December 2, 2016

Holy Prophet Habakkuk as a Model for our Lives

Holy Prophet Habakkuk (Feast Day - December 2)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The Prophet Habakkuk was the son of Shaphat and of the tribe of Simeon. His name means "warm embrace." He was a contemporary of the Prophet Jeremiah and is dated between 650 and 672 B.C. His actions revolved around Jerusalem, after the period when the Babylonians defeated the Egyptians at Carchemish, and extended their domination into Palestine. His book consists of three chapters and is distinguished by its remarkable literary grace. The first chapter consists of a dialogue of the Prophet with God, in which the Prophet tries to unravel the manner in which God directs history. The second chapter is the response of God that justice will prevail, and that the just man will live thanks to his trust in God. The third and last chapter includes a doxology of the Prophet for the final triumph of God.

The Prophet Habakkuk prophesied that the Son and Word of God would be incarnate from the Virgin Mary, who he described as a "shaded mountain," from which "the God of all shined forth in fleshly form." In speaking of the Panagia on the occasion of her Dormition, Saint Theodore the Studite exclaimed: "Rejoice, the shaded virgin mountain from which the holy one of Israel appeared, according to the God-proclaiming Habakkuk." Also, the Prophet Habakkuk described the Apostles as horses that troubled the salty waters of ignorance and with doctrines of piety led people to the knowledge of God: "You discerned the disciples as horses trampling the seas of ignorance, and submerging error by their doctrine of piety" (Kontakion of the Prophet Habakkuk).

He completed his life in peace.

His life and conduct give us the opportunity to highlight the following:

After the fall of the first-formed Adam and Eve into sin, people's relationship with God was disrupted, as well as their relationships between themselves, with the result that the "stronger" committed offences against the "weaker" and many times the aggrieved were forced to resort to the courts. But there are cases in which some judges are not just, because they receive gifts and are biased towards the "stronger." This behavior of unjust judges, which existed also back then, is criticized by the Prophet Habakkuk strictly, as well as with pain. Addressing God he complains: "How long, O Lord, shall I cry out, and you will not hearken? How long shall I cry out to you being injured, and you will not save? Wherefore you have shown me troubles and griefs to look upon, misery and ungodliness? Judgment is before me, and the judge receives bribes. Therefore the law is frustrated, and judgment proceeds not effectually, for the ungodly man prevails over the just; therefore perverse judgment will proceed" (Hab. 1:2-4).

The Prophet Habakkuk raises a big issue, in regards to justice being given by judges, and he grieves for the perversion of some judges, but he also hurts for and has compassion on those who receive injustice, which is why he calls upon God, the just Judge, to yield justice to them. When one reads carefully what the Prophet says about these judges who are enslaved by the passion of avarice and so are bribed and do not hand out justice, they will understand that those times were very similar to our own times. Indeed, in our days there are similar tragic events and many people suffer along with their families, due to the unjust decisions of some judges. Of course, this doesn't mean that there aren't judges who have the fear of God and try to hand out justice, but one cannot deny the tragic reality, especially when you personally know people and things and occasions when innocent people suffer, and they suffer because of the unjust decisions of "unjust judges." This is why the Prophet address all those who turn away from justice and brings to them the words of God, which are as follows: "Behold, you despisers of justice, and look, and wonder marvelously, and vanish: for I work a work in your days, which you will in no wise believe, though a man declare it to you" (Hab. 1:5). He then addresses the aggrieved and comforts them, saying that God loves them and will intervene at the proper time, at which time He will judge, and will hand out justice. This is why the Prophet thanks and glorifies Him with the following words: "I, however, will rejoice," no matter how many tribulations find me and how many temptations I face, because I "hope in the Lord. My heart will fill with joy for the salvation of my God." He continues: "The Lord God is my strength, and He will perfectly strengthen my feet; He mounts me upon high places, that I may conquer by His song" (Hab. 3:19).

One of the many messages the Prophet Habakkuk sends to us is that God is the protector of the aggrieved. Whoever is wronged, slandered, persecuted and suffering, because they remained loyal to the God of their fathers or did not violate the will of God, nor their conscience, they are actually blessed, and they will be benefited by God, be filled with His grace, will rejoice truly and will receive heavenly consolation. Besides, Christ Himself said this, Who blessed those who are insulted, persecuted, maligned and slandered for His name, and He said that they should rejoice, because they will enjoy heavenly good things, which are incomparably higher and sweeter that all the good things of this temporary life.

The vicissitudes and difficulties of the present life mature people, when they endure it with thanksgiving and doxology, and especially when they place their hope not on the powerful of the earth, who come and go, but in Christ, the just Judge.

Source: Eklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Προφήτης Αββακούμ", November 2012. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.