Faith in God’s purpose (February 25, 2024)

How do we make sense of an unknowable God and a confusing world? Naomi McQuiller reflects on Habakkuk.

Outlook Standard Lesson for February 25, 2024
Scripture Passage and Lesson Focus: Habakkuk 2:1-5

One of my favorite pastimes is thrifting. Where I live, there are many stores, many of which give their proceeds to charities or causes. One day, I came across a book that stopped me: Who Would Jesus Kill: War, Peace, and the Christian Tradition. As you can imagine, the title alone sparked questions about Christian ethics and morality. I wondered, “Who would Jesus kill?”

Of course, I bought the book, eager to dig in. However, the more I read, the more questions I had. I decided to engage in a spiritual practice – prayer journaling. As I wrote, I envisioned laying all my questions on a metaphorical table with God across from me.

Habakkuk was in a similar situation. His prayers convey frustration, confusion and longing. One thing that is unique in his situation is that he receives direct answers to those prayers from his God.

Asked to wait

The name Habakkuk comes from the Hebrew word for “embrace,” conveying that the prophet is “the one who clings” or “he who embraces.” The book of Habakkuk was written to the Jewish people living in Judah before they were exiled to Babylon, most likely between 650-700 BCE. It is believed he was a professional prophet – someone who worked in the temple or royal courts.

In today’s reading, Habakkuk wrestles with his inability to understand the ways of God. He first complains that God is not dealing out justice to the wicked in Judah (1:2-4). God’s response is deeply confusing, in that God will use an even more wicked people (the Babylonians) to address Judah’s wrongdoing (1:12-17). Rather than answering all of Habakkuk’s wonderings, God tells him to have faith, patience, and hope. Habakkuk is asked to wait (2:1). God promises the prophet that the Divine can be trusted to make things right, even when it feels like it takes too long or doesn’t make sense (2:3-4).

Like us, Habakkuk discovers that he lives in the in-between, where his faith is confidence in something he does not see (Hebrews 11:1). Like us, God calls Habakkuk to wait patiently and expectantly for God’s timing (Habakkuk 2:3; see also 1 Corinthians 1:7; 2 Peter 3:13-14). In Habakkuk, we are reminded of a message we see throughout the Bible: the righteous live by faith. 

Living by faith

Despite his frustration, Habakkuk points to the greatness of God in this week’s passage. He points to the fact that God is eternally alive, can raise a nation for the sake of God’s purpose, and can cause pestilence and war (1:6-10). In the end, God will save God’s people, crushing and destroying those who are wicked.

The Enduring Word commentary says this of our passage: “Habakkuk dealt with the questions that come up when someone believes God yet looks around and sees that the world doesn’t seem to match up with how God wants it. Habakkuk saw this … and asked, “Lord, why are you allowing this?”

Habakkuk writes, “I will stand at my guard post and station myself on the lookout tower. I will watch to see what God will say to me and what I should reply about my complaint” (2:1) I relate to having “complaints” for God. As I read Who Would Jesus Kill: War, Peace, and the Christian Tradition, I certainly had several complaints about those whom I would put in the category of “wicked.” In Habakkuk, we are reminded that our prayers of anguish to God don’t go unnoticed or unheard (Psalm 27:14; 37:7; Lamentations 3:26; Isaiah 40:31; 64:4). God tells him to have faith, patience, and hope – may we go forth with this same encouragement in our hearts.

Questions for reflection

  1. Sometimes it can be easy to encourage others to keep their faith, but more difficult to apply the same advice to our own lives. Think about a situation or area in which you need encouragement and write a short paragraph to yourself.
  2. Who are the wicked and who is among them? What does it mean to be counted righteous?
  3. Consider Habakkuk’s heart posture in 2:1. How can we prepare ourselves to hear from God, even when it might be something we don’t want to hear?

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