Habakkuk


This is a tiny little book, which has exerted an influence out of all proportion to its size. It’s only three chapters long, and the third one is a psalm in which the teaching of the other two has been put into liturgical setting.

The picture of the book of Habakkuk is that of a watchtower to which the prophet goes to grapple with a problem. He viewed the world at peace, the affluent society, and concluded it wasn’t good enough to survive.
He cried out for God to bring sense and justice into the land. Then war came and the atrocities and injustice of war were even worse than the sins of affluence. So he goes into his watch tower gripping, as it were, with one hand the problem “What is the just society?” and reaching out with the other hand towards God, he asks, “What does a just God want of his people?”
Habakkuk won’t let go either way, and that’s exactly what his name means, the grappler, the wrestler.

After wrestling with the problem for a long time he is given an answer and he is told to make that answer plain, by writing it up in big letters so that even people running past very quickly, with no time to read the small print, may understand it.
He is told not to speak until he has got something to say, but when he has, to say it clearly so that everyone can understand what God is saying.
At the end of it all, God shows him that the just life, the righteous life, can only come by something called faithfulness.
You may think that’s not very much reward for all the effort; but it is a discovery as important as the discovery of the wheel. Justice, what is right between men, whether they are trade unions, management, in the dock or on the bench, whether they are Greek philosophers or urban guerillas; can only be found by being in a living relationship with the living God. Men who are in a close relationship with God, find that His faithfulness rubs off on them, and that’s the only way that the just, the good, the fair, the compassionate society can be built.

What was revealed to Habakkuk on top of his watchtower was something, which Jesus of Nazareth came to make possible and practicable for all time, for all people on earth. What we call Paul’s letter to the Romans is really Paul’s explanation as to how Christ has made it possible for all men to live the good life. That’s why he’s not ashamed of the gospel. In it the justice of God is seen. It is good news that the faithful life is here – life as God meant it to be lived: by faith.

Whenever men rediscover this message from Habakkuk that the just life is by faith in God, and I mean really grasp it, then the world goes through something like an earthquake.
It was the watchword of the Reformation, and the great gift of the Bible to the whole world.
Justice is not a human or social essence; it is a quality of God that rubs off on those close to Him.

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Thought 4 The Day

‘The Law is an ass,’ said Mr Bumble in Dickins Oliver Twist. But remember, when hauling packs up a mountain, you will thank God for asses.

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