We've recently completed reading 1 Peter in our series on "Hope", and have just started reading Habakkuk. Though these books are in different Testaments and separated by hundreds of years, both these books show us what biblical hope looks like for the people of God.
The book of Habakkuk is one of the minor prophets of the Old Testament. Some of us could be less familiar with this section and in the first sermon on this series, Pastor Oliver also helped us to understand some of the context of the book of Habakkuk.
Context of Habakkuk
The ESV Study Bible also provides a helpful introduction to this book. According to the ESV Study Bible, "little is known about the prophet Habakkuk. He was likely a contemporary of Zephaniah and Jeremiah and possily even of Ezekiel of Daniel, but none of the other prophets mention him."
It goes on to address when this book was written, saying, "The only hint of a date for this book is its prediction of the Babylonian invasion of Judah (1:6) but it is unclear how far into the future this event would be (2:2-23). The Babylonians do not appear to be an imminent threat when Habakkuk was writing, but he seems to be very aware of their potential threat..." Scholars suggest that Habakkuk was not written later than the end of Josiah's reign (540-609 BC).
Before Josiah's reign, "Judah was morally and spiritually corrpt, worshiping Baal on the high places, offering its children to Molech ... and allowing the temple to fall into ruin." Under Josiah, however, "Judah experienced a significant, though short-lived time of revival ... with the restoration of the tmple and reinstitution of the Feast of Passover, but returned quickly to its evil ways followinng his death".
Theme of Habakkuk
Thus, Habakkuk sees the moral and spiritual state of God's people and is troubled by it. The ESV Study Bible writes, "Habakkuk, like Job, questions God's justice, but in the end both realise that God is sovereign and his justice is far beyond their comprehension. ... God's justice demands that wickedness be punished, whether found in pagan nations or in his own people."
It goes on to explain that "God's ways of preserving and purifying his people are mysterious to the believer; and yet God calls his suffering people to show faith that God's purposes for the world will at last prevail".
1 Peter and Habakkuk both continue to encourage us to live as faithful believers whose hope lies not in the shifting circumstances of our world, but in the God who is unchanging and whose word is true. It is a timely word of encouragement for us today, when we seem to face many challenges and uncertainties.
If you are keen to learn more about the book of Habakkuk and how to read it, here are some helpful resources:
In this episode of the "Help me teach the Bible" podcast series, David Helm works through the key ideas and themes in Habakkuk. He also spends time unpacking the statement, "the righteous will live by faith", which is an important truth that New Testament writers also pick up on.
3. Books on reading Habakkuk and the other minor prophets