Trusting God in Tough Times – Habakkuk 3

When Habakkuk started his book, he was in a “low place” questioning God. Then he climbed higher and stood on the watchtower, waiting for God to reply. After hearing God’s Word and seeing God’s glory, he became like a mountain climber who raises his hands in excitement at reaching the top of the mountain. His circumstances hadn’t changed, but he had changed, and now he was walking by faith instead of sight. He was living by promises, not explanations.

It isn’t easy to climb higher in the life of faith, but who wants to live in the low place? Like Habakkuk, we must honestly talk to God about our difficulties, we must pray, we must meditate on God’s Word, and we must be willing to wait for the Lord to reveal Himself to us.   But it will be worth it as we reach new summits of faith and discover new opportunities for growth and service.

What took Habakkuk from the valley to the peak? The same spiritual disciplines that can take us there: prayer, praise, and faith.

  1. PRAYER: Pray For the Work of God (VV. 1-2)

Prayer is the ultimate way to get answers to questions about God and His work in the world. We must seek our answers directly from the Lord and from His Word. Books, theology, philosophy, science, advanced education, seminaries, Bible colleges, the thoughts and wisdom of others—none of these is a substitute for seeking the face of God Himself. This is the lesson of Habakkuk. We must go to God Himself and to His Word for answers to our questions.

This chapter is a “prayer psalm” that may have been used in the temple worship in Jerusalem. (For the other “prayer psalms,” see Pss. 17; 86; 90; 102; and 142.) The prophet was now praying to the Lord and not arguing with the Lord, and his prayer soon became praise and worship.

This prayer of praise focuses on the splendor and power of God, His majesty and mighty work in the world, and particularly His saving acts in the history of Israel. The unfamiliar word shigionoth (v. 1) was likely a musical notation that gave instructions as to how the song should be sung, possibly its tune or melody. The word selah, a pause or musical note, is another example (vv. 3, 9, 13), and is commonly found in the Psalms.

Habakkuk requested two things from the Lord (v. 2b). These are the only requests in Habakkuk’s long prayer of praise, but they were significant, being the most urgent needs he and his people had.

a. Habakkuk prayed for God to work among His people. The prophet longed for a fresh outpouring of the presence of God. Habakkuk’s prayer begins in this way: “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known” Habakkuk prayed because he was overwhelmed by God’s splendor. “I stand in awe of Your deeds” ( 3:2, NIV).

*For Us Today:  We are called to acknowledge God’s work and to stand in awe of Him. This is true even when we do not understand God’s ways or His plans. Habakkuk did not understand why God would use such a wicked nation as Babylon to punish His own people. In fact, he had many questions that were not fully answered. Yet, the prophet composed a soaring hymn of praise to the Lord. He acknowledged the Lord’s majesty and stood in awe of His deeds—even though he did not understand them. He feared and revered the Lord despite his own confusion. As believers, we are all called to do just the same.

b.  Habakkuk Prayed for Mercy Finally, Habakkuk prayed because He wanted God to show mercy. The prophet agreed that the people of Judah deserved to be punished, and that God’s punishment would work out for their good, but He asked that God’s heart of love would reveal itself in mercy. He was like Moses when he interceded for the nation at Mt. Sinai ( 32) and at Kadesh Barnea (Num. 14). Perhaps Habakkuk had the promise of Isaiah 54:7-8 in mind as he prayed, and see Jeremiah 10:23-24. Certainly the Lord did show mercy to the Jews, for He preserved them in Babylon and then permitted a remnant to return to their land and establish the nation.

*For Us Today If, like Habakkuk, you ever become discouraged about the condition of the church, the state of the world, or your own spiritual life, take time to pray and seek God’s mercy. The greatest need today is for intercessors. (Isa. 59:16).

It may not look today as if God is not doing anything, but if you and I could see what is moving behind the scenes and see the wheels that are turning; I think that we would be as surprised as Habakkuk was. I think we too, would cry out to God for mercy.  Many believers today have thrown up their hands about the conditions in our own country — they’ve just given up. We all feel that way at times, don’t we? But, God is moving today in judgment, and somebody needs to cry out to Him and say, “Oh, Lord, as you are moving in judgment, don’t forget to be merciful to us. We need your mercy.” This great nation of ours needs the mercy of God today.  We have been on an ego trip. We have really had a flight of pride, of being the greatest nation in the world.  What would we do in the time of a major crisis?

  1. PRAISE: Praising The Greatness Of God (VV. 3-15),

God came in splendor (3:3-5). According to some scholars, Mt. Paran is another name for the entire Sinai Peninsula, or for Mt. Sinai itself (Deut. 33:2). Teman is usually identified with Edom. In this song, Habakkuk seems to be retracing the march of Israel from Sinai to the Promised Land.

Everything about this stanza reveals the glory of God. He is called “the Holy One” (Hab. 3:3, and see 1:12), a name used in Isaiah at least thirty times. “His glory covered the heavens” (3:3) is an anticipation of the time when His glory will cover all the earth (2:14). God’s appearance was like the lightning that plays across the heavens before the storm breaks. All of creation joined in praising Him as “the earth was full of His praise.” God’s brightness was like the sunrise only to a greater degree (see Matt. 17:2). “Horns” means “rays”: “rays flashed from His hand (Hab. 3:4, NIV) where His power was hidden.

Verse 5 takes us to Egypt, where God revealed His power and glory in the plagues and pestilences that devastated the land and took the lives of the firstborn (Ex. 7-12). Those ten plagues were not only punishment because of Pharaoh’s hardness of heart; they also revealed the vanity of Egypt’s gods. “Against all the gods of Egypt will I execute judgment: I am the Lord” (Ex. 12:12; Ps. 78:50). But this verse might also include the various judgments God sent to Israel when they disobeyed Him from time to time during their wilderness march.

God stood in power (3:6-7). Invading generals either push forward to gain ground or they fall back in retreat, but the Lord simply stood and faced the enemy unafraid. In fact, He calmly measured the earth as a sign that He possessed it. To measure something is an indication that it’s yours and you can do with it what you please. It’s also a preliminary step to action, as though the Lord were surveying the situation and estimating how much power it would take to execute His wrath on the nations. The Lord revealed His power when He shook the earth at Sinai before He delivered His Law to Israel (Ex. 19:18; Heb. 12:18-21).

The nations that lay between Egypt and Canaan are typified by Cushan and Midian, two peoples living near Edom. As the news of the exodus from Egypt spread quickly through the nations, the people were terribly frightened and wondered what would happen to them when Israel arrived on the scene (Ex. 15:14-16; 23:27; Deut. 2:25; Josh. 2:8-11).

*For Us Today:  These verses clearly demonstrate God’s incomprehensible power over nature. Most of us fear to even think that God would use the same natural disasters and pestilence today. Far fewer of us are bold enough to declare the truth of God’s coming judgment and the fearsomeness of His power to others. Such a warning might make us appear fanatical. Yet, one thing is definitely true: if God chooses, He can demonstrate the same power or any other supernatural act today, whether to get our attention or to correct the ways of His people. God’s Word makes it clear that He has done this throughout the history of the world. God’s Word also declares that as world history draws to a close, natural disasters and pestilence will increase and be more devastating. And God will be behind it all, using it all for His purposes.  See also:  (Mt. 24:7), Re. 6:1-6), (Re. 11:13, 19), (Re. 16:17-19).

