Category Archives: Habakkuk

Habakkuk 3 – Our Hope in Life’s Quandary: The Lord Our Savior and Strength

Chapter 3 is a prayer by Habakkuk, a very human prayer. He starts by acknowledging what every human prayer should, that God is God:

Lord, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy.

The next several verses continue this theme. Then he says something that must be continually affirmed by us, but which we tend to miss in our time-bound, temporal existence:

His ways are eternal.

I think the point is a simple one: God has ultimate perspective. He can see the beginning from the end, the important from the not so important. And worst of all for us: he’s never in a hurry! Heck, he’s got forever! We don’t! And the freight train known as time gets louder and louder as it bears down on us. “Lord, we don’t have forever!” Ah, he replies, but you do! If we really bought into forever, the light and momentary afflictions, as Paul calls them, would be light indeed. Let us as Paul says in that passage, “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” This is what Habakkuk is trying to do, but it’s hard, as we all know.

The middle verses of the chapter acknowledge God’s judgment, and yet again God’s wrath is something that we are not allowed to ignore. God has spent an entire Old Testament making a simple point: He must judge, and punish, sin. Yet wrath and judgment is not the end of the story, at least for his people:

13 You came out to deliver your people,
    to save your anointed one.
You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness,
    you stripped him from head to foot.

Practically from day one God has distinguished his people from everyone else. The Lord never gives the impression that his purposes pertain to an undifferentiated mass of humanity called, “The World.” The offer of salvation to come is indeed available to the whole human race, as we learn throughout the Old Testament (as the Lord promises Abram that all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him), but that this salvation will only become actual for his people. When Jesus’ birth is foretold by the angel in Matthew 1 we read this:

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Yeshua (or Joshua), his name which from Greek we get Jesus, means “The Lord saves.” The Lord’s people are always specific and acknowledged ahead of time. The “people” the angel speaks of were already known by God the Father. Jesus came to save those people. Nothing is as offensive to me in the Arminian and Pelagian notion as that the Lord only came to make salvation possible for all, but actual for none until they choose it. As if God’s plan of salvation were dependent on human volition! As John says of God’s children, that they are “born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” Ours is from first to last a supernatural salvation!

The reference above to the anointed one can certainly be a reference to this Yeshua to come, as it can mean Israel itself. Israel is often referred to as a singular collective. The point being that salvation is the purpose and accomplishment of God himself.

Slowly throughout these three chapters Habakkuk is coming to trust the Lord, his judgments, and timing. He finally believes God that Israel’s enemies will eventually get what’s coming to them. He finally doesn’t care what the circumstances look like to him, no matter how bad the situation appears (the crops and livestock are barren), he is determined to trust in the Lord:

18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

The older I get and the more I experience of life, this is the bottom line of the bottom line: will we trust God? Even in the midst of the most horrific circumstances, Habakkuk (and we) can rejoice and have true joy in the Lord. We can just refuse to care about the circumstances, and leave it all in the hands of our Savior, our strength.

 

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Habakkuk 2 – The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord

Chapter 2 starts with Habakkuk looking for an answer to his complaints, and he seems to know he’s going to be rebuked. Yet the Lord never looks to silence his people’s complaints, or they wouldn’t be so commonly found in the Bible. The Lord expects our complaints because we are finite, pathetic, sinful little creatures who naturally think our perspective on the nature of things is justified and true. They aren’t, but only so when they are in agreement with the Living God. And if we trust in the goodness of his character and the power of his might, that won’t be a problem. We also find it difficult to see life with an eternal perspective. We so latch on to our present and its circumstances as if they were eternal. They are not. We should strive every day to capture Paul’s perspective on this life:

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

The Lord then tells Habakkuk to “Write down the revelation (i.e., his answer) and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.” God’s words will surely come to pass, and he wants everyone to know. This is not some hidden, Gnostic oracle available only to the few, but something made known to all of humanity, as we now know. Then we read these words of contrast that have become famous  in the history of Christianity:

“See, the enemy is puffed up;
    his desires are not upright—
    but the righteous person will live by his faith—

Three times we read references to such righteousness in the New Testament, twice in Paul and once in Hebrews. And it was Paul’s words to this effect in Romans 1 that Luther latched on to, “The righteous will live by faith,” and that precipitated the Reformation. Since I’ve come to define faith as, “trust based on adequate evidence,” I take this thought to be trust in the character and person of the living God. If we put our hope and trust in anything else, we are like the enemy here, puffed up and with distorted desires. And remember a very important point, this is being said in the context of God’s righteous judgment against sin, both against Israel and her enemies, with Christ and the gospel always as it’s backdrop.

