Tag: Habakkuk

Faith Triumphs

Habakkuk 3:1-19

A prayer of praise and adoration set to music – know that because of closing instruction v.19. Shigionoth? Used only 2x, here and Ps. 7:1, word whose meaning is lost to us. Do know what prophet said in his prayer song, can benefit from his clear expression of faith in God.

Keep in mind Habakkuk’s experience: didn’t understand his circumstances, what God was doing… if anything. Asked questions of only one with answers, God, did so repeatedly… until he got answer. Which provoked more questions, and God answered again. Notice God didn’t tell Habakkuk everything, did tell him enough to reassure and faith took care of the rest.

Important lesson from Habakkuk – cannot rely on what we see in the present… in our immediate circumstances… to keep us encouraged. To know God as he is revealed in Bible is to know Story of Hope – God has plan, is moving that plan forward without hindrance or deviation, will bring plan to completion right on time. True regardless of how Israel’s captivity in Babylon would appear, how condition of church in America today appears. Habakkuk’s questions are valid, his prayer exemplary – song of praise for God’s person, power, purpose, closes with proclamation of his faith in God.

A. praise for God’s person v.1-3

awesome

has heard God’s answers to his questions, they are credible because has “heard” reports of God’s activities in the past

in light of God’s past actions, prophet certain what God has just promised will indeed happen… and is hard news to hear

is overwhelmed with fear and awe by what will come next – knows what God intends is good… ultimately, yet still afraid of what that means along the way

at same time prophet not afraid of God – still has confidence to address, make requests, expect positive response

life-giving

future survival of God’s people completely dependent in God giving / maintaining life – means God will need to do mighty works again

is particularly obvious to prophet given what God has revealed of his plan – succession of world powers something only sovereign God can orchestrate

Habakkuk convinced God will do it, prays that will at least begin during his lifetime – wants to see God moving like before

merciful

God not like humans, doesn’t have problem with aim – never misses his target, never any unintended consequences – God always precisely achieves his objective

yet Habakkuk waves white flag, don’t forget we’re in here – in pouring wrath on enemies, show mercy to embedded friends

prophet knows are enemies of God mingled in covenant community, perhaps family / friends – be merciful to them

also knows all are sinners, deserve judgment for their sin – prays God will be merciful again / still to his imperfect people

majestic

God’s majesty strikingly obvious in deliverance from Egypt to Canaan – not working “behind the scenes” as he does sometimes

was surely obvious to children of Israel – pillar of cloud / fire; fire/smoke/trumpet on Sinai; Moses’ face; glory in tabernacle

God’s reputation for fearsome majesty went ahead of Jews – Rahab, “we heard how…”, would continue during conquest

advance of God’s majesty over / through earth, praise by people in every part of globe still in process today… will continue until completion at 2nd coming

B. praise for God’s power v.4-7

glorious

God pictured as powerful warrior, think Jesus at Transfiguration: Matt. 17:2His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.”

parallels with Daniel’s “Son of Man” vision, Dan. 7:9-10, 13-14; John’s vision of ascended Christ Rev. 1:12-16

just as nothing equals glory of light in all its forms, nothing can thwart display/power of lightning, God’s power is glorious and invincible

one exception to all that, God’s glory – if put on unlimited display would put everything else into shade

sometimes veiled

only shown in brief bursts, creation would be a big one – is unseen force that powers everything else, makes things hold together (see Heb. 1:3)

God’s answers to Habakkuk’s questions plus insights / explanations given in Bible help grasp that God actively doing far more than might think, using power in unseen ways

adds to confidence God using his power for good of his people even when circumstances appear otherwise, even contradictory

rules nature

earth and its communities may be where Satan exercises his power and deception, but don’t forget: Satan is not in charge

Satan’s saying he would give Jesus kingdoms of world did not mean he had authority or power to do so; his control over demons, people, nature defined / limited by God

remember Job, Satan asking permission – ability to deceive is even more restricted now, presence of full canon, Holy Spirit, church in more of world

is all-powerful sovereign Lord who rules and uses all means he chooses, from macroscopic to microscopic to accomplish his purpose to redeem a people to himself

universal and eternal

God preparing to act, sizes up the situation – his sizing up, measuring, encompasses whole earth… something only Creator has ability to do

God’s moving in judgment or blessing may be particularly targeted to location, at same time has entire world in view

geopolitical boundaries, land forms, everything on face of earth, even earth itself is subject to God’s pleasure and purpose

God always has more than just this generation or dynasty or administration in view – his plan literally all-encompassing, including time

C. praise for God’s purpose v.8-16

God prepares for battle

three rhetorical questions: was it unruly forces of nature that provoked God to respond in anger? quick answer: no!

