of his nation, Judah, the southern kingdom of God’s people. The northern kingdom (Israel) had been conquered by the world power Assyria. By Habakkuk’s time, the Assyrian empire was waning, and Babylon was on the rise.

First, the Babylonians conquered Nineveh, the Assyrian capital. Then, Judah’s young, promising king, named Josiah, was killed in battle against Egypt. Finally, the Babylonians finished their full conquest of Assyria, and soon marched to Jerusalem for the first of what would be three invasions of the holy city, each time taking a wave of exiles. Before all this happened, God revealed ahead of time to Habakkuk what He was going to do, and the prophet recorded the divine encounter in the short Old Testament book that bears his name.

Complaint and Surprise: The episode begins when Habakkuk, like Job, questions God’s justice. The prophet complains about the wickedness he observes around him in Judah, and God makes it the occasion for revealing His plans for judgment to His prophet. The book consists of the dialogue between Habakkuk and God. An amazing progression occurs in the three short chapters. The book begins with the prophet protesting that God seems to be standing idly by while His people plummet into rampant evil and injustice (1:2–4). God responds that their evil is not going unnoticed, and to Habakkuk’s surprise, God is already attending to it, by raising up the wicked Babylonians, “that bitter and hasty nation,” to punish Judah (1:5–11).

Habakkuk protests the justice of punishing a wicked people with a people even more wicked (1:12–2:1). The prophet waits for God’s answer by saying he will… “look out to see what [God] will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint” (2:1). The prophet is preparing a rebuttal for whatever answer God gives. However, when God responds, Habakkuk is again silenced: God will punish the Babylonians (Chaldeans) in due course and bring destruction to their home in Babylon (2:2–20). He assures the prophet, “The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him” (2:20). That includes Habakkuk and his plans for rebuttal!

Submission and Joy: Habakkuk marvels at the plans and justice of God, and he concedes that he has been duly silenced: “I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us” (3:16). He pleads that God will “in wrath remember mercy” for His people (3:2).

Habakkuk now joyfully submits to the sovereign hand and plan of God. His protests have melted into surrender and the somber but assured invitation for God to take over. One commentator calls these closing verses (3:17–18) “the most beautiful spirit of submission found anywhere in Scripture”: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

The book’s final line reads, “To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.” At first glance it seems like such an odd way to end the drama. Why finish with musical instructions? The answer is that Habakkuk has ended in song. He has caught a glimpse of the unimaginably great glory of the justice of God, and despite the certain suffering that looms on the horizon, he knows that his God will be enough for him. In God’s perfect timing, He will bring about the salvation of His people (3:13).

Surrender to His Justice: Today, some two millennia after Christ, we still desperately need to learn Habakkuk’s lesson. As we see evil and outright rebellion against God writ large in our surrounding society and fallen world, we have the tendency to suspect our human sense of justice can adequately assess the situation. We sometimes lack trust and question our God. We question His sense of justice. We worry He is standing idly by. However, we only show our arrogance and folly if we suspect that our sense of justice rises anywhere near the perfect, unimpeachable justice of God. Rather than accuse or challenge Him for our pain and what we find hard to stomach in this fallen world, the better prayer is the one of submission, the humble admission that His ways are higher than our ways, and the submissive plea that He take over — not just our world and society, but even ourselves. This is what Jesus did. His surrender was total. His submission was complete.

Reflect

  • Worship:  Select an attribute of God* from the scripture or today’s reading. Worship Him for who He is. Offer praise that justice is in His hands, according to His way, and in His time. Humbly confess the times when you questioned or were impatient with what seemed to be God’s delay or lack of justice.
  • Pray: Thank Him for His perfect justice that has been displayed throughout the ages. Praise Him with song that He forgets not His people. Lift up you voice in trust to the Almighty who was, and is, and is to come. Take some moments to stay silent before Him. End your time by praying Habakkuk 3: 17-18.
  • One Kind Act: Make a donation to a homeless shelter or community center…toys, socks, food supplies, money…as God directs give with thanks for His provision of the large things in life as well as the small.

*Eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, unchangeable, infinite, almighty; wise, good, loving, gracious, merciful, patient, holy, righteous, sovereign.

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