Habakkuk 1:1-4

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, January 11, 2016 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received. How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:1-4)

This year at Worldview Warriors, we’re starting a new adventure into the Biblical book of Habakkuk. You may be thinking, “Why Habakkuk? Who ever reads that book?” Well, we do, because it’s part of the Bible, and the Old Testament is still God’s Word and it still provides us input into God’s character and how we should live our lives as His children. As we dig into this book over the next few months, I hope you’ll see how relevant it is to our lives today and the culture we live in.

In order to understand any book of the Bible, we need to know the context in which it was written, who it was written by, and to whom it was written - or as much of that information as we can gather.

The context of the book of Habakkuk is the decline and fall of the kingdom of Judea (the southern kingdom when Israel was split into two), which was approximately 626-586 B.C. This book was likely written over this whole time frame, or thereabouts, since different sections of it point to different time periods in that range. At this time, living conditions in Judea were progressing from great to terrible as the destruction loomed ever closer.

We know nothing of the person Habakkuk, aside from his name. All we know about him is right there in verse 1: “The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.” Habakkuk was a prophet, and he received a prophecy. Often times names will have significant meaning in the Hebrew language, but Habakkuk’s does not.

One particularly interesting thing about Habakkuk is that most prophets speak from God to the people. Habakkuk also speaks to God from the people. Often times God raised up prophets to speak to the people when the people had fallen away from Him, and in this case Habakkuk is no different. Israel had gotten their focus away from God and needed to be brought back. Violence, injustice, and law breaking were running rampant. There were some righteous people, but we see that it appeared to them that their prayers to God for redemption felt pointless.

Now that we know the context, let’s dig into this first passage of the book. It starts out with what is known as Habakkuk’s first lament. A lament is a way to express grief or sorrow over something. There’s a whole book of them in the Bible (Lamentations), and a number of psalms contain laments, plus Habakkuk’s laments of course. The format of Habakkuk’s laments include asking questions to the Lord, describing a dire or urgent need, then asking for deliverance.

In Habakkuk’s first lament, his primary concern is the contrast of good vs. evil, and justice vs. lawlessness. In verse 2 he asks God why He has not answered their cries for help, and he asks God to deliver them. In verse 3 he continues to ask why God doesn’t do something about their situation, and then begins to share what’s going on. Violence was everywhere, and their justice system had become corrupted by it, so the few righteous people felt they had nowhere to turn. Even most of God’s people had given in to the violence.

The Hebrew word used for “violence is “hamas” (yes, pronounced the same as the Palestinian military organization, even though their name is derived from Arabic). “Hamas” is a complete violation of moral law, including men injuring their fellow men. It is ethical wrong including physical brutality. That was how bad things had gotten in Judea during the time of Habakkuk.

In verse 4, Habakkuk explains that their justice system is corrupt. Those who were supposed to enforce the laws have become corrupt. In that society, justice didn’t just mean judging of legal matters such as in a court system, but all functions of the government. All of the government had become completely corrupt! The order of society was based on the law, which justice puts into practice.

So do you see any similarities yet between the culture of Habakkuk’s day, and our American culture today? Stay tuned as we continue to dig into this book.

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