something else has roused God to action, preparing weapons to use against his enemies – not literal picture of how God acts, yet in a way it really is

remember God’s purpose as revealed to Habakkuk – complained about Assyrians, God told him would use Babylonian army to carry out next stage of his plan… then again and again (see Dan. 11)

good time to pause / reflect (Selah) on what Habakkuk has prayed – and reflect on how principles might apply to current hot spots in the world… Syria, Iraq e.g., who / how God might be moving

creation responds

even in current state, under God’s curse because of sin, created order still responds properly to God’s presence – oh that mankind would learn and do likewise

were examples in Israel’s history of things like described here: crossing Red Sea (Ex. 14), Jordan River (Josh. 4); Joshua and battle with Amorites (Josh. 10)

just as creation “cooperated” with God on his preparation / march in battle, would do so in future on behalf of Israel… and throughout rest of history

God marches in judgment and deliverance

God pictured as the one acting, remember he works through means – earthly kings / kingdoms / armies as well as nature

God not happy with enemies, in fact will begin their experience of just judgment often in this life – indignation, anger, wrath

God’s purpose not solely justice / judgment – is at same time working out deliverance of his people from their enemies… earthly and spiritual

the prophet trembles, yet hopes

fearsome picture of God’s wrath and judgment the prophet comes away with… and rightly so – Jesus was serious, Matt. 10:28“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Habakkuk has utmost confidence in God’s promise – can quietly, patiently wait for day of deliverance, certain it will come

D. proclamation of faith in God v.17-19

faith not subject to circumstances

keep in mind: Jewish economy dependent on local agriculture – what Habakkuk describes is total devastation, would cause unbelievable hardship / suffering

total crop failure or destruction, nation at risk of mass starvation… and more – yet, no matter how rough it gets, Habakkuk still confident in God’s deliverance

that kind of faith has as sole focus / object God – aware of circumstances but not enough to be overwhelmed by them

source of joy

not just faith / confidence in God that brings joy, is God himself who gives joy to his people… esp. during tough times

joy is what we experience when we acquire or expect to receive something good – looks beyond present circumstances

and strength

nothing in Habakkuk’s circumstances could provide strength, would only sap it – must look outside self / situation for strength

because God is good, life-giving, all-powerful, he is never-ending source of strength for his people in their circumstances

sharing in his triumph

won’t live in the valley forever – like psalmist, may pass through valley… to the high hills and victory over enemies

like everything else, will be God’s doing – “he will make…” – and he gets all praise and glory for who he is, what he does

“In the book of life’s questions, the answers are not in the back.” Charlie Brown In book of life, not all questions have answers God intends to give to us. He intends we should be satisfied with knowing he knows the answers, will help us to know all that is good for us. Will be enough for us to have full confidence in God and his plan.

Wait for It

Habakkuk 2:2-20

Have to wonder if Habakkuk maybe having second thoughts. Started out by asking God: why are you not responding, why is there so much evil in the world, why is there no justice. Amazingly, God responded, letting Habakkuk know he was not asleep but preparing to do something unbelievable. When Habakkuk grasped what God really meant, was even more perplexed… bordering on outrage. Then he goes after God: how can you be who I think you are and answer this way? How can you tolerate kinds of things you say you hate? What in the world are you trying to do? and how should I respond to all this?

Job had opportunity to say “oops, I spoke out of turn” at end of conversation with God. Perhaps Habakkuk as he stood in his place in watchtower thinking maybe had gone too far, now in trouble with God. Yet God responds graciously but firmly. Issues series of 5 “woes” – declaring his condemnation of the proud, greedy, dishonest, violent, sensual, idolaters. iow, the Babylonians… and by extension all who think / act like them.

Really only one facet of whole situation, and is comforting / encouraging… as far as it goes. Is good news that God will at some point deal with enemies. But meantime, what about those experiencing all that evil behavior… directed at them? How can they endure hard times, will they survive, how can they possibly recover from God’s hand of correcting discipline?

God answers that, too. Makes three strong statements in v. 4, 14, 20 giving Habakkuk and all the faithful in all generations reassurance they need: (1) the just (righteous person) shall live by his faith; (2) knowledge of God’s glory will fill the earth; (3) God is on his throne. Not new ideas, not only or even last time God said these things to his people. Together, prompted Habakkuk to break out into beautiful hymn of praise and worship, consider that next time DV.

