The man’s hands were shaking as he talked to Chris Wallace about the economy. This was not just any man off the street. Henry Paulson has served as Secretary of Treasury in the Bush administration for the past two years and he is a veteran the high rolling climate of Wall Street.
But now, his hands were shaking and his voice sounded strained and thin as the Secretary of the Treasury sought to answer the questions of news anchor, Chris Wallace. Everything about his body language communicated stress and tension.
As I listened to him explain the economic realities, I felt a compelling need to reach over and grab his hands and say, “Please quit shaking. It makes me nervous”. Obviously, I could not make such a response but it did indicate my visceral reaction to his overall demeanor.
Economists and political leaders are sounding the alarm over our current economic situation in our country and globally too. Meetings of high level strategists from across the world have convened in Washington to discuss the state of the world’s economies.
In the midst of these challenging current events, we sometimes forget that people in the past have faced similar difficult periods of distress. Throughout our history as a country, perilous times have ben experienced economically and internationally.
A visit with the Old Testament prophets, will awaken a greater understanding of such times of depression and chaos in society. The children of Israel had a Ph.D in captivity and bondage.
Habakkuk was a prophet of the Lord for God’s people in really dangerous and depressing times. It was the seventh century B.C. Habakkuk realized that the Lord was going to use the godless military machine of Babylon to bring God’s judgment to His people. In the book which bears his name, Habakkuk is described as an obedient servant who waits and listens to the Lord. His waiting and listening turned into praying.
The last few verses of Habakkuk give us a glimpse into heart of the praying Prophet and what he was sharing with God’s people. In these tumultuous times, Habakkuk had a testimony concerning God’s trustworthiness that we need to hear and heed. Listen closely to what he has to say to us.
I. Habakkuk first wants us to be realistic-our situation can become a serious one.
That is a reality of life for the christian and the non-christian. You can experience some huge personal setbacks in life, which were totally unforeseen. That is a common denominator for all people, regardless of background and status.
One man said, “you know I retired and then in the same year the financial markets melted down and I lost half of my retirement savings”. He was not wringing his hands over the matter. In fact, as a christian he was remarkably calm and peaceful about his situation. Yet, the crisis was unforeseen by him and almost everyone and therefore it was a distressing environment for him to navigate.
The testimony of Habakkuk is, “though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit 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,….”
The prophet has eloquently described an apocalyptic style depression. Essentially, he says, “there may not be any fruit on the vines, there may not be any food in the fields and there may not be any flock in the stalls”. That is a catastrophic situation to consider and Habakkuk saw it coming.
If there isn’t any food or fruit or flock, then there is nothing to eat and there, of course, is no work to be found. That is a DEPRESSION! It meets all the practical and economic descriptions of a worst case scenario.
II. Still, Habakkuk declares that our salvation is secure.
As a personal testimony to God, he shouts his dedication to Him, in terms of praise and adoration, “yet I will triumph in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation”. What a courageous and exemplary declaration to the Lord. It sounds like a contemporary chorus we sing in worship. For Habakkuk, it was his foundation of faith.
I once heard of the testimony of a man who had been diagnosed with cancer. His prognosis was not good and he looked very frail and anemic. Yet, he made a statement I will never forget, “you will never really know that Jesus is all you need until He is all you’ve got. When He is all you’ve got, you know He is all you need”.
III. Habukkuk continues his testimony to us with additional words of encouragement-our strength comes from the sovereign God.
In our time, we enjoy the benefits of technology in ways never really imagined in earlier periods of history. We can call or click just about any one in the world with very little effort and at a lessening level of expense. We can fly to the remote places in the world in a matter of hours which cover less than a day. We can power our cars and trucks with fuel. We can flip a switch and have light in our homes in the darkest of nights. We can google any topic and in minutes have information at our finger tips, which in earlier generations was the domain of the most educated and elite.
All of these transformative changes have brought a degree of empowerment to our lives, which we take for granted. Unconsciously, we think we can do almost anything at any time. We have the technology and it represents power and knowledge. That is the subtle but substantial way we lead our lives.
But if all of this is true, and it is, why couldn’t we have prevented the economic crisis? Why are we in this mess, to put it bluntly? Did our technology fail us? Did our knowledge come up short? Did we not have the power to prevent such crisis experiences?
These are good questions for sure. However, I think they miss the point. A better question is, “who is in charge?”. For the christian, we know the Lord God is in control, not the economists, the wall street movers and shakers, not the politicians and not the information technologists.
Habakkuk offered another assertion of his trust in God’s trustworthiness. “Yahweh my Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights”. No doubt about Habakkuk, his strength came from the Lord. Even when captivity comes, the power of God continues to flow through spiritual cardio-vascular system. His strength came from the Sovereign Lord.
Habakkuk’s name in Hebrew is related to the verb, “embrace”. Habukkuk lived up to his name. In the good and bad times, he chose to embrace the Lord and to be faithful to him. Our call is to do the same today. We need to embrace the Lord.
I came to the hospital answering a call from one of my church members. His daughter had been in a traffic accident and the situation looked grave. I entered the room with a sense of dread. “What was I to say?”. That question became eclipsed by the comment of my deacon friend who looked up with a smile and said, “now we have an opportunity to put into practice what we have learned and we have taught others through the years”. He was saying, “now we embrace the Lord who is faithful and practice what we have preached”.
I didn’t say much after that statement because this mature christian had ministered to me in ways he never imagined. He had “embraced” the Lord in good times and yes in the bad times too. That is a testimony to God’s trustworthiness. I pray that it will be ours too as we look to an uncertain future, with faith in a trustworthy God!