God is Doing a Work
We often take scriptures out of context when we don’t take the time to read beyond a few verses, when we don’t slow down to consider who is the audience and what are the circumstances the writer is trying to address. Take the following as an example…
“O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?… The law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. The wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.” And then God responds to Habakkuk, “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” (Hab. 1:1-6)
As 21st Century Christians we might look at that and see parallels to our current circumstances in the U.S.A. We cry for help, things are falling apart in our country, there is no justice as people go to opposite extremes in pursuit of “their” way, no desire to honor the Lord. There certainly are some parallels. But then we look at God’s response to Habakkuk and may think, rescue is right around the corner, God may be doing a work that will show itself soon!
Again, there may in fact be a parallel. God may be doing a work in our day that we wouldn’t believe if told about it! But here is where the problem comes in. We have a tendency (and possibly the Jews of Habakkuk’s time did too) of seeing this somewhat selfishly. We want God’s work to benefit us in material ways, soon. But when we consider the context of Habakkuk, here’s what we actually find. What was the work God was doing that was almost unbelievable? Habakkuk wrote at a time preceding the fall of Judah to the Babylonians. Was God about to bring back good times to his people? No, in fact some severe bad times were closing in on them. Jerusalem would eventually fall, and it would be destroyed, including the temple. The people would suffer greatly in the process. Then many would be dragged off to Babylon for a 70-year period of exile and enslavement. Is this the work God was doing?
Yes indeed. His work was on a historical scale, as he judged and punished his own people for their lack of faith and obedience. He was still preparing them to produce the Messiah. The exile would be part of this, it would produce Daniel and Esther, great things would occur. But would “good times” return? Not even after they came back from Babylon. Many years of hardship and suffering were ahead. For those who learned the lessons and then turned in faith and repentance to the Lord, even though short-term benefits were hard to find, their long-term eternal benefits would be a part of God’s blessing. That is the real work, to turn hearts and minds back to the Lord, not to make life comfortable and fun.
If you want to apply Habakkuk to our modern circumstances, don’t think God will return us to our comfortable “Christian nation” times of the past. We took too much for granted back then and eased our way into the current dilemma. God’s judgment in short-term ways starts with the house of God (I Peter 4:17), with Christians who don’t live up to the faith they claim. Do you want God’s work done? Then turn to him in true faith and obedience! Live for him and teach him to your kids and all who listen.
Cross Point: The attitude we need: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, no food, no herd in the stalls, yet will I rejoice in the Lord, taking joy in the God of my salvation!” (Hab. 3:17-18)