A. the just shall live by his faith v.2-4

this is important – make it plain, write it big (2)

what comes next God intends for more than just Habakkuk – expects it to be recorded and communicated to others

when God says “write it down”, is important – will need reminder, go back and re-read; need accuracy / reliability more than word of mouth provides

needs to be written plainly – large and clear enough so is not difficult or confusing to read – good penmanship, large enough to see without glasses

also communicate plainly – message easy to comprehend and remember – messenger needs to spend time / effort delivering message, not struggling to figure it out

wait for it (3)

earlier Habakkuk had to wait for God to answer – now God answers, again, quickly, but… waiting not over yet

vision is real, prophecy is accurate, like others it has appointed time – when time comes, so will fulfillment as promised

just like God himself… never early, never late, acts at precisely right time – our task to wait for it, expectantly, in hope

instant results increases desire for instant results – God intends period of waiting to build faith, encourage faithfulness

it’s for the humble, not the proud (4)

God makes clear distinction / contrast between the proud, swelled up, and righteous – implied that proud will not survive

otoh, righteous / just person has a hope – this kind of person trusting in another for deliverance, not relying on self

proud person credits quick/instant results to own abilities, control – humble willing to actively wait in dependence on wise God and his timing / methods

faith in God / God’s faithfulness to his people the winning combination

common rendering of Hebrew: “the just/righteous one shall live by his faith”; alt.: “the just/righteous one shall live by My faithfulness” (LXX)

LXX: Hab. 2:4ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεώς μου ζήσεται” Paul: “Ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται”

both are true, both are essential… our faith in God and God’s faithfulness to us – is God’s faithfulness to his promises that gives life and deliverance; our faith in God the conduit by which those things are made real to us

is delay between promise and fulfillment that display / reinforce both faith and faithfulness remember commendation

Heb. 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

received promises – saw from distance – had assurance – made them their own ==> lived by them (confessed…) – died (by them) in faith

B. knowledge of God’s glory will fill the earth v.5-14

what fills the earth now?

Babylon not identified by name, character traits do fit – by inspiration of Holy Spirit left non-specific because applies universally… individuals, corporations, nations

stealing (5-8) – one of those paradoxes: one who pursues satisfaction never finds / achieves it; in fact, cannot be satisfied

unrighteous pursues the “stuff” thinking it will satisfy yet righteous knows is only pursuit of God that truly satisfies

on some level unbeliever knows won’t work, at least for the other guy – expresses it “what goes around comes around”

rejoice in other fellow’s misfortune, remain convinced they are just a little smarter / faster / stronger, and it’ll work

they don’t factor in God’s promise of condemnation and consequences for one who pursues / practices that lifestyle

coveting (9-11) – another example of wrong worldview / thinking: just a little bit more and will be safe from disaster

nation that practices expansionism; business that tries to diversify; individual focused on investments, exercise, medical advances expecting to escape harm

another example of trusting in things for protection that cannot produce – they make promises but cannot deliver

they will learn to their shame that in world governed by God they can never build nest high enough to be out of God’s reach

righteous person knows, based on past history both biblical and personal, God delivers even the lowest from disastser – shield them in it, remove them out of it, change circumstances around them

murdering (12-13) – empire building at whatever scale w/o consideration for well-being of ones working to make it happen

railway to nowhere – 1250 miles, all but 40 miles completed – 120,000 at any given time, working by hand on Stalin’s impossible dream – total loss of life est. 300,000; most buried w/o coffins, only number tag

has occurred countless times, continues in present world, scale from individual to national yet not unnoticed by God

according to God’s plan all of those kinds of efforts ultimately bring empty results, will go up in smoke

but not for always (14)

if that were where story ended, all of us might as well just give up, live out days as best we can in hopeless desperation

doesn’t end there, have second declaration from God – life for the godly in this world far from hopeless, discouraging

spin the globe, poke with finger – wherever it lands, there God’s glory will be known… because of how He intervenes in affairs of mankind to bring about his intended outcome

not simply that God shows up, everyone sees bright light – is that God shows his glory by his works on behalf of his people

C. God is on his throne v.15-20

those who don’t care about God (15-17)

think they can live how they please with impunity – need not give consideration to God, his standards, Invictus

even more, work to drag others down to own depraved level – practicing / seeking to involve others in pursuing sensual pleasure… degrading / demeaning everyone involved incl. themselves

drunkenness the particular evil in view – could just as easily be any kind of substance abuse, pornography, sex trafficking

God’s promise: evil they have done to others will fill their own cup – even if is delay, justice will eventually prevail

those who worship false gods (18-19)

like other places (Isa. 44:10ff, e.g.) God points out the utter ridiculousness and futility of worshiping idols of human making

God rightly condemns those who do so… because they really know better – even total fool knows wood / stone don’t live

whether have literal molded image or not, Babylonians in particular, all the ungodly in general have some kind of idol

God rules, God wins, redemption will come (20)

why does sensuousness not satisfy, why does worship of idols not bring good results? because God is in his holy temple

regardless of how it looks at any given time / place / circumstances… reality is faithful God is in his temple

where was God when Columbine, 9/11, tsunami, lost job, divorce, parent/spouse/child died – answer: in his holy temple

hard as it may be, like Habakkuk and saints commended in Hall of Faith… must wait for God’s plan to play out according to his design and timing… while embracing his promises and living in light of them

Masai story

It is a Masai elder who tells the story. It comes from the book, CHRISTIANITY REDISCOVERED, in which the Roman Catholic missionary, Vincent Donovan, shares his discoveries as he worked among the Masai people in Tanzania, just south of Kenya. Donovan had been working among the various communities of the Masai for many months. It was difficult work, and at times, his faith faltered.

