We are studying Habukkuk 1:1-4 & 12-14 for Sunday, March 8; these are Habakkuk’s’ opening complaints about the evil situation in Judah before the invasion of the Babylonians, and the even worse situation in Judah after that invasion. [Some notes on the text are here.] Here are a few questions on the text we might want to consider or discuss in class:

Verse 1 introduces the book as “the oracle,” literally “the burden,” that the prophet Habakkuk “saw.” How is what Habakkuk says a vision? How is it a burden, or what makes it a burden?

Does having this vision, or burden, make the prophet Habakkuk similar to others, or different from others? Would anyone else share the prophet Habakkuk’s burden? Who?

Does it make him similar to, or different from, people today? How? That is, how does the prophet’s vision seem similar to something someone could see today? Or, different from something someone could see today?

In general: what makes prophetic sight a burden, do we think? Is this burden positive in any way? How?

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What is Habakkuk’s complaint, or what are his complaints?

[More personal] Do we ever have a similar complaint? Why or why not? When – under what circumstances?

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In verse 2, Habakkuk asks “how long?” In verse 13 he asks “why?” Why does the prophet ask these questions, do we think?

What answer does he get? How satisfying is it? Why?

[More personal] Do we ourselves ever ask these questions? When? Do we ask one more than the other? Which one? Why? What answer, or answers, have been the most satisfying for us?

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[More abstract, maybe … this is on my mind, but may be a little vague, so I hope I can make this line of questioning clear] In verse 4, the prophet points to the Torah, the law or instruction, and complains that it doesn’t “work,” it doesn’t constrain anyone or make anything better. On one hand, this might make people familiar with the New Testament think of some of the things Paul says about “the law” in Galatians and Romans. On the other, it might make us ask … well, then, what good is it? If the instruction about how people ought to behave doesn’t have any effect on people, what is its point?

Do we have an answer to that question? If so, what is it?

[This morning I am thinking … maybe at least part of the point is that it gives us a reference point for something better than our own actual experience. It points to a better way or a better condition, even when that better condition is not realized, in “real life.” Or maybe, especially when that better condition is not realized. This idea – that maybe Torah/the law/instruction is there to shape our desire for something better – seems worth thinking about.]

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impressionistic view of family members around a table lit by an oil lamp