My world is full of woe. The nation I am called to witness to has abandoned the ways of the Lord; they have forgotten the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Men’s hearts have become darkened, and nothing but evil comes forth from them. Violence is everywhere around me; justice is non-existent. And there is no escape from it.
Grief overwhelms me. Oh that I must live in these dark days! How am I, the prophet Habakkuk, who am but a lowly man—how am I to turn Israel back to a God they will not believe in? I prostrate myself on the barren ground and cry out to the only One who gives me strength. “How long, O LORD, will I call for help, And You will not hear? I cry out to You, "Violence!" Yet You do not save. Why do You make me see iniquity, And cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; Strife exists and contention arises. Therefore the law is ignored And justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore justice comes out perverted.”*
In the silence that follows my passionate outburst, I feel a majesty and power like I have never felt before surround me, and I tremble at the thought that my Lord is near. In the next instant, a voice speaks to my heart. “Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days--You would not believe if you were told.”**
My heart leaps to answer the question I have hidden deep in my soul. He has answered! Revival will come! My nation will be saved! But my Lord continues to speak, and my joy turns to fear, and my hope to despair.
God has ordained for a people of utter violence to destroy us. They will sweep through our land, leaving ruin and taking captive my people. They cannot be stopped. In my heart I dread them, for I know who these people are. The Babylonians are coming.
Judgment is here.
The prophet Habakkuk lived in perilous times. The nation of Israel had forgotten God—and the results weren’t pretty. Perversion was everywhere; justice was not carried out. For Habakkuk, the solution to this problem was simple: Israel needed a revival! I am sure the prophet fervently prayed for and did his best to bring this revival about. It must have seemed to him that his plan for Israel’s rescue must be what God wanted as well. Of course God wanted this revival!
But yet, God had another plan. Judgment.
Can the same be said for our nation as was said for Israel? The United States as a nation has forgotten God, and without something incredible happening soon, I believe we will be right where the Israel of Habakkuk’s day was. I pray for the revival of our nation, but what if God’s answer to my prayer—to all of our prayers—is something different than “yes”?
Will we accept God’s plan?
This doesn’t just apply to nations. It can apply to every single detail of our lives! So often I shut God out of the plans I make for my life, only inviting Him in once I have my plan ready for Him to bless. I know how I want to grow into manhood. I know what I want my life to look like—and I leave no room for what God wants for me! To my shame, it is true.
You see, so often we think of God as some sort of “cosmic vending machine.” We believe that if we just push all the right buttons—tithing our ten percent, reading our Bible every day, going to church on Sunday morning (and don’t forget praying before every meal!)—then (ta da!) out will come just what we ordered—the perfect life! I pray that none of you are guilty of this, though I think we all sub-consciously have this attitude more than we realize. I for one can see this daily in my life.
In the end, we need to realize who our God is. He is our Creator and Lord, the One who formed the universe with the breath of His mouth. It is our chief end to glorify our awesome Lord, and it should be our goal for all of eternity to do so! We are here to fulfill God’s plan, not the other way around!
This is what Habakkuk came to realize. Though he did question God’s decision at first (Hab. 1:12-17), in the end the prophet could do nothing more than praise our almighty God. The result of this praise was something beautiful. Habakkuk gave in to God’s will, letting go of his plan for Israel, and with this surrender he could confidently say 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.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19A NASB)
We can trust in God! No matter what His plan is, we can rest assured in Him. He loves us and wants the best for us!
At the same time, don’t think that submitting to God’s plan means you must give up on your dreams! As it is said in this verse:
Commit your works to the LORD And your plans will be established.
(Proverbs 16:3 NASB)
I believe God does give us desires in accordance to His plan, and we should pursue them! I am not saying at all that we should become impassive. But we should always commit ourselves to following God’s lead, wherever He calls us! If that means giving up our dreams, then so be it. I assure you, living in God’s plan is the most fulfilling and best possible way our lives can be lived! Our own plans pail in comparison to what God has for us, if we will but trust Him!
I cannot think of a better example of submitting to God’s plan than the example Christ Himself set for us on the night He was betrayed. Jesus was fully God; even in His human body, He was omniscient. He knew that night what was to come—the abuse and torture He would receive, the mocking, and above all, the unbearable pain of being separated from God by taking upon Himself the sin of the world on the cross. Still, this is the example He set for us that night:
“And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will."
(Matthew 26:39 NASB)
Giving up our own plans to follow God’s will seems almost petty when held up to Christ’s example, doesn’t it? And yet, that is what God wants from us, and a fair warning: it may not always be easy. But may we always say what Jesus said: “Not my will, Father, but yours be done.”
* (Habakkuk 1:2-4 NASB)
** (Habakkuk 1:5 NASB)