One of the most often used criticisms of the Bible, in particular the Old Testament, is that it’s dated. Old. Past it. Before Jesus, so doesn’t matter as much. These type of comments can come as much from Christians as people who don’t know God at all.
Now, the world as it is today?
Full of fear. Violence. Terror. People questioning if God even exists, and even those of us who do know He exists questioning. Why Paris? Why Lebanon? Why the refugee crisis? How does this all happen? Where everything seems dark, where dark forces are at work so powerful, it’s completely expected to question God.
So what can an old book like Habakkuk possibly say to us in these circumstances?
In the first chapter of his book, Habakkuk is questioning God about the injustice being unleashed on the Babylonians, and asking why God doesn’t save people from violence. In verse 2 he actually says this directly.
“I cry to you ‘violence’, and will you not save?”
Sound familiar? Have you prayed a similar kind of prayer – either silently, or openly – in the last few weeks?
In the second chapter Habakkuk’s waiting for God’s answer – and God says there are consequences to people’s actions. That the violence of the Chaldeans will be countered by the remaining nations. (Note, God isn’t saying He will do this – just that this will happen, because that’s how the world is. When one nation, or, say, for example a terrorist cell in Syria, attacks a nation or nations, then there will be a violent response, because that’s how things are in the world). And Habakkuk doesn’t understand, doesn’t see how God allows this to happen.
But here’s the kicker. In the third chapter. Habakkuk ultimately decides to have faith in God anyway. He doesn’t understand the violence, death, darkness, and constant fighting between nations
Habakkuk doesn’t understand how violence between groups and nations which just perpetuates itself with violent responses to violence continues.
He decides to trust in God.
Of course, this isn’t just about then is it? Habakkuk seems, in fact, to be more relevant than ever.
There is so much violence in the world. So much death. So much fear. And this violence just perpetuates itself. Fear seems to win.
Maybe the challenge of Habakkuk is to trust God even in the midst of what’s happened in Paris, Lebanon, Syria, and is happening all over the world. Even if we don’t understand.
But the encouragement for us, is that questioning God, doubting Him, asking Him why things happen, having honest conversations with Him about the suffering of the world, isn’t new. It’s been going on for thousands of years.
And it’s totally normal. Human. Acceptable.
But the final challenge is to be a person of love. Someone who welcomes the outsider. Someone who loves their neighbour. Who stubbornly refuses fear. Who through their lives, is an example of love and peacemaking in the world.
A person who, despite legitimate doubts, questions and despair, chooses to follow the loving, non-violent, example of Jesus.