The Bitesized Bible
12 December 2021
There is something unique about the book of Habakkuk. Meaning that whilst OT Prophets appear to relay the word of God to the people of God, Habakkuk is in conversation with God. This unique identity is based on how Habekkuk opens up the dialogue with God, because the usual OT prophetic process begins with God revealing God’s intentions to a prophet.
Overall, Habakkuk’s contextual message is set against a wider backdrop of humanity facing the consequences of its nature. In view of this, Habakkuk is what you might call a prophetic lament - one where Habakkuk is having a bit of a moan at God about the injustices of his time. We gain a quick insight to this during the first four verses of chapter one. However, it is when God responds in the way God does, that invokes more of Habakkuk’s unique flavour of moaning and groaning about God…..to God! In a nutshell, God informs that Judah will be judged by using the nation of Babylon and Habakkuk laments that God would use a wicked nation such as Babylon, to judge God’s people.
When it comes to Habakkuk himself, things are a bit obscure. However, there are two references to self in 1:1 and 3:1. Both refer to “Habakkuk the Prophet”- a term that implies Habakkuk was a sort of trained or “schooled” prophet who could also have been involved with temple worship. This latter assumption reflects the book’s final statement: “For the choir director, on my stringed instruments” - a temple style reference, if ever there was one.
What is more clear however, is how we date Habakkuk. Habakkuk speaks of an imminent Babylonian invasion in chapters 1:6; 2:1 and 3:16, possibly the small-scale event of 605 BC, but more likely the total destruction of Judah’s capital Jerusalem in 586 BC. According to the book’s closeness to the Babylonian invasion[s], it seems Habakkuk was active in the first five years of Jehoiakim’s reign (609–598 BC), a king who led his people into an identity that did not glorify God.
In all its potential, the book of Habakkuk offers a picture of the people of God being humbled, flavoured with a call to understand that the righteous live by faith in God - as in chapter 2:4. Habakkuk reminds us that while God may seem silent and uninvolved in our world, God’s plan to overcome darkness will prevail. Habakkuk encourages believers to wait on the Lord, expecting that God will work out all things for our good. Habakkuk links well here with Romans 8:28.
As a final thought, Habakkuk asks God the kind of question we all might want to ask. That is: “Why do you force me to look at evil, stare trouble in the face day after day?”. We bear the scars of life, and are always at various stages of healing. However we view that which oppresses us, Habakkuk reminds us that no obstacle is too great for God’s Grace to overcome in a powerful and life-affirming way. The image I offer for Habakkuk is all about how we can journey to God through the light of Christ and arrive at those places where we can speak with God. Not to moan and groan, but to be thankful for God’s amazing saving Grace in Jesus Christ.
Last Updated: 13 December 2021