We are focusing on Habakkuk 2:6-14 for Sunday, March 15. [The last I heard, we were going to have worship, but would encourage people who consider themselves high-risk to stay home, leaving that determination to individuals’ judgment. Since the average age of our congregation is 60+, we will probably have a low-attendance Sunday this week. As far as class goes, our class is a small gathering, well below the threshold of “gatherings of 250 people or more” set by the governor of Indiana, and even the threshold of 100 or so set by the governor of Kentucky (which is actually probably more relevant for us, considering our location). I plan to come to class, but again, class members who want to be on the safe(r) side may want to skip this Sunday. I definitely won’t take that personally! I understand that “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7), but on the other hand, wisdom dwells with prudence (Proverbs 8:12) and no doubt part of loving our neighbor as ourselves in this weird cultural moment includes taking responsible infection-control measures.] Fortunately, we can read and meditate on Scripture wherever we are. Some notes on this week’s text are here, and here are some questions related to the text we might want to ponder individually or, God willing, collectively:

Verse 6 introduces our text with the words “shall not everyone taunt such people.” Who is “everyone”? Who are “such people” – the object of the taunting? [We’ll have to check verses 1-5 for this.]

What is taunting, anyway? Have we, ourselves, ever taunted anyone? When? Why? What is the purpose of taunting? How does it work? What did our taunt(s) sound like? Has anyone ever taunted us? When? Why? How did that feel, and what did we do?

With all that in mind: Do the statements in verses 6-14 sound like our taunts, or like what we think of as “taunts”? How are they similar? How are they different? What makes them taunts, do we think?

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We are looking closely at three of the taunt speeches, verses 6-8, 9-11, and 12-14. For each of these: what’s the behavior being identified, that is bringing on “woe” [“Alas for you who …” what?] What’s the reason for the “woe” – what’s going to happen down the road, according to these speeches?

On whose power does the “down the road” consequence depend?

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Do we have a sense for who is speaking in this text: Habakkuk, or YHWH? Why do we think that?

How are these taunts related to the “vision” that YHWH tells Habakkuk to “make plain on tablets” in v2? Are they part of it, do we think? It? Consequences of it? What makes us say that?

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In v14, and again in v20, the text refers to God. What are these references telling us about God? How does this relate to the taunts, do we think?

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What view of the world, or of “how things work” in the world, seems to inform these texts? What kind of a world is the speaker counting on?

[More personal: How does that view of the world, or of “how things work” in the world, compare to ours? How is it similar? How is it different? What do we notice about that?]

[Even more personal: Does the view of the world, or of “how things work” in the world, that we perceive in these texts answer our question about how to have faith in God and God’s goodness when confronted with evil in the world? Why, or why not? If it helps – how does it help? If it does not help – what is missing, or what would we like to have added or explained? Why do we want that, do we think?]

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Overall, I am thinking about how the text of Habakkuk focuses on the way power works in the world, makes us notice what we identify as signs of power and success [again, let’s keep in mind v4], what we think of as “rewards” or “consequences” for various kinds of behavior or human choices, and when we expect those to be realized. Especially if we are able to look ahead to chapter 3, it seems to me Habakkuk is calling our attention to the contrast between the world we can see and the world we can’t – and then, asking us whether we [along with Habakkuk] trust that unseen world, or perhaps more precisely, that “as yet unseen” world, to be the real world we are living in. And perhaps, why we trust that.

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Degas painting of woman in red hat and man in conversationg over papers on a table