So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”Hebrews 10:35–38 NIV
Wait! My reading of the Biblical book of Hebrews came to a sudden halt. Where have I heard that before? These familiar verses resound in my head because they are from the prophet Habakkuk.
The voice of Habakkuk came alive for me when, as a student at Baylor University, our small InterVarsity chapter hosted the multi-media production of Habakkuk1 for a week on our campus. This 1980 ground-breaker by Twentyonehundred Media Productions showed on a sixty-five foot screen with twenty-six timed slide projectors. The soundtrack included a complete reading of the book with original music and songs written by David Maddox.2
I watched that production so many times that as I read the text in Hebrews today, I still hear the tone and inflection of the narrator.3 And Habakkuk’s cry to the Lord 2700 years ago continues to resonate with familiarity. Every generation asks:
How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.Habakkuk 1:3–4 NIV
Sound familiar? But God is not absent, unaware, or caught off guard despite the constant presence of evil. He sees. He hears. And he speaks:
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.Habakkuk 1:5 NIV
Habakkuk is not convinced. He continues his complaint:
Lord, are you not from everlasting? … Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?Habakkuk 1:12–13 NIV
This time God calls for patience and points to a future hope:
For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.Habakkuk 2:3–4 NIV
This is the verse the author of Hebrews quotes in an effort to encourage us to persevere in faith. For Habakkuk, the coming of the Savior was ahead. For the readers of Hebrews (and for us), Jesus has come and provided a better answer to injustice. And he will come again to remove wickedness forever. And so God ends with a final declaration:
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.Habakkuk 2:14, 20 NIV
Habakkuk is humbled by this reminder of God’s sovereignty:
Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.Habakkuk 3:2 NIV
Habakkuk sees God’s grandeur, he acknowledges God’s fame, he remembers God’s mighty deeds, and he stands in silent reverence. Thus he can rejoice despite the calamity around him:
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength.Habakkuk 3:17–19 NIV
Hebrews reiterates: Don’t throw away your confidence. Don’t shrink back. Persevere. Do God’s will. Live by faith. Jesus will not delay!
Write your own “though” statements. Share them during your Thanksgiving gathering.
Lord, strengthen me to wait for your mighty deeds and your coming. Remember mercy. Though my loved ones are struggling, though the marginalized are tormented, though injustice still abounds, though believers are persecuted, yet I will rejoice in you, Lord. Even if things aren’t the way I want now, I will rejoice. Even if I don’t understand, I will rejoice. Even if I am hurting, I will rejoice.
2Jeanette Matthews, Performing Habakkuk: Faithful Reenactment in the Midst of Crisis (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2012), 195-196.