Joy in a Minor (Prophet) Key

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and other fruit of the Spirit can be hard to come by during political campaign season.  Social media and traditional news outlets are usually geared toward sharing bad news in normal times, but during campaigns the mudslinging and negative attitudes go nuclear.  Hyperbole is not supposed to be taken literally, like if I said, “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse,” but in politics it seems every election is the most important ever and the other candidate or party is going to destroy everyone.  Responsible civic participation is a must in a healthy society but when it becomes apocalyptic, it may be a sign we’ve put government in a place only God should be.

Photo by Jessica Delp on Unsplash

Around 600 BC the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk was stressed out.  Ancient Israel had the law of Moses and the temple in Jerusalem.  They had God’s prophets, priests, and kings.  Habakkuk’s circumstances should have been ideal.  He saw his political, religious, and economic systems as the best possible, because they were from God Himself.  However, it had all been corrupted by sinful man, often for the benefit of the powerful.  Therefore, God told Habakkuk that He was about to do something utterly terrifying, unexpected, and unbelievable to His people:

Look among the nations, and see;
            wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
            that you would not believe if told.” – Habakkuk 1:5

God gave Habakkuk really, really bad news.  Everything around him was going to crumble, because God was going to use the horribly wicked Babylonians to judge Israel and violently take them captive into exile.  To us, this would be like God promising us that all of our worst political fears would be realized and that there was nothing we could do about it.  Naturally, Habakkuk couldn’t believe it, so he asked God to teach him and waited for an answer:

I will take my stand at my watchpost
            and station myself on the tower,
and look out to see what he will say to me,
            and what I will answer concerning my complaint.” – Hab. 2:1

In God’s reply, He tells Habakkuk that “the righteous shall live by his faith.”[1]  Not only will God ultimately judge the Babylonians, who were just tools in His hands, but His people must trust and be patient in the meantime, even exiled from the Promised Land without Israel’s institutions, which had proved useless anyway.  Habakkuk felt much better, finding peace and even joy!  He ends his book with this powerful prayer of faith and joy in Habakkuk 3:17-19:

“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 there be no herd in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
            He makes my feet like the deer’s;
            He makes me tread on my high places.
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.”

Habakkuk’s joy was real, although his situation was horrible.  None of this is hyperbole, so why don’t more people have the unshakable joy of Habakkuk?  For most of the world’s population, it isn’t because their circumstances are worse than his.  So, what is it about politics and the fear of losing an election that robs us of joy and peace?  Sometimes there’s no quick solution and a lot of long-term self-examination is required.

Sometimes we must also say:

I will take my stand at my watchpost
            and station myself on the tower,
and look out to see what he will say to me,
            and what I will answer concerning my complaint.”

So, over the next 4 Saturdays, I’ll be re-sharing some old posts related to reducing the political temperature.  Maybe we can even find some joy in knowing our sovereign God is real, He is in control, and He knows what He’s doing, whatever our circumstances.

[1] Habakkuk 2:4b

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