Habakkuk. The Prophet Challenges God’s Work.
Key Notes: Disputing with God. Two questions he asked of God and the answers he received. The solution to wickedness was invasion by a hostile power.
Habukkuk is virtually unknown except for his name. He is the last minor prophet before the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon. Jeremiah is his contemporary. Like Jeremiah, he wrestles with God’s program for Israel.
Thee are many disputes with God in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms. The cry “how long, O Lord” is not a strange one. God will hear Habakkuk but unlike many other such outcries, we will hear God answer the prophet’s question directly and also respond to his challenge. So the prophet asks two questions, and two answers come back from God. Then Habakkuk will conclude with his assimilation of the information and his response of faith in God. The word from God is especially vital, because it contains a formula for salvation that will be used in the New Testament. That discussion will be in the second lesson.
Not all challenges of God are acceptable. Israel in the wilderness provoked God to anger by murmuring against Him many times.
“…they put the Lord to the proof by saying,’ Is the Lord among us or not?’” Ex.17:7
That is an attack on God’s character, and His faithfulness to those He had so recently rescued from Egypt.
1:1–4 First Question: Why do you not help us against the wicked? The prophet cries out against the violence, wrongs, destruction, and strife that is around him. He is not complaining about the enemy, but the corruption of his own people. The wicked are besieging the good. The law is paralyzed. He begs God do to something about it.
Comment: The law cannot work when the majority of people disobey it. Police are helpless, for example, to enforce speed limits in a four-lane road marked 45 mph when everyone is going 65 mph. Chicago police say the best they can do is to keep people from killing themselves.
“If the full weight of sin were to fall upon the Law, it would collapse.”
1:5–11 The First Answer. What he hears God saying was not to be believed. God is sending in the Babylonians. Their army moves very fast. They capture thousands. Kings and princes are a joke. Fortresses are no match for their earthen ramparts. They worship their own power.
When God speaks to the prophet, He is giving a message through Habakkuk for his people.
1:6–2:1 The Second Question. The prophet is shocked, horrified. He cries out “O Lord my God, my Holy One, the Eternal! We shall not die!?” But God cannot look on wrong and not judge it. Habukkuk understands that Babylon is used for judgment, but Nebuchadnezzar is ruthless, treating humans like so many fish in a net. He gloats; he rejoices in his power; he gets rich. Is there no stopping him?
Habakkuk will stand as a watchman and wait for God’s answer.
2;2–20 Second Answer. God gives him not one, but several answers. The answers include a vision, to be written large so that anyone, such as herald, could read it. The vision may seem slow to emerge because part of it is for the end-times but it will not be delayed.
The one whose soul is not upright is puffed up / proud / and failing. The one who is righteous by faith will live.
The first answer is personal. It tells the righteous that they will be saved and not die, whereas the proud, Israelite or Babylonian, will fail.
Woe to the robber of land and property. The plunderer will be plundered.
Woe to the one who tries by evil to get security for himself. He will be shamed by his house.
Woe to the one who founds his city on murder. He works for nothing.
Woe to the man who gets his neighbor drunk to disgrace him. He will stagger and fall in shame.
Woe to the idol-maker who tries to get revelation from a stone.
The second part is national. It tells Israel that the Babylonians will be punished by God. It has plundered many nations and done violence to the earth. But to the extent that Israel itself behaved in the same way--getting neighbors drunk-- it could expect similar judgment.
The Lord is in His holy temple. Let the earth be silent before Him.
The third part is universal. Ultimately God is sovereign over world affairs.
3:1–2 Habukkuk responds to God’s second answer with a plea for mercy.
3:3–15 Then he sings a psalm of God Himself appearing in glory, as a theophany.
Images of lightning, pestilence, arrows, and horses suggest God as conqueror roaring over the earth. He is described as coming from the South, as from Mt. Sinai over the tents of the bedouins. The mountains quake, the waters lift up their hands. The sun and moon stand still. God tramples the nations and saves His people.
This theme of God appearing in power on the earth also introduces Deut.33 and is expanded in Psa.18:7–15; 68:7–8; and 114:3–6.
3:16 Habakkuk heard and trembled in fear, waiting for the day of retribution against Babylon. He has acquiesced to God’s judgment on his people.
3:17–19 In the end, he sings a beautiful song of resignation and joy. If all else fails, He will rejoice in God who gives him strength. It reminds us of Paul who counted everything he had as loss for the sake of Christ, and being found in Him not having a righteousness of his own.