Habakkuk – Chapter 2 – Run
It is extremely difficult, maybe even impossible to not be self-centered individuals. Even as Christians, if we are honest our world really is all about us. People throughout the day come and go, but I’m always with me. I have to make sure I get the rest I need when I get tired. I have to feed me when I get hungry. I need new clothes. I need new shoes. My needs really do take precedence over anyone else’s. You may argue you prioritize the needs of your family above your own, but whose family is it? Right, yours. Even when meeting your family’s needs you are the center of your world. When we hear things in the news one of the first questions we ask is, does that particular event affect me directly? Although we may be moved when we hear of the plight of others, oftentimes we really only “care” about our own situation.
I am certainly not suggesting it is a bad thing to see that your needs are met. However, I would like to point out that we tend to adopt a self-centered perspective when we encounter the Word of God. Does what we are reading in the Word of God have anything at all to do with us directly? Is this given passage something we can or should apply to our own lives? If not, we tend to place less emphasis on that particular scriptural encounter. Maybe we sort of shrug our shoulders and read on.
When we read about God dealing with the nations, maybe we adopt the perspective, “I’m glad I didn’t live among that people group” and sort of dismiss it as Biblical narrative that has no real bearing on our lives.
Even though it may seem counterintuitive at times, I would like to challenge us to read the Word of God understanding every passage to be significant. The entire Bible ultimately affects us even though we may not understand how. The truth is, even if we were to accept the challenge it still keeps us at the center of our world and our scriptural encounters.
But you know what? The Bible really isn’t about us! In “Churchanity” today the Bible is treated as a book of formulas for personal growth and prosperity. If you follow the formulas God will bless you.
So if the Bible isn’t about us, then what is it about? In a sentence, it is a record of what God has done, what He is currently doing, and what He will do in the future. The central figure in this massive literary work is God Himself. The theme of the book is God’s interaction with His creation. The focus of the Bible is eternal, so if you are treating it like a Christianized self-help book you are misunderstanding the message. The Bible corrects our perspective by demonstrating God to be the center of the universe, not us.
In Habakkuk 2:1 the prophet positions himself to hear from God. He determines to stay until God speaks. Habakkuk had decided if he had misunderstood anything he would be open to God’s correction.
Habakkuk 2:2 introduces the end result of Habakkuk’s watchfulness on the wall.
2 Then the Lord answered me and said:
“Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard this verse quoted out of context. Lets examine it for ourselves. First of all, the vision spoken about here immediately follows the verse. This is not a mandate nor a blank check for the so-called modern-day prophet to record a supposed vision. God is in effect telling the prophet to “write down what I am about to show you.”
God instructs him to “make it plain”, which in the Hebrew means to “explain or elucidate (a law)”. What is Habakkuk to write it on? A tablet. Why a tablet? The recorded Old Testament up to this point was recorded on scrolls of animal skin appropriately prepared. Consider the following from the Faith Life Study Bible.
on the tablet Clay tablets, though stone tablets are possible. These tablets would have been placed in public gathering spots.
Barry, John D. et al. Faithlife Study Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016. Print.
In other words, this vision was to be understandable and readily available to all.
Next, we come to the sentence fragment that says, “That he may run who reads it.” I have often heard the modern reader interpret this to mean “…so that he may run with what is written.” In other words, the reader can take that prophetic vision and make it actionable. This is clearly not the meaning communicated in the original Hebrew. The word run in the Hebrew has the range of meaning, “to cause to run up; to lead up hastily, to bring quickly; to cause to hasten.” This verse properly examined is telling Habakkuk to “write the vision on tablets and put it in the public square, make it understandable so that the one who reads it may run away from or escape the judgment revealed.”
God, as is consistent with other prophetic passages, is about to judge the people for sin and yet He offers them a chance at redemption. What an amazing and truly wonderful God!
I hope you read the Bible not for what benefits you think you can exact from God, but rather to understand His message. As Habakkuk did, allow God to re-calibrate your perspective so that God is the center of the universe in your thinking, not yourself.
All Scripture Quotations from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.