Tonight we looked at what may well seem an unwanted miracle initially to us: God’s discipline and judgment. Often, we associate miracles with the spectacular and dramatic, but sometimes the way God works is painful and difficult to understand. Prov 3:11-12 reminds us, however, that God’s discipline comes from love and Hebrews 12:7-11 expands this, reminding us that parental discipline is necessary and that this training from God actually helps us to share in His holiness, ultimately producing ‘a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.’ (Heb 12:11)
The book of Habbakuk shows us how the prophet comes to God in confusion and frustration as he sees violence succeeding and injustice flourishing. He demonstrates the reality of a relationship with God: we can come even with our complaints! But God’s answer stuns him even more than His silence, for God chose to use the godless Babylonians to discipline His chosen people. Habakkuk had to learn that whilst he knew much of God’s nature, he still could not wholly fathom God or control Him in any way. There is always mystery and transcendence in God; Habakkuk cannot understand why God will allow judgment and punishment to come upon His people through the Babylonians who are without mercy. This miracle of discipline is not something he wants to even contemplate. Yet he is wise enough to remain in God’s presence and to wait for His answer. (Hab 2:1)
God’s answer to this second complaint or lament is that the answer may be delayed, but ultimately, His discipline and judgment exist to teach us to live by faith (Hab 2:4). Habakkuk has to learn to wait: ‘the Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth be silent before Him.’ (Hab 2:20) Habakkuk’s prayer in chapter 3 demonstrates that he has moved from frustration, anguish and lament to praise and strength, hope and confidence running through his words, even though the actual fulfilment of God’s words still lie in the future. The book ends with words of confident praise:
Habakkuk teaches us much about God’s miraculous intervention in our world, but also about how living by faith will always involve trust and praise, even when we do not necessarily see the answers we want. God often disciplines and trains us, stripping us of our comforts and security so that we learn to rely on Him alone (2 Cor 1:8-9). He teaches us to ejoice in the Lord and be joyful in our God and Saviour, no matter what is happening around us, whether we see the miracles now – or whether, like Habakkuk, we are still waiting.