< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Some Background to Habakkuk

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Some Background to Habakkuk

One of your children tells you, “It’s not fair!” because someone in their class gets away with everything. Your spouse gets passed over at work by someone who lies, brown noses and doesn’t even do a good job. You’re standing at a bus stop in Israel and a man walks up and blows himself and 10 other people up. A drive by shooting kills a 5 year old watching cartoons.

It’s the age-old question, “Why do all these bad things happen?” and “Why do they happen to good people?”

Habakkuk, who was both a prophet and a poet, was troubled by the evil in the world and he sought answers. His name itself means “to embrace” or “wrestle”. And he’s wrestling with a difficult issue. “Why is there evil in the world?” “Why do the wicked seem to be winning?”

Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. And there was much to weep about. There was major upheaval in the world. He lived in Judah during the reign of Jehoiakim between the fall of Nineva (the capital of Assyria) in 612 BC and the Babylonian invasion in 588 BC.

The last 4 kings of Judah had been wicked men who neglected God and oppressed their own people. About 15 years before Habakkuk wrote this book, Jeremiah wrote that God intended to punish the people. That they were wicked and had turned from God.

Now, 15 years later, Habakkuk is crying out, “Where is the God who promised to punish the evil in this land?”

He must have been praying a long time because he says, “How long will I call for help and You will not hear?” So it seems like an unanswered prayer. But, most unanswered prayers are really answering, “wait” aren’t they?

This time as Habakkuk asks his questions of God, God answers. And the questions and answers are recorded in this book. God tells Habakkuk to watch and be utterly amazed because He will do something so astounding people won’t believe it.

And we’ll see that what He does is even more troubling then the original evil Habakkuk saw. God lets the Chaldeans (or Babylonians) punish the Hebrews by taking them into captivity.

It happened. And it was brutal. Many people died in the process. And they were in captivity a long time. God’s solution didn’t make sense or seem fair. At least Judah was God’s people! Why would God use a nation even more corrupt then Judah to punish Judah…some people think America was punished on 911 by really bad people…and we’re going to see parallels in this book over the next few posts.

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