At one point, Donovan spoke with a Masai elder about the agony of belief and unbelief. In their conversation, the Masai elder pointed out that the word Donovan had been using in Swahili to convey the word “faith” was not a very good word in their language. The word they were using for “faith” meant literally, “to agree to.” Donovan acknowledged that he knew the word was not a good one to translate the word “faith.”

The Masai elder said that to believe like that was similar to a white hunter shooting an animal from a great distance. Only his eyes and his finger got into it. The Masai elder then said that for one to really believe is more like a lion going after its prey. The lion’s nose and ears sense the prey. He sniffs the air and locates it. Then he crouches, and slithers along the ground virtually invisible. We have never seen lions do this, but we have seen our cats. Same lineage, apparently. A cat thinks it becomes invisible as it stalks the prey. The lion gets into position, and when everything is optimum, the lion pounces. All the power of his body is involved and as the animal goes down, the lion envelopes it in his arms, pulls it to himself, and makes it a part of himself. This, said the elder, is the way one believes, making faith a part of oneself!

Donovan nodded in complete agreement, almost overcome with the elder’s wisdom. But the elder was not done yet. The old Masai became thoughtful. Then he said to Donovan: “We did not search you out, Padri. We did not even want you to come to us. You searched us out. You told us of the High God. You told us we must search for the High God. But we have not done this. Instead, the High God has searched us out and found us! All the time we think we are the lion. In the end, the lion is God!”

I’m So Confused!

Habakkuk 1:12-2:1

Habakkuk struggling with serious questions / issues, both for himself and others. Had repeatedly asked God for answers, finally hears reply. Probably initially excited – “you just watch and see what I’m going to do!” Relief, hope, encouragement, all sorts of positive emotions while he listens to rest of God’s message to him. Then realized God was finished speaking. Had said nothing about humiliating, defeating, destroying Chaldeans… Impact of God’s message began to register in Habakkuk’s mind, left him more confused than before – thought he knew God’s character, understood well enough to know what to expect… this wasn’t it.

Focus of Habakkuk’s attention shifts from circumstances, how God might intervene and change them, to God himself. Basic plea changes from “help me understand what’s going on” to “help me understand you”. Already Habakkuk’s spiritual maturity growing, beginning to have better grasp on what he really needs to know. Far more important for him and us to know and understand God to limits of our ability. Circumstances are secondary – is when we know God that can see him at work in / through circumstances. Significant element in every test God gives his people: bringing them to greater / more intimate knowledge of him.

Rather than being able to move on, Habakkuk thoroughly puzzled / confused / mystified by what has just heard. Spurs another series of questions, this time about God. Important to keep in mind: questioning God not necessarily evidence of lack of faith. Habakkuk’s faith was under fire, he desperately wanted to keep it… without playing games – no denial, equivocation, rationalizing, mysticism. Was doing exactly right, seeking help from one best able to give it… God himself.

Habakkuk not questioning God simply because thought he was best source of information. Was significant personal relationship between Habakkuk and God – “my God”, “my holy One”. YHWH the one he had chosen as his hope, the one who promised to be deliverer of his people Israel. Stakes were huge for Habakkuk personally and for his countrymen – was vital they have right understanding of God, what he was doing. Especially so for Habakkuk in role as spiritual leader.

A. help me understand your character v.12-13a

eternal

only way could be truly eternal is if at same time is eternally unchanging – he believed that but… having hard time reconciling that truth with current and promised events

knew that in trying to make events / statements by God match up with divine character, definition and description of God could not change – must make sense of things another way

God’s knowledge could not change either – had full grasp of all details from beginning, didn’t get blind-sided by Chaldeans

so… God not reacting to world events here, rather is carrying out his eternal purpose and using surprising means for it

Holy One

Habakkuk almost certainly acquainted with Isaiah’s prophecy, 200 + years earlier – term Isaiah used 25x to refer to God

title that should give hope to believers – close association between Holy One and Messiah, Holy One and deliverance

instead of delivering, God has just promised captivity… and didn’t mention any exceptions – would be exile for all Israelites

faithful

certainly any reasonable Israelite would acknowledge God had been faithful to his covenant from beginning – maybe not on preferred timetable, yet he had come through

no good cause to doubt his continued faithfulness – in fact, was basis of genuine hope, that God would indeed keep promises

problem was understanding means God intended to use – evil people doing evil things toward Jews of all people, how they could survive threat looming on horizon

just

Habakkuk did understand a lot of what God had told him: knew God intended to bring judgment down on his people

also recognized Chaldeans would be instruments of God’s choice to carry out threatened judgment, punishment, correction

