Habakkuk 3:16-19: Is There Any Hope?by Ed de la Cour on December 30, 2012
Habakkuk 3: 16 – 19 December 30, 2012
“IS THERE ANY HOPE?”
I can remember my Mom and Dad talking about what life was like during the Great Depression, how they scrimped and saved, how they made do with what they had. Like many mothers, my Mom saved aluminum foil and string. There was work, but jobs were hard to find. If you had a job, you did not complain, because there were millions who were unemployed. There was no unemployment insurance, no welfare, and no food stamps in those days. Your family was on it’s own. If bad times came, you had to depend on your extended family, friends, and neighbors to see you through those times.
As my brother and I grew, we noticed our parents threw away very little. We had to learn to love leftovers. Our family paid cash for what we bought. My folks did not even have a checking account until after Dad retired. Even in the 1950s, for our family, life held few amenities in those days. Our school clothes were hand-me-downs. My Dad’s cars were always at least ten years old. Our one extravagance: I remember the day when our new black and white RCA Victor television was delivered – it was the hit of the neighborhood.
In the years following World War 2, prosperity struck America like winning a magic lottery and Americans began to roll in money, appliances, and technology. America’s families and America’s government began to spend our way into even more happiness. Not only did prosperity fail to make us happy, not only did happiness prove to be an elusive butterfly, but also our behavioral patterns as a nation crippled our ability to tell right from wrong. We then found our newly liberated and risky lifestyles held out the sad promise of many unfortunate, apparently unforeseen, and unintended consequences. Many families were shattered under the weight of unmitigated greed and unrestrained behaviors. Beginning on the 1960s, across the land, fatherless families began to abound. America began to believe in, and live for bread and circus, just like the ancient Romans. By the turn of this century, the refrain began: give us free stuff and we will serve you forever.
For a long time, people took the opportunity for introspection on the last few days of every year. They give some serious thought to the year that is ending, and think about year that is about to begin. Some will make resolutions, but most people simply move from one day to the next. This past year has been especially difficult for many. The news in recent weeks has been hard and particularly disturbing. There have been outbursts of random and horrible violence, continued economic downturns, and a real fear about the apparent cliff we all may be going over in the days ahead. Even if last-ditch efforts are successful, we know only stopgap measures will be enacted. The future appears bleaker now than I seemed one year ago. Not just a few, but all people have plenty of reasons to stop and think. Sadly, any stopping and thinking that may be happening has not yet matured into repentance and seeking God.
We have to ask, is God speaking to America through these events? If so, what is He saying? In view of the uncertainty and the blatant wickedness surrounding us, is there any hope for our nation in this hour? We used to call attention to floods, earthquakes, fires, and droughts as being signs of God’s remedial judgments. Now, the indications of impending real judgment are increasing. Have we set ourselves on an irreversible downward course? Are we sliding into oblivion?
Habakkuk was a man of God who lived in the 7th century B.C. – long before the birth of Jesus. He lived during a time of great upheaval. Habakkuk asked those kinds of questions of God. God listened and He interacted with his servant. In Habakkuk 1: 6 – 12, you sense Habakkuk knew something of the brutality of the Babylonian army. He knew his nation was on the verge of collapse and on the brink of destruction. It was nothing less than God’s mercy that allowed a portion of His people to survive the invasion and go into exile.
Whether you are thinking politics, economics, war, or health problems, America is facing a difficult and painful future. We cannot wrap our minds around such thoughts. In our minds, fantasy is king and better times are always before us. We are firmly devoted to television where bad situations are resolved positively in an hour’s time.
Given our collective unwillingness to change our ways and all the events that portend a painful future surrounding us, it is foolish to believe America can continue to be blessed by God. Have you ever considered the fact that Muslim nations are a witness against us as they proclaim the moral failure of America?
Habakkuk wrote his prophetic words just before the Babylonians succeeded in destroying Jerusalem, in the mid-to late 7th century B.C. He looked around and saw his own nation spiraling out of control. Everywhere he looked, he saw his nation was decaying. This was a spiritual wasteland filled with wickedness and injustice. Habakkuk was deflated, out of steam, out of ideas, and out of hope, and so he cried out to God. Is there any hope for my people and me?
Be thankful God listens when His children call on His name. God heard Habakkuk and He answered. This small book is a great confidence-builder for anyone who has questions about whether God hears us when we call on Him.
In these few verses, we see Habakkuk decided to take a long view. In the short term, he honestly saw that destruction was inevitable. He had to put his hope somewhere greater because of the armies advancing against them. He chose to put his hope in God.
When God encourages us to take the long view, it is because He speaks to us from the perspective of eternity. We can see only in the rear view mirror. We can never see very far ahead. When we try to see ahead, we see only the reasons why we should panic. When God looks ahead, He sees He is holding our future securely in His hands. It is all under His control. Because we live in the here and now, we are depressed because Iran has nukes and North Korea has ballistic missiles. But our God is not worried, nor is He stressed.