God moved in victory (Hab. 3:8-15) Habakkuk uses dynamic poetic imagery to describe Israel’s march through the wilderness as they followed the Lord to the Promised Land and then claimed their inheritance. The Red Sea opened to let Israel out of Egypt, and the Jordan opened to let Israel into Canaan. The Egyptian chariots and their occupants were drowned, but God’s chariots were chariots of salvation. Verse 9 pictures the various battles that the Israelites fought en route to Canaan, battles that the Lord won for them as they trusted Him and obeyed His commands.

In verse 10, we move into the Promised Land and see Israel conquering the enemy. God was in complete control of land and water and used His creation to defeat the Canaanites. Verse 10 describes the victory of Deborah and Barak over Sisera (Judges 4-5), when a sudden rainstorm turned their battlefield into a swamp and left the enemy’s chariots completely useless. In Habakkuk 3:11, we have the famous miracle of Joshua when the day was prolonged so Joshua would have more time for a total victory (Josh. 10:12-13). Leading His army, God marched through Canaan like a farmer threshing grain, and His people claimed their inheritance (Hab. 3:12).

Expositors aren’t agreed as to what historical event is described in verses 13-15. Perhaps the prophet is referring to the various times God had to deliver His people, as recorded in the Book of Judges, and the “anointed one” would then be the judges. He raised up and used to bring deliverance (Judges 2:10-19).

However, perhaps Habakkuk was looking ahead and describing the deliverance of God’s people from the Babylonian Captivity. God brought the Medes and Persians to crush Babylon and then to” permit the Jews to return to their land (Ezra 1:1-4). The image of God stripping Babylon “from head to foot” (Hab. 3:13, NIV) parallels what Jeremiah prophesied in Jeremiah 50—51. Perhaps Habakkuk was looking both to the past (the Exodus) and to the future (deliverance from Babylon) and using the ancient victory to encourage the people to expect a new victory

In this hymn, Habakkuk describes his God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the God of glory who reveals His glory in creation and in history. He is the living God who makes the dead idols of the nations look ridiculous. He is the God of power who can command land and sea, heaven, and earth, and therefore, He is the God of victory who leads His people in triumph.

*For Us TodayThere is no substitute for understanding the greatness of God, whether in our messages or in our songs. The shallowness of some contemporary messages, books, and songs may be the major contributing factor to the weakness of the church and the increase in “religious entertainment” in meetings where we ought to be praising God. The thing that lifted Habakkuk to the mountaintop was his understanding of the greatness of God. We need a return to the kind of worship that focuses on the glory of God and seeks to honor Him alone.

  1. FAITH: Affirm The Will Of God (vv. 16-19).

This is one of the greatest confessions of faith found anywhere in Scripture. Habakkuk has faced the frightening fact that his nation will be invaded by a merciless enemy. The prophet knows that many of the people will go into exile and many will be slain. The land will be ruined, and Jerusalem and the temple will be destroyed. Yet he tells God that he will trust Him no matter what happens! Listen to his confession of faith.

“I will wait patiently on the Lord” (3:16). If Habakkuk had depended on his feelings, he would never have made this great confession of faith. If Habakkuk looked ahead, he saw a nation heading for destruction, and that frightened him. When he looked within, he saw himself trembling with fear, and when he looked around, he saw everything in the economy about to fall apart. But when he looked up by faith, he saw God, and all his fears vanished. To walk by faith means to focus on the greatness and glory of God.

One of the marks of faith is a willingness to wait patiently for the Lord to work. “Whoever believes will not act hastily” (Isa. 28:16, NKJV). When we run ahead of God, we get into trouble. Abraham learned that lesson when he married Hagar and fathered Ishmael (Gen. 16), and so did Moses when he tried to deliver the Jews by his own hand (Ex. 2). “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isa. 3:15).

Habakkuk could wait quietly because he knew that God was at work in the world (Hab. 1:5), and he had prayed that God’s work would be kept alive and strong (3:2). When you know that God is working in your life, you can afford to wait quietly and let Him have His way. Furthermore, God had commanded him to wait (2:3), and “God’s commandments are God’s enablements.” No matter what we see and no matter how we feel, we must depend on God’s promises and not allow ourselves to “fall apart.” “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him” (Ps. 37:7).

Over the years, I’ve often leaned on a verse that has helped me wait patiently on the Lord. “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). Whenever we find ourselves getting “churned up” within, we can be sure that we need to stop, pray, and wait on the Lord before we do some stupid thing.

“I will rejoice in the Lord” (3:17-18). By the time Babylon was through with the land of Judah, there wouldn’t be much of value left (2:17). Buildings would be destroyed, treasures would be plundered, and farms and orchards would be devastated. The economy would fall apart and there would be little to sing about. But God would still be on His throne, working out His divine purposes for His people (Rom. 8:28). Habakkuk couldn’t rejoice in his circumstances, but he could rejoice in his God!

The prophet’s testimony here reminds us of Paul’s admonitions to believers today: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thes. 5:16-18, NKJV). Habakkuk discovered that God was his strength (Hab. 3:19) and song as well as his salvation (see Isa. 12:1-2; Ex. 15:2; Ps. 118:14); and therefore he had nothing to fear.

It’s one thing to “whistle in the dark” and try to bolster our courage, and quite something else to sing about the eternal God who never fails. Though his lips were trembling and his legs were shaking (Hab. 3:16, NIV), the prophet burst into song and worshiped his God. What an example for us to follow! It reminds us of our Lord before He went to the cross (Mark 14:26), and Paul and Silas in the Philippian dungeon (Acts 16:19-34). God can give us “songs in the night” (Pss. 42:8; 77:6; Job 35:10) if we’ll trust Him and see His greatness.

“I will rely on the Lord” (3:19). If my legs were shaking and my heart pounding, I’d find a safe place to sit down and relax, but Habakkuk began to bound up the mountain like a deer! Because of his faith in the Lord, he was able to stand and be as surefooted as a deer; he was able to run swiftly and go higher than he’d ever gone before. This is one reason why the Lord permits us to go through trials: they can draw us nearer to Him and lift us above the circumstances so that we walk on the heights with him.

God made us for the heights. If He allows us to go into the valley, it’s so we might wait on Him and mount up with eagles’ wings (Isa. 40:30-31). “He made him to ride on the high places of the earth” (Deut. 32:13). This is what David experienced when he was being chased by his enemies and by Saul: “It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of deer, and sets me on my high places” (Ps. 18:32-33).

*For Us Today: Oftentimes, we do not understand God’s judgment or why He brings affliction into our lives. We cannot comprehend why He allows bad things to happen to us or to those we love. God’s Word teaches that He uses trials and afflictions for many reasons: to strengthen us, to correct us, to discipline us, to force us to turn from sin. Simply stated, God uses trials and tribulations in order to protect us and society—to keep us from harming ourselves and others. Apart from such judgment, many more people would continue in sin, causing more and more injury, corruption, and suffering in the world. More people would be doomed to eternal separation from God. Seen in this light, God’s judgment is an incredible act of mercy. In fact, many of the trials and afflictions we suffer in life are truly blessings in disguise. This is why Habakkuk was able to rejoice and praise the Lord even though judgment was coming. God’s Word speaks clearly on this subject:  (Mt. 7:25), (2 Co. 4:17),  (He. 12:11), (James 1:12), (1 Pe. 1:7), (Re. 2:10), (Job. 23:10),  (Ps. 119:67). (Zec. 13:9).

Habakkuk teaches us to face our doubts and questions honestly, take them humbly to the Lord, wait for His Word to teach us, and then worship Him no matter how we feel or what we see.

God doesn’t always change the circumstances, but He can change us to meet the circumstances. That’s what it means to live by faith.