In the midst of the Lord’s rebuke to the enemy, the Lord says these beautiful and comforting words:

13 Has not the Lord Almighty determined
    that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire,
    that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?
14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.

Keep in mind these words were written over 2600 years ago! Every nation that has come and gone since then thought it was eternal, that its presence and what it did carried significance for all of time and beyond. They are all dust now. Their labors are literally nothing. But look at the Lord’s prediction about his glory. Since 2600 BC when the knowledge of the Lord was limited to a small kingdom in the middle of nowhere, now the knowledge of the glory of the Lord has indeed spread throughout the earth. Billions of people all over the globe now call upon the name of the Lord. One day, though, this prophecy will be literally filled when every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the father.

The chapter ends with yet another recitation of the futility of idols. Human beings create these idols, then put their hope and trust in these created things as if they can fulfill and save them. The idols of our time, though more sophisticated, are no different. They are just as worthless. The contrast that ends the chapter is stark:

20 But the Lord is in his holy temple;
    let all the earth be silent before him.

His holy temple is where the Lord dwells, and his presence before Christ was behind an impenetrable curtain. One day his holy temple will be the entire earth, and all humanity will recognize it. Oh come Lord Jesus!

Habakkuk 1 – Habakkuk’s Complaint: God is God!

Habakkuk is another small book, only three chapters. This prophet, of whom little is known, likely lived in the latter part of the 7th century BC. In this first chapter we read that the Lord has appointed the Babylonians to bring judgement and “sweep across the whole earth.” The name Judah doesn’t appear anywhere in the book, but from all the other prophets we know it was Babylon that laid siege to Jerusalem and destroyed it in 587 BC. But Habakkuk is not happy about this. His first words are a common theme in Scripture, a complaint:

How long, Lord, must I call for help,
    but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
    but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
    Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
    there is strife, and conflict abounds.

I have to say yet again as it seems I’ve said a thousand times, I love that the Bible reads like a real story, and not a made up one. It has verisimilitude (the appearance of being true or real) in spades. If you’re writing a made-up story, why make God so distant, or so impervious to the demands of his creatures. He never seems to act like we would want or expect him too. If the God of the Bible we’re a made-up God, he would act like a figment of the desires of human nature. What we find is that he does exactly the opposite of these desires! I repeat this powerful apologetic point: Human beings would not make up this God!

And who hasn’t felt like Habakkuk? Lord, how long must I call for help and you do not listen? This doesn’t make God look very good. No wonder many people get to the point of thinking, well, then you just must not be there after all. But the Bible is never afraid of the atheists winning because God does what he does in his own good time because . . . . he’s God!

The Lord’s answer to Habakkuk is that he will be bringing Babylon in judgment against his people, and it will be horrific. It may take God a while before he acts, because he is merciful and gracious, but when he does, he does.

Then Habakkuk has a second complaint. First it’s, why don’t you judge sin, Lord, then it’s, how could you use a horrible nation like Babylon to execute your judgment? He knows this is all ordained of God, but how can it be? He also knows the Lord’s character is perfect and beyond reproach:

13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
    you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.
Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?
    Why are you silent while the wicked
    swallow up those more righteous than themselves?

In Habakkuk’s mind these two just don’t go together. In the rest of the chapter he wonders if this will ever stop. In all of history it has always been true that those with the might have made right, that the will to power has appeared sovereign and unstoppable. But we know that every nation that has made claims to such power in blood and destruction has come to ruin. Hitler’s thousand year Reich lasted 11 years. Soviet totalitarian communism lasted 70. Even the Roman Empire finally crumbled at 800 years. As we learned in Daniel, God is providentially sovereign over all human affairs, and he even uses sinful human beings deserving of judgment to execute his judgments. We, like Habakkuk, may not like it, but that is why he is God and we are not!