Friday, May 24, 2013

Commentary: Finding Comfort in a Promise

Finding Comfort in a Promise

Miriam has been dating Rupert for quite a while.  She would like to marry him, but she is not sure he wants to marry her.  Miriam starts to get anxious about it; enough that others notice a change in her conduct – especially Rupert.  She looks as if she is carrying a burden.

Rupert wants to marry her.  But, he thinks he is not quite ready to make the commitment.  Rupert, however, wisely senses that her anxiety may be related to his delaying in proposing.  He seeks advice and everyone says he should not waste more time.  Miriam's anxiety grows – she looks like the burden is heavier - and Rupert is afraid that asking her in the stage she is in might back fire.  But, everyone says " do not worry; it will work out."

Rupert plans a proposal event.  Miriam seems to suspect something which adds to her anxiety.  This makes Rupert more nervous, but he decides to go as planned.  At hearing the proposal, Miriam suddenly gets quiet, looks at Rupert right in his eyes.  Rupert thinks, "I messed up."  But, all of a sudden Miriam's semblance was transformed.  She yells out, "Yes, yes, I will marry you."  Then she embraces Rupert. 

When Rupert saw her face again, her semblance had changed.  She looked as if the burden disappeared.  Her face was radiant, her eyes twinkling.  The proposal – a promise to get married – was enough for Miriam to feel better, to have a hopeful outlook of the future. 

In a sense Habakkuk was in a similar position as Miriam.  He saw the spiritual condition of the Kingdom.  This was reflected in, among other things: the immorality, the abuse and, and the violence of his fellow countrymen toward other countrymen.  He wondered, "Will God do something about it?"  So, Habakkuk cried out to God, essentially asking God, "Do you not see what is going on?  How long will you allow this to continue? Are you not the all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful God?  Will you do something about it?"  God in essence answered, "I do see what is going on.  And, I am not pleased.  But, I am not uninvolved.  I am doing something, but the fruit will not be seen for years to come.  I will put a stop to this; but, in my own time and in my own way."

God's answer to Habakkuk was a promise, which Habakkuk may not see fulfilled.  But, somehow the promise is to comfort Habakkuk, as the promise of marriage comforts a young bride.   To know that God has a plan and He is executing it should suffice, just as it is sufficient for a bride – at least for a time – that her fianc√© has a plan and is executing it.  To be satisfied with a promise requires faith. And, in fact, Habakkuk was told that the just lives by his faith (Habakkuk  2: 4).   The just would be those who like Habakkuk were crying out to God as they lived surrounded by unrighteousness. 

Faith is defined as trusting that the word will do that which it said it would and waiting for the word to do it.  (Rupert made a promise to Miriam, she had to trust that Rupert would fulfill it and wait for Rupert to do it.)  Habakkuk was to trust that God would fulfill His promise and was to wait for God to do it.  This implied that Habakkuk should not do something himself, outside of what God instructed.  Faith is also defined as a response of heartfelt appreciation for what God's work.  (Miriam was grateful.) Habakkuk was being asked to be grateful that God had answered his prayer and would one day do a work which "you would not believe, though it be told you" (Habakkuk 1: 5).  This means that Habakkuk was to be certain that what he hoped for would happen and what he did not see would be revealed (Hebrews 11: 1).  To Habakkuk God's promise is evidence that what is not seen – that God does see what is going on, He cares, and is involved in a solution to the problem.  Like Abraham, Habakkuk believed what he heard from God and it counted to him for righteousness (Genesis 15: 6).  The following quote gives us a deeper understanding, 

 "There is an answer to Habakkuk's question. It is an answer, not in terms of thought, but in terms of events. God's answer will happen, but it cannot be spelled out in words. The answer will surely come; 'if it seem[s] slow, wait for it.' True, the interim is hard to bear; the righteous one is horrified by what he sees. To this the great answer is given: 'The righteous shall live by his faith.' It is an answer, again not in terms of thought, but in terms of existence. Prophetic faith is trust in Him, in Whose presence stillness is a form of understanding."—Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets, p. 143.

The judgment the Lord promised was dreadful.  But Habakkuk trusted the Lord.  Ellen White says,

Confident that even in this terrible judgment the purpose of God for His people would in some way be fulfilled, Habakkuk bowed in submission to the revealed will of Jehovah. "Art Thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One?" he exclaimed. And then, his faith reaching out beyond the forbidding prospect of the immediate future, and laying fast hold on the precious promises that reveal God's love for His trusting children, the prophet added, "We shall not die." (Habakkuk 1: 12). With this declaration of faith he rested his case, and that of every believing Israelite, in the hands of a compassionate God.  Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, pp. 386-389

Habakkuk is to be an example to us.  God is still at work in our life even if we do not see it.  We read from Ellen White,

The faith that strengthened Habakkuk and all the holy and the just in those days of deep trial was the same faith that sustains God's people today. In the darkest hours, under circumstances the most forbidding, the Christian believer may keep his soul stayed upon the source of all light and power. Day by day, through faith in God, his hope and courage may be renewed. "The just shall live by his faith... We must cherish and cultivate the faith of which prophets and apostles have testified—the faith that lays hold on the promises of God and waits for deliverance in His appointed time and way. The sure word of prophecy will meet its final fulfillment in the glorious advent of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as King of kings and Lord of lords. The time of waiting may seem long, the soul may be oppressed by discouraging circumstances, many in whom confidence has been placed may fall by the way; but with the prophet who endeavored to encourage Judah in a time of unparalleled apostasy, let … us ever hold in remembrance the cheering message, "The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.... The just shall live by his faith." Hebrews 2: 3, 4.  Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, pp. 386-389

Since, "Faith comes through hearing and hearing by the word", then it is the Word of God that sustains those who listen and hearken until the end.  


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Raul Diaz
www.wolfsoath.com