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Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament
Boice Expositional Commentary – An Expositional Commentary – The Minor Prophets, Volume 2: Micah-Malachi.
J. Vernon McGee’s Thru The Bible
Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible – Commentary – The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible – Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
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The Unbeliever’s Path – Habakkuk Ch. 2 Pt. 2

After having declared how the righteous are to live, the Lord further described the sins and lifestyles of the unrighteous, the self-sufficient.

  1. The Unbeliever’s Path (2:4-5)

This list of sins, like God’s message itself, was brief but remarkably complete. These sins described first the Babylonians, but were true for most of Judah and Israel as well. In addition, the sins exposed the corruption of the people’s hearts and lifestyles. Note the sins of the self-sufficient: they are deceived and betrayed by…

  • drunkenness (wine)
  • arrogance
  • restlessness
  • greed and dissatisfaction
  • war and slavery

First, wine is said to betray the self-sufficient. However, wine is only one example. The abuse of any substance has the same effect. The self-sufficient seek to satisfy the lusts of their flesh in any way they can. They live only for themselves. They care more about their own pleasure and satisfaction than they do about the needs of others.  The use of the word wine also implied intoxication and drunkenness, not just selfishness. The Babylonians were known for their drunken celebrations and debauchery (see Da. 5). Elsewhere in the Old Testament, the abuse of wine was associated with carelessness, arrogance, injustice, and unrighteousness (actually, the loss or forfeiting of righteousness—see Pr. 31:4-7; Is. 5:11-12, 22-23; Am. 6:6).) The abuse of wine leads quickly to all sorts of additional sins and unrighteous behavior. Drunkenness and the abuse of any substance are expressly forbidden by God’s Word. Most of us living today know the pitfalls all too well, and we see the tragic effects of alcohol and drug abuse throughout our communities and cities—perhaps even in our own families. People under the influence of wine or strong drink are much more inclined to become careless, thoughtless, rowdy or violent, sad or depressed, neglectful of duties, intolerant, abusive, and a number of other things. In truth, being given over to wine or strong drink is closely tied to—and leads to—many, many others sins that are often far worse.

Second, the self-sufficient are arrogant. Their pride is evidenced by the fact that they rely on themselves and not on God. They foolishly believe they can meet all their own needs. They do not consider the fact that they were not born by their own power or will. Their birth was by the creative power of God through the laws of nature and birthright that He established. They do not acknowledge or consider that it was God’s desire for them to be born and to live. They stubbornly reject the idea that they have been created for a purpose—a higher purpose than merely living for themselves on this earth. They deny the truth that they need God and that every breath they breathe is a gift from God. Indeed, Holy Scripture says that every hair on their heads has been counted. To reject God is not only folly, but it is also the epitome of arrogance. It is the ultimate pride.

Third and fourth, the self-sufficient are restless, greedy, dissatisfied and ungrateful. The Babylonians were a good example. They were restless for more and more territory, more and more power, more and more wealth, more and more glory—more of almost everything that cannot satisfy the human soul. They were restless because they were greedy. They never had enough and were never satisfied. Like so many today, they were not grateful for what they already had; therefore, they always wanted more.

The example of Babylon shows just how closely linked ingratitude and dissatisfaction are. People who are not thankful for what they have inevitably become dissatisfied. Then they want more and more. They become greedy. This is the very definition of greed: wanting more than we need, more than we can use, more than we can even enjoy. Like the Babylonians, we frequently seek more of everything we can get our hands on, even to the detriment of others. But note a significant fact: if we want more and more of something, it only proves that the thing—whether wealth, position, power, or any other object of desire—does not satisfy us—that it can never satisfy us. Dissatisfaction in life is proof that we are pursuing the wrong things, proof that we are missing the purpose for our existence. People cannot be satisfied if they are missing the whole point of their lives. Every person alive is created for fellowship with God and for honoring Him and His Son. Therefore, we can never be satisfied if we ignore and reject our Creator. Dissatisfaction is proof that we are ungrateful and that we have failed to find the true meaning of life. In fact, dissatisfaction can only be cured by a grateful heart.

Fifth, the Babylonians chose war and slavery as the means to fulfill their lusts. They set their hearts on conquering and enslaving nations to get the many things they wanted—worldly things such as power, revenge, wealth, land, fame, and world domination. They sought all this and went to war because they were dissatisfied. Nothing they owned or accomplished satisfied the depths of their souls. They always felt the need for more. It was this vain pursuit to satisfy their lusts that continuously drove the leadership to war, but it was an empty and futile pursuit. All of the world’s wealth—its riches, knowledge, wisdom, resources, power, glory, fame and honor—could never satisfy them. Only the Lord can truly satisfy. And only the pursuit of God and His righteousness can satisfy eternally. Christ Himself proclaimed that He alone can meet mankind’s deepest needs:  (Mt. 5:6). (Jn. 4:14).” (Jn. 6:35).

 FIVE WOES (2:6-20)

In 2:6-20 we find what scholars call a “taunt song.” It is the kind of song that a once-oppressed people might direct against its former oppressor. Often taunt songs begin with the word “woe” or “alas.” In this case, there are five occurrences of the word “woe,” each of which marks a stanza within the song.

  1. Greed – verses 6-8.

Babylon did more than extort a little money here and there. They plundered and ransacked entire nations, robbing them of their wealth. They destroyed and burned entire cities and the areas surrounding them, including all the crops and animals. In this way, they deprived citizens of their livelihood, leaving them with no means to survive. They brought immense suffering to hundreds of thousands of people, including the people of God. Therefore, the Babylonians would be punished accordingly. They would be held completely accountable by the Lord whom they had defied.  All nations and people who rob, plunder, destroy, abuse, and murder others will be judged by the living God, the Lord of all the earth. God warns all thieves and extortionist: they will face a terrifying judgment for their evil deeds.

 *For Us Today:  Greed is a natural but destructive characteristic of the one who will not trust God. If a person trusts God, he does not need to be covetous of more and more material possessions. The Lord is the portion of the righteous. Besides, the Lord amply supplies his need. The Lord Jesus Christ spoke of God’s provision for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field and asked: “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?… Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:30, 33). If a person trusts God, he does not need to acquire more and more possessions, since he knows God will provide what he needs. If he does not trust God, then the need for things becomes a burden. This world is an insecure place, and the individual is insecure within it. So he works to get more and more in the hope that if he only has a little more land or stocks or capital, he may get by.

It does not work. This is what the verses say clearly. For one thing, they talk about “stolen goods” and things acquired “by extortion.” In the beginning, the person who is trying to build security with things probably intends to be quite honest in doing it. But, somehow, what is acquired is never enough, and he therefore finds himself resorting to questionable and eventually to dishonest practices in the quest for more. The verses also talk about this person’s “debtors,” suggesting that a person like this easily overextends himself and eventually falls prey to the collectors. This is quite contemporary. The people of the Western world are more in debt than they have ever been, and many are losing houses or other things to the collectors. Many are going into personal bankruptcy. These facts are testimonies to the truthfulness of God’s Word and proof of what happens when a person or nation rejects God and lives without him.

  1. Injustice – verses 9-11.

Picture a nobleman in the Babylonian army. He wants to rise to a high position and enjoy its rewards—to have an opulent house and to be secure in it. So he cuts down a forest that belongs to somebody else and from the trees of that forest makes great beams for his home. Then he destroys someone else’s home and takes the beautiful stone blocks it was made of for himself. When he finishes he has a beautiful house, a “nest on high” (v. 9). But everyone who looks at it knows where the stones and beams came from, and his pride and joy become a cause for shame. When the opportunity arises they will see that the nobleman is treated as he treated others.

