Habakkuk 1:1-3, 5-6, 13; 2:1, 4-6; 3:2, 17-19: January 13—Habakkuk: A message of faith
Jan 6, 2013

Wiley Richards is a retired professor of theology and philosophy at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.
The prophet Habakkuk, as was true of Nahum, preached at a turning point in Middle East history. Habakkuk had a grasp of the truth that the fall of Judah was just a matter of time, some 10 years from the time of Habakkuk’s ministry ended. The prophet found himself in the midst of an internal conflict. As he understood the enormity of Babylon brutality, the prophet questioned how a righteous God could visit destruction on Judah, a more God-fearing nation than idolatrous Babylon. When life seems to be unfair, what enables us to stumble through difficult times?

Habakkuk found himself in situations in which he felt utterly helpless (1:1-3). He provides an insight into his feelings when he called his vision a “burden.” This word alludes to a message of God’s judgment which He was about to unleash on the nations, including Habakkuk’s own people, Judah. The prophet’s confusion arose from the clash between his own sensitive awareness of the necessity of judgment, but God’s laxity in delivering it. In a sense, he faulted God for making him aware of the evils of the Babylonians, Without bringing down the deserved punishment. He even raised the complaint raised by some that God’s laws were deficient in having the teeth to be enforced (v. 4). We could note at this point how we may be tempted to have God act according to what we think His course of action should be. For example, you may have heard a preacher, with more heat than light, preach that unless God showered down judgment on a particular city He “owed Sodom and Gomorrah an apology.”

In spite of Habakkuk’s irreverent feelings, God nevertheless answered (vv. 5-6). He advised the prophet to be patient. He called on the nations to prepare for a radical change which He was already bringing about (v. 5). It was to be such a major change that reports about it would be rejected as unbelievable.

God explained what was already happening. He was raising up the Chaldeans, “that bitter and hasty nation” who had the reputation of marching across national borders and laying waste to anything in their path. The extent of their conquests is reflected in the fact they took possession of conquered structures which they had not built but treated them as their own private investments. They set up their own laws which supplanted those of the defeated nations (v. 7). Even their horses were trained for war extremely mobile, flying as an eagle hungry for prey (v. 9).

In the midst of this description of a coming time of plunder, the prophet interrupted the vision to inject his view of God’s holiness (v. 13). This awareness caused him to focus attention on what he considered to be morally inconsistent. How could God, the Holy One, the Rock, even look upon injustice. Additionally, the evils attributed to the Chaldeans far out numbered the moral failings of Judah. It seemed inconsistent to Habakkuk for God to allow a wicked nation to destroy a more righteous one.

God led the prophet to embrace a new principle (2:1, 4-6). By this time, Habakkuk had decided on a new strategy. Instead of an open confrontation with God, he decided to stand his post of observation and meditate on some way to reply to God in regard to his complaints. God advised him to be patient because the end of Babylon had already been set. The onslaught of the Chaldeans was to be complete. As for Habakkuk, he was given a decisive personal strategy, that of living by faith, so important in the teaching that it is three times cited in the New Testament (Rom. 1:17, Gal. 3:11, and Heb. 10:38).

Habakkuk took to heart God’s admonition and ended his book on a shout of jubilation (3:2, 17-18). He began his victory message with a plea to God to revive His work “in the midst of the years” (v. 2). 

In applying the faith principle, he would trust God even though the fig trees, olive trees, and crops of the fields bore no fruit. He would rejoice in the Lord, the God of his salvation (v. 17).

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