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HABAKKUK

WHEN GOD SEEMS FAR AWAY

by LARRY CORY

 

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE OF
HABAKKUK

 

1. Introduction (1:1)

2. Habakkuk's complaint #1: How long will it be before you do something about the injustice, strife, and violence that surrounds me, that I keep crying to you about? (1:2-4)

3. God's answer #1: I am going to do something; I am rising up the horrible Babylonians to deal with it! (1:5-11)

4. Habakkuk's complaint #2: Why do you allow the treacherous Babylonians to treat a nation more righteous than they like mere fish to be pulled up by their fish hooks and fishnets? (1:12-2:1)

5. God's answer #2:  Wait patiently, for Babylon will receive what she deserves! (2:2-20)

6. Habakkuk's prayer of faith (3)
a. His prayer request (3:1-2)
b. A vision of the glory of God's future coming (3:3-15)
c. Habakkuk's faith (3:16-19)

 

Introductory Information About the Book of Habakkuk

1. Habakkuk, the prophet:  We know nothing about him other than what is written in this book.

a. Verse one: "Habakkuk the prophet" His name was Habakkuk and he was a prophet.

b. His time:  From the book we can determine that he wrote before the Babylonian invasion of Judah (for it is predicted in the book) at about the time that the Babylonians were rising to power (See 1:5-11), and probably after the fall of the Assyrians.  Because neither Nineveh nor Assyria are mentioned in the book, it is likely that it was written after their fall from being the most prominent nation in the world.  So, Habakkuk probably wrote this book somewhere between 608 B.C. – the fall of Nineveh and 586 B.C. – the Babylonian invasion of Judah.  He would, then, have been a contemporary of Jeremiah the prophet.

c. His uniqueness

(1) He does not address his book to either his countrymen or to a foreign country, but his words are directed toward God.

(2) Rather than being a spokesman for God to men, he is a spokesman for men to God.  He argues the case of the righteous remnant in Judah before God.

2. Habakkuk, the book

a. The book begins with Habakkuk's doubts (1:2-4, 12-2:1) and ends with his shouts.  He has been called the Doubting Thomas of the Old Testament.

b. In the book, Habakkuk goes from little faith to great faith, and from impatience with God to patience with Him.  All of us can identify with Habakkuk's lack of faith in chapter one; and we all need to walk in the type of faith he demonstrates in the third chapter of his book!

 

THE MESSAGE OF HABAKKUK

God is often silent when we want Him to say something or do something.  Habakkuk cried out to God during a time of God's silence.  In this book, we read Habakkuk's complaints to God, God's response to Habakkuk, and Habakkuk's final conclusion.  This book will help us during those times when it does not appear that God is listening to us or paying attention to us.  If we benefit from this book, Habakkuk's conclusion will also become our conclusion as well.  In this book we will see God's patience with us when we are genuinely perplexed by his apparent lack of concern about what is happening to all of us in a sinful and unjust world.

INTRODUCTION (1:1)
"The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received."  Though Habakkuk did not start out desiring to give an oracle or a prophetic message about God's judgment on Israel, he did receive from God a prediction that He was going to judge Israel through the Babylonians. 

HABAKKUK'S COMPLAINT #1:   How long will it be before you do something about the injustice, strife, and violence that surrounds me, that I keep crying to you about? (1:2-4)

1. How long must I cry out and you do not listen or respond? (1:2)
"How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?  Or cry out to you, 'Violence!' but you do not save?"

Thought Question #1:  When have you cried out to God and felt that he was not listening?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Do you believe that it is permissible for you to cry out to God like Habakkuk did here?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Have you ever cried out to God about something over and over again and you only got more silence?  It appears to you that God is not as burdened about your needs and your concerns as you are.  Most every Christian has cried out to God on one or more occasions with Habakkuk's type of anguish.  Why God, are you not answering?  How long must I go on crying out to you like this?  It seems to us that God is indifferent to our crises or deaf to our cries.  As Dr. Jones of Moody Bible Institute observes, we know that God is not dead, but we are concerned that He is deaf. 

2. Why must I keep looking at all this injustice, strife, and violence? (1:3-4)
"Why do you make me look at injustice?  Why do you tolerate wrong?  Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.  Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.  The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted."

Thought Question:  What do you see in our country and our world that is similar to what Habakkuk complains about in these verses?

