Habakkuk

Read the overview of Habakkuk from Chuck Swindoll. https://insight.org/resources/bible/the-minor-prophets/habakkuk

Habakkuk was recognized as a prophet to Judah. He prophesied after the fall of Assyria in 612 BC since he doesn’t mention Assyria at all. He probably then prophesied in the latter reign of Josiah or during the reign of Jehoiakim, one of the last kings of the southern kingdom of Judah. The reforms of Josiah were “too little, too late” to saved Judah from punishment. The book is unique in that it is a dialogue between Habakkuk and God. Twice, Habakkuk questions God about what God is doing or not doing, and twice God answers him (ch 1,2). It concludes with a confession of faith (ch 3).

Does injustice in society bother you? Does it bother you that so many evil people seem to get rich while the righteous never seem to “get ahead”? Does the violence, the mass shootings, bother you? Does it bother you that “the poor get poorer and the rich get richer” in life? Well, all these things bothered Habakkuk. He complained to God that “justice is never upheld”. He has been preaching to the people of Judah, condemning them for their sins, but after he does that, he goes to God in private, questioning Him about why He doesn’t punish the wicked. God answers him: “The wicked will be punished. I am sending the Chaldeans (Babylons) to punish the wicked in Judah. God did that when Babylon invaded Judah and destroyed the temple and Jerusalem in 586 BC.

But that answer bothered Habakkuk. 1:13 “Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up Those more righteous than they?” Ok, Judah deserved to be punished for their sins. But, he questions God, how can God use those who are more evil than Judah to punish Judah? The Babylonians worshiped many false gods. They were known for their immorality. The harlot (which was Jerusalem) in the book of Revelation had “Babylon” written across her forehead (Rev 17), a symbol of the immorality of Jerusalem. To use a nation to punish Judah that was more wicked and idolatrous than Judah really bothers Habakkuk.

Can you imagine this? God decides to punish the U.S. for our immorality, for forsaking our Judeo-Christian values, so He sends radical terrorists to take over our country. They will set off bombs in our major cities and overthrow our government. These terrorists are idolaters or, maybe atheists. How would you feel if that happened? Do you remember how we felt after 9/11 attacks. We look at America and we are grieved by the sexual immorality and violence in our country, by that lack of respect for the word of God, by the LGBTQ movement that seems to be taking over, etc. We know that our nation needs to be humbled. We know we need a grass roots revival like the Great Awakening. But for God to use idolatrous or atheistic savage terrorists to punish us? We may be wicked, but most of our people still believe in the one true God and most are still good people. Maybe this helps us understand how Habakkuk felt about God using the Babylonians to punish Judah.

“This account of wrestling with God is, however, not just a fragment from a private journal that has somehow entered the public domain. It was composed for Israel. No doubt it represented the voice of the godly in Judah, struggling to comprehend the ways of God. God’s answers therefore spoke to all who shared Habakkuk’s troubled doubts. And Habakkuk’s confession became a public expression — as indicated by its liturgical notations” (taken from Biblestudytools.com). Habakkuk waits for God’s answer to this 2nd question, expecting to be reproved for his questioning of God. 2:1 I will stand on my guard post And station myself on the rampart; And I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, And how I may reply [r]when I am reproved”. God then makes a prediction and tells Habakkuk to write it down. 2:2-3 Then the Lord answered me and said, “Record the vision And inscribe it on tablets, That [s]the one who [t]reads it may run.“For the vision is yet for the appointed time;It [u]hastens toward the goal and it will not [v]fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay”. He then predicts that He will indeed one day punish the Babylonians (ch 2). He gives 5 “woes” that will befall the Babylonians, condemning their brutality, greed, and idolatry. That will be fulfilled when the Medes and Persians defeat Babylon in 539 BC. The atheistic Communist Stalin defeated the atheistic Nazi Hitler’s invading forces in Russia, which was a major factor in the fall of Hitler. Many worried about the power of Stalin, and rightfully so. But no one would have expected or predicted the fall of the mighty Russian nation that happened many years later. Habakkuk’s prediction of the fall of the mighty Babylonian Empire, which had just defeated Assyria in 612 BC, is a critical prophecy. Some would even live to see Babylon fall in 539 BC some 50 years later after Habakkuk made this prediction.

