Book of Habakkuk
The Book of Habakkuk reads like a psalm. With its lyricism and honesty, it would be quite at home in that larger book. Also, its narrative structure is a type of dialogue where the prophet addresses the Lord and He answers him. Because the book is so short, the dialogue structure feels intimate – again, like a psalm. We get a sense that the prophet’s questions, responses and further questions were part of an engaging interaction with God. We see how a person who loves and follows the Lord can approach God and ask Him any question he or she wants. Habakkuk came to God as he was – with all his concerns, frustrations, and pain. In the same way, he was open to hearing and receiving the Lord’s response to him.
Many things clearly upset the prophet. As he observed the world around him, he witnessed injustice, the strong oppressing the weak, the “wicked” overpowering the followers of God. Injustice was so rampant that the law was paralyzed (v.4). In essence, Habakkuk was telling God that the Law was ineffective. Wow. He was pretty bold. (Much later, Paul would expound on how it revealed sin.)
This ongoing reality weighed so heavily on the prophet that He cried out to the Lord for justice. This was not the first time, either. It’s apparent that he had been praying for a while. As such, he felt that God was silent and either ignoring their plight or declining to intervene. Habakkuk seemed so confident in his relationship with God that he could not only tell Him how he felt about the paralyzed law but also honestly pour out his heart about feeling ignored: “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? … but you do not save? … Why do you tolerate wrong?” (vs.2, 3) He did not hold back in his prayers.
When we pray, we commonly think that God will answer, “Yes,” “no” or “wait.” After reading chapter one, we might perhaps add an addendum with an answer such as, “Well, yes, but not exactly…” How can we predict how God will act when He consistently responds in unexpected ways? “Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed,” God began. “For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (v.5) After hearing that pronouncement, one might get excited, wondering “what would He do?“
Indeed, God would do something huge, but it was not exactly what Habakkuk had in mind. The passage clearly reveals that the Lord understood exactly who the Babylonians were – violent and ruthless – and what they were like – including specific military tactics (v.10). Even so, He used them to bring about judgment on His people, the people who had turned away from Him, from justice, from love.
In the midst of this intimate conversation, Habakkuk never forgot who God was: “O LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One… O Rock…” (v.12) At the same time, he candidly approached the Lord with his feelings about God’s solution. “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?” (v.13) … Why would you allow the Babylonians to conquer the Israelites, allow those who are “destroying nations without mercy?” (v.17) He was bothered and he let God know it.
“Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” ~ Habakkuk 1:5
- What are some other ways in which God has acted unexpectedly? What are some examples from the Bible? From your own life or the lives of those around you?
- What kind of expectations do you have when you pray? How can you uncover expectations that you are not even aware of?