Habakkuk: The God Who Answers

Habakkuk’s Context: The prophetic ministry of Habakkuk likely takes place several decades before the Exile. He witnessed the Chaldeans rise to a regional superpower and their subsequent conquest of the surrounding nations (1:6; 2:15-17). The situation in Israel was dire and it would only get worse as the Chaldeans grew in strength. At this point in redemptive history, evil was so widespread that it caused the prophet to question the character of God.

Habakkuk’s Message – Theological Theme(s): The theological themes of Habakkuk are best understood in light of the structure of the book. First, the book opens with the prophet lamenting and asking God two questions. Although the modern reader may not be surprised to discover that God answered the prophet, the author is apparently amazed. Two primary questions are raised in the prophet’s laments:

1. Why does God allow evil to go unpunished (1:2-4)?

2. Why would God uses an evil nation (the Chaldeans) to judge/punish Israel (1:12-17)?

The answers to these questions provide a basis for two of the book’s theological themes. First, God is not passively allowing sin to go unpunished. At the core of God’s character is His holiness, which means that He is always perfect, consistent, and is not the author of sin. However, from a human perspective it may appear that He is inconsistent when sin goes unpunished, or so we think. God’s answer makes it clear that He is providentially at work in human history, and He will certainly judge sin. God’s second answer produces an equally important theme—you must wait in faith for God to act. We cannot demand that God act according to our plans. Instead, we are to live by faith in the character and promises of God.

The promise that God would deliver His people, surprisingly, did not devolve into doubt but instead led to worship. The prophet’s worshipful response to God’s answers is expressed in the final chapter as a hymn (confession) of praise for God’s deliverance. This confession is illustrative of worship performed in faith. The prophet is praising God for deliverance although it will only come to pass after judgment. Faith is manifested in praise to God amidst judgment: “yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (3:18).

habakkuk blog

Significance of Habakkuk’s Message for Christians:

1. God is actively and providentially working to move human history to its final consummation.

2. God’s people are called to trust in His character and nature.

3. Our response to God’s revelation should be worship.

Habakkuk 2:1-4 (ESV) I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint. And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.

Habakkuk in the New Testament:

Habakkuk            New Testament  

1:5                          Acts 13:41

2:3-4                      Romans 1:17

2:3-4                      Galatians 3:11

2:3-4                      Hebrews 10:37-38

Further Study in Habakkuk: The Five Woes (2:6-20) (full scriptural citation below)

1. Those who profit from dishonest transactions will not go unpunished (2:6-8)

2. Those who enrich themselves through evil gain will not go unpunished (2:9-11)

3. Those who build a community on evil and oppression will not go unpunished (2:12-14)

4. Those who promote and enable drunkness and lewdness will not go unpunished (2:15-17)

5. Those who create and promulgate false religions will not go unpunished (2:18-20)

God is aware of the sinful activities of fallen humanity; nothing is hidden from the LORD. However, if the atheist is right and there is no God then all the above behaviors may go unpunished. That is, if these guilty offenders get away with their heinous acts in this life they will never face the consequences of their evil. Without God, there can be no certainty that justice will be served.

Most, if not all, of the sins listed in Habakkuk 2:6-20 may describe aspects of our character or actions. However, there is good news for the one who is justified by faith. Read Romans 1:16-17 and Galatians 3:10-14 and reflect on the mercy of God in Christ toward unworthy and rebellious people.

Habakkuk 2:6-20 (ESV) Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him, and say,

“Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own—
    for how long?—
    and loads himself with pledges!”
Will not your debtors suddenly arise,
    and those awake who will make you tremble?
    Then you will be spoil for them.
Because you have plundered many nations,
    all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you,
for the blood of man and violence to the earth,
    to cities and all who dwell in them.

“Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house,
    to set his nest on high,
    to be safe from the reach of harm!
10 You have devised shame for your house
    by cutting off many peoples;
    you have forfeited your life.
11 For the stone will cry out from the wall,
    and the beam from the woodwork respond.

12 “Woe to him who builds a town with blood
    and founds a city on iniquity!
13 Behold, is it not from the Lord of hosts
    that peoples labor merely for fire,
    and nations weary 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.

15 “Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink—
    you pour out your wrath and make them drunk,
    in order to gaze at their nakedness!
16 You will have your fill of shame instead of glory.
    Drink, yourself, and show your uncircumcision!
The cup in the Lord‘s right hand
    will come around to you,
    and utter shame will come upon your glory!
17 The violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you,
    as will the destruction of the beasts that terrified them,
for the blood of man and violence to the earth,
    to cities and all who dwell in them.

18 “What profit is an idol
    when its maker has shaped it,
    a metal image, a teacher of lies?
For its maker trusts in his own creation
    when he makes speechless idols!
19 Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake;
    to a silent stone, Arise!
Can this teach?
Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver,
    and there is no breath at all in it.
20 But the Lord is in his holy temple;
    let all the earth keep silence before him.”

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