Summary: The prophet Habakkuk cries out to God with questions about why God is doing nothing as His people spiral down into destruction.
Tuning Out and Tearing Down
Levi grew up in the Holy City of Jerusalem. His father was a merchant who peddled his wares on the city street while his mother took care of Levi, his two brothers, and three sisters. Levi’s mother was a woman of prayer and she insisted that her family go to Temple each Sabbath day to give praise and honor to God. Jacob, Levi’s father, went along to the Temple, and he observed the Sabbath. That was the problem for Jacob – he “observed” the Sabbath. He went along with his family, but he was on the outside looking in. Jacob didn’t see any practical value at all in going to Temple and calling upon a God that he couldn’t see. Jacob went along with his family, but in reality he was only counting down the hours until he could get back out on the street and make a buck.
It was fashionable to go to Temple and say your prayers under the political leaders who ruled during Jacob’s day. There was real reform taking place throughout the land, but for Jacob going to Temple was just an opportunity to meet potential clients. Outside of the Sabbath Jacob never gave God a thought although his wife was always singing to the Lord and making reference to the Torah.
When the political tide changed, a new regime took the reigns, and the people of the land began to see a different reality unfold. Laws were passed so that businesses could remain open on the Sabbath, pressure was put on religious “zealots” who took their faith too seriously, and Jacob was free at last. Many of his friends skipped worship so that they could work on the Sabbath and Jacob began to resist his wife’s wishes that the family worship together on the Sabbath. As the boys got older Jacob began to take them downtown on the Sabbath to “help” with his business instead of making them go with their mother to the Temple.
The city market was a wild place where merchants tried to get over on shoppers and shoppers tried to get over on the merchants. There was corruption, foul language, and feigned hospitality everywhere as everyone tried to cut a deal. With the relaxed political atmosphere there began to be more and more objectionable goods trickling into the carts of the merchants in the city square. Jacob’s boys drank it all in as they were now working on the Sabbath instead or worshipping. The Word of God became a thing of their past.
As time went on the boys and their father gave less and less attention to the things of God and more and more time to making money – sometimes with less than admirable business practices. Jacob explained it all to the boys by saying, “That’s the way it is in business. You have to take advantage of the customer before they take advantage of you.”
By the time Jacob’s sons grew up and went into business for themselves thoughts of God were long gone. The boys became more vile and corrupt than their father with no boundaries to keep a check on their behavior and practices. Over the course of time the boys went through many setbacks as they were caught cheating, lying, and even stealing to get ahead. Each time the boys would figure a way out of their mess by becoming even more conniving and by manipulating the system.
Jacob’s wife continued to pray for her husband and her sons. She asked the Lord to turn their hearts back to the things of God and away from the things that were destroying them. She spoke with her husband and sons on more than one occasion, but each time they explained to her that you have to do certain things to get ahead in business. They told her to “leave God for church and let them handle the family business.” She knew that destruction was on its way so she continued to pray that God would turn their hearts before devastation visited her family.
I am certain that Jacob’s wife and the prophet Habakkuk had much in common. Habakkuk had watched the crowds file into the Temple and then he watched them file out when it was no longer advantageous or popular to seek the Lord. Habakkuk continued to pour his heart out before the Lord, he continued to urge the people to turn around, but they would not listen.
Last week, as we began our study of the Prophet Habakkuk, we took a look at the events that led up to the time when Habakkuk wrote this powerful prophecy. If you will remember, I shared with you last week that Habakkuk is different from any other book of prophecy in our Bible in that the three chapters of Habakkuk’s book are a dialogue between the prophet and God. All of the other books of prophecy are written accounts of God’s dealing with His people and the prophet’s announcements to the people of the land of how God was about to act.