|Q267 : Is Habakkuk Relevant Today?|
With regards to Habakkuk, I maybe way off here. It seems like Habakkuk’s complaints are really similar to today’s world. In Habakkuk’s time, the Babylonians were taking over everything, and God was allowing it. But God also promised that the Babylonians would have their day of reckoning. Today, we have ISIS, Iran, Syria, North Korea, etc., that are making unbelievable changes to the world. It’s certainly affecting America, and even Christians here are undergoing persecution. Is there anything we can take from Habakkuk that provides some hope for the future? Or was Habakkuk’s lament simply what it was on its surface –just a recording of that particular time in history with God’s promise that it would be dealt with?
|A267 : by Tony Garland |
Your question is a good one and very similar to the material and issues I’m dealing with in teaching a weekly Bible study through Ezekiel. We’ve been 10 months working through it so far and have made it less than 1/2 way through the book—and much of the material is very similar to Habakkuk. Both prophets are dealing with a worsening period of ungodliness within Israel and the impending judgment of the nation by a harsh, and even more ungodly nation: Babylon. So they discuss many of the same issues and, as you’ve noticed, the parallels between Habakkuk’s (and Ezekiel’s) times within Israel and our own time within the USA—another nation which is rapidly leaving God—are impossible to ignore or dismiss.
I think this is exactly what God intends us to see. The historical context is very different, but the principles and reactions of the people—and how God may work through unsavory regimes to bring judgment—still apply. Of course the USA is not Israel with the unique covenantal relation it had with God, so we have less to go on regarding specifics of how or when God judges us (e.g., we can’t directly apply the blessing/cursing specifics from Deuteronomy to the USA). At the same time, there is plenty within Scripture to indicate that “righteousness exalts a nation” (any nation, Pr. 14:34) and departing from the knowledge of God will surely bring a nation into trouble and under His judgment.
So the increasingly unpleasant task which any teacher of the Bible has today is to discuss these realities. The process remains the same: observe (the text, historical context, parallel passages, larger biblical themes), interpret (the original meaning intended in the historic setting), and apply (how does what we see there inform us about our situation today: both personally and nationally). I say this is “unpleasant” because nobody wants to hear a message of pending trouble—whether it be due to active judgment by God or simply the outworking of departing from godly principles (and the two are almost impossible to separate in any case). For those churches which remain faithful in their calling of keeping and teaching God’s Word, the result it seems is fewer and fewer who are willing to listen to the hard reality.
So, like today, Habakkuk asks many hard questions which could, without exposure to the Bible, throw untaught believers for a loop. Seeing how perplexed Habakkuk was in his day helps us keep our perspective when we face similar perplexity about what God is allowing in our day. That perspective is crucial to retaining our faith and mission in the midst of a culture marked by the rapid rejection of God and His principles—most of which are the underpinnings for the blessings we’ve enjoyed as a nation up to today.
You also asked, “Is there anything we can take from Habakkuk that provides some hope for the future?” Yes, but probably not so much in the short term. Habakkuk mainly gives us perspective concerning the sovereignty of God in the midst of apostasy—and to not be surprised when He chooses unexpected means by which He allows judgment to fall (similar to Psalm 74). Thus, as believers, when a stormy time comes, it is paramount that we maintain a heavenly perspective. Who could say it much better than the last passage of Habakkuk?
Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer's feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.1