23 September 2014Habakkuk 1:12 - 2:4
“For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.” (vv. 3-4)
Little is known about the prophet Habakkuk. He makes reference to the Chaldeans (Babylonians) and so it has been suggested his prophecy dates to around 600BC, near the time the Babylonians overran Judah and drove the Israelites into exile (Habakkuk 1:6).
The passage is addressed to God as a lament, which is a strong protest. Habakkuk has already asked God how long people must cry for help before God responds (Habakkuk 1:2). The answer he receives is that God is using the Babylonians to punish Judah, and the people of Israel. In this passage Habakkuk challenges God as to why a wicked people (the Babylonians) are allowed to punish a less wicked people (the erring people of Israel) and permit so much suffering?
He addresses God, as the God of the covenant of old, an everlasting God (verse 12) and challenges God, expressing his outrage that God has allowed such wrongdoing to go on and done nothing to stop it (verse 13). He says God has been making his people like fish, who get helplessly caught on the enemy's fishing hooks (verses 14-15). We might say like pawns in a game of chess, inadvertently caught up in the fallout from the moves of the bigger pieces. A seine (verse 16) is a fishing net, but it is also a way of fishing that puts the net vertically into the water, wrapping round and gathering the fish haplessly into it.
Habakkuk is raising questions about God's idea of justice, and God's attitude to the wicked. Why does God not act in judgement? Why is God silent and seemingly absent?
In chapter 2 Habakkuk says he will stand watch to wait for Lord's response to his complaint.
The answer that he receives is that he must write down the vision and wait for its fulfilment. Even though times have been very difficult, there is still the vision for the coming kingdom of God, which needs to be clear. It may seem to be long in coming, but it will surely come.
The independent spirit of the 'proud' who rely on themselves will eventually trip them up, but the 'righteous' live by faith, trusting in the promises of the Lord.
- Imagine you are part of the tiny minority Christian population of the Gaza strip or the West Bank; spend a few minutes composing a lament (protest) to God for your own suffering and those of your people?
- In what ways do you think it is helpful to express lament on behalf of a community which is going through very difficult times? Do you have a story of a time when it has helped people move on? What happened?
- Have you ever been angry with God because you or your community have been caught up in political forces beyond your control which have created some turmoil in your life? How were you able to find a way to honestly challenge God or why did you feel this would be unhelpful?