1 The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.
2 How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
4 Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.
(Habakkuk 1:1-4 NIV)
Today we begin looking at the Old Testament book of Habakkuk, a minor prophet with a major message.
The book is considered “minor” strictly due to its length (three chapters), not because of its message.
The book is unique because it is all a back-and-forth dialogue between a man (Habakkuk) and God.
Time-wise, Habakkuk was a prophet at approximately the same time as Jeremiah. Thought of another way, Habakkuk was the movie trailer, the preview of what was to come; Jeremiah was the full-length feature film of the same events in history. Habakkuk had his ministry after the death of king Josiah, and before the invasion of Judah by Babylon, when Daniel was taken captive.
Habakkuk was in a perplexed state of mind. Judah was a mess, as they were not walking with God, and it showed everywhere. And so he decided to ask God what was going on.
What was Habakkuk’s complaint to God? “God, You are supposed to be God, and yet You seem to be doing nothing about this mess down here. There is conflict everywhere, and wrong is prevailing over right. What’s going on?”
As a prophet of the God of Israelites, Habakkuk felt a tremendous burden. The stakes were high – at a life-and-death level. If he chose to not tell the whole truth that God had revealed, God would take his life. If he did tell the whole truth of God, the Israelites would likely reject his message, and take him out and either beat him to a bloody pulp, or just outright kill him. This was not an enviable position to be in – no matter what, there would be conflict and danger to saying what God had laid on Habakkuk’s mind.
And when God called you to be a prophet, the call was mandatory. You could not turn down the assignment. Jonah tried to do so, but we know that story well – how God chased Jonah down when he was running away, and used a big fish to deliver Jonah to the place of God’s choosing (Ninevah). Jeremiah (Jeremiah chapter 20) proclaimed God’s truth to God’s people, and he was beaten and put in stocks for his words. Jeremiah complained bitterly to God about the injustice; the book of Lamentations is Jeremiah’s sorrow and anguish over the situation with God’s people. No wonder he is known as the “weeping prophet”. None of the prophets had an easy life. Habakkuk was no exception.
Habakkuk’s name means “one who embraces another”. In the first part of the book, Habakkuk’s embrace of God is not a hug, but rather, more like a wrestling match, as Habakkuk asks his “why” questions.
Habakkuk knew well of God’s character – and could not understand why the Lord would allow all this evil to take place among God’s people.
Hmmm……. does all this sound familiar? Maybe a bit like our world today?
Take heart, friends – God is still sovereign – He neither sleeps nor slumbers (Psalm 121:4).