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Man of Many Sorrows by Katie Costello

Man of many sorrows acquainted well with grief
Are you present in my suffering, will you help my unbelief?
My path is lit by sorrow in my soul’s dark night
And I am broken by the heat but still thankful for the light

And I would not wish sorrow to flee
If it meant progress would also cease
I only ask your company
And plead the presence of your peace

Were you married to the hope while still tethered to the pain?
Did your body beg relief while your soul shouted remain?
Do you wrestle just as I do—
Were you everyday at war?
Surely I can endure these things if I know you have before.

And I would not wish sorrow to flee
If it meant progress would also cease
I only ask your company
And plead the presence of your peace

I plead the presence of your peace

The artist: Katie Costello

 

Habakkuk is unique in the minor prophets. While we tend to think of prophets speaking for God, Habakkuk is primarily a record of speaking with God. Habakkuk comes to God with two questions, “how long?” and “why?” We can relate as we look around us and see all the suffering, injustice, oppression and evil.

Habakkuk is unique in the minor prophets. While we tend to think of prophets speaking for God, Habakkuk is primarily a record of speaking with God. Habakkuk comes to God with two questions, “how long?” and “why?” We can relate as we look around us and see all the suffering, injustice, oppression and evil. We find ourselves asking the same questions, “Why doesn’t God do something?” or “How long will my prayers go unheard?” If God is good, what about evil?

Habakkuk complains to God that evil is running rampant in Israel and God doesn’t seem to care. He sees evil, but God seems blind (1). He cries to God and God seems deaf (2). Suddenly however, God answers. He explains that he is already at work and it is Habakkuk who is blind. God says he is doing something unbelievable: bringing Babylon to come and exact judgment on Israel. Babylon the pagan. Babylon the cruel (3). Babylon the wicked. God even throws Habakkuk’s complaint back at him, in Israel justice never goes forth (4), in Babylon, their justice does go forth but as they define it (5). God even points out that Babylon worships their own strength and will take the credit for all they do (6).

God was right. Habakkuk could not believe that this was God’s plan. He was afraid of the cancer of Israel’s evil, but who needs cancer with a cure like this? Habakkuk’s concern was that Good looked idly at Israel wickedness (7), so how can he take confidence in the fact that judgment is coming if God looks idly at the wickedness of his instrument (8)? Wasn’t Babylon even more deserving of judgment that Israel (9)? Will God allow Babylon to keep devouring nations and not bring them to justice10? Once again Habakkuk awaits an answer, and once again God speaks.

God responds by giving Habakkuk a vision and explains that it may seem far off, but it is sure to come to pass. In the form of 5 woes (11) God lays the future of Babylon bare. Justice will be done, and Habakkuk’s part is to live his life in faith (12) that despite appearances, God is in control and the his righteousness will be revealed in the end.

To this answer Habakkuk has no more questions and instead breaks forth in praise. His song pictures the

sovereign God appearing in all his power to set things right. He still trembles in the current invasion of Israel, but he also determines to quietly wait for God’s promises to be fulfilled (13). Habakkuk thought that God was absent, and he now knows that despite all appearances he can rejoice in the God who saves him.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food the flock be cut off from the fold
and their be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation (14).

He finishes with a refrain from a well known psalm (15) with a slight adjustment. Whereas David rejoiced because God had already delivered him, Habakkuk rejoices knowing that God will deliver Israel too. He may not be able to understand the why, or appreciate the how, but he knows the who, and that is enough.