Habakkuk knew all that was deserved – never questioned whether judgment was proper, was method he had hard time with

pure

this one still gives people headache – God is absolutely pure and holy, is impossible for him to look with approval on evil and wrongdoing

yet God has made it plain that once again evildoers will play significant role in his plan… and was a lot about it that didn’t look very good

how can it be that what God has promised can all go down in way he stated without God somehow being author of sin?

no wonder Habakkuk struggling to fit all pieces together in way that gave God proper honor, maintained hope in God’s plan of redemption… for all his people

B. help me understand your actions v.13b

since all this is true about God’s character: he is eternal Holy One who is faithful, just and pure – what explains his actions? Remember, Habakkuk coming from limited human perspective, what it appears to him God is doing

tolerating treachery

if God truly cannot approve wrongdoing, how can he tolerate evil practiced by pagan Chaldeans? esp. involving deception

forget the Chaldeans, what about Assyrians? had been dealing traitorously for generations… and God done nothing to stop

silent about injustice

Habakkuk not minimizing sinfulness of his people, yet did certainly look like Assyrians and Chaldeans more evil than Jews

warfare as practiced by superpowers in that day definitely not pleasing to God, were far more outrageous in idolatry

in face of all this wickedness, God not saying anything to Israel’s enemies – no prophets, no clear signs from heaven

tacit permission to do evil

seemed to Habakkuk that by his silence, God giving enemies permission – hadn’t moved or spoken to stop them

does not remove responsibility from evildoers – natural revelation including conscience enough to convict them of sin

C. help me understand your purpose v.14-17

even human beings (at top of food chain) dependent on God for all things including life

no more able to protect themselves from aggression of superpower than school of fish can avoid being trapped in net

is what Israelites were facing not many years hence – Chaldeans would come, skim off cream of leadership crop, then come back for more, and more

God’s chosen instruments have no regard for human life

human life considered cheap and expendable – probably for the best that Judah could not put together defending army

short of divine intervention, Assyrians and Chaldeans would have made mincemeat of them, then done what they wanted

no regard for God their maker, instead worshiping gods of own making

picture Habakkuk paints: wicked people use devices of own making to reap harvest of God’s producing, then worship what they made instead of God who made their harvest

two things stand out: utter foolishness of idol worship, profound insult to true God when worship due him given elsewhere

how can good God have good purpose in allowing that to continue?

hard for Habakkuk (and us) to grasp how increasing propagation of evil can bring glory to God and good to others

even when we understand big picture, God wins in the end and is glorified in both justice and mercy, what about now?

what good purpose can our good God have in the evil that takes place now… to us… and loved ones, how can that further his redemptive purpose?

D. help me understand how to respond v.1

not solely intellectual exercise

wasn’t for Habakkuk, shouldn’t be for us either – knowledge for sake of itself tends to pride, not increased love for God

wanted answers from God so he could understand God better, know how to respond in his circumstances so as to please God

should be goal of all our quests for knowledge – end result should be further equipping for holiness, Christ-likeness

worldview needs tweaking

notice Habakkuk’s line of reasoning – he questioned, God answered; he questioned again, God will answer again; he will wait expectantly… and expects response from God that will change his mind

knows he must be missing some things, expects God to fill in blanks for him, help him connect dots in right order

his worldview basically sound: has right authority, right categories, many right details – how things line up needs adjusting

and… needs to be able to see further past the present – Habakkuk lacked hugely important resource… rest of special revelation, few OT and all NT writings

impact on daily life

Habakkuk needed reassurance – straighten out confusion, reassure him that he was thinking mostly right about God, situation

Habakkuk needed hope – world events not looking promising for Israel’s future – wanted God to reinforce hope he had

Habakkuk needed help – to properly interpret God’s word, God’s ways, circumstances – needed to accurately see where God was at work when it looked like he was silent / inactive

when he had been reassured and faith strengthened, when hope renewed and reinforced, when worldview had been corrected, then…

could do better at giving God praise and glory he deserved

could give firm basis for hope to other believers

could be more useful to God as a witness – helping others see God’s purpose

could make more God-honoring decisions on daily basis

I’m So Confused!

Habakkuk 1:12-2:1

Habakkuk struggling with serious questions / issues, both for himself and others. Had repeatedly asked God for answers, finally hears reply. Probably initially excited – “you just watch and see what I’m going to do!” Relief, hope, encouragement, all sorts of positive emotions while he listens to rest of God’s message to him. Then realized God was finished speaking. Had said nothing about humiliating, defeating, destroying Chaldeans… Impact of God’s message began to register in Habakkuk’s mind, left him more confused than before – thought he knew God’s character, understood well enough to know what to expect… this wasn’t it.

