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Understanding Habakkuk: Faith Amidst Chaos

There is very little that any of us can fully agree on in today’s time: Who is better—Lebron James or Michael Jordan?, Is water wet? Was the dress black and blue or white and gold? Is the Crispedo the best lunch?, or Should I have kept the dice I had before I farkled? There is very little that we can agree on in 2024. However, the majority of us would agree that something is not right in our day and age. There is something going wrong around us that each of us experiences. We hear of war, murder, human trafficking, and violence daily. I feel confident that each of us has or will experience this feeling in our lifetime(s). And this problem is not new. In the Old Testament (OT), there is a book that illustrates these feelings in a fairly assertive manner. This OT book is one that is rarely turned to or read from in the church. This is the book of Habakkuk.

If we were to rummage into the ancient book of Habakkuk, we would step into a disturbing period in Israel's history. Israel was rapidly facing a powerful foreign entity and this book opens the door to the feelings of a man named Habakkuk. Little is known about the prophet Habakkuk himself, except that he was likely a contemporary of other major Old Testament prophets such as Nahum, Zephaniah, and Jeremiah. During the 7th and 6th centuries BC, Israel and Judah were undergoing significant political and social trouble. The cycle of moral leadership followed by periods of corruption and moral decay set the scene for Habakkuk’s words. His era was marked by shifting powers and looming threats, particularly from the rising Babylonian empire. Habakkuk was facing an overpowering chaos on the horizon.


Habakkuk’s Concerns and Complaints

The book opens with Habakkuk presenting a serious complaint to God regarding the abundant injustice, violence, and approaching destruction from Babylon. Habakkuk was worried. He questions why God would tolerate such an evil people (i.e., Babylon) and why justice appears to be delayed or ineffective (Habakkuk 1:2-4). This dialogue forms the heart of the book. As we read through this dialogue between God and Habakkuk, it resonates themes of suffering, claimed injustice, and the apparent silence of God in the face of human wickedness personified in the Babylonian empire.


But, why does any of this matter for any of us today? The structure of this book provides us a hint in answering this question.


The Structure of Habakkuk

Habakkuk is structured uniquely as a dialogue:

  1. Habakkuk’s Complaint: He voices his concerns and questions God's tolerance of evil (Habakkuk 1:2-4, 1:12-2:1)

  2. God’s Response: God answers, revealing His plan and perspective on justice and judgment (Habakkuk 2:2-20)

  3. Habakkuk’s Prayer: The prophet's response to God's revelations, ultimately leading to a place of faith and trust in God's sovereignty (Habakkuk 3)


The book of Habakkuk is structure as a dialogue between Habakkuk and the Lord. Habakkuk complains before the Lord, and the Lord responds, Habakkuk restructures his complaint, and because of the Lord’s response, Habakkuk offers a prayer that illustrates his newfound hope in the Lord’s plans. This structure helps frame and ponder similar questions about the presence of evil and suffering in their own lives and communities.


Relevance Today

The issues raised by Habakkuk resonate strongly in today’s world, where injustice and suffering are ever-present. Like the prophet, many of us wrestle with the apparent silence of God amidst widespread evil. However, Habakkuk's journey also offers hope in our lives:


  • Faith in God’s Sovereignty: Despite the turmoil, Habakkuk learns to trust in God's plan, even when it seems incomprehensible. (Habakkuk 2:4)

  • Hope in Future Redemption: The prophet ultimately finds hope in God's promise of justice and salvation, a message that extends to all who face adversity today. (Habakkuk 3)


Conclusion

As we walk through the book of Habakkuk, we are reminded that faith does not shield us from questions or struggles. Instead, it invites us into a deeper relationship with the Lord. We bring our doubts and fears before Him. Habakkuk’s journey went from questioning the Lord’s character to trusting in the Lord’s promise of future redemption. It's this that serves as an example of how God invites us to engage with Him amid the complexities of life. This is found to be true as we look into the New Testament. The Lord invites those who doubt and fear to trust and believe in Christ Jesus.


Life’s struggles lead us to find hope and satisfaction in Jesus as the one who justifies and sanctifies. In our lives, may we find the courage to trust in God's faithfulness, even when the world around us seems chaotic and unjust. Just as Habakkuk discovered, God’s plans are ultimately for our good and His glory. God offers us this reality through Jesus’ sacrificial obedience on the cross as He brings redemption to sinners and declares them righteous. When we see suffering, injustice, and unrighteousness around every corner, Habakkuk illustrates the reality that God is faithful to deliver His people and that redemption is found in Christ as the one who justifies sinners and makes them new.

 

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