Why study the Book of Habakkuk? After all, it is not a long book and we don’t know much about the man himself. It is possible that his name means ‘embracer’, and he certainly was determined to hold on to God, and at the same time embrace his people. Such is an accurate description of all who are called by the Lord to serve him.
No personal information is available about who Habakkuk was (some suggest that the final verse of the book indicates he was a musician in the temple), which of course means that the Spirit, who inspired the book, saw no need for us to know very much about this prophet. But what reasons can be given for considering this book that the Spirit inspired for our spiritual benefit?
Walter Kaiser helpfully provides four reasons: ‘pastoral, theological, apologetic, and spiritual.’ The pastoral element is its emphasis on prayer; its theological element is that Habakkuk is the source of the well-known New Testament phrase, ‘The just shall live by faith’; the apologetic element deals with the problem of a good God and the existence of evil; and the spiritual element is its teaching on joyful worship of God.
Habakkuk is looking back to an oracle that he received from the Lord. What did God want Habakkuk to realise through this message? We discover it from the burden he had and what he did with it. The prophet had a huge concern for his wayward people and longed for the Lord to restore them. Through a series of interactions between the prophet and his God we are given insight into how the Lord responds to earnest prayer and into how we can maintain and develop a spiritual lifestyle in difficult days. We see different ways by which God answers prayer.
Yet the book is more than a dialogue between God and his servant. For example, the verbs in 1:5, which begins the initial response of the Lord to Habakkuk’s complaint, are plural. So it is clear that Habakkuk was given a reply to pass on to others for their careful consideration.