Focus of Habakkuk’s attention shifts from circumstances, how God might intervene and change them, to God himself. Basic plea changes from “help me understand what’s going on” to “help me understand you”. Already Habakkuk’s spiritual maturity growing, beginning to have better grasp on what he really needs to know. Far more important for him and us to know and understand God to limits of our ability. Circumstances are secondary – is when we know God that can see him at work in / through circumstances. Significant element in every test God gives his people: bringing them to greater / more intimate knowledge of him.

Rather than being able to move on, Habakkuk thoroughly puzzled / confused / mystified by what has just heard. Spurs another series of questions, this time about God. Important to keep in mind: questioning God not necessarily evidence of lack of faith. Habakkuk’s faith was under fire, he desperately wanted to keep it… without playing games – no denial, equivocation, rationalizing, mysticism. Was doing exactly right, seeking help from one best able to give it… God himself.

Habakkuk not questioning God simply because thought he was best source of information. Was significant personal relationship between Habakkuk and God – “my God”, “my holy One”. YHWH the one he had chosen as his hope, the one who promised to be deliverer of his people Israel. Stakes were huge for Habakkuk personally and for his countrymen – was vital they have right understanding of God, what he was doing. Especially so for Habakkuk in role as spiritual leader.

A. help me understand your character v.12-13a

eternal

only way could be truly eternal is if at same time is eternally unchanging – he believed that but… having hard time reconciling that truth with current and promised events

knew that in trying to make events / statements by God match up with divine character, definition and description of God could not change – must make sense of things another way

God’s knowledge could not change either – had full grasp of all details from beginning, didn’t get blind-sided by Chaldeans

so… God not reacting to world events here, rather is carrying out his eternal purpose and using surprising means for it

Holy One

Habakkuk almost certainly acquainted with Isaiah’s prophecy, 200 + years earlier – term Isaiah used 25x to refer to God

title that should give hope to believers – close association between Holy One and Messiah, Holy One and deliverance

instead of delivering, God has just promised captivity… and didn’t mention any exceptions – would be exile for all Israelites

faithful

certainly any reasonable Israelite would acknowledge God had been faithful to his covenant from beginning – maybe not on preferred timetable, yet he had come through

no good cause to doubt his continued faithfulness – in fact, was basis of genuine hope, that God would indeed keep promises

problem was understanding means God intended to use – evil people doing evil things toward Jews of all people, how they could survive threat looming on horizon

just

Habakkuk did understand a lot of what God had told him: knew God intended to bring judgment down on his people

also recognized Chaldeans would be instruments of God’s choice to carry out threatened judgment, punishment, correction

Habakkuk knew all that was deserved – never questioned whether judgment was proper, was method he had hard time with

pure

this one still gives people headache – God is absolutely pure and holy, is impossible for him to look with approval on evil and wrongdoing

yet God has made it plain that once again evildoers will play significant role in his plan… and was a lot about it that didn’t look very good

how can it be that what God has promised can all go down in way he stated without God somehow being author of sin?

no wonder Habakkuk struggling to fit all pieces together in way that gave God proper honor, maintained hope in God’s plan of redemption… for all his people

B. help me understand your actions v.13b

since all this is true about God’s character: he is eternal Holy One who is faithful, just and pure – what explains his actions? Remember, Habakkuk coming from limited human perspective, what it appears to him God is doing

tolerating treachery

if God truly cannot approve wrongdoing, how can he tolerate evil practiced by pagan Chaldeans? esp. involving deception

forget the Chaldeans, what about Assyrians? had been dealing traitorously for generations… and God done nothing to stop

silent about injustice

Habakkuk not minimizing sinfulness of his people, yet did certainly look like Assyrians and Chaldeans more evil than Jews

warfare as practiced by superpowers in that day definitely not pleasing to God, were far more outrageous in idolatry

in face of all this wickedness, God not saying anything to Israel’s enemies – no prophets, no clear signs from heaven

tacit permission to do evil

seemed to Habakkuk that by his silence, God giving enemies permission – hadn’t moved or spoken to stop them

does not remove responsibility from evildoers – natural revelation including conscience enough to convict them of sin

C. help me understand your purpose v.14-17

even human beings (at top of food chain) dependent on God for all things including life

no more able to protect themselves from aggression of superpower than school of fish can avoid being trapped in net

is what Israelites were facing not many years hence – Chaldeans would come, skim off cream of leadership crop, then come back for more, and more

God’s chosen instruments have no regard for human life

human life considered cheap and expendable – probably for the best that Judah could not put together defending army

short of divine intervention, Assyrians and Chaldeans would have made mincemeat of them, then done what they wanted

no regard for God their maker, instead worshiping gods of own making

picture Habakkuk paints: wicked people use devices of own making to reap harvest of God’s producing, then worship what they made instead of God who made their harvest

two things stand out: utter foolishness of idol worship, profound insult to true God when worship due him given elsewhere

how can good God have good purpose in allowing that to continue?

hard for Habakkuk (and us) to grasp how increasing propagation of evil can bring glory to God and good to others

even when we understand big picture, God wins in the end and is glorified in both justice and mercy, what about now?

what good purpose can our good God have in the evil that takes place now… to us… and loved ones, how can that further his redemptive purpose?