 

 

We have all felt the helplessness that Habakkuk felt here; when wrong seems to be in charge and not right.  Habakkuk was concerned about crime and sin winning in his country.  He said, "the law is paralyzed and justice never prevails."  It is appropriate for us to have similar concerns about our country.  Atheism and relativism appear to be gaining increasingly more power in the United States.  We have watched as it has taken over our universities, schools, and even our day care centers.  God and Christianity are mocked and immorality is espoused on our television sets and at our theaters.  Crime has become a growing cancer in our society.  Marriages and the family are growing steadily weaker, resulting in an epidemic of teenage pregnancies, violence, and addiction to drugs and pornography.  Habakkuk had had enough and so he cries out to God: "Why don't You do something?"  Consider those who down through the years have cried out to God with Habakkuk's depth of anguish: the African American slaves, those who were being horribly tortured and killed for their faith and convictions during the Spanish Inquisition, the Jews during the Nazi holocaust, and many more.  Was God not paying attention and hearing all of these cries throughout the years?  Does He not hear our cries?

GOD'S ANSWER #1: I am going to do something; I am raising up the horrible Babylonians to deal with it! (1:5-11)

1. I am raising up the Babylonians. (1:5-6)
"Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed.  For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.  I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own."

Thought Question:  What does God's answer to Habakkuk tell us about how God may be working today?

 

 

God tells Habakkuk to "Look at the nations."  What Habakkuk did not realize was that God was already taking action against Israel for the sin and injustice that had infested His country.  He tells Habakkuk to look at what was going on right in his time among the nations.  Among the nations there was the stirring up of one nation in particular.  That nation was Babylon, who was beginning to gain power and to conquer the surrounding nations.  In Habakkuk's time, Babylon had already been successful against the Assyrians and against Egypt.  Verse four is quoted by Paul in Acts 13:40-41.

2. The Babylonians are a terrible people who glorify only themselves (1:7)
"They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor."

At this point, Habakkuk must have thought, "How can the Babylonians bring God glory?"  The Babylonians were the very opposite of those who would bring God glory.  They were cold-hearted killers, completely independent of God, and thoroughly arrogant.

3. The Babylonians are a totally fearsome foes. (1:8-9)
"Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk.  Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar.  They fly like a vulture swooping to devour; they all come bent on violence.  Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand."

Thought Question:  What do you think that Habakkuk thought about God's answer to his cry? (You will find the answer in the following verses.)

 

 

The Babylonian armies moved rapidly, terrified their foes, and were impossible to stop.  They were far from the solution that Habakkuk had hoped for.  To Habakkuk, they were a much greater evil than what was taking place in Israel.  Here we see God using qualities which are totally the opposite of what He is like to accomplish His purposes.  For example, what is more unlike God than a vulture?  Look at other examples of the swiftness of the Babylonians in 1:6,11.  Little is more fearsome than a powerful and fierce mortal enemy which we cannot outrun.

4. They had no respect for kings or fortified cities. (1:10)
"They deride kings and scoff at rulers.  They laugh at all fortified cities; they build earthen ramps and capture them."

The Babylonians were so much more powerful than the countries they attacked that they played with the conquered kings as a cat plays with a captured mouse. See Deuteronomy 28:49,50   David Levy in "Israel My Glory" magazine describes what happened when a king was conquered by the Babylonians:  "The kings and princes were caged like animals, after which the people mocked and ridiculed the monarch, then he was decapitated."  The Babylonians were so much more powerful than the fortified cities they attacked that they defeated them easily; ruthlessly conquering them like a destructive child squashes a sand castle. See Ezekiel 26:7-12 for a description of how the Babylonians conquered a city.

5. Their god is their own strength. (1:11)
"Then they sweep past like the wind and go on— guilty men, whose own strength is their god."

The Babylonians cold-heartedly swept over the nations they conquered like a tornado uncaringly sweeping through a Midwestern town.  But, though they felt no guilt and did not in any way acknowledge God, they were not guiltless before God.  They were building up their guilt before the God they ignored. 

"whose own strength is their god."  Compare these words to Daniel 11:37-38 and Isaiah 10:12-14.  Babylonian's conquest of Israel is an exact fulfillment of the prediction made by Moses about Israel in Deuteronomy 28:49-50

HABAKKUK'S COMPLAINT #2:  Why do you allow the treacherous Babylonians to treat a nation more righteous than they like mere fish to be pulled up by their fish hooks and fishnets? (1:12-2:1)

1. Lord, because you are holy, you are right in using them to punish us. (1:12)
"O Lord, are you not from everlasting?  My God, my Holy One, we will not die.  O Lord, you have appointed them to execute judgment; O Rock, you have ordained them to punish."

