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God’s People, part 95: Habakkuk

Read Habakkuk 1

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint.” (Habakkuk‬ ‭2:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 95: Habakkuk. An obscure prophet, of whom little is known, Habakkuk is believed to have lived around, or somewhere following, the rise of the Babylonians (aka the Chaldeans). Living during the seventh century BCE (ca. 612 BCE), he was an early contemporary of the prophets Jeremiah and Zephaniah. Thus, Habakkuk saw the rise of the Babylonian Empire and the imminent danger that empire was to Judah. 

His short prophetic book consists of a series of questions and answers, concluding with a song of praise to God. It starts off with Habakkuk question God. “How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen! “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save. Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted” (Habakkuk‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭NLT).‬‬

In this, as you can plainly see, the prophet was openly questioning the working of God. He reminded God of his cries for help and then accused God of not listening. He accuses God of ignoring the need for salvation and justice, leaving the wicked to far outnumber the righteous and, as a result, allowing justice to become perverted by wicked people.

Habakkuk has been praised by scholars for his literary genius, believing that he intentionally wrote his letter in this question and answer style in order to deliver the message with dramatic effect. Whether these prayers to God were prayers he actually prayed, or whether these prayers were articulating the serious questions of the “righteous” people of Judah, Habakkuk gives voice to the lament against God’s seeming inactivity in the midst of such corruption.

More than give voice to this kind of lament, Habakkuk actually gives people permission to lament in such ways, to pray in such ways, to pour out one’s heart to God in such ways. The prophet to does not record God’s response in a way that rebukes the inquirer; rather, God entertains the questions and gives answers to the specific work that God is doing.

This pattern happens in the second chapter and, in the third chapter, Habakkuk praised God for the work that God was doing, for God’s justice, and for God’s enduring presence. Thus, after a series of questions and answers, Habakkuk leads the reader into a song of praise of God, reinforcing the reality that God not only can handle our questions, but God will answer them.

This challenges the view of God that many people have, the view that God is distant and hard to approach. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever found yourself questioning God? Have you ever felt guilty for questioning God? Habakkuk teaches us not only that God will enact justice and hold the wicked, the greedy, and those who abuse their powers accountable, but that God listens to us and does not get angry when we ask questions.

The challenge for us is to grow in our knowledge of God so that we can strenghten our relationship with God. The better we get to know God, the more we honestly and openly communicate (aka pray) with God, the more comfortable we will be with asking God the tough questions. The more we commuicate with God the better we will get at listening to God as well, and hearing God’s response. I pray, if you haven’t already, that you experience such growth.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed by the masses.” —Unknown Author, possibly summarizing “The Allegory of the Cave” from Plato’s Republic

PRAYER

Lord, lead me into a deeper and stronger relationsip with you, one where I ask questions and listen for answers. Help me to see you clearly, so that I may see truth beyond the shadows that surround me. Amen.