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Book of Habakkuk: A Prophet for Today?

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Excerpt from above link:


In marked contrast to Nahum, Obadiah, and Zephaniah, the prophetic voice of Habakkuk neither blames Israel’s enemies nor delights in Israel’s vindication. Instead, the prophet comes perilously close to blaming God for Israel’s condition during the Exile, which is a very different sort of penetration into Divine Providence. Even though he understands that God must have ordained the Chaldeans “as a judgment” and established them “for a chastisement”, Habakkuk cannot avoid wondering about this treatment. Thus the first of the book’s three chapters is one long complaint:


O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see wrongs and look upon trouble?...You who are of purer eyes than to behold evil and cannot look on wrong, why do you look on faithless men, and are silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he? …[H]e brings all of them up with a hook, he drags them out with his net, he gathers them in his seine; so he rejoices and exults…. Is he then to keep on emptying his net, and mercilessly slaying nations for ever? [from chapter 1]


The second chapter of this highly artful book is God’s reply, which is essentially a lesson in Providence:



For still the vision awaits its time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. Behold, he whose soul is not upright in him shall fail, but the righteous shall live by his faith…. [T]he arrogant man shall not abide. His greed is as wide as Sheol; like death he has never enough…. The cup in the LORD’s right hand will come around to you, and shame will come upon your glory!... But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him. [from chapter 2]


We may well ask which of these prophets seems most relevant to our own situation. Habakkuk closes the book with a prayer (chapter 3) which, in fact, must be our prayer today. He acknowledges God’s holiness and might, and he says that, no matter what,



“I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us”. Moreover, the book closes with the prophet’s affirmation that, no matter how bad things seem, “I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

In the Old Testament prophets, the root cause of all distress is Israel’s infidelity. There is a great deal of emphasis on the chastisements, but the trigger for disaster is in fact always infidelity. In the midst of this, the faithful have trouble comprehending why God fails to act.

But God’s answer is that He is always acting: “For still the vision…hastens to the end—it will not lie.” Catholics of our century will find that Habakkuk was there before us, and that Habakkuk’s closing prayer is not only our model,

but our answer as well. "


Prayer of Hope and trust in God at this terrible time in our history, cannot excuse me/all from reflection and action where possible.  Work as if everything depended on work and pray as if everything depended on prayer.

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