“Look at the nations and watch — and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”
Every year during the lead up to New Years Day the news media engages in a process of examination of the top events of the past year and then gives a series of predictions regarding the events that are going to catch our attention in the upcoming year. This is just what has happened this year. Several weeks ago now we looked at the coming new year with a hope that it would bring about the end of Covid19 and as a result would be a much better year. Predictions were made which were based upon our hope for the future. Some of the predictions will happen, and some won’t. There are always things that happen which catch us completely by surprise. There are also fears that we have which are not realized. The questions that this process of prediction raises in me are concerned with the type of people we must be if we are to meet the challenges that the New Year will bring. How are we to respond when our hopes are not realized?
It seems that the challenges of the future were on the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk’s mind as he wrote down the prophesy which bears his name. In the very first verse of his prophesy we are given a title for the whole book. It is the “Burden of Habakkuk”. The Prophet is burdened for his people because it seems as if they are becoming increasingly ungodly. It is most likely that Habakkuk wrote his prophesy during the final days of the rule of the Godly King Josiah. Josiah had done much to bring about a revival of faith within Judah. For a while it seemed as if he was succeeding but the sin was too deeply entrenched. Upon Josiah’s early death Judah slipped back into her ungodly ways. Judgment soon came just as the prophets had been predicting. No wonder Habakkuk was burdened.
Just like him we are often burdened for our world in which we live. It may be that our burden is worldwide in scope, or it might be national, or provincial. Perhaps we are burdened for our city, or closer to home our family, or even a single person whether a family member or a friend. We find ourselves constantly praying for their salvation. Like Habakkuk we see the ungodliness and we are burdened for God to step in and cleanse it. When it seems as if God is acting slowly we become impatient, just as the prophet did.
It is here that we must look carefully at the prophesy that is contained in this book. We are given direction as to how we are to deal with our impatience. We are directed as to what should be at the heart of our response. This is that we must be people who face our burdens with a deep and reverent faith in the God who is sovereign in all of His ways. Habakkuk also directs us to that one thing which we must truly be burdened for. Despite all his complaints about the events that he is facing Habakkuk reveals that the real burden that he is bearing is for the Glory of God. In the second half of the first chapter Habakkuk begins to frame his complain in language which reveals this to be true. His focus is upon the righteous purity of God. In all of our burdens regarding this world in which we live true believers must be first of all burdened to see God Glorified in all that He does. Is this the thing that we are really seeking?
Habakkuk takes his burden to the living God, wrestling with Him in prayer. As he wrestles with God in this way he, like us, is brought to see the essential issue that he is facing. This then becomes the burden of his prophesy. This Glory of God must also be at the heart of our wrestling with God. This is the only real way forward for us.