D. help me understand how to respond v.1

not solely intellectual exercise

wasn’t for Habakkuk, shouldn’t be for us either – knowledge for sake of itself tends to pride, not increased love for God

wanted answers from God so he could understand God better, know how to respond in his circumstances so as to please God

should be goal of all our quests for knowledge – end result should be further equipping for holiness, Christ-likeness

worldview needs tweaking

notice Habakkuk’s line of reasoning – he questioned, God answered; he questioned again, God will answer again; he will wait expectantly… and expects response from God that will change his mind

knows he must be missing some things, expects God to fill in blanks for him, help him connect dots in right order

his worldview basically sound: has right authority, right categories, many right details – how things line up needs adjusting

and… needs to be able to see further past the present – Habakkuk lacked hugely important resource… rest of special revelation, few OT and all NT writings

impact on daily life

Habakkuk needed reassurance – straighten out confusion, reassure him that he was thinking mostly right about God, situation

Habakkuk needed hope – world events not looking promising for Israel’s future – wanted God to reinforce hope he had

Habakkuk needed help – to properly interpret God’s word, God’s ways, circumstances – needed to accurately see where God was at work when it looked like he was silent / inactive

when he had been reassured and faith strengthened, when hope renewed and reinforced, when worldview had been corrected, then…

could do better at giving God praise and glory he deserved

could give firm basis for hope to other believers

could be more useful to God as a witness – helping others see God’s purpose

could make more God-honoring decisions on daily basis

 

Ultimate Questions

Habakkuk 1:1-11

Coming closer to end of Book of the Twelve, number eight in order. Also approaching end of reprieve before Israel’s time in exile. Was a tumultuous time in world history – various nations competing for resources. Natural resources, trade routes, markets just as significant then as today. Then throw in religious component – desire on part of few powerful figures for power, ultimately desire to be worshiped. Had long been the way of it in Egypt, followed by Assyria and married to strong agressive military. Babylon carried on tradition, later Romans would follow suit: Caesar and Roman legions uniting the empire under mandate of Caesar-worship.

Israel’s location made her vulnerable to action by political powers from all sides. Israel’s spiritual condition made her vulnerable to action by God. Habakkuk struggling to understand current events in light of what he knew about God. Given what he could observe how could God possibly move his redemptive plan forward? And how could Habakkuk keep the faith in an increasingly hostile environment? Was a man of God whose faith was under fire.

A. who is he v.1

prophet

but in reverse: people => God rather than God => people – usually think of prophet bringing word from God to people

without being asked, Habakkuk took questions weighing heavily to God seeking answers, God graciously condescended

not the first time had sought answers – “how long must I cry for help” – apparently Habakkuk had done much more praying than God had done responding… until now

likely that Habakkuk’s knowledge base / experience previously not sufficient to process God’s answers – possible his faith not strong enough before

inspired author

don’t know his family or family tree, vocation in life, place of residence – all we know for certain contained in these 3 chapters

two votes of confidence for its authenticity – first, was sufficiently received as word of God that has been included in canon

second: prophet is quoted 6 times in NT, in 2 places quoted as Scripture: “what has been spoken in the prophets” Acts 13:40ff; “as it is written” Rom. 1:17

we are pretty confident of when Habakkuk lived – v.6 of our text, “I am raising up the Chaldeans”, iow the Babylonians

prior to 605 BC when Daniel & friends captured, taken to Babylon; probably during time of Josiah (640-609 BC), before revival during his rule

thinker

name means “to embrace” or “to wrestle” – does both during course of formal conversation with God

not going through life mindlessly – putting great mental effort into trying to make sense of what he could see happening

wrestling with what he knew of God, his character and his decrees – otoh what he knew of his countrymen, their sinfulness

then add to that what was brewing on the world stage… and God’s explanation for it – had a lot to sort out, come to terms with, would impact many relationships

man of faith

his faith is under fire… from own personal mental / spiritual struggles – could also have been challenged by contemporaries

skeptics – if there was good God, things wouldn’t be like this; others who wanted to know truth, expected him to have answer

Habakkuk comes out of it with faith intact – chapter 3 declares the triumph of his faith: confidence that God has not abandoned his plan of redemption even when circumstances would dictate otherwise

important lesson for us: shouldn’t judge success or failure of God’s plan by nightly news – that is backwards, faith-destroying

must start with what God has declared his plan and purpose to be, then see how current events may fit into it

second important lesson: Habakkuk was satisfied with answer God gave… by both its content and its extent – didn’t quarrel with God about methods, didn’t ask for more detail than God was willing to give

