Monday, September 11, 2006
Notes on Habakkuk 2
Did some chatting this morning with some of the good folks at church about the second chapter of Habakkuk. You've probably never heard Habakkuk 2 preached before. I have once, but that was a pretty exceptional community. If you've heard of Habakkuk, then you probably know that "just shall live by faith" that Paul gets so fanboy-ish about in Romans and Galatians. And you probably have heard that bit about hinds feet in high places. You probably skipped the stuff in chapter 2 between those bits.

Maggie rightly pointed out that this section is all about sin and its connection to wealth and money.

There are five stanzas to the poem, each highlighting sin and the conequences of that rebellion. Jackie noted how the first four deal relationships between people while the final one deals with idolatry, or the relationship between people and Yahweh. All of the sins center around the strong taking advantage of the weak and vulnerable.

Habakkuk lives around 600 years before Jesus. The northern kingdom of Israel has been annihilated by the Assyrians a century earlier. The southern kingdom of Judah has relapsed after the spiritual renewal of Josiah back into a cycle of blatant sin worse than before. Habakkuk lives during a time of weak kings in Judah who are nothing but pawns caught in the middle of the geopolitical tug-o-war between Egypt and Babylon. It's probably not a great time to be regular Joe Farmer Israelite, as all your excessive taxes are going to pacify Pharoah Neco. Form critics think Habakkuk is a temple prophet because his language is saturated in psalmic liturgy and the philosophy of the wisdom literature. If this is so, he probably knows and hangs out with Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Maybe he's a mentor figure to Daniel and his buddies. Who knows.

Back to the text... the question begging to be asked is who are these judgments directed to? The text doesn't say. Carter thinks its the Babylonians who are named in chapter 1. Jackie thinks that in light of the historical background its Judah. I think it could be either, and that maybe the ambiguity is the point. Maybe its to you. Maybe its to me. Maybe its to any nation or individual that oppresses the weak and violates the vulnerable. Carter rattles of a list of historical examples of nations built on bloodshed that ended in bloodshed. What might that mean for our country and the historic treatment of Native Americans? Because maybe that matters to Yahweh, according to Habakkuk. There is a sense that how a nation treats people and the land and animals matters to Yahweh. It's disturbing, but it's right there in the Bible. And verse 17 makes a nifty proof text in light of the most recent Israeli struggles.

While Habakkuk complains in chapter 1 how the wicked just seem to get away with everything, we see in chapter 2 and sin does eventually have consequences. You reap what you sow, says Kyle. You live by the sword, you die by the sword. You don't get away with sin in the end. If you want to know what the righteous living by faith does not look like, you read the rest of chapter 2.

For what it does look like, we'll read chapter 3 next week.

posted by Peter at 12:42 AM
| | permalink |