Summary: The message of Habakkuk is one of the most helpful portions of Scripture to help us make sense of today’s news.
In just eight days we will be marking the fifth anniversary of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. That is the day terrorists attacked America. It was the most blatant, brutal barrage that has ever occurred on American soil. None of us shall ever forget that day.
None of us shall forget the vivid images of airplanes flying into buildings, skyscrapers collapsing, people falling to their deaths, and the unimaginable carnage that resulted. We felt shocked, numbed, incredulous, afraid, sad, angry, and a whole range of other emotions that put us into emotional overload. September 11, 2001 changed every one of our lives—forever.
Since that day there have been other acts of terrorism, as well as a number of wars, such as the ones in Afghanistan, Iraq, and most recently in southern Lebanon between Hezbollah and Israel.
The questions I want to ask today are these: “How should we think about these events? How do we make sense of today’s news? And how does today’s news fit into the grand scheme of history?”
There are many things to say in response to these questions. And I am sure that in the coming weeks we shall have a lot more to say. But today I would like to begin to answer these questions in a message titled, “Making Sense of Today’s News.”
I would like to do so by turning your attention to the book of Habakkuk, where we find today’s text, which is Habakkuk 1:1-11.
Among the questions that Habakkuk raised are these: “Is God in charge of today’s news?” and, “If he is, why do things happen the way they do?” In dealing with these questions, the prophet Habakkuk speaks directly to our own times in light of today’s news.
We do not know much about the prophet Habakkuk personally, for he is not mentioned anywhere else in the Old Testament. It seems clear from the situation Habakkuk described that he wrote this prophecy sometime after the decline of the Assyrian Empire and the rise of the Babylonian (or Chaldean) Empire. The Babylonians captured Nineveh in 612 BC and Jerusalem in 587 BC. It is during this 25-year period that Habakkuk wrote his book.
During the earlier part of Habakkuk’s life there had been wonderful spiritual reforms instituted under the leadership of the boy king Josiah. But Josiah died in 609 BC and spiritual decline set in and Judah reverted to ungodly, worldly ways.
This was the era in which Habakkuk wrote his book, and it is against this background that we must understand the questions raised by the prophet. Habakkuk 1:1-4 describes Habakkuk’s complaint of the spiritual and moral decay in the nation. Apparently, after a long period of time the Lord answered Habakkuk in verses 5-11. The Lord’s answer was totally unexpected as Habakkuk learned that a foreign, ungodly nation—the Babylonians—were going to come and bring God’s judgment against the people of God.
With that as background, let us now read Habakkuk 1:1-11:
1 The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received.
2 How long, O LORD, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”