There is significant relevance here to our own discipleship so what is Habakkuk actually about?
Habakkuk is one of those little books—by one of the “minor” prophets—that’s easy to overlook. Even so, you’re almost certainly familiar with several “sound bites” that come from this contemporary of Jeremiah. Here are a few:
- 1:5 is quoted by Paul in Acts 13:41 (letting us know it has application beyond the prophet’s own time)
- 2:3 is cited in Hebrews 10:37 and is alluded to in 2 Peter 3:9
- 2:1 – “I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower” – embraced by those who intently watch for “signs of the times”
- 2:4 – “The righteous shall live by his faith” – quoted in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38 (and on plaques that hang on our walls)
- 2:20 – “The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” – has been set to music
- 3:17-18 – “Though the fig tree shall not blossom…yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will take joy in the God of my salvation” – also set to music
A lot that’s familiar, right? And pay attention: those quotations in the New Testament show us the apostles and early believers thought this long-dead “minor” prophet was very relevant to themselves!
But extracting sound bites isn’t really an appropriate way to handle scripture, is it? All of it is God’s revelation. We need to look at the context, absorb the whole. So, what is Habakkuk actually about?
There is significant relevance here to our own discipleship
Here’s a very abbreviated summary: The prophet asks God how long He will let violence and sinfulness go on without consequence. The Lord replies that He is readying an invader, who will punish the wrong. Habakkuk then asks God how He can use the godless as His instruments—they have their own agenda and they are merciless. Then the prophet says he’ll take the position of watchman, and see what comes.
The Lord answers that what He is revealing will be accomplished, but in God’s time—woe will come on evildoers, and the futility of serving false gods will be evident. Then Habakkuk prays, recounting the vision he has seen of massive destruction, especially including extremes of what we would call natural phenomena. It is all for the salvation of God’s people and the end of the dominance of the wicked. At this vision Habakkuk is overcome with weakness, can barely stand. He concludes that even though disaster comes, he will rejoice in the God of his salvation.
This is not dead-and-gone ancient history! There is significant relevance here to our own discipleship. As other prophets do, Habakkuk cries out, “How long, Lord?” Are we doing the same, crying out to our God about all the wrong we see?
Do we recognize God’s response will ultimately be severe judgment? Do we appreciate that God’s actions will be on His timeline? Are we prepared to live through a bad time, still rejoicing in confidence of God’s salvation?
Are we watching? Do we (in prayer) enter His holy temple in awe? Are we confident that faith is counted as righteousness, and by it we are saved out of the judgments to come?
What Habakkuk had experienced, the questions he had, the path ahead of him, are immediately engaging—because they echo our experiences, our questions, what we see on the road ahead. Even if we don’t see it by just reading it, the apostles are almost jumping up and down while they point to it and say, “See? See?”