Above is a chart I made of Habakkuk for my Bible Study Methods class at DTS (click the picture to make it larger and readable). I love charting books, because it helps you get a clear picture of the message of the book as a whole. Habakkuk is a great demonstration of this – you see three sections, which I have labelled as: Interrogation, Iteration, and Intercession. The whole of the book is dealing with the problem of evil (theodicy) and why God isn’t doing something about all of the evil that is going on in Israel. When you lay out the book in a chart though, you see the basis of God’s answer to Habakkuk at the end of each of the three sections. Each of the three sections ends with a reference to YHWH and how we are to “wait” and “keep silent” before YHWH in the midst of the problem of evil and suffering. Habakkuk finds it easy to focus on the injustice in Israel and that God is using the Chaldeans (of all people!) to solve the problem, but God keeps turning him back to Himself – reminding him that YWHW is God and he is to wait on YHWH. Thus, the “righteous shall live by his faith [or His faithfulness]” is the theme of the whole book – wait on YHWH: He is God. Habakkuk finally gets this at the end of the book and finishes it with the beautiful closing to his prayer in 3:16-19. His circumstances haven’t changed, but his understanding that God is faithful gives him the ability to continue in the midst of trouble:
“I hear and my body trembles;
my lips quiver at the sound;
rottenness enters into my bones;
my legs tremble beneath me.
Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble
to come upon people who invade us.
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in YHWH;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
YHWH, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.”