You don’t often hear about a prophet named Habakkuk.
When it comes to prophets, he doesn’t get the same acclaim as Isaiah, whose God-inspired words produce images of star-filled heavens, a soaring eagle and our names inscribed on the hands of our Lord.
More people seem to know about the prophet Ezekiel, who wrote about the Valley of Dry Bones.
Or the weeping prophet, Jeremiah, whose words reflect decades of trying to warn God’s wayward people to repent.
Why read about Habakkuk?
Because he has a lot to say that seems to mirror our lives today.
And when I was in the early stages of grief after my husband, Chuck, died, I found a strange kind of comfort in the prophet’s words.
We can find the book, named for him, in the Old Testament.
Habakkuk lived around the same time as Jeremiah — about 600 years before Jesus was born.
Like Jeremiah, Habakkuk clearly is upset at his countrymen’s behavior.
Judah has become a rebellious nation and Habakkuk has seen so much wickedness among his own people.
Habakkuk wants to know why God isn’t doing something about all the evil that’s filled Judah.
“Why do you make me see iniquity?” Habakkuk asks, “And why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.”
Habakkuk complains that justice never goes forth.
Sound familiar? Our world is filled with strife and destruction.
Now, I’m not sure how long it took for Habakkuk to get an answer.
But he sure gets one.
God says he’s going to send the Chaldeans (also known as the Babylonians) to punish the nation of Judah.
The Chaldeans are even more cruel and wicked than the people of Judah.
I would be shaking in my sandals.
And I think Habakkuk was concerned, too.
Habakkuk wonders why God would send such awful people to Judah.
But God says the Chaldeans will suffer their own punishment.
And about 66 years later, they get what’s coming to them.
In the meantime, what’s a prophet to do?
For one, Habakkuk prays that God will be merciful to his people.
Moreover, Habakkuk trusts in the Lord’s wisdom.
The Fire Bible* says Habakkuk knew a portion of God’s faithful people would survive the Chaldean invasion and was confident that those who lived by faith in God would be victorious.
At the end of his book, Habakkuk acknowledges that bad things are going to happen.
You can feel it in the poignant words he writes:
“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 …”
You can have a good job and plenty of food on the table and still feel the emptiness and profound sense of loss.
After my husband died, my heart felt as empty as the stall Habakkuk described.
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Then Habakkuk expresses his faith in God and — even amid the loss — he writes:
“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
“God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
I copied these words on a piece of paper, which I taped to the door of a hallway closet.
Every once in a while, I’d look at them.
More often than not, I could relate to the sense of hollowness described in the first part of the passage.
Eventually, the words faded. The tape failed and the paper fell off. I’m not sure where it went.
But a friend reminded me of the last part of that passage and said I had to remember that although Habakkuk knew bad stuff was heading his way, he also knew where he could find his strength.
My friend was right.
Habakkuk placed his faith in the one who loves justice, punishes wickedness and upholds those who love him.
Does that mean nothing bad ever happens to his faithful followers?
We’ve lived in a fallen world ever since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.
But Habakkuk trusted God to give him the strength to get through whatever was coming his way.
So Habakkuk could rejoice.
How can anyone rejoice if they know tough times lie ahead?
Turn to the book of Matthew in the New Testament.
In chapter 26, we read where Christ and his disciples share what’s called The Last Supper.
Now look at verse 30. It says they sang a hymn after the supper and right before they went to the Mount of Olives (and to the Garden of Gethsemane).
What hymn did they sing?
Bible scholars say they sang the last psalm of the Hallel collection.
The very last part says this: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
I wonder if Jesus sang that with a lump in his throat.
Jesus knew he’d suffer humiliation and an excruciating death on a cross to pay the penalty for our sins.
He knew terrible stuff was coming to the point where he sweat drops of blood and prayed that — if there was any way possible — that God would let him not have to go through that.
But no matter what, Jesus said he’d do the will of our Heavenly Father.
Jesus suffered and died, but on the third day he rose from the grave.
Those who believe he died, repent of their sins and ask Jesus to come into their hearts and be their Lord and Savior can go to heaven when they die.
Both Habakkuk and Jesus showed their trust in our Heavenly Father — even though times ahead looked dark.
What happened to Habakkuk?
I’m not sure. I don’t know if he was able to stay in Judah or even lived through the invasion.
Or if he got carried off to Babylon.
If he was carried off, I’m not sure he left a forwarding address.
Yet, we can tell from the book that bears his name that the prophet waited and trusted that God would speak to him — and the Lord did.
He trusted that God would strengthen him and I believe God did that, too.
I believe the Lord helps us — as we seek him — to get through those times of emptiness.
He can give us strength as we face the tough times.
And he can help us rejoice.