B. what’s his problem v.2-4

three basic questions troubling Habakkuk, keeping him awake nights

why is God unresponsive? (2)

not matters of preference but of principle that are so troubling to Habakkuk… and should be problem for God as well

Habakkuk doing the right thing, calling out to God for help… repeatedly… continually… over extended period of time

also taking prophetic / pastoral responsibility seriously – interceding on behalf of others, for their benefit not his own

not a criticism of God, rather a cry for help… begging God to help him understand God’s purpose in what is happening

always appropriate to ask for understanding, then help to use that understanding properly… and be satisfied with amount God gives – some things beyond ability, some things not good for us to know

understanding gives foundation for hope – more than anything else Habakkuk grew in understanding of God and his character

also reminded of truth that just because can’t identify what God is doing does not mean he is not at work – means you cannot recognize or perceive God’s hand in motion

why is there so much evil in the world? (3)

two questions, really – why is there so much evil, why do you force me to look at it — relate to God’s purpose… for Habakkuk… for his “neighbors”

does God have purpose in evil that surround? if so, help me understand that purpose, how good can possibly come from it

problem of evil not simply pain and suffering that results, the injustice – more important, evil is absolutely contrary to God’s nature, total opposition to redemption

come to another question – as practices of evil and evildoers multiply, how can God redeem a people from them?

and for the prophet, what good can come from the grief of watching evil increase while standing by powerless to change it

Habakkuk sets amazing example here: surrounded by, confronted by things at every step are hard for “Christian” to observe

basically watching every one of 10 Commandments broken repeatedly, flagrantly, with impunity, leaving pain and suffering and destruction in their wake

and he has not become desensitized to suffering – doesn’t look without seeing, rationalize, use any tricks to avoid having to deal with it

in fact, more of evil and its consequences we see, more troubled we should be, more diligent to counter it best we can

why is there no justice? (4)

given as statement rather than question, yet reasonable to think Habakkuk struggling with why this was true

God is just, expects his people to be just and act in just ways, and injustice is all around…why? must be that law is powerless

and he has already asked God why he didn’t intervene, assumes (rightly) that explains failure of justice system

Habakkuk is right: civil govt by itself no match for evil – best system of justice in world only as good as people involved

as mankind in a given culture becomes more depraved, institutions (family, church, state) follow suit… until God moves

so question really is why has God allowed injustice to continue and increase to such a degree? what good purpose in that?

rampant injustice causes lost to question existence of good God even more loudly – how is that good for evangelism?

need not look far to find examples of injustice in abundance – all of Habakkuk’s concerns / questions could be asked today

C. how does God respond v.5-11

watch and learn (5)

this has to be one of most exciting and encouraging statements God ever made: just watch, I am going to do something unbelievable

would be bragging, except is totally true… because God will make good on promise – first unbelievable part… God’s side of conversation with Habakkuk

had lots of hard news for Habakkuk – not a kid, not unlearned, understood much of what this prophetic burden would mean for himself and his countrymen

God’s answer to him perfectly suited to his need – provided comfort / reassurance / hope – was paying attention, does have a plan, will not lack power or resources

Habakkuk didn’t need to know all details, wouldn’t help him a lot anyway – he could trust God in all things, even this

change is coming (6)

Assyrians still superpower but losing power – had annexed Israel, harassed Judah, but had not invaded and subdued it

plenty of hard stuff because of Assyrians, Judah’s leadership in serious decline, God’s plan factored all that in

would not only be change in circumstances for Jewish people, clash of powers would result in new superpower, Babylon

would be surprise to bystanders, not easily explained how smaller vassal state would be the undoing of Assyrian power

Battle of Carchemish, 605 BC, Egypt and Assyria against Babylon and allies – battle still studied in military colleges, strategy supplied by God

it gets worse before it gets better (7-11)

Habakkuk gets fair warning – evil was by no means over, injustice not necessarily done with, Babylonians not choir boys

frightening, terrifying in their tactics, supplied with superior military equipment, would be a blitzkrieg – lightning fast

motivated by evil desires, no respect for authority, determined to do whatever they please and not allow anything to hinder their advance and conquest

worst of all, are just as committed, perhaps more so, to idol-worship than Assyrians – for Babylonians, their own strength was their god

played out in Nebuchadnezzar’s day, statue built for worship… of him – and they would be tools God used to refine his people, the Jews

Now Habakkuk had something really tough to chew on… until next week! How could God use an agent so incredibly evil to do his work? against his own people, no less? We know rest of the story – didn’t end with Babylon. And God’s plan doesn’t end with what is happening right now – ends with return of Lord Jesus, when injustice will finally end, evil will be confined to lake of fire. Just like Habakkuk, we can / should have confidence that God is faithful, has a plan to redeem all his people without exception, he will succeed in carrying out his purpose… for our good and his glory.