In Psalm 42, the psalmist was also facing a stressful and painful prospect. In effect he said, I cannot “feel” the presence of God in my life the way I used to sense His presence. That’s a frequent and near universal complaint. Who among us has never thought God had left him all alone? Yet, while God may seem distant to you today, nevertheless, the steadying hand of God is on your shoulder. I may be experiencing great anxiety today. I may be worried and all but consumed with enormous fears today, but God’s touch soothes my nerves and He calms my fears.
Who is it that calms us and brings peace into our lives? When you read the Bible, who is speaking there? Are you listening to my voice when you read the Bible? The voice you are hearing is the voice of God. Through His voice and in His Word, we hear His power, we sense His strength, and rely on His faithfulness. That is what fulfills our need for stability, but it also fulfills our need for hope and peace. In fact, God tells Habakkuk to wait, to sit still, and then to wait some more. Who among us is able to wait patiently? Aren’t we are all like small children who hear the music of the approaching ice cream man? Even as adults, we are still like children who are told to go to sleep on Christmas Eve or else Santa won’t come. Waiting is not our strong suit.
Waiting is a virtue built on trust. If Daddy comes home faithfully every night after work, it means you know Daddy is coming home. You can wait for him because you trust him. But, if you are never sure where your father is, it is hard to wait because you cannot trust him. Your relationship with God is built on learning to trust God. Have you ever relied on God’s faithfulness? Have you found God honors His Word? Your strength and your hope in God are now stronger today because you have experienced His answers, His just-in-time provisions, and His presence. Habakkuk heard God’s voice, listened to His Word, and believed what God had to say. That’s why he was willing to wait patiently.
Waiting is a virtue built on love. Remember True Love Waits? The idea was we wait to marry before we have sex because we are convinced God loves us and that He has a perfect plan for our lives. We don’t run ahead of God. The problem with the idea is that very few are willing to wait. Love, real love, the kind of love that comes from the heart of God, is a powerful incentive enabling us to be able to wait. Habakkuk came to know and believe, even in the midst of disaster, he could trust in God.
Because we always want to be in charge of our lives, we’ll charge ahead or we’ll run the other way, but we do not want to wait. In our heart of hearts, we want to seem like we are doing something. In our heart of hearts, we think trusting God and loving God are failed and flawed concepts.
As we read the text, it looks as though Habakkuk just might be a man who is coming unglued. His legs trembled. His lips quivered. Waves of weakness swept over him. Yet, he chose to wait. Still, he chose to be patient. He knew His God in whom he has placed his hope and his trust. God will enable us to walk through the dark valley. Even in the valley of the shadow of death, we will be as sure-footed as the deer.
In some ways, verse 17 is one of the more frightening verses in the Bible. In that verse, Habakkuk recognized his means of making a living was disappearing. His livelihood was shriveling up and blowing away. He faced emptiness and dryness ahead. He saw no food, no money, and no means of provision. Even so, Habakkuk says, “I will rejoice in the LORD. I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
There is the word of God to you and me today. Whether we are about to jump off a fiscal cliff or not, God invites us to trust in Him, wait for Him, and while we are at it, rejoice in our God! As a nation, whether this crisis is averted or not, we are still going to enter a painful and stressful time, the likes of which this generation has yet to see. Very few experts, very few people who possess knowledge of economics are seeing prosperity in our future. We are, by our own hands, dealing a frightful blow to our own nation. We are hurting ourselves. We look around us and we do not see a foreign nation subduing us. Instead, Our enemies are within. We are being pummeled by our own lusts and our own willingness to be led around by the nose.
Unregenerate people will curse God in the hard times and blame Him when life goes wrong. They will not seek God, nor will they repent for their sins. They are not willing to wait for God. Don’t allow your own heart to be swept away by the voices we hear so loudly screaming in these days. Learn to wait for God to work in your life.
So, how can we encourage each other today? We are a small group of people who are not very well off. All we really possess is a trust in and a love for the God who has revealed Himself to us in the Bible. We are given the privilege of standing with Habakkuk, a prophet of God who is all but anonymous in history.
You will not be able to stand with Habakkuk if you lack his walk, His relationship with God. We have a chance today, before circumstances overtake us, to take the necessary steps to grow in our relationship with God. Turn off the TV, unplug the music, and open your Bible. Start listening to God; begin seeking His face, and then practice obeying and walking by faith every day. By God’s grace and in His mercy, may we have time to prepare ourselves for the days of which Habakkuk spoke.
Edmund C. de la Cour, Jr.
First Baptist Church of Pocasset
298 Barlows Landing Road
Post Office Box 1080
Pocasset, MA 02559
Church Office: 508-563-3164