The presence of holiness and righteousness in this world is difficult to discern at any given moment without faith. In fact, Holiness and righteousness abounds if you have the eyes to see it. I want to reflect on the words of the prophet Habakkuk. I believe he was very astute to see holiness through the veil of darkness of his days. Let me give some historic context for my thoughts.
The date of the composition of Habakkuk is not explicit in the text. I think Habakkuk may have been a descendant of the northern Kingdom exiles who moved to Judah circa 722 BCE. The canonical order placement in the book of the 12 seems to suggest a time around the mid-7th century BCE, during the reign of king Manasseh of Judah (2kings 21). Other time periods can be suggested persuasively, but this is the one I will use.
I am choosing to focus on the wickedness that was rampant in Judah and among the nations surrounding Judah according to Habakkuk. Assyria had taken the northern Kingdom of Israel and sent the people into exile, displacing Samaria with foreigners to take up residence in the homes left behind by the exiled northern tribes. But Assyrian power was waning and the Babylonians were growing more and more powerful, nibbling away at Assyria. Beside that, Torah was lost because of King Manasseh and there was lawless, wicked leadership in Judah. It was for all this, Habakkuk began to speak, “How long, O LORD, shall I cry out and you not listen?”
“But the Tzadik, in His faithfulness, will live”(Hab 2:4); this sums up the whole Torah.(cf. Bavli Makkot24a).
- “In His faithfulness” refers to HaShem’s steadfast faithfulness to His people.
- “The Tzadik” refers to the person who clings to the 613 commandments of Torah.
- “Will live” refers to righteousness and justice still continues in the life and work of the Tzadik who clings to HaShem’s faithfulness.
Habakkuk laments the loss of the Northern Kingdom to Assyrian rule. That land is Israel’s inheritance, yet wicked gentiles have taken it from them for their own. Meanwhile, King Manasseh reigns for 55 years and he has instituted all sorts of wickedness. But there is apparently no justice seen from Heaven as far as the prophet is concerned.
Justice never seems to come fast enough in this world. And ironically, the pursuit of justice sometimes leads to lawlessness. The wicked Assyrian empire and Judah, we are told, are set to be punished by Babylon Empire. But all three are wicked in HaShem’s eyes according to Habakkuk.
A tzadik is troubled to see lawlessness. Habakkuk notes that passage of “time” can lead to despair. But a tzadik needs to remember, HaShem is master of time and all of the nations of the earth, for
“…the LORD in His holy Abode — Be silent before Him all the earth!”(Hab 2:20)NJPS.
The Good News is that HaShem is sovereign, and all wickedness on earth has been judged. Moreover justice is present every time a commandment of Torah is observed. When we let go of our own selfish motivations and instead accept the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, and follow His Torah, we will see Justice in our lives and be more aware of it in others. While wickedness is still present, there is also righteousness persevering against it.
Paul states this principle as well, when he shares his vision of the Good News through the words of Habakkuk:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them…”(Rom 1:18-19)NRSV.
In His faithfulness we will live, confident in the face of wickedness. May our Master Yeshua come soon! and may we be stirred to do HaShem’s will today!