Habakkuk lived in Jerusalem in the years following BC 609. Society around him had descended into violence - not only physical but also internal strife and contention amongst all the folk in this tiny Kingdom, ruled by a new king - Jehoiakim. Wives and children deserted by their Jersey husbands know and feel such violence. Others know it in other ways.
Habakkuk cannot understand why. Why does God - the Judeo-Christian God, bearing the name "I AM WHO I AM" (replaced by LORD in the Bible), can allow all this to happen. So he pleads with the LORD to do something - anything - to alter not only the fact that even the law does not provide justice but also the awful truth that the wicked surround the righteous and are dominant in everything in that society. And in due course the LORD answers Habakkuk - but the answer is more devastating than the problem.
The LORD will send the Chaldeans, the Babylonians, a 'bitter and hasty nation who march through the breadth of the earth to seize dwellings not their own'. These scoff at kings and rulers and have absolutely no conscience while working their own violence.
Back in 1940 Jersey also had to succumb to the enemy within its territory. The enemy had guns. Today the enemy in Jersey territory does not have guns but wields the intangible force provided by economic and financial power. These forces, wielded by governments and financial corporations have us in their grip. In fact, Jersey folk want to be gripped by them.
Interestingly the forces of the Babylonians in BC 600 were similar to those against Jersey in 1940 and in 2009 – tangible weapons (they had chariots and were ferocious fighters) as well as intangible skills (they were highly skilled world-leaders in commerce and finance). In Berlin there is a tremendously impressive reconstructed entrance gate - the Ishtar Gate, one of 8 in all - into Babylon, constructed there with slave labour around 590 BC. Such were the deeds of the Babylonians for the self -aggrandisement of their King Nebuchadnezzar and, indeed, themselves.
So Habakkuk sits down, totally baffled – to think about the LORD using such awe-full forces against his own people to bring them to their senses about the violence in Jerusalem. He then waits for God to answer his next question: How will you who 'cannot look at wrong' shortly look on this merciless killing and economic devastation in Jerusalem? Are they not far less righteous than your own unrighteous people?
And the LORD answers him and asks him to record the answer. There will be an appointed time for justice - it will be very long in coming but it will not be late in the timescales of the LORD. The justice will be for all, for the people of Babylon as well.
But, but ... during this long period 'the righteous shall live by his faith.' Yes, those people shall live, trulylive.
Paul, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ, writing around AD 60, about 30 years after Jesus' resurrection from the dead, took up those words again in his letter to Christians in Rome. He explained them for AD people like Jersey folk today. Two things: first, the person with a faithful faith in Jesus Christ of Nazareth will be accounted as having God’s own righteousness; second, that person will live by and in accordance with his/her faithful faith in that man."I am not ashamed” wrote Paul, “of the good news for it is the power of God ... to everyone who believes ... as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.''
These remarkable words also once changed the face of Europe. Martin Luther, around 1529 AD, found that the truth in them freed not only himself but all who would turn to Jesus Christ - they freed him and them from judgment to come and made him and them actually live.
Certainly the truth behind the words has brought life across the world and through millennia - and still gives life today in Jersey – despite nuclear weapons and financial power.