  1. Violence – verses 12-14.

Babylon was built by bloodshed, the blood of innocent victims. It was built by prisoners of war, slave labor that was exploited to the fullest extent. Babylon was proud of what she had built, but God said it wouldn’t last; it was only fuel for the fire. The city of Babylon was an architectural marvel, but their great projects were for nothing. It’s all gone, and today, if you want to see what Babylon was like, you have to visit a museum.

Many are impressed with the model of the city, marveling that such magnificent walls and gates and buildings could be constructed in those ancient days.  But wonder should be turned to disgust when you realize that the city was built with slave labor and that the soul of one of those slaves meant more to God than all the buildings put together.

*For Us Today:  In contrast to the shame and infamy of Babylon, God promised that His glory would one day cover the earth (v. 14). The “glory” of Babylon didn’t last, but the glory of the Lord will abide forever. Certainly, the Lord was glorified when Babylon fell before her enemies in 539 B.C. (see Jer. 50-51), and He will be glorified when the Babylon of the last days is destroyed, that final great world empire that opposes God (Rev. 17-18). When Jesus Christ returns and establishes His kingdom, then God’s glory will indeed cover the whole earth (Isa. 11:1-9).

The fall of “Babylon the great” is a reminder to us that what man builds without God can never last. The exploiter will eventually lose everything, and man’s “utopias” will turn out to be disasters. We can’t exploit people made in God’s image and expect to escape God’s judgment. It may take time, but eventually the judgment falls.

  1. Seduction – verses 15-17.

Babylonians had become intoxicated with their own power and wealth. In addition, they intoxicated other nations with their power in order to manipulate and shame them. They mixed their strong drink with wrath and brutality and revealed the weaknesses of the defenseless people they conquered. However, judgment was coming. The Babylonians would be judged for all their violence and immorality. And the punishment would fit the crime. Because they had exposed (made naked) and shamed their neighbors, they too would be exposed and shamed. Because they had sought their own glory, their glory would be stripped away as well, leaving them covered only with shame and disgrace. They would, in fact, spew and vomit back their strong drink, their wrath and brutality. They would gag on their own crimes and cruel treatment of others:

  •  They would be filled with shame, not glory.
  •  They would have their sin exposed.
  •  They would suffer God’s hand of judgment.
  •  They would be disgraced.

*For Us Today: Seduction is fairly far along the slippery slope of moral decline that this chapter highlights. We can note the progression. First there is greed. Then there is mild injustice, followed by more serious injustice. Next comes violence. Now there is seduction and perversion. How does this concern the unbeliever’s quest for security?” In this way: trying to find security in things and being disappointed there, the unbeliever now turns to personal relations, hoping to find security through love. But he does not know how to love. He does not know what a true, intimate relationship is. All he can do is seduce another person. So he does! And that which should be a thing of glory becomes shame.

Many view seduction as power. Habakkuk sees it as sin. He says that the one who seduces another becomes a seducer; the one who corrupts, a corrupter. These people have their reward.

  1. Idolatry – verses 18-20.

The Babylonians were certainly guilty of idolatry and false worship, but so were the people of Judah and Israel. Note their tragic sins:

  • They created lies.
  •  They trusted in their own lifeless creations.
  •  They cried out to lifeless objects for guidance.

The Babylonians carved images to represent the gods of their own imaginations. They bowed down to the lifeless objects in worship and prayed to them for guidance. They sought their blessings and protection—even for the horrific crimes they committed. The Babylonians should have wondered what kind of god would condone and bless such wicked behavior. Such immoral license should have been proof enough that they were believing and trusting a lie. But in their own minds and reasoning, their so-called gods condoned their lusts. So the people prostrated and degraded themselves before the idols of this world, idols both imagined and created by the human mind.

*For Us Today:  Tragically, people are no different today than they were in Habakkuk’s day. Despite God’s Word and warnings, the ignorance of idolatry is just as prevalent now as it was then. People of every generation, race, creed, and nation still worship the work of their own hands. They place their trust in the creations of their own imagination. Think of all the uncertain and constantly-changing things in which people place their confidence today…

  • modern medicine
  • fitness and health
  • science and technology
  • politics and government
  • strong leaders and allies
  • strong corporations and businesses
  • strong economies
  • stock markets
  • human ingenuity and innovation
  • age-defying products
  • materialism

Think of all the things to which we give our time and money, the things we praise, adore, revere, idolize, and worship. Every one of them is an idol of the modern world…

  • sports and athletes
  • movies and movie stars
  • music and musicians
  • concerts and the arts
  • the rich and the famous
  • successful businesses and entrepreneurs
  • the best schools and education
  • national pride
  • school pride

…the list could go on and on. None of these things is necessarily bad in and of itself. But when we give our first allegiance to anything other than God, that thing becomes an idol. It replaces the importance of God in our lives, capturing the time, attention, and devotion that rightfully belong to the Lord. Think of what an insult it is to God when we replace Him with such trivial passions. None of these things can bring lasting meaning, purpose, fulfillment, or salvation to our lives. Sadly, while people’s souls are at stake, we waste precious time and money pursuing a multitude of things that simply do not matter—they simply do not count in the eternal perspective of things. They are in fact petty in the light of God’s grace. Here’s what  God’s Word says about idolatry:   (Ro. 1:24-25). (Ep. 5:2-6). (1 Jn. 5:21).” (Ex. 20:3-5). (De. 11:16). (Ps. 81:9). (Is. 42:8).

OUR ONE HOPE (v. 20)

There was only one hope for the Babylonians, the same hope that lies before the whole human race: the Lord (v. 20). In absolute contrast to worthless idols and lies, stands the only living and true God, the Lord Himself. He is the Eternal God, the Creator of everything that is or ever has been. Note both the simplicity and the strength of this brief verse:

“But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him” (v. 20).

In comparison to the eternal existence and reality of God, everything else is small and insignificant. This is the awesome sense we feel when we read this verse.

  • The Lord is in His holy temple. God’s presence abides in heaven, above and beyond the earth. In addition—and in spite of all the evil and wickedness in this world—God’s presence is still here among us on earth. This is the most fundamental and significant truth of the universe—that God exists. He not only exists, but He is the ultimate truth and reality, the ruler of all things. He sits on His throne, seeing, knowing, and caring about everything done on earth, for He created it. By His sovereign hand, He governs and oversees the world and everything in it. Even more, the Lord calls us to come to Him, to worship and fellowship with Him.
  •  All the people of the earth must come to God and be silent before Him. This statement echoes the words of the Psalmist: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). There is no greater wisdom for our lives. The Babylonians’ only hope, one they certainly did not act on, was to turn to the Lord in repentance. This is our only hope, too. We must come before God and be still. To be still before God means to come to Him in reverence and humility. It is to come to Him in worship, prepared to listen and to be transformed.  Let us all resolve to be still and come to know the Lord. “Let all the earth keep silence before Him.”

 *For Us Today:. The Lord delights in having fellowship with His creation. He invites all people to come to Him for the free gift of salvation and eternal life. He invites all to come for mercy and the forgiveness of sins. Listen to the invitations of God’s Word:  (Mt. 11:28).(Mt. 22:4). (Jn. 7:37).” (Re. 22:17). (Is. 1:18). (Is. 55:1).

Good Stuff!  Next time we’ll look at chapter 3.



