Look and see, wonder, be amazed and wait on the Lord- A sermon on Habakkuk 1:1-2:1 by Rev. Colin Pretorius
Some years ago I told you the story of Robert Thomas, a missionary to what today is South Korea, and I want to open with that story again today. Today South Korea is a beacon of vibrancy in the worldwide church. But this wasn’t always the case. In the 1800’s it was a closed society, opposed to non-traditional religions and the first Protestant mission work began there only in 1866. As the missionary Robert Thomas’ ship stopped at various places along the Tai Tong River, he handed out Bibles to the Korean people. But when they reached the town of Pyongyang, fighting broke out and the ship was set alight. The crew and passengers jumped into the water and made for the shore. But when they reached land, some were clubbed to death by the city’s inhabitants and the others were stabbed to death by soldiers. One of the missionaries managed to stagger to shore with Bibles in his hands, and even as a soldier was killing him, he kept handing out Bibles to his attackers. But the authorities gathered and burnt most of those Bibles. We’ll continue with the story a bit later, but you know, when we hear a story like this, we can’t help asking “why?” Why does God allow things like this to happen? Surely it can’t be right that someone like this missionary and many others like him have seemingly died in vain? Surely this isn’t to God’s glory?
This isn’t a new question – it’s one that people have struggled with across the ages. Even David, the man after God’s own heart, struggled with this when he asked:
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
These are the sort of questions Habakkuk asks as well. The events in this book took place roughly between when Nineveh fell to the Babylonians in 612BC and the fall of Jerusalem in 586BC. These were desperate times for the people of Judah. Their king had led them down the tube into idolatry. They weren’t getting justice. Violence filled the streets. So Habakkuk turns to the Lord with the big question: “Why?” “Lord, why do You allow evil and injustice and violence to continue in Judah? Why don’t You do something!” As the passage unfolds, we see that God answers His prophet, but in an unexpected way.
The passage has three major sections:
• The Question (v1-4)
• The Answer (v5-11)
• The Response (v12-2:1)