Habakkuk 1:1 The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.
Habakkuk was a prophet to Judah and a contemporary of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. No one knows when Habakkuk began his ministry as a prophet. However, based upon Habakkuk's burden and the promised judgment coming for Judah, it seems likely that his ministry began after the death of King Josiah.
King Josiah was the last good king Judah had. After his death, Judah would depart from the Lord without returning until after the destruction of Jerusalem and seventy-year captivity.
The book starts with a burden that Habakkuk did see. The question that I asked myself as I read verse one was: "why did Habakkuk see something that caused him to have a burden?" Even though there is not much information on Habakkuk, and his book is relatively short (Just three chapters), there are at least two clear answers to the question.
First, Habakkuk had a conversant relationship with God. In the Book of Habakkuk, he initiates each conversation with God. By reading the book, we can develop the character and nature of Habakkuk's conversations with God. As we do this, a narrative becomes clear why Habakkuk was conversant with God.
His dialogue with God points us to three views Habakkuk had of God that caused him to continue conversing with God.
Habakkuk's talks with God came from a heart of need. Habakkuk undoubtedly knew that God was the answer to Judah's plight of wickedness.
He believed that God had the power to transform Judah from darkness to light and from wickedness to righteousness.
This is why he asked God to bring a revival to Judah (Hab. 3:2). It is easy to see why he kept coming back to God with this understanding. God was the difference maker! After all, if God could change Habakkuk's direction and life, then He can change any person or group of people's direction and life.
Another reason he returned time and again to converse with God was the respect and reverence he had for God. Habakkuk wanted God to revive the work (3:2); instead, God's plan involved destroying the work (1:6-10). Habakkuk struggled with understanding God's plan for Judah. The methods of God made no sense to him. It seemed to be counterproductive and was not quite what Habakkuk was after.
Yet, Habakkuk's respect and reverence for God caused him to continue conversing with God. He opened his response to God with: "Art thou not from everlasting O Lord my God, mine Holy One (1:12)?" During Habakkuk's confusion, he still recognized that God was the King of the universe and the Holy One.
Not only did Habakkuk's conversations with the Lord point to his need and reverence for God, but it also demonstrated God was paramount in Habakkuk's life. Habakkuk was a prophet of God, and the only way he could be faithful in this calling was if he conversed with God. The last thing a godly prophet would ever want to do is declare a false prophecy. A false prophecy would delegitimatize his office. The only way to secure the integrity of his office as a prophet was to be in communication with God and to view God's word and ways as more important than his word and way. We capture the essence of this truth with Habakkuk yielding to the plans of God – regardless of his confusion and conflict with those plans. Habakkuk says: "O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy" (Habakkuk 3:2).
The second reason Habakkuk saw something that created a burden for him was that God opened his eyes to see.
Habakkuk saw the iniquity, grievance, violence, strife, contention, lawlessness, and a corrupt judicial system (1:2-4) that plagued Judah. Why did God open his eyes to see the widespread rejection of truth that permeated all aspects of living within Judah? In other words, why does not God open every believer's eyes to the corruption of society?
Consider the impact this had on Habakkuk's life. First, what he saw caused him to have a burden. The word for "burden" means something lifted or carried.
The idea behind this word is Habakkuk's seeing caused him to become a difference-maker in his community by lifting and carrying the banner of truth through declaring the words of God.
He became an Isaiah, who said: "Here an I; send me" (Isaiah 6:8). This burden belonged to all the prophets of old and preachers, teachers and difference-making Christians today. Our eyes are overwhelmed at the utter disregard for God's word and way within society.
There is widespread corruption and disregard for truth no matter where we look. Realizing the only hope people have is the declaration of truth (John 17:17), we enlist ourselves in the service of God to do whatever he desires from us. We pick up the same banner that Habakkuk did 2600 years ago.
Second, what Habakkuk saw intensified his conversations with God. His conversations were more than just information.
There was passion, intensity and dependence. He is doing the ministry of the prophet but without any ministry success. Therefore, he cries to the Lord, wondering why the Lord is not answering his prayer to turn Judah around (1:2). I do not know any person that has a perfect prayer life.
Habakkuk's prayer life became more emotionally and spiritually engaging after seeing Judah's wickedness. Passion and intensity in our prayer life speak of dependence on a God who is able.
Third, Habakkuk learned to trust in God's sovereignty. The reason Habakkuk continued in the office of a prophet, even though his heart was broken for Judah, was his submission to the Lord's sovereignty. But it was more than submission. A person can submit and still be unhappy and dissatisfied.
Habakkuk's submission to God's sovereign plan for Judah brought rejoicing and rest. Habakkuk concludes his book with these words:
"Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: (18) Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. (19) The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments" (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
As I conclude this month's devotion, my prayer is we will see the utter and complete depravity and injustices within all layers of society, and in seeing, we will lift the banner of truth by declaring God's word as often as we have the liberty to do so. Who knows, maybe God has brought us into 2022 "for such a time as this" (Esther 4:14). To be a difference-maker that will save a nation!