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Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament
Boice Expositional Commentary – An Expositional Commentary – The Minor Prophets, Volume 2: Micah-Malachi.
Bible Reader’s Companion
J. Vernon McGee’s Thru The Bible
Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible – Commentary – The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible – Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
Teacher’s Commentary
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The Righteous Will Live By Faith – Habakkuk Ch 2.1

Suppose you lose your job because a person who “has it in for you” misrepresents something you have done. Why did God allow this bad person to succeed?  Suppose you experience some great disappointment—the death of a child or spouse, the breakup of a marriage or an engagement, a failure to get into school. Doesn’t God care? You are not perfect, but why should someone who is not even a believer have it good while you lose out?

When we face problems like this, how we respond is critical.  When things go wrong, some people tend to withdraw. They stop going to church or serving, then isolate themselves until “things get better.”  Others conclude that they must have been wrong about God and renounce all belief in him.  Both are common but not helpful.

How should we deal with problems that shake our faith?  The book of Habakkuk shows us how.  In chapter 1 we see Habakkuk questioning and wrestling with God.  It is ok to have faith and still have questions, this is healthy.   God is there and in our struggle we are drawn closer to Him.  He responds when we question.

In Chapter 2 we see Habakkuk waiting.  What should we do in these times we are waiting for God’s answer?


Habakkuk says he says he will “stand at my watch.”   This is a reference to being in watchtower, which built on the walls of the city from which a watchman could keep a sharp eye out for an enemy.  A tower provided a new vantage point.  So when Habakkuk says that he is going to stand at his watch and station himself on the ramparts, he is saying, “I have been down on the ground my problem and have not been able to solve it. Now I am going to leave it with God and wait.”

The prophet had lodged his complaints. He had pleaded with God for answers to the burning questions of his heart. Now, he knew that he must wait. But he would not wait idly by, nor would he be impatient. He set his heart and mind to stand watch. He determined to be diligent and purposeful, to focus his whole existence on listening for the voice of the Lord. Like a guard or sentinel, he would watch for God’s answer and not abandon his post until it came.

Image: Habakkuk retreated to one of the mountaintop stations from which guards watched for the approach of enemy armies. As Habakkuk looked over his own nation’s countryside he was determined to find the reasons why God permitted injustice.  We too need to take time out to meditate and to struggle with life’s important issues.


*For Us Today:  We must be patient in prayer. We can be sure that our prayers are heard. But we do not always receive the answers we want, nor do we always receive answers immediately. The Lord responds in His perfect timing and according to His will. Therefore, every child of God needs to wait patiently when seeking answers from the Lord.

People with little or no faith are impatient. They are not willing to wait. Like an impulsive child, they demand an answer immediately, and if they do not get it, they grow impatient and move on to the next thing. But true faith requires patience, and patience brings about maturity in Christ. Therefore, all believers are called to be patient in prayer. We must wait expectantly for answers and be willing to stand watch. This simply means that we must focus our minds on listening for the voice of God, being prepared and ready to receive His Word. This may require us to change our priorities. We may have to rearrange our schedules to spend more time in God’s Word and in meditation. We may even need to seek new friends or godly counsel. The point is that if we truly want to receive answers from God, we must do whatever it takes to prepare ourselves. We must not only wait for answers but also wait expectantly, in faith. Like Habakkuk, we must be alert and ready to act when the answer comes.

*For Us Today -Expect God to Speak:  Habakkuk says that he “will stand at” his watch and “look to see” what God will say to him.  How do we look for God’s answer? How does God speak? The primary way is through Scripture. Sometimes God directs us by what used to be called “intimations,” deep personal feelings concerning the way we should go. He frequently directs us by what we call “open or closed doors.” That is, God provides an opportunity or takes it away. These things occasionally enter in. Still, the primary (and ultimately the only fully reliable) way of knowing God’s direction or answer to our perplexities is through Scripture. Anyone who has made a habit of reading the Word of God regularly knows how that happens. We have a problem, have been unable to solve it, and have left it with God. It may be that we have even forgotten about it temporarily. But one day we are reading a passage of the Bible and suddenly a verse leaps out at us and we recognize at once that it contains the solution to what has troubled us. It is God’s answer to the problem we previously left with him.

GOD’S ANSWER AND REVELATION (2: 2-3) The Lord answered.” What beautiful words! Imagine the prophet’s emotions at this point in his long conversation with God. He had stood watch and waited expectantly, likely for a very long time. Now, God’s message had finally come and Habakkuk was ready to receive it.

What did the Lord say? God’s first instruction to the prophet was to write down the vision. Habakkuk was to record the Word of God. This was a critical message; therefore, it had to be recorded for all people to read. It had to be preserved for those living both then and now, for the whole human race. People in future ages would need to read and hear about God’s message to all mankind.

These are words that are difficult for some people to accept: “an appointed time.” God told Habakkuk that His plan for dealing with evil—for establishing justice on earth—would be revealed according to God’s timeframe, not Habakkuk’s time frame nor that of any other human being. This meant that once again the prophet had to wait. God’s vision plan would be fully disclosed and fully accomplished in God’s perfect time.

God’s message to Habakkuk spoke of “the end” (NIV) (v. 3). This refers to the end of Babylon’s dominance AND to the end times when Christ returns. (He. 10:37-38; 2 Pe. 3:3-13). This verse suggests that God’s revelation—His ultimate plans for Babylon and the last days—is moving toward its end. This did not mean that God’s revelation would be fulfilled quickly or according to Habakkuk’s desired timeframe. It meant that the fulfillment of God’s plans would not be delayed beyond the time He had appointed—not even for a moment. In fact, though the end may seem to be delayed, it will surely come. God’s judgment of evil and His establishment of justice on earth are certainties. They will be accomplished at their appointed time. All of history is moving toward this climactic finish.

*For Us Today:  God commanded Habakkuk and the people to wait. The command was meant for us also—all who read and hear God’s Word today. Again, patience is required. This is because we live between the time of God’s revelation and the complete fulfillment of His revelation. God has promised to execute perfect justice on earth, to bring all things to a perfect end. He has revealed His plans to us through His Word. As believers and ministers of His Word, we cannot wait passively; we must stand watch, be alert, be ready to act. Until that day of fulfillment arrives, we must do everything possible to share God’s revelation—His Word—with the whole world.  See also: (Mt. 24:44).  (Mk. 13:35). (Js. 5:8).  (Re. 3:11).“ (Re. 22:7, 20).

TWO PATHS (2: 4-5)

The life of faith mentioned in this key verse is only one of two distinct paths.  One is the way of faith. The other is the way of “un-faith” or unbelief.  the greater part of this verse deals with the unbeliever. It begins, “See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright…(NIV)” Then there is a dash, followed by “but the righteous will live by his faith” (NIV), followed by another dash. Then the passage continues, talking about the unbeliever. (vv. 4-5).

The way of the righteous is the way of faith in God. The way of the unbeliever is the way of rejecting God. The first submits to God and trusts God. The second submits to no one. The person who chooses the second way is arrogant. He says, “I can take care of myself. I can do without God.” The bulk of this chapter shows the course and dismal end of the ungodly.

 A.  The Righteous Path (2:4)

We have an easy way of approaching this verse, because the places where it is quoted in the New Testament (In Romans (Rom. 1:16-17), in Galatians (Gal. 3:10-11), and in Hebrews (Heb. 10:37-39). are explanations of the three main parts of the verse. In the original language, the Hebrew says:

  1. the justified man” (Who is he? What is justification?) Romans is our commentary on the being justified.
  2. And “by his faith” (What is faith? How does it function?)  Hebrews is our commentary on faith.
  3. will live” (What is the Christian life? How does one live before God?). Galatians is our commentary on the Christian life.

