Archive for the ‘ Minor Prophets’ Category

Habakkuk 1:1-11

Sunday March 11, 2007

Habakkuk is clearly a man of faith, a man of God and his cry to God in v1-4 is an example well worth trying to follow. Firstly, he was grieved by what he sees around him. In particular, violence (v2) and injustice (v4) are rampant and Habakkuk is not content with the way the world is. In a country where the poor are often ignored and people can be shot in their homes, how often do I care enough to repeat Habakkuk’s words? Secondly, Habakkuk went to God. Where he could have blamed the government, the ‘youth of today’ or any number of causes, he knew that God was in charge, and God was letting this happen. Do I believe that God is grieved by violence and injustice in this country, and when did I last cry out like Habakkuk? Though Habakkuk didn’t have all the facts (we’ll see God wasn’t idle as Habakkuk says in v3) he was full of righteousness and faith.

God’s response is stunning. He starts by saying that Habakkuk wouldn’t believe what God’s going to do. God is going to use the Chaldeans (Babylonians) to destroy Jerusalem and so bring justice. Habakkuk may have hoped that people would get nicer, or that he would raise up a really good leader, but he wouldn’t believe God’s chosen solution – to wipe out the source of the problem by having Judah invaded.

The description of the Chaldeans is terrifying. They live for conquest, they are “dreaded and fearsome”, swift, violent, single-minded and powerful. They come for one purpose only – for violence – and to them people are as insignificant as a grain of sand. No ruler or fortress can stand in their way, they cannot be stopped. Even their horses are scary, simply by association with the army. Once they are done, they’ll be straight onto their next campaign, leaving nothing behind but flattened ruins and bodies and blood. I can’t begin to do the language justice – but just reading v6-11 and imagining what it would be like to be tiny Judah in the face of this army is terrifying. They are going to be annihilated.

How can God do this? He is (through the Chaldean army) destroying his own people the Israelites. However much we might want a fluffy, happy, nice God the Bible (New Testament as well as Old) simply will not allow us to avoid that God is terrifyingly angry with sin and will have justice and will punish. God’s people had turned away from him – Habakkuk could see the violence and injustice that resulted – and God’s punishment is serious. He will not (as Habakkuk thought in v3) “idly look at wrong”.

What of us? If we cry out like Habakkuk, we can know God’s answer. He sees the violence and injustice in our world and he is not idling. There is a Judgement Day coming when he will destroy the earth, wipe it out, flatten it. Justice will be done for every injustice, all violence will be paid for, every wrong righted. God is not idling, it will come. And if it weren’t for Jesus, I would be in the line of God’s judgement. Thank God for Jesus, thank God that he has already been judged for my violence, thank God that Jesus has borne God’s anger for me. This means that when I pray for justice (and I should, because while I don’t like to think about, it is what we need and it is right) I have to be very humble. I must recognise that I deserve God’s great wrath and it is only through his great grace that I have been saved from it.

Heavenly Father, it is so sobering to be reminded of your anger against sin and the coming judgement. Thank you that you are just and you have decreed that there will be justice in the end – and help me not to forget the certainty with which it is coming. Thank you for saving me though Jesus death in my place. Please would you save many, and please give me an urgency in warning people to flee the judgement day and to find shelter in Jesus. Amen.

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The Truth is in Habaukkuk…

Saturday February 17, 2007

UPDATE: I’ve changed my mind! Over the last couple of weeks thinking about Habakkuk I’ve changed some of my ideas about what some bits of it mean. Therefore I don’t agree with some of the things in this post any more. At the end of the series I’ll try to write a summary which I actually do agree with.

In preparation for a short series on Habakkuk in my one-to-ones with our church student worker I’ve been challenged to work out the sections in the book and what they’re about. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Complaint 1 – why don’t you deal with sin and violence? (1:1-12) Habakkuk asks how long until God will make things right (1:1-4). God replies by saying that he’s raising up the powerful Chaldeans to bring justice (1:5-11). Habakkuk seems to trust God’s plan (1:12).

Complaint 2 – the Chaldeans are worse! (1:13-2:20) Habakkuk doesn’t understand why God tolerates the Chaldeans despite their idolatry (1:13-16) so asks whether God will ever stop them and waits for an answer (1:1-2:1). God reassures Habakkuk that justice is surely coming (2:2-5), that what the Chaldeans have done wrong will be done back to them (2:6-17) and that their idols will do them no good against the LORD in his holy temple (2:18-20).

Habakkuk’s prayer – God is powerful, I’ll trust and be patient. (3:1-19) God, you have worked powerfully, do it again (3:2), a summary of the whole prayer. God has shown his awesome power before (3:3-15) and Habakkuk is confident he save Israel again, so will wait patiently for God (3:16-19).

I’m a bit worried about splitting up what Habakkuk’s saying in v12 and v13 into two different sections. He seems to change his attitude – trusting in v12 and questioning in v13 onwards – but maybe I’m missing something.

I was also a little worried that this outline was Jesus-less. While it’s wrong to jump straight to Jesus whatever the text says, we know that all the prophets have spoken about him (Acts 3:25, etc). Thinking about it, having one nation destroy another was never going to fulfill justice – whether the Chaldeans, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks or Romans were in charge they were all as sinful and godless as each other. While God used them for his purposes (in this case to punish unjustice) this could never be the complete solution. The day that Habakkuk was patiently waiting for we are still patiently waiting for. One day, Jesus will return to judge and to bring justice – and until then things will never be fully right. Amen, come Lord Jesus!

That’s what I think Habakkuk’s about – I guess I’ll see on Friday just how heretical I’m being…

UPDATE: A helpful tool to work out the context of Habakkuk which I wouldn’t have found without help is knowing that the Chaldeans are also known as the Babylonians. This, then, puts the prophet shortly before the Babylonian conquest of Judah and hence after the two kingdoms (Israel and Judah) had split from each other.