Many people have hoped fervently for the dawning of this year, some seeming to genuinely expect that another rotation of the earth from December 31, 2020 to January 1, 2021 magically will result in better times. Of course, we have no guarantee or promise that circumstances will improve and some rather sobering indications that they won’t. So what if 2021 is as bad as or worse than 2020? What if the COVID-19 virus rampages? What if governmental restrictions increase? What if taxes swell and the economy collapses? What if some new unimagined calamity befalls us?
The prophet Habakkuk instructs us regarding how to respond under such circumstances. In his case, there was no doubt that the foreseeable future would be bleak: God had promised that because of the apostasy of His people, He was going to send an invasion force of Chaldeans to ransack the land and carry away into captivity the choicest of those who survived. Military attacks. Deprivation and death. Captivity under a godless nation. Bleak doesn’t begin to describe the prospects confronted by Habakkuk.
Habakkuk honestly records his initial response: “I heard and my inward parts trembled, at the sound my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones, and in my place I tremble. Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, for the people to arise who will invade us” (3:16). An overreaction? A faithless response? I don’t think so. We can readily identify with Habakkuk’s dismay. I can remember as a young boy being promised a spanking for some misdeed I had committed. But I was told that I would not be disciplined immediately. Rather, I must go to my room and consider what I had done and the punishment that awaited me. The waiting was excruciating. No sane person would ever wish his family, friends, or nation would have to endure what God had vowed was about to befall Judah. Contemplating the inevitable would be understandably unnerving.
Faced with the reality that he could neither change the mind of the Lord nor stay His chastening hand, Habakkuk refused to succumb to fear, despair, anger, or depression. Instead, he testified that “Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places” (vv. 17-19).
Habakkuk is a realist who believes the Lord. He does not try to wish the bad news away, pretend it is something else, refuse to acknowledge its reality. Realizing that God is ordering these circumstances, he resolves to trust the God who has saved him and revealed Himself to the prophet. He will glorify the Lord; he will rejoice in God because the judgment is just and temporal while the Judge is merciful and His salvation eternal. And he trusts that the Lord will be in this circumstance what He has always been: Habakkuk’s strength. His testimony is similar to Job’s: “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (13:15a).
So what about you? Do you know Habakkuk’s and Job’s God? Is He the God of your salvation and the Source of your strength? Judgment may come, but the believer can and must trust in the Lord whose every way is perfect. It is vain to think that The United States will escape a reckoning with God. Whether this year will tell that out remains to be seen. And to what degree believers will share in that reckoning is up to Him. What we may rest assured of is that He does what is right and that He never forsakes His own. Is your hope in Him exclusively? The year 2021 rests solely and securely in His hands alone. It is easy to trust (or to think we are trusting) when we enjoy fair weather. The question is whether we will rest in Him and rejoice in Him when storms strike. We may claim the promise the Lord made to Peter after telling him that “Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat”: “But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail” (Lk. 22:31b, 32a).
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