A lot was happening in the 7th century B.C. when the poet and prophet Habakkuk ministered to the Judeans. The first metal coins were produced. The Chinese invented printing. The Ancient Olympic Games taking place in Greece saw the introduction of a new sport, Pankration, that combined boxing with wrestling techniques. The Assyrian Empire which once dominated the Near East for centuries now faced a new, powerful enemy in the Baboloyians (aka Chaldeans).
Habakkuk lived during times that saw an increasing degeneracy and fear in the world, including among God’s chosen people. Overwhelmed and distraught about the spiritual regression taking place in Judah, in prayer, Habakkuk cries out to the Lord for help and for answers. Habakkuk and the Lord engage in a dialogue through prayer. Habakkuk wonders how long he must bear witness to a people who disregard the things of God. When God responds and reassures Habakkuk that He is going to use the Babylonians to punish and bring judgment on Judah, as well as the Assyrians, Habakkuk is even more confused. While his own people were engaged in evil wickedness, they weren’t as bad as the evil Babylonians. Like is often true of us, Habakkuk needed to learn that God operates in mysterious ways that we are not always able to comprehend and that in His sovereignty, God can use anyone or anything to accomplish His goals and fulfill His purpose.
Habakkuk, likely a musician helping lead worship with the Temple Choir, closes his book with a prayerful psalm probably sung and played as a hymn during times of worship. The last chapter contains several musical instructions and terms that lend support to this theory.
In his psalm, Habakkuk praises the Lord for His faithfulness and proclaims his confidence that the same God responsible for delivering His people in the past would deliver His people now and in the future.
1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. According to Shigionoth.
2 Lord, I have heard the report about You;
Lord, I stand in awe of Your deeds.
Revive Your work in these years;
make it known in these years.
In Your wrath remember mercy!
3 God comes from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran.Selah
His splendor covers the heavens,
and the earth is full of His praise.
4 His brilliance is like light;
rays are flashing from His hand.
This is where His power is hidden.
5 Plague goes before Him,
and pestilence follows in His steps.
6 He stands and shakes the earth;
He looks and startles the nations.
The age-old mountains break apart;
the ancient hills sink down.
His pathways are ancient.
7 I see the tents of Cushan in distress;
the tent curtains of the land of Midian tremble.
8 Are You angry at the rivers, Lord?
Is Your wrath against the rivers?
Or is Your rage against the sea
when You ride on Your horses,
Your victorious chariot?
9 You took the sheath from Your bow;
the arrows are ready to be used with an oath. Selah
You split the earth with rivers.
10 The mountains see You and shudder;
a downpour of water sweeps by.
The deep roars with its voice
and lifts its waves high.
11 Sun and moon stand still in their lofty residence,
at the flash of Your flying arrows,
at the brightness of Your shining spear.
12 You march across the earth with indignation;
You trample down the nations in wrath.
13 You come out to save Your people,
to save Your anointed.
You crush the leader of the house of the wicked
and strip him from foot to neck. Selah
14 You pierce his head
with his own spears;
his warriors storm out to scatter us,
gloating as if ready to secretly devour the weak.
15 You tread the sea with Your horses, stirring up the great waters.
16 I heard, and I trembled within;
my lips quivered at the sound.
Rottenness entered my bones;
I trembled where I stood.
Now I must quietly wait for the day of distress
to come against the people invading us.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there is no fruit 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,
18 yet I will triumph in Yahweh;
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!
19 Yahweh my Lord is my strength;
He makes my feet like those of a deer
and enables me to walk on mountain heights!
For the choir director: on stringed instruments.
As Christians, we are not exempt from the trauma and disaster that often overwhelms the world. This is true today as we try to make sense of the coronavirus COVID-19 that is rapidly spreading across the globe and instilling fear and panic in our communities. COVID-19 has disrupted life as we know it and we are uncertain of what the future holds. But rather than allow that to distance us from God, it is a perfect time to draw nearer to the Lord. Rather than doubt His goodness, we can reaffirm that God is good and that He has not forgotten nor forsaken us.
In recent days, I’ve been asked if I believe that God is punishing us. The answer is that I don’t know. It could be. God has brought plagues on people before. But God hasn’t personally told me that. I don’t have a word from the Lord proclaiming His punishment on us. We certainly couldn’t blame Him if He did. Like the nation of Judah during the time of Habakkuk, we have grown to be increasingly more degenerate and evil in many of our thoughts, words, and actions. We seem to continually try to mold God into our own image rather than being subject to being conformed and transformed into His. But I don’t know nor do I have any evidence to believe that COVID-19 is a plague God unleashed to punish us.
I do know that evil exists in the world. And not just little “e” evil, but there is a big “E” Evil that seeks to destroy us and push us away from God. And there can be little doubt that COVID-19 is a disease that originates from the darkest depths of Evil.
Yet, we do not need to be a people who live in fear. God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but a heart of boldness. God is trustworthy and worthy of our worship. We can bank on that truth and on His promise that He works all things for good for those who love Him. We can sing songs of praise to Him because regardless of the increasing storm and present danger we are facing, God will ultimately see us through it. We must remain obedient and faithful. This is an opportunity to truly be the salt and the light, to bear witness, and to make God known among our peers, neighbors, and community.
Heavenly Father, Let us continue to trust in You, especially during a time where things are happening that we don’t understand and as our personal worlds are turned upside down. We are worried, anxious, and fearful because we can’t fully comprehend what is happening all around us right now. It seems like a very dark time. Help us not to allow social distancing to lead to social isolation. Give us wisdom and guidance. Lord, we need You now more than ever. We know that You are faithful. Have mercy on us, dear God. Help us in this time of great need. Deliver us from Evil. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
To experience life the way God intended, you and I must receive God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. This gift from God is available to all who ask. Will you personally receive the gift of eternal life so that you can experience the total forgiveness from your sins that come through believing in the atoning death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
For nothing will be impossible with God (Luke 1:37)
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