We turn to these books to understand what Habakkuk 2:4 means.

*For Us Today:

What does it mean to be Righteous or Just? The revelation to Habakkuk shows us that a person can be righteous (or justified) before God. In ourselves we are not righteous, instead being righteous we are sinners and therefore under God’s just wrath and condemnation. How can a person who is a sinner and under God’s condemnation attain righteousness? How can one become perfect? The answer is that nobody can attain to righteousness. No one is capable of perfect goodness.

How do we get it then? It is God’s gift to us in Jesus Christ. This is what Romans explains. It shows that the justified person is the one who has ceased trying to please God by his own efforts and who has turned to Jesus instead for the righteousness that God gives freely. This is what it means to be a Christian. It means to stop trying to attain heaven by our own good works and instead to receive what God has done for us in Christ. The foundation of our Christian life is not what we can do for God but what God has done for us. Therefore, the entrance into that life is not by working but by receiving. It is opening our hands to God’s gift. Paul speaks of this by saying at the very beginning of Romans, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Rom. 1:16-17).

How do we receive God’s gift? The answer is found in the second word in Habakkuk 2:4: “by faith.” The Book of Hebrews is the New Testament commentary on it. What is faith? According to Hebrews, particularly Hebrews 11, faith is believing God and acting upon that belief. In the long list of the heroes of the faith in chapter 11, each is shown to have done something as an expression of belief. Abel believed God and offered a better sacrifice than Cain did (v. 4). Enoch believed God and pleased him by his long and faithful life (v. 5). Noah believed God and built an ark to the saving of his family (v. 7). Abraham, the author’s chief example, did four things. He believed God and obeyed him in setting out for the Promised Land; he made his home in the land like a stranger in a foreign country; he was enabled to become a father in the engendering of Isaac; later he offered Isaac as a sacrifice at God’s command (vv. 8-9, 11, 17). Isaac believed God and blessed Jacob and Esau according to God’s direction (v. 20). Jacob believed God and blessed Joseph’s sons (v. 21). The list goes on, in each case showing how faith expressed itself in activity.

It is important to stress faith’s action, because we have a definition of faith in our day that reduces it to mere intellectual assent and that is therefore far less than what the Bible means by belief. We can meet somebody on the street today and say to him, “Do you believe in God?” and have the person answer, “Of course I do. What do you think I am, an atheist?” He does not want to be an atheist, so he believes in God. But this does not necessarily mean that he is a Christian or that this faith makes any difference in his life. Belief includes intellectual assent. We must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who diligently seek him (Heb. 11:6). But faith is more than this. In salvation matters, it means trusting the Lord Jesus Christ as the one who died in our place and thus also turning from sin to follow him.

How Do We Live?  This commitment carries on throughout life, which is what the third word in Habakkuk 2:4 is all about. The word does not say that the righteous shall begin by faith and then proceed on some other principle. It does not say that the righteous shall draw on faith from time to time as faith is needed. It says “the righteous will live [continuously] by his faith.” That is, the righteous will operate on this principle twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year—so long as life lasts.

The Book of Galatians stresses this principle. Paul uses Habakkuk 2:4 to challenge living by the law. He says, “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.'” (Gal. 3:10-11). The only way to live is to “live by faith.” This world may crumble about our ears. All that we know and love may vanish. “But the righteous will live by his faith.” He will live by faith in the one who keeps us, not only in the moment of our initial belief in Jesus Christ as Savior, but in every later moment of life as well.

In the next post we will examine the rest of chapter 2 and those who live by pride and unbelief.



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Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament
Boice Expositional Commentary – An Expositional Commentary – The Minor Prophets, Volume 2: Micah-Malachi.
Bible Reader’s Companion
Vernon McGee’s Thru The Bible
Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible – Commentary – The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible – Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
Teacher’s Commentary
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Why God?- Habakkuk Ch 1

One of the modern “Christian myths” that ought to be silenced says that when you trust Jesus Christ, you get rid of all your problems. You don’t.

It’s true that your basic spiritual problem—your relationship with God—has been solved, but with that solution comes a whole new set of problems that you didn’t face when you were an unbeliever, like: “Why do good people suffer and evil people prosper?” or “Why isn’t God answering my prayer?” or “When I’m doing my best for the Lord, why do I experience the worst from others?”

Believers who claim to be without problems are either not telling the truth or not growing and experiencing real life. Perhaps they’re just not thinking at all. They’re living in a religious dream world that has blocked out reality and stifled honest feelings.

Habakkuk wasn’t that kind of believer. As he surveyed the land of Judah, and then watched the international scene, he found himself struggling with some serious problems. But he did the right thing: he took his problems to the Lord.

WHO/WHAT?  (1:1)

1:1.  The prophet called his writing a maśśā’, which means a “burden.”  The message Habakkuk presented is indeed a weighty one.   “The burden that Habakkuk the prophet saw.” The word “saw” (ḥāzâh), when used of the prophets, often means to see in a vision (cf. Isa. 1:1; 2:1; Ezek. 12:27; Amos 1:1; Micah 1:1). Receiving glimpses from God into the future (i.e., “visions”) that actually come true – are indicators that the prophet is speaking on behalf of God.

 GOD WHERE ARE YOU?    (1:2-4)

“How long will my prayers go unanswered? Why, Lord, are you not answering my cry for help?” Habakkuk cries out.  These questions have been asked by multitudes of God’s people in every generation and are still being asked today.

Habakkuk Asks Several Bold Questions:

  1. Why did God not answer his prayer and help His people (v. 2)? Habakkuk had apparently been pleading for God’s help for some time, but so far had received no answer. For this reason, he cried out asking God how long he must call for help, how long before the Lord would hear and answer his prayers. We do not know how long the prophet had been praying and seeking God’s help, but we can imagine it was quite some time, perhaps months or even years. He had been waiting for an answer to his prayers at least long enough to reach the point of frustration.

Habakkuk’s words How long show his agony over God’s seeming delay in responding to his concerns. Many believers today sense the same problem. They wonder why God seems silent when they pray.

Like we see in Psalms… (David, Pss. 13:1-4; 22:1, 11, 19-20; Asaph, Ps. 74:1-2, 10-11; the sons of Korah, Ps. 88), Habakkuk went to God to complain about his troubles and the troubles of his people. He described the injustice that was rampant around him and then asked “How long?” (Hab. 1:2)

2.  Why did God not save His people from violence (v. 2)?The Hebrew word used for violence is hāmās.  Why was God allowing the wicked to prosper and the righteous to suffer?  Habakkuk’s concern was not only that his cries went unheeded but that the corruption continued unchecked. He cried out to God, Violence! but God seemed to do nothing. The stark word “violence” sums up all the chaos Habakkuk witnessed around him. The word is sprinkled throughout the book (1:2-3, 9; 2:17) like inkblots on a crumpled page in history.

3.  Why did God seem to tolerate evil (v. 3)? Why did it appear He was doing nothing about all the wickedness, corruption, and injustice in the world? Why did God not stamp out…

  • evil and wickedness?
  • injustice and oppression?
  • destruction and violence?
  • strife and conflict?
  • pain and suffering?

