Margins of Miraculous – Habakkuk by Shawn Blythe

For those of you who may know little about Habakkuk apart from a book in the Old Testament being named after him, you are not alone.  Apart from the fact that he potentially lived and prophesied in the period of Jehoakim’s reign over Judah, virtually nothing is known of him.  He appears in the scripture unknown and departs the same way.  I am including him in my Margins of Miraculous series because his interactions with God are very similar to what I believe most of us experience: long periods of silence followed by intermittent responses we may not like or even understand.

Habakkuk lived in a time of strife where the law was ‘paralyzed’ and ‘justice never prevails’.  He observes the wicked overcoming the righteous and cannot understand why God tolerates it.  He observes this continuing condition and cries out to God for a remedy.  He not only calls to God – but does so repeatedly for such a length of time without results that he resorts to the phrase that all of us have used at one time or another: “Why don’t you listen to me?!”

It is a cry of desperation and frustration – and we have all been there.  We witness situations that are so egregious or experience such loss or pain that we cannot understand why God does not act to comfort us.  Or better yet, why He didn’t act to prevent the situation from the start.  We know that God can act, but it appears that God won’t act.  This failure to come to our rescue subsequently raises an additional level of concern regarding whether God truly cares for us at all.  Habakkuk was no different.

When God finally did reply, His response was not what Habakkuk had hoped for.  Habakkuk, like us, was looking for God to come to the rescue.  God’s answer was something quite different.  He tells Habakkuk (paraphrased), prepare to be amazed because I am sending the Babylonians to run roughshod over your country.   God warns Habakkuk that He is going to do something that Habakkuk could have never imagined; He is going to send a ruthless, atheistic and dreaded people to conquer Judah.  After this clear response, I can only imagine God gently nodding his head in satisfaction that the question has been answered and the issue satisfactorily addressed.

Habakkuk was less impressed.  He brought a problem to God and the solution provided was appalling.  This was not a theoretical, theological or philosophical issue for Habakkuk.  This was a practical disaster with life-altering consequences.  People would die.  Families would be torn apart as captives were taken.  Homes and cities would be destroyed.  This was God’s response to Habakkuk’s plea for help: life in Judah would be forever changed – and certainly not in a good way.  Habakkuk did his best to characterize the cure as worse than the disease, but it was to no avail.  God’s mind was made up and the only variable remaining was how Habakkuk would respond.

The root of the issue was, and is, a foundational difference in perspective.  As God told Isaiah “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55).  Yet we constantly try to fit God into our plans and timetable.  God’s plan for our salvation was not dependent on which nation ruled Jerusalem at any point in time.  The eventual consequences to the Babylonians would assuredly come, but not in time to make any difference for Habakkuk. 

In a similar way, we must acknowledge that God’s plans may or may not include what we could consider an acceptable answer to our grievances or pleas at any point in time.  If we trust God, then we must trust His plan.  We must acknowledge the long-term benefit of submitting to a plan we do not understand administered by an omnipotent God who loves us.  It is inconceivable that we could ever compare our short-term thinking, fixes and schemes favorably against a plan designed by the Creator of all things.  And yet Habakkuk did – and I do.

So how does one respond to this dilemma?  Fortunately, God provides that answer in Habakkuk 2: “the righteous will live by faith.”  But this is not a faith that our problem will be resolved tomorrow, or we will be healed next week or that justice will prevail soon.  It is a faith in the ultimate righteousness of a loving God and a realization that our individual lives are a single short thread in a tapestry stretching across time eternal.  My faith must be in God alone – not swayed by what God will or will not do for me in some finite time and space.

Habakkuk understands this message clearly.  He chooses to look beyond the coming destruction and instead focuses on waiting patiently for God’s judgment against the invaders.  A judgment that he has no expectation of seeing in his lifetime.  He responds with a prayer of praise and a recognition of God’s power and authority; leading to a commitment to rejoice in God regardless of his present or future circumstances.  He fixes his eyes faithfully on the ultimate plan of God despite the short-term calamity it will bring.

I am not suggesting that this is easy or pleasant.  The hardships that some people must endure can be overwhelming and the evil that we inflict upon each other can be staggering.  Our mortal paths are often littered with obstacles no human mind can explain.  Therefore, we must constantly remind ourselves that the righteous live by faith.  This is not a paper faith.  This is an active, well used faith that allows us to overcome the challenges of our current earthly situation with a clear focus on an eternal spiritual purpose designed by a loving God.

It was a necessity for Habakkuk as he closes his prayer toward the end of Habakkuk chapter 3:

“Though the fig tree does not bud

And there are no grapes 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,

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will be joyful in God my Savior.”


He recognizes that the disconnect between how God responds to a situation and how we feel He should respond to a situation does not represent a failure on God’s part.  It simply illustrates the gaping chasm between God’s thinking and ours; the difference in perspective between the eternal Almighty God and a person like me whose life is like “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes”. (James 4)

The first step in being useful to God on the path He has laid out for us is to accept that path.