Habakkuk says, 2:4 “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his [w]faith”. He is encouraging the righteous in Judah to trust that God will eventually execute justice and punish the wicked even if that doesn’t appear that God is doing that at the time. In other words, quit questioning what God is doing and just trust Him. I don’t know where the U.S. is headed in the future. Will we become a secular state with very little respect for God? Will God punish us with another great depression to humble us, or more terrorist attacks? Will God allow radical Muslim terrorists to overthrow us? Will we destroy ourselves with corruption and immorality as the Romans did? I don’t know. We can only trust God that He will eventually execute justice and punish the wicked, whether in this life or the next. 2:20 “But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.” Habakkuk tells us to quit questioning God, to be silent. Do you remember the little song using this verse. We sang that song to get children to be quiet in church services or VBS. Or we sang it in church to get people to be reverent during the service. Not quite the context as it originally used in Habakkuk.

Paul cites Hab 2:4 in Romans,” For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is revealed a righteousness of God from faith unto faith: as it is written, “But the righteous shall live by faith” (1:16-17). Just as in Habakkuk, he is encouraging the righteous remnant to trust in God for their salvation through the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. This verse in Romans had a tremendous impact on Martin Luther, the founder of the Reformation Movement. I encourage you to stop here and read “Luther’s breakthrough in Romans”. https://lutheranreformation.org/theology/luthers-breakthrough-romans/ It introduces the term “infused grace” from Catholicism. God infuses or puts grace in believers so that by their righteous actions (penance and the rituals of Catholicism) can become righteous. That is a works based righteousness. Luther, using Hab 2:4, came to realize that righteousness is “imputed righteousness” where God reckons us to be right in his eyes, not on the basis of our works, but on the basis of our faith, our trusting in what Jesus did for us on the cross. His comment on this verse: ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ Now I felt as though I had been reborn altogether and had entered Paradise. In the same moment the face of the whole of Scripture became apparent to me. My mind ran through the Scriptures, as far as I was able to recollect them, seeking analogies in other phrases, such as the work of God, by which He makes us strong, the wisdom of God, by which He makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God. Just as intensely as I had now hated the expression ‘the righteousness of God,’ I now lovingly praised this most pleasant word. This passage from Paul became to me the very gate to Paradise.” [6] He had come to hate righteousness because he could never do enough penance or rituals to obtain it, but now he could love the fact that God makes us righteous simply through our faith. This verse will change the lives of all who are living under some legalistic works based system of religion. My own Church of Christ movement put so much emphasis on correct doctrine and working faith that it became similar to the Catholicism that Luther was raised in. We ended up leaving people to trust in their knowledge and works rather than the grace of God for their salvation. We seldom stressed that we are “saved by grace through faith and not works” (Ephesians 2:8,9) for fear that someone will adopt the Calvinistic “can’t fall from grace” error. Our teaching left believers with very little assurance of their salvation even though we worked hard to try to obtain it. It also caused many splits over minor doctrines that we made heaven/hell issues in our zeal for obedience to the truth. Many have “discovered grace” and felt the same experience that Luther did. They now have full assurance of their salvation. They no longer divide over minor issues, trusting that God’s grace will save us even though we disagree on minor issues. I remember how excited I was to get into a deep study of the book of Romans in the school of preaching that I attended for 2 years. Few east of the Mississippi River had boldly taught the message of Romans, but my Romans teacher did, and it changed my theology drastically.

Chapter 3 concludes with Habakkuk’s reaction to God’s 2nd answer about punishing the Babylonians one day. 3:2 Lord, I have heard [an]the report about You and[ao]I fear. O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years,
In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember [ap]mercy.” 3:16-10

I heard and my [ay]inward parts trembled,
At the sound my lips quivered.
Decay enters my bones,
And in my place I tremble.
Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress,
[az]For the people to arise who will invade us.
17 Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no [ba]fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
18 Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
19 The Lord [bb]God is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.

He can only trust God and wait for Him to act. He dreads the invading Babylonian army that will destroy the temple and Jerusalem and take Judah captive for 70 years. He can only beg that God be merciful as He executes His wrath on Judah. Somehow, he even comes to “exult and rejoice” in God in spite of the impending judgment that is coming on Judah. No doubt he lived to see the fall of Jerusalem and yet had faith that in the long run God would do what was best. Even the righteous remnant in Judah would suffer, but they could rejoice in their suffering. The righteous remnant of believers all across the globe can rejoice in their suffering. Many persecuted believers in Muslim and atheistic countries can rejoice in the message of Habakkuk.

So, when your eyes see things in life where you question why God allows bad, evil stuff to happen, and you begin to have doubts about God’s very existence or doubts about His character (is He a God of justice), then read the book of Habakkuk. Be silent and trust God. Try to rejoice in God. Try to assure others that God is still the one true God. Don’t feel guilty about your doubts and questions you are asking God. Study the Bible to find all the answers you can find.


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