The prophet’s questions reveal just how low Judah had sunk. Judean society had become utterly corrupt. (Other prophets such as Jeremiah, Micah, Joel, and Amos describe in more depth just how depraved Judah had become.) The nation was crooked from the top levels of government to the lowest rungs of the social ladder. People greedily sought to defraud and cheat one another. Leaders, rulers, and the upper classes were especially guilty, even priests and ministers. Rulers were exploiting and oppressing the people under them. Leaders were hungry for money and abused their power and positions. Priests and ministers cared more about growing rich than about teaching the truth of God’s Word. The result was unrestrained greed, unfairness, strife, conflict, and violence. Habakkuk witnessed the people’s crimes and saw how wicked the people had become. He not only grieved over all the suffering caused by their wickedness, but he was also confused and frustrated. Why had God allowed things to get this bad? How could God let His people sink this low?

The Consequences of this Wide-Spread Evil:  

1.  The law was ineffective (v. 4a). It was being ignored. God’s law no longer had any effect on the people’s behavior. Its strength and influence had been sapped. The people had continued in sin so long that God’s Word had lost its power for them.

2.  Justice had become corrupted (v. 4b). The rich and powerful were exploiting the poor and powerless. And the poor and powerless had become covetous—lusting for things that others possessed. People of every social class were trampling on each other to get what they wanted. Government at every level had broken down:

  •  Social support systems had fallen apart.
  • Courts and the judicial system were plagued by corruption.
  • Judges were taking bribes.
  • Officials were demanding payoffs.

The end result was that justice was completely perverted. Corruption and dishonesty were the rule of the day and no one could get a fair deal.

3. The righteous were being surrounded by the wicked; they were hemmed in and being persecuted, treated unfairly (v. 4c). Since justice had been perverted, the righteous had nowhere to turn; they had no one to stand up for their rights. They would not bribe judges, pay off officials, or exploit the system to get what they needed. In this way, they were helpless and easily taken advantage of by those with no conscience, those who had no concern for obeying God’s laws.

*For Us Today, Evil is Still Present but We Have a Choice

In every generation, corruption and injustice wage war against God and His Word. All creation groans at the human race’s rebellion against God (Ro. 8:20-22). Human beings can be particularly evil. It is we who commit the greatest atrocities against God and His created order. It is we who commit the most hideous crimes against nature and each other. We were created to be human—placed at the pinnacle of God’s created order, made to govern and take care of the earth, even to fellowship with the Lord Himself. Instead, we abuse one another and the earth itself. We act inhuman and inhumane. Consider some of the violent and depraved acts people commit against one another every day…

  • murder
  • rape
  • physical, sexual, and mental abuse
  • child, spousal, and elder abuse
  • prostitution
  • pornography
  • incest
  • slavery
  • war
  • genocide
  • discrimination
  • oppression
  • exploitation

…and on and on. Every one of these crimes is occurring somewhere in the world today, right at this very moment—and not infrequently. They are happening in every nation and city, in our own towns and neighborhoods. The question is not whether evil exists, but what are we doing about it?

All of us need to ask ourselves truthfully: Do the things that break God’s heart break our own hearts? Do the wicked deeds, the corruption, the injustice, and all the inhumane acts we witness and hear about every day disturb and distress us? Or, have we become calloused, cold-hearted, and insensitive to the evil around us? Are we ignoring the cries of those who suffer or who are in despair? Or do we cry out in prayer as Habakkuk did and plead for the Lord’s justice and mercy?

Every believer should pray as Habakkuk did. We should observe, stay informed, be on watch, and pray for the Lord’s justice. We should be willing to be burdened and broken by the evil around us. And, like Habakkuk, we should take our burdens to the Lord.

GOD’S ANSWER (1:5-11)

 God’s revelation (v. 5): Habakkuk earnestly sought the counsel of God and the Lord gave the prophet a glimpse into the future. Keep in mind, however, that God does not owe us any explanation of His actions, but He does reveal Himself to those who truly seek Him. The lesson for us living today is that God has revealed Himself in His Word. And He will continue to do so for all who study His Word and who genuinely seek to learn His ways. Thus, God revealed His plans to His faithful minister.

1. The Lord was already at work in the world.

2. The Lord would execute the unbelievable: true justice and judgment on the nations. What Habakkuk was about to witness would be both unimaginable and astonishing. It would cause wonder and amazement among all who heard the message. In looking at the nations, Habakkuk and the people needed to wait and observe, to be alert and watch for what the Lord was about to do. It would astound and dumbfound them. They would not believe their own eyes.

God’s explanation: He was raising up a strong and ruthless nation to serve as His agent of judgment (vv. 6-10). Babylon would be God’s instrument of punishment and correction. His people had become so corrupt, so sinful and rebellious, that they were beyond the point of repentance. God had already sent the people many warnings. Prophet after prophet had cautioned the people that they must repent or else face God’s coming judgment. But the people had mocked, persecuted, and even killed God’s prophets. They chose instead to listen to false prophets, corrupt men who preached a deceptive message of blessings in exchange for a livelihood and social acceptance. Consequently, the Lord had no choice but to judge His people. He had given them plenty of opportunities to repent.

God described the Babylonians, His agents of judgment, in terrifying terms. He did not disguise or downplay His message at all. Habakkuk and the people were being placed on high alert. They needed to prepare themselves for the judgment to come. Note God’s description of the Babylonians:

1.  The Babylonians would be ruthless and would conquer the world (v. 6). In Habakkuk’s day, it was Assyria who had conquered Israel and also made inroads into Judah. Nonetheless, within a few short years, Babylon would begin to emerge as a world power and would conquer much of the known world. This would include the nations of Assyria, Egypt, Judah, and Edom. In doing so, the Babylonians would become known for their cruelty and brutality. They were considered a bloodthirsty and violent people.

2.  They would be known as a feared and dreaded people (v. 7a). They were merciless, bent on destroying all in their path.

3.   They were a law unto themselves (v. 7b). They feared and listened to no one, doing exactly as they pleased. They abided by no moral code, no code of honor among soldiers or enemy nations. They were a haughty and proud people who lived, fought, and conquered only to bring glory to themselves.

4.  They would attack with a fierce, swift, and devouring army (v. 8). Their horses would be swifter than leopards and fiercer than hungry wolves at night. Their armies would swoop down like vultures ready to devour.

5.  They would attack with an army bent on violence, sweeping in like a desert wind and taking prisoners as if they were scooping up sand (v. 9). In fact, the Babylonians were known for taking captives, then enslaving their enemies. They came up with a very shrewd method for keeping their enemies subdued. Enemies they did not enslave were resettled into foreign lands, sometimes in Babylon itself and sometimes in other territories it had conquered. Their intention was to completely absorb their enemies into the Babylonian culture and society and to cut them off from all ties to their own cultures and past. Therefore, they separated and scattered those they conquered in order to weaken them and keep them under control.

6.  The Babylonians would scoff at kings, rulers, and their fortress cities (v. 10). They would easily capture even the strongest, most protected cities. The Babylonians did this by developing a cunning method for breaching a city’s walls. They built massive earthen ramps and piled them up against the walls, ever higher and higher, until they reached the top. Once these enormous mounds were high enough, they would simply march up the ramps and stampede into the city. In light of this, no city was safe against them no matter how tall or how thick its walls. It was just a matter of time before a city’s walls could be breached. This was the reason the Babylonians scoffed at rulers and laughed at fortified cities. And because of their many military successes, as well as their strength and ingenuity, they grew proud. In fact, Scripture describes the Babylonians as one of the haughtiest, most arrogant people on earth.

But the Babylonians were more than prideful; they were spiteful, vicious, and cruel. It was their practice when capturing a nation’s king and rulers to cage and parade them through city streets like circus animals. Even worse, they sometimes mutilated their captives as they would later do to King Zedekiah of Judah when they gouged out his eyes. Before this atrocity, though, Judah’s king was forced to look on while his sons were put to death. These events would happen in 586 B.C., right after the fall of Jerusalem.

