Like so many, I am in anguish about the horrific war unfolding due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Feel-good, trite forms of Christianity are of little use in these times. The seriousness and desperateness of the situation reminds me of something Eugene Peterson said:
“This is an urgent time and the task of the Christian is to learn how to maintain that urgency without getting panicked, to stay on our toes without caving into the culture. This is not a benign culture where everything is going to be fine. Everything is not going to be fine.”
Realism and honesty
Habakkuk is not the most well-known book in the Bible, but it is very relevant to times of violence and injustice.
I have personally found the book’s realism and honesty a great help in times of trouble and difficulty. The prayer of faithful dedication in the book’s closing words has especially been of comfort and inspiration to me.
I have heard echoes of Habakkuk’s conviction and faithfulness in the face of overwhelming challenge in many of the voices of ordinary Ukrainians in the past week.
I wanted to share extracts which are especially relevant, but would recommend people reading and meditating on the whole book (which is only 3 chapters).
Habakkuk’s complaints to God (from chapters 1 & 2)
How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.
Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?
The LORD’s answer (from chapter 2)
“‘Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion!
Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you.
“Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain, setting his nest on high to escape the clutches of ruin! You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life. The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.
“Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice! Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labour is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Habakkuk’s prayer (from Chapter 3)
I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.
The oldest truth
The enduring relevance of Habakkuk’s message is evidence of something else Eugene Peterson said:
‘Spirituality is not the latest fad but the oldest truth…we have nearly four millennia of experience to draw on. When someone hands you a new book, reach for an old one’
For an introduction to Habakkuk, watch this from the brilliant Bible Project: