Notes on Habakkuk
His name means "Embracer."
Date: probably about
600 BC. (Samaria fell to the Assyrians is 722 BC. Nineveh fell in
612, Nebuchadnezzar defeated Egyptians at Carchemish
in 605 BC, 160 years after Jonah's visit there. Invasion of Judah by
Nebuchadnezzar, 597 BC. Fall of Jerusalem, 585 BC).
The Prophet Cries out to God
in Prayer. The sad state of affairs in Israel.
Invasion by a vastly more powerful adversary is at hand and has been ordained.
1:1 The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw. 2
O LORD, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, 'Violence!' And You will not
save. 3 Why do You show me iniquity, And cause me to see
trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; There
is strife, and contention arises. 4 Therefore the law is powerless, And justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the
righteous; Therefore perverse judgment proceeds.
but it's not what Habakkuk expected. The Babylonian invaders now at the very
gates are cruel, and violent. They make their own laws and overrun cities
wherever they go:
5 'Look among the nations and watch-- Be utterly astounded!
For I will
work a work in your days Which you would not believe, though it
were told you. 6 For indeed I am raising up the
Chaldeans Babylonians), A bitter and hasty nation Which
marches through the breadth of the earth, To possess dwelling places that are not
theirs. 7 They are terrible and dreadful; Their
judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves. 8 Their horses also
are swifter than leopards, And more fierce than
evening wolves. Their chargers charge ahead; Their
cavalry comes from afar; They fly as the eagle that hastens to eat. 9 'They all
come for violence; Their faces are set like the east
wind. They gather captives like sand. 10 They scoff at kings, And princes are scorned by them. They deride every
stronghold, For they heap up earthen mounds and
seize it. 11 Then his mind changes, and he transgresses; He commits offense, Ascribing
this power to his god.'
reaction is bewilderment. Who can stop the Babylonians and how can justice ever
come out of this?:
12 Are You
not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O LORD, You
have appointed them for judgment; O Rock, You have marked them for correction. 13
You are of
purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on
wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal
hold Your tongue when the wicked devours A person more righteous than he? 14 Why do You make men like fish of the sea, Like creeping things that have no
ruler over them? 15 They take up all of them with a hook,
They catch them in their net, And gather them in their dragnet. Therefore they
rejoice and are glad. 16 Therefore they sacrifice to their net, And burn incense to their dragnet; Because by them their
sumptuous And their food plentiful. 17 Shall they therefore empty their
net, And continue to slay nations without pity?
resolves to watch and wait:
2:1 I will stand my watch And
set myself on the rampart, And watch to see what He will say to me, And what I
will answer when I am corrected.
Habakkuk a message to be distributed far and wide. It applies to the distant
future (the end times):
2 Then the LORD answered me and said:
'Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who
reads it. 3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for
it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry. 4
'Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But
the just shall live by his faith.
Verse 2:4b is a key verse in the entire Bible. It is quoted in
Romans (1:17), Galatians (3:11) and Hebrews (10:38-39). Martin Luther's
discovery of this verse led him to realize that men are made righteous in the
sight of God by their faith in Him. This lead to the
Protestant revolution against the Roman Catholic Church of that day.
Paul in Galatians uses the same verse to show that the righteous man (who has
been made righteous by his faith)--will live (and by implication, the man who
is without faith in Jesus--will die). In Hebrews, the writer says that those
who are righteous shall continue to live all of their lives by faith. Saving
faith is not a one-time choice of the will. "He who endures to the end
will be saved."
Note the five
woes against evil human behavior:
'Indeed, because he transgresses by wine, He is a proud man, And
he does not stay at home. Because he enlarges his desire as hell, And he is like
death, and cannot be satisfied, He gathers to himself all nations And heaps up
for himself all peoples. 6 'Will not all these take up a proverb against
him, And a taunting riddle against him, and say,
him who increases What is not his--how long? And to him
who loads himself with many pledges’? 7 Will not your creditors rise up
suddenly? Will they not awaken who oppress you? And you will become their
booty. 8 Because you have plundered many nations, All the remnant of the
people shall plunder you, Because of men’s blood And
the violence of the land and the city, And of all who dwell in it.
9 'Woe to him who covets evil gain
for his house, That he may set his nest on high, That he may be delivered from
the power of disaster! 10 You give shameful counsel to your house,
Cutting off many peoples, And sin against your soul. 11 For the
stone will cry out from the wall, And the beam from
the timbers will answer it.
12 'Woe to him who builds a town
with bloodshed, Who establishes a city by iniquity! 13
Behold, is it
not of the LORD of hosts That the peoples labor to
feed the fire, And nations weary themselves in vain? 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 gives
drink to his neighbor, Pressing him to your bottle, Even to make him drunk,
That you may look on his nakedness! 16 You are filled with shame instead
of glory. You also--drink! And be exposed as uncircumcised! The cup of the
LORD’S right hand will be turned against you, And utter
shame will be on your glory. 17 For the violence done to Lebanon will cover you, And the plunder of beasts which made them afraid, Because of men’s
blood And the violence of the land and the city, And of all who dwell in it. 18
'What profit is the image, that its maker should carve it, The
molded image, a teacher of lies, That the maker of its mold should trust in it,
To make mute idols?
19 Woe to him who says to wood,
‘Awake!’ To silent stone, ‘Arise! It shall teach!’ Behold, it is overlaid with gold
and silver, Yet in it there is no breath at all. 20
But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.'
A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet,
according to Shigionoth. O LORD, I have heard
the report of thee, and thy work, O LORD, do I fear. In the midst of the years
renew it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.
God will come from Teman, and the
Holy One from Mount Paran (i.e., from Sinai and Edom;
His glory will cover the heavens, and the earth will be full of his
praise. Selah. His brightness is like the light, rays flash from his hand; and
there he will veil his power. Before him goes pestilence, and plague follows
close behind. He will stand and measure the earth; he will look and shake the
nations; then the eternal mountains will be scattered, the everlasting hills
sink low. His ways will be as of old. I see the tents of Cushan
in affliction; the curtains of the land of Midian tremble. Is your wrath
against the rivers, O LORD? Is your anger against the rivers, or your
indignation against the sea, when you ride upon thy horses, upon your chariot
of victory? You will strip the sheath from thy bow, and put the arrows to the
You will cleave the earth with rivers. The mountains will see you,
and writhe; the raging waters sweep on; the deep gives forth its voice, it
lifts its hands on high. The sun and moon stand still in their habitation at
the light of your arrows as they speed, at the flash of your glittering spear.
You will stride the earth in fury, you will trample
the nations in anger. You will go forth for the salvation of your people, for
the salvation of your anointed. You will crush the head of the wicked (one),
laying him bare from thigh to neck. Selah.
You will pierce with your shafts the head of his warriors, who come
like a whirlwind to scatter me, rejoicing as if to devour the poor in secret.
You will trample the sea with your horses, the surging of mighty waters.
I hear, and
my body trembles, my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones,
my steps totter beneath me. I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come
upon people who invade us. Though the fig tree do not blossom, nor fruit be on
the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the
flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will
rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is
my strength; he makes my feet like hinds' feet, he makes me tread upon my high
places. (Habakkuk 3:1-19)
The Hebrew Prophetic
Future Verb Tense
Verb tenses are not as clearly specified in the Hebrew language as
they are in English. In a number of prophetic passages of the Old Testament the
verbs are commonly translated as past tense in our English Bibles. However, the
prophetic future tense can equally well be used. (Note: When the Hebrew letter waw is added
before a word it means "and." When added as a suffix it means
before a verb indicates a change of the tense of the verb from past to future
and vice versa (a verb in the past tense with a waw in front of it is to be
understood as future tense).
Notice in the passage quoted below
how the words of the prophet Habakkuk take on new meaning for the end of the
age if one switches the verb tenses from past tense to future.
lived just before Nebuchadnezzar's siege and destruction of Jerusalem and the
Second Temple so he was downhearted and grieved because God was bringing great
Israel against the chosen people through a foreign people of even great
wickedness. It was a dark hour for history similar to the hour that Israel
faces in our own time, so Habakkuk's words and prayers applied both to his
immediate situation. Yet his prayer would seem to apply equally well to the end
of the present age:
Note: Habakkuk said: "The vision will speak in the end," as
all true words from God do. When Jesus Christ returns He will come from Bozra/Petra brining with him the Jews from the remnant who
fled Jerusalem at the mid-point of the Tribulation (see Matthew 24:15-22). His
garments will be spattered by the blood of His enemies, see Revelation 19:13
and Isaiah 63). Jewish believers down through the centuries will be resurrected
from the dead and brought to Petra where the Great Shepherd will separate
believers from nonbelievers. As the Greater Moses, Jesus will bring all of the
Jews who are true believers with him when he returns to stand on the Mount of
Olives, Zechariah 14. See also http://ldolphin.org/shepherdking.html
for more details.
Jewish Encyclopedia: Originally, the
name of a tribe and then of a district of the Edomites. In Biblical genealogy
it is the name of the eldest son of Eliphaz, the
first-born of Esau, and one of the "dukes" of Edom (Gen. xxxvi. 11,
15, 42; I Chron. i. 36, 53). The genealogy here noted
proves that Teman was one of the most important of the Edomite
tribes, and this is confirmed by the fact that "Teman" is used as a
synonym for Edom itself (Amos i. 12; Obad. 9; comp.
Jer. xlix. 20, 22; Hab. iii. 3). The Temanites were famed for their wisdom (Jer. xlix. 7; Baruch
iii. 22); Eliphaz, the oldest and wisest of the
friends of Job, is described as a member of this tribe (Job ii. 11 et passim).
Teman is referred to in Obad. 9 as a part of
the mount of Esau, while Amos i. 12 mentions it in
connection with the Edomitic "palaces of
Bozrah"; Ezek. xxv. 13 speaks of it in contrast
to the southern boundary Dedan. The "Onomasticon"
of Eusebius (260, 155) mentions a region called Thaiman,
in Gebalene (the Gebal
of Ps. lxxxiii. 8 [A. V. 7]), and thus in the
district of Petra, noting also an East Teman, a town with a Roman garrison
fifteen (according to Jerome, five) miles from Petra.E. C.
HABUKKUK: HISTORY IS IN GOD'S HANDS
by Ray C. Stedman
The name Habakkuk means "embracer," not in the romantic
sense, but in a comforting sense and this is a great book of comfort. Comfort
in probably the most distressing problem that human beings have to face: the
great question of why God allows certain things to happen. I do not know any more
up-to-date and relevant question than that one. As you read through this
prophecy of Habakkuk you will discover that the problem he wrestled with and
eventually learned the answer to -- thus becoming a comforter and embracer of
his people in their distress -- is exactly the problem that you and I wrestle
with today. For the prophet lived in a time very similar to
our day -- a time when everything was going wrong. He lived when there
was great national corruption and distress, when the nation and land was filled
with violence, with hatred, and with outbreaks of evil. His distress is
reflected in the opening phrases of the book (chapter 1, verses 1-4):
The oracle of God
which Habakkuk the prophet saw.
O Lord, how
long shall I cry for help,
and thou wilt not hear?
Or cry to thee
and thou wilt not save?
Why dost thou make me see wrongs
and look upon trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law is slacked
and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked
surround the righteous,
so justice goes forth perverted. (Habakkuk 1:1-4
Doesn't that sound like today? Why, Habakkuk says, does he have to
cry "Violence!" and hear no answer? Here is the great problem of
unanswered prayer. Here is a man who is disturbed about his nation. He sees
everything going wrong. The people are living in wickedness; there is unrest,
violence, injustice and oppression throughout the land. Those who have the
responsibility to correct this do nothing about it. When the whole matter is
brought before the courts, the courts themselves are corrupt. So Habakkuk is
He is a man of God and he knows that the thing to do with a problem
is to take it to God -- and he has been doing that. He has been praying about
his problem. But he does not get any answer. So his perplexed heart in
bewilderment cries out, "Lord, how long do I have to keep this up, crying
out to you like this? You do nothing about it. I have been watching for a
change, watching for an outbreak of revival, watching for something to happen,
yet nothing happens. How long must I continue?"
Have you ever felt that way? Look around at our nation and you can
see everything breaking up, the shaking of long-standing foundations, people
turning away from the faith and questioning things they never questioned
before. People are expressing doubts, even outright unbelief, in circles where
doubts have never been expressed before. Have you been praying for loved ones,
wanting to see God change them and reach their lives, and nothing happens? This
is the problem of unanswered prayer. It is a great problem and it perplexes the
But now God answers Habakkuk. The amazing thing about this prophecy
is that it is not addressed to the people at all. Rather, this is a dialogue
between a man and God. That is why it is so up-to-date. Every one of us is
named Habakkuk and each of us faces this problem from time to time. God answers
Look among the
nations, and see;
wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
that you would not believe if told.
(Habakkuk 1:5 RSV)
In other words, God says, "I have been answering your prayer,
Habakkuk. You accuse me of silence, but I have not been silent. You just do not
know how to recognize my answer. I have been answering but the answer is so
different from what you expect that you will not even recognize it or believe
it when I tell you. But let me tell you what it is." Then God goes on
(verse 6 ff):
For lo, I am
rousing the Chaldeans,
that bitter and hasty nation,
who march through the breadth of the earth,
to seize habitations not
Dread and terrible are they;
their justice and dignity
proceed from themselves.
Their horses are swifter than leopards,
fierce than the evening wolves;
their horsemen press proudly on.
Yea, their horsemen come from afar;
like an eagle swift to devour.
They all come for violence;
of them goes before them.
They gather captives like sand.
At kings they scoff,
and of rulers they make
They laugh at every fortress,
for they heap up earth and
Then they sweep by like the wind and go on,
whose own might is their god! (Habakkuk 1:6-11 RSV)
Does that sound like anyone you know? You could substitute the
communists, or, in the last generation, you could have replaced Chaldeans with
Nazis. Here is God's answer to the prophet's problem: God says that he is
preparing to raise up this nation of the Chaldeans.
Now at the time Habakkuk wrote, the Chaldeans were not an important people.
(Another name for Chaldeans is the Babylonians.) These names are used
interchangeably in the Old Testament but at the time the prophet wrote, the
great nation that frightened all the other nations and ruled
as the great tyrant of the world of that day was the Assyrian nation. Their
capital was Nineveh, referred to in previous prophecies.
But here is a little nation that is beginning to rise up in world
history and God says to the prophet, "I am behind this. These people are a
very strange people. They are bitter, hostile, ruthless and cold-blooded. They
are going to be as powerful as any nation on earth has ever been and they will
sweep through lands conquering everything, and it will look as though nothing
can stop them. These people will not have any god at the center of their life.
They believe that their own might is their god, and they trust in their own
strength. I am behind the rise of this people, and this is the answer to your
Now that is a little astounding, isn't it? Evidently Habakkuk did
not know what to make of this. There is a moment of silence here and then he
begins to reflect. If he thought he had a problem to start with, he really has
one now. Now he is batting in the major leagues when it comes to problems, for
how will God solve the original one by creating such a major problem as this?
This is what bothers many people as they look at what is happening
in the world. The thing that has threatened the faith of many has been the
problem of history. Why does God allow things to happen the way they do? Why
does he permit such terrible events to occur in human history? I recently saw
the results of a survey of the questions that non-Christian students were
asking on campuses around our country. Number one on the list was: "How
can a just or loving God allow men to suffer? Why would God create us and then
allow disease and starvation and all those other terrible things?"
Now there are many who ask that question today and many whose faith
is actually faltering because of this. They are saying, "How can this be?
What kind of a universe do we live in?" Of course, others are quick to
supply an answer. They say, "Well, the answer is that there is no God and
it is no use thinking there is one. We are living in a machine-like universe,
with ponderously clanking gears, and nobody really knows what makes it operate.
Chance put it all together. You only fool yourself when you imagine a father
image out of the desire of your heart, and you call it God."
The reason they say this is because of the apparent inactivity of
God. That is one of the mysterious things about God, isn't it? The poet,
William Cowper, said, "God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to
perform." And the ways of God are full of mystery to us. We have to
recognize that there are times when we just cannot understand how God is
moving. It does not seem to make sense, and the instruments he chooses are
sometimes so out of the ordinary. God is so unorthodox. He is always doing
things the wrong way, and picking up the wrong people and operating in the most
surprising fashion. One of the things that you learn about God after you live
with him for a while is that he is always doing the unexpected. It is not
because he delights to puzzle us, but because the variety of
his workings are so infinite that our feeble human minds cannot grasp
Now that was the problem that afflicted Habakkuk. He was puzzled by
this strange silence and then when he heard how God was moving, he could not
understand that either. But now he does a very wise thing and the next section
of this book is a most important passage because it tells us how to handle this
kind of a problem. What do you do when you are confronted with this sort of a
threat to your faith? When you see what looks like inaction on God's part and
then maybe you see that he is acting, but in a way that seems utterly
unbelievable, what do you do? One of the great needs in our Christian life is
to understand the method of approaching problems like this. And the method can
be outlined very simply. There are four very simple steps and as we go on you
will see how the prophet follows them through.
First of all, stop and think. Do not react emotionally to the
problem. Do not let panic grip you, or some terrible fear come over you. Stop
and think. All right, think about what? Second, restate to yourself the basic
things you know about God. Do not try to solve the problem immediately. Back
away from it and begin with God. Go back to what you know about God and his
character as it has been revealed to you in revelation and by experience. Then,
take what you know about the character of God and bring it to bear on the
problem. That is the third step. And finally, if you have not come to an
answer, leave the rest with faith in God and ask him to show it to you. That is
Notice how the prophet does this. First, he starts thinking about
God (verse 12):
Art thou not from
O Lord my God, my Holy One?
We shall not die.
(Habakkuk 1:12 RSV)
Habakkuk has reminded himself of some great things in that
statement, "Art thou not from everlasting?" The first thing that he
thinks about is that the God he knows is an everlasting God. God sits above
history He is greater than any span of human events. He created history. He is
from the beginning and he is at the end. He preceded the beginning; he lasts
beyond the end. He is the God of eternity. That is the first thing the prophet
reminds himself of. When these Chaldeans come, they will trust in their own
might as their God. "Oh, yes," Habakkuk says, "but my God is not
like that. My God is not one of these localized tribal deities. He is the God
who covers history, who himself governs these events, the everlasting
Second, the prophet reminds himself that God is the self-existent
one because he uses a very special name for God. He says,
Art thou not from
O LORD my God? (Habakkuk 1:12a RSV)
When the word "Lord" is all in capital letters as it is
here, it is a translation of the Hebrew word for Jehovah. Jehovah means "I am that I am." The great name that God
revealed to Moses when he was in Egypt. At that time he said to him, "Go
down to Egypt and tell Pharaoh that 'I am that I am' sent you." (Ex. 3:14)
Do you know why Habakkuk reminded himself of this? Because there were people in
his day going around saying that God was dead. There always are. There is
absolutely nothing new in this. Let us get rid of this egotistical idea that we
are the first generation that has had any problems. They have happened to all
the people before us. There is nothing new. While people went around saying
that God was dead, Habakkuk went right back to what he had learned about God.
God is self-existent and cannot die. It is impossible for a self-existent
person to die. "I am that I am."
Third, Habakkuk reminds himself of the holiness of God. "My
Holy One." Now what does holiness mean? I dare say most of us use this
word without any idea of what it means. Does it mean that he is some sort of a
fearsome being and that we had better be careful not to get too close to him
because he is holy? No, holiness is wholeness, completeness; it is being a
whole person. It means essentially that God is consistent with himself. He is
always what he is. He is never anything different, never a phony. He never
pretends or puts on. That is holiness.
You can find this reflected all through the Scriptures -- the unchangeability of God. The writer of Hebrews says,
"Thou, Lord, didst found the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are
the work of thy hands...they will be changed. But thou art the same, and thy
years will never end." (Hebrews 1:10-12) Jesus Christ, the same yesterday,
today and forever. With him there is no shadow of turning, no changeability at
After the prophet reminds himself of this, he immediately adds these
words, "We shall not die." What does he mean? He is thinking of the
fact that God has made a covenant with Abraham. God promised Abraham that he
would raise up a nation that would forever be his
people and that he would never allow them to be eliminated from the earth. The
prophet is reminding himself of that, in the face of this fearsome threat. The
Chaldeans are going to come rolling across this land. He will see his own
beloved Jerusalem ravished and captured and his people led away into captivity.
But there is the reminder that God is not going to let the worst happen. They
will not die. They will not be eliminated. God's faithfulness remains. He is
So the prophet comes now to a conclusion that settles at least the
first part of his problem. He says (verse 12):
O LORD, thou has ordained them as a judgment;
and thou, O Rock,
hast established them for chastisement. (Habakkuk 1:12b RSV)
"Now I understand why you are raising up the Chaldeans; it is
your way of waking my people up to their folly, to their awful stupidity in
turning away from you. They think they can live without you, and yet how many
times have you sent prophets to them, pleading, begging and reminding them of
your word? You have poured out blessing after blessing upon them, and still
they go on in their senseless folly, taking it all for granted, thinking they
can go on living without you. Now I see what you are doing. You are raising up a people to shock them into reality, to awaken
and chastise them. I understand this now."
Is there any question that God does this in history? Doubtless this
is why the Nazis were allowed to come so suddenly to power, to ravish Europe
and then be suddenly struck down again. It was to awaken the Western world to
its greediness, its covetousness, its wickedness, and to its departure from the
things of truth and of God. God is saying something through this. He is shaking
the nations. This is God's pattern throughout history.
Then the prophet says, "I see that, but now I have another
problem." He goes on (verse 13):
Thou who art of
purer eyes than to behold evil
and canst not look on wrong,
dost thou look on faithless men,
and art silent when the wicked swallows
the man more righteous than he? (Habakkuk 1:13 RSV)
And Habakkuk goes on to describe the wickedness of the Chaldeans.
"Now," he says, "I can see how you are raising up this nation to
punish these people, but I don't understand this. Despite the wickedness of my
own people, they are not as bad as these Chaldeans. How is it that you are using
a wicked, godless, ruthless people like this to punish your own people? This I
don't understand." Have you ever heard that? Have you ever heard anybody
say, "It is true that America has problems, and maybe are kind of a wicked
people, but we are not as bad as the Communists (or the Nazis, or whoever else
might be our enemies at the time). God won't let these
people take over here, because after all, they are far worse than we are."
So the prophet says, "I don't understand this." And since
he does not know what to do, he follows the fourth step; he just leaves the
problem with God. Now that is a very wise thing to do because out human minds
do not grasp all the intricacies of history. There is so much that we do not
understand. So at this point many people say, "It must mean there isn't
any God" or "God is not like the Bible says he is" or "I
can't believe this. If God won't explain to me what he is going to do, I can't
believe in him any longer."
But the prophet says, "Well, I don't understand, but then you
are mightier than 1, and I will just wait for you to reveal it to me."
Notice how he begins chapter 2:
I will take my
stand to watch,
and station myself on the tower,
and look forth to see what he will say to me,
and what I will answer
concerning my complaint. (Habakkuk 2:1 RSV)
That is a wise thing to do. First, Habakkuk says that he is going to
get away from the problem for awhile. "I am going
to leave the matter with God and wait for him to take the next step. I have
gone as far as I can. I have reasoned from the character of God. I know that he
has eyes purer than to look upon evil. He does not like evil. He has no
complicity with it. I know that. And yet he is raising
up these evil people. I don't understand, but I will let God explain it to me
and I will wait for an answer."
Can you do this? When you bring a problem to God and explain it all
to him in prayer, do you get up and start worrying about it again? (How is this
going to work out? What do I do next?) That is the thing that defeats us so many
times. But the prophet leaves it there. He says, "It is up to you."
And the Lord
"Write the vision;
make it plain upon tablets,
he may run who reads it." (Habakkuk 2:2 RSV)
In other words, "Habakkuk, I am going to tell you the answer.
Now I want you to write it down and I want you to write it so plainly that
anyone who reads it will be able to immediately tell the answer abroad, spread
it all over the land." Then God adds these significant words (verse 3):
the vision awaits its time;
It hastens to the end -- it will not die.
If it seem slow, wait for it;
it will surely
come, it will not delay." (Habakkuk 2:3 RSV)
God is saying, "Habakkuk, this isn't going to happen right
away. There is going to be a lapse of time, but it will come." This is the
character of God's revelation. First God says that an event will happen. Then
he says, "Don't you worry about what happens in between. Even though it
looks like everything is going wrong, what I have said will happen is going to
happen, and if it seems to delay, wait for it. It will come."
Then God goes on to state a principle that is quoted three times in
the New Testament and forms the basis for the greatest movements that God has
ever had among human beings. He says these words (verse 4):
whose soul is not upright in him shall fall,
but the righteous shall
live by his faith." (Habakkuk 2:4 RSV)
These words are quoted in the New Testament in Romans, Galatians,
and Hebrews This is the word that lit a fire in the heart of Martin Luther,
"The righteous shall live by faith." Not by circumstances or by
observations or by reasoning, but by faith in what God has said will happen.
In these words the prophet is shown that there are only two possible
outlooks on life. There are only two attitudes by which we can face life.
