Habakkuk: The Power of Leadership
By Sarah Snyder
As we enter into a season of elections and voting, we find ourselves thinking more about leadership. What qualities do we like? What policies are important to us? How does he/she stack up? Each question leaves us wondering exactly how a certain individual will perform as a leader. The Old Testament found itself in similar situations throughout all the centuries it covers. Most recently, our Bible Reading Plan has us covering multiple kings and their inevitable downfall. This week we discover Habakkuk, who found himself questioning leadership in a time of turmoil.
Habakkuk is a unique book amongst the Minor Prophets as it is written as lament rather than a prophecy. The book begins with Habakkuk and God dialoguing about Israel’s future. Habakkuk does not understand why God allowed Israel to become so violent and unjust (1:2-4). God responds by saying that he will bring Babylon to take care of Israel (1:5-11). This surprised Habakkuk as Babylon is even more violent and unjust as Israel (1:12-2:1). God responds again to Habakkuk by telling him that he will bring down Babylon but that all nations are ultimately unjust (2:2-5).
The leads into a series of ‘woes’ that God has for poor leadership of all nations. In 2:6-20, God describes the leaders of the nations as unjust and without hope. They “get rich by extortion” (v. 6) and “build cities by bloodshed” (v. 12). They have “committed violent acts against the lands, cities, and those who live in them” (v. 17). Finally, they have created idols that they put before God, idols made of wood and metal that have no speech (vv. 18-20). God has seen all these acts of injustice and will put up with it no longer. We should be reminded that these nations include Israel. Remember back on the kinds of Kings and Chronicles as one by one they chose to serve other gods.
An important aspect of leadership is the power it holds. Kings and Chronicles does not document Israel’s sins as a people. It documents the king's sins and evils. When a king of Israel turned from God, the whole nation followed. To do otherwise would be to go against the one anointed by God. While the kings of Israel fell away from God, they were still, with each coronation, anointed by people on behalf of God. Psalm 2 was the coronation Psalm read aloud for each king. Psalm 2:6 says, “I [God] myself have installed my king on Zion, my holy hill.” So when this king inevitably worshipped other gods, the people followed their anointed king; with leadership comes power.
Habakkuk ends with a prayer. It is a beautiful prayer that calls on God to rescue the nations. It should remind us of Exodus, when God comes down in might and power and pulls Israel from the grips of corrupt leadership. The three verses of Habakkuk call on us to find joy in the Lord, even though “the fig tree does not bud,” and “when the olive trees do not produce” (v. 17). Though we today may find ourselves under corrupt leadership or trying to explore how our future leadership might go, Habakkuk tells us “The Sovereign Lord is [our] source of strength” (v. 19).