The book of Habakkuk is certainly an interesting one. Written probably during the Chaldean period when Babylon was at the height of her power, it is set out as dialogue between the prophet and Jehovah in which God must respond to a series of complaints regarding His punishment and providence.
Throughout the conversation, Habakkuk wrestles, as many of us do with, the apparent prosperity of the wicked while good and holy people suffer, but today’s reading (a continuation from yesterday’s) weaves together the ancient stories of God coming forth to deliver his people – terrifying in His passion and power.
From Joshua’s battle with the Amorites when the sun stood still and the moon stopped in the sky until the nation had been avenged (Habakkuk 3:11), to the surging waters of the Red Sea trampling down the Egyptian’s horses and chariots as the Israelites fled captivity (Habakkuk 3:15), Habakkuk has been nursed on the accounts of a God of Action – Mighty to Save – that enable him to wait patiently despite a clear threat to his personal safety and the wellbeing of his nation as a whole.
He writes, in conclusion of his conversation with Jehovah, of his conscious decision to trust in the Lord and rejoice in his Saviour despite their current plight:
“Fig trees may no longer bloom,
or vineyards produce grapes;
olive trees may be fruitless,
and harvest time a failure;
sheep pens may be empty,
and cattle stalls vacant—
but I will still celebrate
because the Lord God saves me”
Our Gospel reading from Matthew is actually a continuation of day 7’s story in Mark in which Jesus had his authority questioned by the chief priests and elders. (Mark is well known for emphasising Jesus’ miracles and leaving out some of his longer lectures).
Through the parable which Jesus offers them concerning the two sons who are asked to do some work in their father’s vineyard, Jesus points out that the discrepancy between what they profess to believe and what they actually do will ensure that the prostitutes and tax collectors who they so clearly despise will get into heaven way before they do.
“John came to you showing you the right road. You turned up your noses at him, but the crooks and whores believed him. Even when you saw their changed lives, you didn’t care enough to change and believe him”
Matthew 21:32 (The Message).
Habakkuk sees everywhere “evidence” of God’s inactivity and apparent desertion yet chooses to celebrate, in faith, the God who has shown himself through the ages as mighty to save.
The religious and political leaders of Israel, on the other hand, see the evidence of God at work, changing lives, but don’t care enough to repent of their falsehood and deceit. Content with their power and position, they offer lip service to God rather than entering into the kind of sacrificial, transformed life that brings ever nearer God’s kingdom – for all.
Look back to the picture you drew of God’s green pastures at the start of the week or think back to your baptism and what it symbolised – the way of life it opened up to you.
Are there any discrepancies between the life that you are called to – the life that God has promised – and the way you feel you’re currently living?
Which life do you truly long for? Consciously claim it right now.