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When we read Habakkuk canonically (in the light of the whole Bible) and Christologically (seeing Jesus Christ as the center of the message), it can help us see that there are two things that we need as we face the spiritual crisis of our day.
The first thing we must do is be alert. Habakkuk saw the collapse of the kingdom of Judah. Only a few years later, Judah would be conquered by the Babylonians. It was the beginning of the end for the nation. When Habakkuk opened the window of his house, he could see violence and injustice. When he talked to people, he was exposed to conflicts and strife. When he visited law courts, he saw the law twisted and perverted. He was totally awake—spiritually, culturally, as a human being. He knew what was happening around him.
A few centuries later, Jesus saw things even more clearly than Habakkuk did. Whereas Habakkuk could see the consequences and effects of the crisis, Jesus could point out the root of the crisis—human sin and evil, which give rise to all the problems of the world. Habakkuk could see a regional crisis; Jesus pointed out the global crisis. Habakkuk could see the outward crisis; Jesus put His finger on the inner, devastating power of sin that destroys humanity.
Each generation is confronted with a crisis. We often meet with people who are severely affected by the present-day spiritual crisis—people who come from broken families; people in unstable, difficult relationships; people who find it difficult to imagine their future. Do we have our eyes open to see the crisis in our cities? Can we grasp the longing and despair? Are we tuned in to the spiritual climate of our communities? Our task is to map out biblically the crisis of the world and to spell it out in relevant ways for our generation.
The second thing that we must do is follow the example of the prophets in times of crisis. Habakkuk was a prophet in two ways. He had a message from God to the people (in the second part of the book), but he also had something to say to God. He opened his heart to God, expressing all his anxiety and questions about the situation. He received God’s Word and spoke it to the people. He had an ear toward the will of God and another ear toward the cries of the world.
Jesus did the same thing. He proclaimed the will of God to the world and prayed for His sheep to God the Father. Yet, He did far more. Habakkuk only spoke about the crisis; Jesus, as Prophet and High Priest, spoke about the crisis and gave His life to rescue us from it, giving hope to us who trust in Him.
While we are alert in our world, we have to make sure that we preach the whole biblical counsel of God to the world. If we want to be prophetic, we need to learn the art and discipline of praying for the city and on behalf of the city. Prayer for the world is part of the prophetic and priestly responsibilities that we have as children of God.