God’s verdict: the Babylonians would also stand guilty before God for trusting in their own strength instead of in God (v. 11). Though God had already planned to use Babylon as His agent of judgment against Judah, He would still judge the Babylonians for all the evil they had done in the past and would do in the future. As Scripture says, they would pass over or sweep past like a strong wind and conquer other nations with ease. But they would also sweep past the stage of history and disappear from the world scene once God had judged them. Their selfish ambitions and thirst for glory would be used by the Lord, but they would nonetheless be held accountable for their crimes. Why? Note the Scripture—it declares that the Babylonians trusted their own strength: their own strength was their god. In other words, they gloried in their own power and promoted their own honor. It was because of such pride that they would be judged, just as Judah was going to be judged.

*For Us Today, God Still Judges Evil

Today the world asks, “Why doesn’t God do something about sin?” God has done something about it! Over two thousand years ago He gave His Son to die. He intruded into the affairs of the world. And He says that He is still going to intrude again in the affairs of the world — yet today the world goes along having a good time in sin. But God is still moving!

 Did you know Paul quotes from Habakkuk 1:5?   It is recorded in (Acts 13:38-41). Paul is preaching a sermon in Antioch which he is saying that God has provided forgiveness and freedom from guilt.  He did so through Jesus Christ!  Don’t let the words of the prophets apply to you.  God has done something in your days that you would never believe. He sent Christ to die for us sinners.   Have you received the forgiveness Christ offers?  Have you let His Spirit transform you from an evil person into a new creation in Christ?   Judgment for sin is coming.

Each and every one of us will be judged by what we have done on earth. Listen to what God’s Word says:

  • “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works” (Mt. 16:27).
  • “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel” (Ro. 2:16).
  • For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Co. 5:10).
  • “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Re. 20:12).
  • “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Re. 22:12).

SAY WHAT?!  (1:12-17)

As far as Habakkuk was concerned, God’s first answer hadn’t been an answer at all. In fact, it only created a new problem that was even more puzzling: inconsistency on the part of God. How could a holy God use a wicked nation to punish His own special people?

(v. 12) The prophet knew God’s people were deserving of punishment, yet the Babylonians seemed deserving of far greater punishment. After all, they did not worship the Lord, the true and living God. They bowed down to worthless idols and gloried in their own strength. Babylon seemed to be more sinful, corrupt, and evil than Judah.

This was an honest concern. And those of us who read God’s answer to Habakkuk likely share his concern. We can understand the prophet’s astonishment, even his sense of frustration. However, despite Habakkuk’s shock, note how he approached the Lord. First, he did not approach the Lord with doubts about God’s character. Even though the prophet was confused and frustrated by the Lord’s reply, he did not doubt God’s goodness. Rather, Habakkuk began by acknowledging the Lord’s faithfulness, His holiness, and His eternal nature. He called the Lord, “my God,” and declared that He is the everlasting and Holy One (v. 12).

After affirming the faithfulness and holiness of God, Habakkuk continued his questioning. The problem of evil still haunted him. He was troubled that God would use a nation as wicked as Babylon to punish His own people. In fact,

Habakkuk had many more questions:

1. Why would God—who is too pure to look on evil—tolerate the wicked (v. 13a)? Previously, Habakkuk had asked the Lord why he, Habakkuk, must look at injustice and view evil. Now, however, the prophet appealed to the Lord’s purity and sense of justice. In essence the prophet asked the Lord how He, who is so pure and holy, could tolerate evil any longer. How could He even stand to look upon it? Habakkuk knew that God was greatly disturbed by the sins of His people and that the people were deserving of punishment. What he had not counted on was that they would be punished by so wicked a nation. God’s revelation that Babylon would be God’s agent of justice shocked the prophet. This led to his further confusion and to his next question.

2. Why would God remain silent while the wicked Babylonians destroyed people more righteous than they (v. 13b)? Surely the prophet did not consider the people of Judah righteous; nevertheless, they were still God’s people and not as wicked as the Babylonians, at least in his mind. Habakkuk knew the strength and the consuming greed of the Babylonians for world domination, that they would easily destroy his own small nation. For this reason, Habakkuk was genuinely puzzled by why God would allow this.

3. Why would God allow injustice? Why would He make His people like fish in the sea then allow the wicked to entrap them with hooks and nets? Why would God allow wicked people to rejoice over their cruel, evil behavior (vv. 14-15)?

Habakkuk compared his people to fish that are easily caught in nets. He knew they would be helpless and defenseless against the ruthless Babylonians. Habakkuk also knew that the Babylonians were proud. They would gloat and rejoice over their “catch.” He saw this as an injustice; it did not seem fair to him. How could God permit this to happen?

4. Why would God tolerate a people of idolatry, allow them to reject Him and worship the things (nets) that brought them prosperity (v. 16)? The prophet pleaded further, reminding God that the Babylonians were idolatrous. They worshipped their own strength and trusted in their own evil plots. Not only did they worship and seek guidance from false gods, they sought glory and honor for themselves. They trusted in their own strength and resources, not in the living God.

5. Why would God allow the wicked to keep on destroying without mercy (v. 17)? The prophet summed up his argument with a final question: Considering the wickedness of the Babylonians—their brutality, their arrogance, their idolatry, all of which was worse than Judah’s—how could God allow such a people to conquer His own? He did not know how God could allow these wicked people to keep on conquering other peoples without mercy, especially God’s own people—His children of promise.

*For Us Today, What Can We Do With Our Questions?

 Like many today, Habakkuk had sincere questions. He had grown frustrated with the circumstances in his life and nation and with God’s apparent silence. However, Habakkuk still approached the Lord with reverence and awe. He approached God in humility, acknowledged God’s faithfulness, and accepted God’s sovereignty. Note several important truths:

1.  Habakkuk was humble. Despite his sincere questions and complaints, despite the fact that he was troubled and confused, he approached the Lord in humility. He was careful not to show arrogance. This is a vital lesson for every believer and for every seeker of God. No matter how sincere we may be in our prayers, no matter how confused or frustrated we may become, we should approach the Lord in humility. We must remember who God is and who we are in comparison. He is the Creator of all heaven and earth, and we are the created.

2.  Second, Habakkuk did not doubt the Lord’s character or faithfulness. In fact, his words were an expression of great faith. The prophet may have had questions about the Lord’s plans, but he did not doubt the Lord Himself. Even though God’s plans seemed unfair to him, he knew that the Lord would be faithful. He knew that in some way, in due time, the Lord would fulfill His promises to Israel. In faith and humility, the prophet declared God’s faithfulness and reminded himself of the eternal, unchanging nature of the God he served.

3.  Third, Habakkuk did not doubt God’s sovereignty—His right to rule and to act as He sees fit (this becomes even more apparent in chapter 3). This is another critical lesson for us. Even when we do not get the answers we seek, or cannot understand the reasoning of God, we must acknowledge the Lord’s right to do as He pleases. He alone is Sovereign over the earth and all the affairs of mankind. He alone can work out the eternal plans He has for us and for all creation.

 Next time (Ch. 2)  we’ll see God’s answers to Habakkuk’s next set of questions!


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Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament
Bible Knowledge Commentary
Bible Reader’s Companion
Boice Expositional Commentary – An Expositional Commentary – The Minor Prophets, Volume 2: Micah-Malachi.
J. Vernon McGee’s Thru The Bible
Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible – Commentary – The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible – Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malach
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