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!”
but you do not save?
3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
4 Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.
5 “Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.
6 I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
to seize dwelling places not their own.
7 They are a feared and dreaded people;
they are a law to themselves
and promote their own honor.
8 Their horses are swifter than leopards,
fiercer than wolves at dusk.
Their cavalry gallops headlong;
their horsemen come from afar.
They fly like a vulture swooping to devour;
9 they all come bent on violence.
Their hordes advance like a desert wind
and gather prisoners like sand.
10 They deride kings
and scoff at rulers.
They laugh at all fortified cities;
they build earthen ramps and capture them.
11 Then they sweep past like the wind and go on—
guilty men, whose own strength is their god.” (Habakkuk 1:1-11)
The message of Habakkuk is one of the most helpful portions of Scripture to help us make sense of today’s news. People have so many questions about what is happening in the world today, and so we must turn to God’s word for his answer.
In today’s lesson, I would like to suggest two statements of fact, and then draw four lessons we should learn from God’s word.