Either we face it in faith depending upon God, or we face it in unbelief
depending upon our own ability to reason out everything. These are the two
fundamental attitudes, and they are the only two. You can only have one or the
other. If you look around you will see that every human being on the face of
the earth can be put into one of these two categories. Either they are trusting
in the wisdom of the human mind to study events and arrange solutions, and they
try to analyze the writings of clever men and come to conclusions about human
events based on these sources, or they take what God has said and believe that
when he has said a thing will happen, it will happen and that all of history
converges into and hinges on that promise.
Now that is the difference between a man of faith and a man who
lives by his reason. One of the saddening things to me is to see how many
Christians are being trapped into actually living by reason, and by the
cleverness of the human rational processes, in the name of Christianity. There
are many who say that the job of the church is to organize people who are
disadvantaged in some way so they can exercise political influence and power,
bringing pressure to bear on the leaders of the nation to correct abuses, and
that this is the Christian thing to do. Now I am not suggesting that it is
wrong to help people in need. This is entirely right, as God leads. But the processes of depending upon pressure blocks and picket lines and so
on is not even remotely Christian. That is not what the word of God says
to do at all. In contrast, look at the stories of the men and women in the
eleventh chapter of Hebrews How did they change the world of their day? It says
that they endured as seeing one who is invisible. They were not expecting man
to do anything. They were expecting God to work and God always did work. As he
worked, things began to change, and the history of that kind of working is the
amazing success story of men and women who stopped the mouths of lions, subdued
kingdoms, toppled thrones, won empires and changed the course of history by
faith -- not by counting on man to work but on God.
Throughout the rest of the chapter, then, there is a very
interesting analysis of the Chaldeans and what God plans to do with them. To
summarize, God says to the prophet, "Now Habakkuk, don't you worry about
the Chaldeans; it is true that I have purer eyes than to behold evil and it is
also true that I am raising up this people to judge the nation of Israel, but
in turn I will judge the Chaldeans. The very thing in which they trust will
prove to be their downfall. Their very gods will overthrow them." And he
pronounces five woes on these people (verse 6):
"Woe to him
who heaps up what is not his own (Habakkuk 2:6b RSV)
[Woe to the man
who lives by the philosophy,
"I will get everything I can and it
doesn't matter how I do it."]
Woe to him who
gets evil gain for his house,
to set his nest on high,
to be safe
from the reach of harm! (Habakkuk 2:9 RSV)
[Woe to the fellow
who is devoting all his efforts towards being secure and safe in his old age.
God says that he will find the foundations pulled out from under him
everything he has invested himself in will be swept away.]
Woe to him who
builds a town with blood,
and founds a city on iniquity! (Habakkuk 2:12
[Woe to those who trust in violence to achieve
what they want.]
Woe to him who
makes his neighbors drink of the cup of his wrath,
and makes them drunk,
to gaze on their shame! (Habakkuk 2:15 RSV)
[Woe to the man
who creates fear in those around him in order to rule over them, and to gain
Woe to him who
says to a wooden thing, Awake... (Habakkuk 2:19a RSV)
[Woe to the man who
trusts in a false god, who thinks that the forces around him are able to
control him, give him life and fulfill his desires.]
Finally, in chapter 3 the prophet concludes with a most remarkable
prayer. Here he has seen his answer. God is the God of history and he is
moving; he has everything under control. The thing we need to remember is that these forces and the problems created by them are not
solved by trying to come to grips with only the immediate problem. That
is like taking aspirin to cure cancer. It will never work. No, these problems
can be solved only by the relationship of man to God. Habakkuk says (verse 20):
But the Lord is in
his holy temple;
let all the earth keep silence before him. (Habakkuk
Then he begins this mighty prayer (chapter 3, verse 2):
O Lord, I have
heard the report of thee,
and thy work, O Lord, do I fear.
midst of the years renew it;
In the midst of the years make it known,
wrath remember mercy. (Habakkuk 3:2 RSV)
Habakkuk began this book by saying, "Lord, why don't you do
something." Now he says, "Lord, be careful, don't do too much. In
wrath remember mercy. I see you are working Lord, but remember in the midst of
it that you are still a God of mercy." That is all he has to say. there is no more philosophy, no more theology, no more
arguing with God.
This prayer is one of the most remarkably beautiful, poetic passages
in all the Scriptures. Read it and see how the prophet is doing nothing more or
less than going back and remembering what God has done in the past. That is
what convinces Habakkuk that God can be trusted. He rests upon events that have
already occurred, events which cannot be questioned or
taken away or shaken in any way; the great fact that God has already moved in
human history. And this is where faith must rest. We do not live by blind
faith. We live with a God who has acted in time and space, who
has done something, who has indelibly recorded his will in the progress of
human events. The prophet looks back to God's action in Egypt when Israel was
in trouble and remembers here how God moved (verses 3, 4):
God came from
and the Holy One from Mount Paran.
glory covered the heavens,
and the earth was
full of his praise.
