THERE’S A BIBLE SONG FOR THE NATION, and for other democracies threatened by wannabe kings, autocrats, and souls soaked in hatred.
The poem, which reads like song lyrics, comes from a prophet most Christians, I suspect, never knew existed: Habakkuk.
His country was threatened, like ours, but from outsiders. He lived in the Jewish nation of Judah, in what is now southern Israel. The threat came from what is now Iraq.
Conversation with God
Habakkuk wrote that he had a conversation with God about Judah. Habakkuk complained to God, saying the sin in Judah was so pervasive that the law couldn’t handle it.
God told him that Judah was about to be punished for those many sins. Babylonian invaders would come soon to dish out the punishment.
Blunt words for God
“How can you side with the bad guys,
Letting them kill people better than they are?” (Habakkuk 1:13, Casual English Bible).
God said Babylon would face its own judgment day, in time. But the upcoming judgment day, close at hand, belonged to Judah.
Retreating, to think
Habakkuk withdrew and prayed a prayer that we might need to pray if we can’t return to sanity and civility.
On the brink of possibly losing his nation, Habakkuk waited for invaders to come. He considered what they might do to his country. Invaders not only took what they wanted, they often decimated the farmland as well as the cities.
The prophet wrote this, his last words.
“When fig trees don’t blossom,
Grapes don’t grow,
When olive crops disappear,
Fields produce dirt,
When sheep are taken,
Cattle gone from their stalls,
What will I do?
I will thank God that he is my Savior.
He gives me the strength to go on.
He gives me the sure-footed speed of a deer,
And to higher ground he leads on” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
Whatever happened, he would keep trusting God.
That’s the last we hear of him, except in some apocryphal stories that sound like tall tales told around campfires.
In all of known history, Jerusalem has been destroyed only twice, as far as we know. Walls torn down. Temple leveled. Surviving Jews driven away.
- Babylonians in Habakkuk’s day did it first, in 586 BC.
- Romans a few centuries later, in AD 70.
Habakkuk may have lived to see Jerusalem fall. He may have fallen, too.