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17th May

Habakkuk 1-3; Psalm 132

Bible in a Year
5 minutes
In this article
17th May

Habakkuk 1-3; Psalm 132

Bible in a Year
5 minutes


What makes Habakkuk so unique is the fact is it's not a collection of poems and sermons aimed at a particular group. Instead, Habakkuk is a conversation had between the prophet and God as Habakkuk wrestles with why there is so much wickedness in the world around him.

Habakkuk was a prophet in the last years of Judah before their exile by Babylon.

Habakkuk 1:1-2:5 - Questions and answers with God

Habakkuk 2:6-20 - Five ‘woes’

Habakkuk 3 - Habakkuk’s prayer

Much of Habakkuk’s poems are structured as lament as he wrestles with the wickedness he sees. This becomes an invitation to us to also wrestle with these questions. It serves as a model to every generation of how to wrestle in the face of wickedness and oppression. We complain, we question, we ask God to do something, and then we declare trust that God is in control.

Habakkuk 1-3

The book opens with Habakkuk making a complaint to God, "how long?" (Habakkuk 1:2). We see this phrase appear a lot in the psalms, and this style of writing is called lament. It involves bringing your troubles and feelings to God, pointing them out and mourning them, and then turning from that place to trust in God.

Here, Habakkuk is asking God how long this wickedness will last. There is violence, sin, and destruction all around. No one follows the law, the Torah, anymore. There is injustice, and the leaders are corrupt, perverting justice for their own gain.

God's response? Don't worry. I'm sending the Chaldeans (another name for the Babylonians). They will destroy the people and take them into exile so their wickedness will no longer pollute the land.

Then Habakkuk responds with a new complaint. Okay, God. So you've chosen the Babylonians to be your tool for judgement against the wickedness in our people. One problem. The Babylonians are even worse!

If we were to see the earth like one big sea, and all the people in it like fish, the Babylonians are like a fisherman that catches all the fish in his, sacrifices them to his foreign gods, and then dumps the dead fish back into the sea so he can catch more. Habakkuk declares he is like a watchman keeping watch waiting for God to answer him.

So God responds to Habakkuk again, and this time encourages him to have faith. The things that God is about to describe may not seem like that they will happen, but they will. “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4).

God's message, while maybe not hugely clear, is simple. The righteous will live by faith, so the contrast is that those who are proud and wicked will die. God is reassuring Habakkuk that there will come a day when all wickedness will be removed from the earth while the righteous ones will live.

God then makes a series of accusations against Babylon. He calls them out for their violence and plundering, declaring that eventually the nations will come and plunder them.

He rebukes those who had built magnificent houses and amassed substantial wealth for themselves so they wouldn't have to deal with the common people. God will rebuke them for their pride and arrogance. He challenges the nation for using slave labour to build their cities. God shames the people for their love of alcohol and sex and then mocks those who make and put their trust in idols.

In the midst of these accusations, we get a couple of verses that speak of a future hope (Habakkuk 2:14, 20). That one day, all nations will come to know God and submit to him.

Habakkuk then tells God that he remembers the stories of God moving powerfully in Israel's history and asks God to do it again. To have mercy on his people and remember them in his wrath.

We then get a powerful description of what it will be like when God does show up. The passage describes God in mighty power, with the land trembling and the seas and rivers drying up before him. Even the sun and moon stand still. He comes to bring salvation for his people and to destroy the wicked.

We then turn back to Habakkuk, who trembles and recognises how weak he feels in the face of all the wickedness around him and the surrounding destruction. But he commits himself to "quietly wait" (Habakkuk 3:16). Faced with all this, he will still trust in God.

And so Habakkuk ends with praise. Even if all the good fails in Habakkuk's life, there's no food and his people are cut off like sheep, he will still rejoice in God. He will live by faith.

And so, like Habakkuk, we are free to bring to God our complaints. We can tell him we're scared or hurt by what we see around us. But like Habakkuk, we need to use that to recognise our need for God and place our trust in him, that even though it may not look like it at the moment, God will make it all right in the end. Eventually, wickedness will consume itself and all nations will once again serve God.

Psalm 132

This psalm isn’t attributed to anyone in particular and is named as a psalm of ascent. These psalms were sung by worshippers as they ascended to Jerusalem for the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Festival of Weeks, and Festival of Tabernacles) or possibly by the Levites as they ascended the steps of the Temple. Psalm 120-134 are all psalms of ascent.

Psalm 132:1-10 - Asking God to continue to dwell amongst his people

Psalm 132:11-18 - God’s commitment to David and his people

In this ascent journey we’ve gone from being far from God's presence (Psalm 120), to seeking God’s presence (Psalm 121), and then to reaching God’s presence (Psalm 122). From there, the psalmist has asked the Lord for help (Psalm 123) and then praised the Lord for his protection (Psalm 124).

From within Jerusalem, they reflected on the nature of righteousness and wickedness (Psalm 125). They thanked God for how he has restored his city, but also ask for more (Psalm 126). This leads the psalmist to reflect on the importance of God being first and foremost in our live (Psalm 127) and fearing God (Psalm 128).

Having focused on God’s authority and power, the psalmist then reflects on how God rescued them and Israel from oppressors (Psalm 129). Then the psalmist called out to God to rescue them from, and forgive them for, their sin (Psalm 130) and placed their trust in the Lord (Psalm 131).

Being in Jerusalem, the psalmist then takes a moment to reflect on the God’s covenant with David.

The psalmist starts by asking the Lord to remember David. David had made a commitment before God that his priority was to find God a dwelling place amongst his people. David was determined to make a temple for God in Jerusalem. Even in Ephrathah (another name for Bethlehem) they’d heard about it and knew to go up to Jerusalem to worship the Lord.

So the psalmist asks the Lord to remain faithful to David and to let his presence dwell in the temple. Let this be a place where his priests can intercede and his people can meet with him. Don’t turn your back on David and his line after all these years.

And so the psalm the focuses on the Lord’s commitment to David and his line. The Lord promised that as long as they are faithful, one of David’s line will always reign, and the Lord’s presence will dwell in Jerusalem.

Then, because he dwells in Jerusalem, he will bless its people. He will provide for them, he will give them salvation, and cause them to rejoice. The Lord will sustain and establish David’s throne and defeat all their enemies.

For this psalmist, the Lord’s presence is closely linked with the royal line. The Lord’s commitment to rise up a faithful king is part of his promise to dwell with his people.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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