We are taking lessons on giving thanks in hard times from the prophet Habakkakuk. Sometime between 612 and 588 BC, Habakkuk’s nation, Judah, was in crisis. Babylon was rising to world dominance and the prophet knew that his beloved Judah was soon to feel Babylon’s destructive force.
The book of Habakkuk consists of three chapters and features a dialogue between God and the concerned prophet in three parts—Habakkuk’s complaints, God’s answers, and Habakkuk’s prayer.
First the complaint. Rewind to Hab. 1:2-4. In these verses Habakkuk is complaining about the sins of his people. They’ve lost their way spiritually and he’s wondering when God is going to fix them. What follows proves the adage, “be careful what you pray for.” God was going to discipline His people, but not the way Habakkuk thought.
In verses 5 and 6 God says, “Hold on to your yamika Habbakuk! In a thousand years you’d never guess what I’m about to do!” God was going to raise up the fierce and rising nation of Babylon to come and punish His beloved Judah. To Habakkuk’s shock and dismay, as bad as things were right then for Judah, they were about to get much worse! We can identify can’t we? As bad as the pandemic has been in the first and second waves, the third one we’re in appears to be much worse.
In verses 12-17 Habakkuk makes a second complaint and asks God why he would use a nation even more wicked than Judah to punish them. Look at verse 13: “You eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (Hab. 1:13)
But God had a plan. He always has a plan. God points Habakkuk’s eyes away from the Babylonian crisis and onto Himself. In verse 20 he says, “But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him.” This Thanksgiving, however you celebrate it, you can say Hallelujah Anyhow because God is still on the throne! The economy may be bad, but the Lord is still good! Thank God there is no such thing as a “lame duck” session in heaven! The Lord is in his holy temple. Everybody just be quiet and be in awe.
Habakkuk assures us that God is holy and just (1:13), never indifferent to sin and injustice. He will eventually punish the wicked, and has an appointed time for it. “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.” (2:3) We can say Hallelujah Anyhow because the current situation is not the ultimate conclusion. The righteous may have to wait for vindication, but it will surely come.
And while we wait, “The righteous will live by his faith” (2:4) not by what appears on the face of things to be true. As Abraham waited patiently for God to fulfill his promise, and as Habakkuk and the faithful remnant were to wait for him to respond in justice, so you and I are to wait in faith for God to carry out his purposes. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” (Rom. 5:1-2) We say Hallelujah anyhow in the hope of the glory of God!
The book concludes with an amazing affirmation of faith that establishes the pattern for how Christians should respond to hard times. “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; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” (Hab. 3:17-19)
Things were about to get rough, but because Habakkuk had a new view of Who was really in control, Habakkuk said, “Hallelujah Anyhow!” “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD. I will be joyful…” Why? Because “God is my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength.” You can say Hallelujah Anyhow because you’re in the grip of God’s grace and no one can snatch you out of the Father’s hand. Not Covid and not even satan himself.
Nowhere does it say that the righteous will live by his 401K or by his stock portfolio, or by his bank account. He will live by faith. Living by faith is not optional for the believer; Faith is what makes us believers. Authentic Thanksgiving is possible for us too when we let God’s Word change our perspective. The Apostle Paul tells us, “Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.” (Colossians 3:1-2 The Message)
The DOW may go down and the dollar may deflate but “The Lord is in his holy temple, and my life is in His hands. And He has called me to live a life of thanksgiving, by faith. Thanksgiving is more than a holiday. It is defiant praise rooted in unshakeable trust in the Almighty God who has saved us and will right all wrongs in His time. Giving thanks in hard times is spitting in the devil’s eye and saying, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want!”
What if the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines? What if the pandemic changes my Thanksgiving plans and the Tofurky is dry, and there is no toilet paper or disinfectant wipes in the stores …what then? Say Hallelujah Anyhow!
“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.” (Psalm 13:5, 6) If you and I are going to successfully run the race of life, then, we too, must lay aside every weight through the sacrifice of praise. What Hallelujahs are you giving today?
Pastor Randy Maxwell