His brightness was like the light,
flashed from his hand;
and there he veiled his power. (Habakkuk 3:3-4
Remember how he hid his power from Pharaoh, and then flashed out in
sudden acts of miraculous intervention? The prophet says (verse 5, 6):
Before him went
and plague followed close behind,
He stood and measured the earth;
he looked and shook the nations;
then the eternal mountains were scattered,
the everlasting hills sank
His ways were as of old. (Habakkuk 3:5-6 RSV)
He remembers how the people of Israel were afflicted and in the
wilderness, and how in the land of Midian they trembled. Then he thinks of the
crossing of the Red Sea and how God made a way through the waters, and he is
reminded of how the Jordan River was rolled back when they came into the land
the deep gave forth its voice,
its hands on high. (Habakkuk 3:10b RSV)
Habakkuk recalls how at the request of Joshua (verse 11):
The sun and moon
stood still in their habitation (Habakkuk 3:11a RSV)
This is the kind of God we have. The God who actually
moves in human history to accomplish events that no man can duplicate.
As the prophet thinks of all this, his mind goes out to the greatness of God
and this is the way he concludes (verse 16):
I hear, and my
my lips quiver at the sound;
rottenness enters into my bones,
my steps totter beneath me.
will quietly wait for the day of trouble
to come upon people who invade
us. (Habakkuk 3:16 RSV)
He sees the problem and he knows it is coming. The fearsomeness of
it grips him, and he feels the pressure. But that is not all. He adds (verses
Though the fig
tree do not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of
the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like hinds' feet,
makes me tread upon my high places. (Habakkuk 3:17-19 RSV)
Have you discovered that? That though the problem remains and the
pressure is still there, there can be a strengthening of the inner man that
makes the heart rejoice and be glad even in the midst of the difficulty. That
is what Habakkuk discovered. "The Lord himself," he says, "is my
strength." And that is New Testament truth. That is the great secret of a
Christian. Not that God takes the problem away. The world is desperately trying
to find a way to get rid of the problem. But God has ordained that the problems
shall remain. "In the world you have tribulation," Jesus said,
"but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John. 16:33) 1 love the title of a book by Dr. Edman,
former president of Wheaton College. It so gloriously sums up what a
Christians' attitude should be in the midst of difficult times. Do you know
what it is? "Not Somehow, But Triumphantly." Not just getting through
it somehow, but triumphantly.
Though the fig tree do not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
the Lord, is my strength. (Habakkuk 3:17-19a RSV)
Our Father, thank you for this revelation of the great truth we find
running throughout the Scriptures, that you are the God of history. No event
takes place but that is in your program and all things are moving in
relationship to your divine kingdom. What you have said will occur will occur,
and the record of the past corroborates it, and all the twistings
and maneuverings of men will not prevent it. Lord, help us to lift our eyes to
you in the midst of our problems and remember the God of our salvation, the God
who is our strength, and thus find the answer right in the midst of affliction.
We ask that you will make us to live this way -- not somehow, but triumphantly.
We ask in Christ's name. Amen.
Title: Habakkuk: History is in God's Hands
By: Ray C. Stedman
Series: Adventuring through the Bible
Catalog No: 235
Date: August 28, 1966. http://www.raystedman.org/adventure/0235.html
Copyright © 2009 by Elaine Stedman — This material is the sole property of Ray Stedman Ministries. It may be copied only in its entirety for circulation freely without charge. All copies and/or of this data file must contain this copyright notice. This data file may not be copied in part, edited, revised, copied for resale or incorporated in any commercial publications, recordings, broadcasts, performances, displays, or other products offered for sale without the written permission of Ray Stedman Ministries. This material is from the Official Ray C. Stedman Library web site at http://www.RayStedman.org. Requests for permission to use this material or excerpts thereof should be directed to webmaster@RayStedman.org. This Copyright notice supercedes all other Copyright notices.
Copies of any message or sermon translations must be furnished to webmaster@RayStedman.org in PDF format, with contact information and qualifications concerning the translator(s) provided separately in English.