Habakkuk Again: The Wisdom of Faith or the Foolishness of Empire (Jan.'10)
I've been wrestling for about seven years with the book of Habakkuk, which is just a short book by a "minor" prophet who wrote sometime before the Jerusalem Temple fell in 586BC at the marauding hands of the Babylonian Empire (Ps.74,6). Seven years on my spirit and it's just now starting to make some sense in the last six months.
Habakkuk rips into Babylon and beseeches God as to His apparent delay in executing judgement upon her: "How long, Yahweh am I [Israel] to cry for help while you will not listen; to cry, "Violence!" in your ear while you will not save?" (1,1-2)
The separtist Jewish Reformers of the Qumran Community about 500-600 years later eagerly turned to this prophet and made a similar cry in their Habakkuk "Pesher" (their commentary-explanation) against the next Babylon, the Roman Empire, which since 63BC, like the Greeks before them in 175BC, had corrupted the High Priesthood. It's likely Jesus held both the High Priesthood and to a lesser extent Rome (who killed him) responsible for this corruption: "My Father's House is a House of Prayer for all peoples, yet you [High Priests] have made it a den of thieves." (Mt. 21,13)
Psalms of Solomon, an interesting non canonical work written just before Christ, even more directly seizes on this theme of priestly corruption in times of rising "Babylonian" influence: "But (because of) our sins, sinners [Greece and Rome] rose up against us." See also Ps. of Solomon 8,12ab: "they [Temple priests] walked on the place of sacrifice of the Lord, (coming) from all kinds of uncleaness."
As to God's delay against this recurring corruption, in Habakkuk we find the source and solace of a renown bit of scripture:
"For the vision [the victory of God's just] is for it's appointed time, it hastens towards it's end and it will not lie; although it may take some time, wait for it, for come it certainly will before too long.You see anyone whose heart is not upright will succumb, but the upright will live through faithfulness." (2,3-4)
In other words, "The just will live by faith."