Thought Question:  Habakkuk appears to have a change of heart.  Do you believe that Habakkuk has stopped his questioning of God?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Habakkuk first affirms his faith in God:  "O Lord, are you not from everlasting?"  Then, he affirms his relationship with God:  "My God, my Holy One."  Finally, he affirms his confidence that God will not wipe out Israel.  He "declares by faith that God's people will not die.  He knows the nature of the covenant-keeping God who will not allow His people to be wiped out."  "Taken from The Minor Prophets by Charles Feinberg. Copyright 1952 by Moody Press."

2. But, if your eyes do not tolerate sin, why are you silent when these wicked Babylonians swallow up people more righteous than they? (1:13)
"Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.  Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?  Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?"

Thought Question:  Habakkuk continues to question God.  What do you think about Habakkuk's questioning of God? (How could he be a prophet?  Why is his book in the Bible?)

 

 

This is one of the well-known verses in Habakkuk.  In the King James Version this verse says:  "Thou art of purer eyes then to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity."  This translation gives the impression that God cannot look at sin at all.  If this is true, Jesus Christ who is God could not have lived in this world.  Yet Jesus did live on this earth and, of course, He did see sin.  The true meaning of this verse is that God cannot look on sin with approval.  It is totally impossible for God to look on sin with favor.

The question, then, that Habakkuk asks is, "Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?"  Certainly, Habakkuk has not been the only person who has asked that question.  It is asked by the parents whose child has been murdered, by the elderly lady who just lost her life savings to a con artist, and by many more.

3. By allowing this, You have made men to be like fish in the sea to them, to be pulled up by their fishhooks and fishnets. (1:14-15)
"You have made men like fish in the sea, like sea creatures that have no ruler.  The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks, he catches them in his net, he gathers them up in his dragnet; and so he rejoices and is glad."

There is an old movie short of a fisherman fishing from an ocean beach who finds a sack with a sandwich in it.  When he bites into the sandwich a hook pierces his cheek and he is pulled into the sea.  Someone was fishing for him!  To Habakkuk, men were like this and Israel was to become like this to Babylon.  Men were like helpless fish that Babylon pulls in by the hook and the net.  Habakkuk's question is, "God, how can you allow this heartlessness to continue to take place?"

4. Then, they worship their fishnets; for, it is their fishnets that have enabled them to live their luxurious lifestyle! (1:16-17)
"Therefore he sacrifices to his net and burns incense to his dragnet, for by his net he lives in luxury and enjoys the choicest food.  Is he to keep on emptying his net, destroying nations without mercy?"

Thought Question:  How can you apply Habakkuk's complaint to your own life? (Is it okay to complain like this to God?)

 

 

These Babylonians do not worship God, but they, instead, worship their weapons of war (symbolized by fishnets).  Habakkuk cannot believe that this idolatry and blasphemy is what God wants.

5. I will watch and wait for your answer. (2:1)
"I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint."

Like a watchman at his post, Habakkuk will now wait for God's answer.  Was Habakkuk wrong in crying out to God and complaining to God as he does up to this point in this book?  Although there is nothing in the book that gives a specific answer, we will see that God does not rebuke Him as He does, for example, Job. See Job 38-41  Look at Habakkuk's complaints and I believe you will see that Habakkuk is concerned about the very same things that God is concerned about.  Habakkuk's complaints are not self-centered or full of self-pity; he is concerned about injustice, evil, violence, strife, conflict, wickedness, the breakdown of law and order, and treachery.  Habakkuk did not understand why God was not doing anything about all of this.  He was concerned about the right things; he just did not yet see that God was concerned about them even more.  Now, let us see how God responded to Habakkuk's complaints.

GOD'S ANSWER #2:  Wait patiently, for Babylon will receive what she deserves! (2:2-20)

1. Write down this revelation for it will certainly come to pass ("Though it linger, wait for it") (2:2-3)
"Then the Lord replied: 'Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.  For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false.  Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.'"

Thought Question:  What can you learn from God's answer to Habakkuk's complaints about what God's answer may be to something in your life that is troubling you?

 

 

Because God's purposes and plans are different than ours, we need to adjust to what He is doing.  Often, that adjustment means waiting until what will occur happens on His time schedule.  Abraham and Sarah did not wait for the birth of Isaac and suffered the consequences.  If you are not familiar with Abraham and Sarah, here is a description of their impatience and what came as a result of it:  Because Abraham and Sarah had not conceived the son that God had promised to them, they chose for Abraham to have a child by a maid-servant.  The child was not God's chosen child and in the end gave them much trouble.  The descendents of that child, Ishmael, were to continue to give the descendents of Abraham and Sarah trouble: "and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers." (Genesis 16:12) 

Habakkuk is told here by God to write down the revelation or prophecy about Babylon and, then, wait for the prophecy to be fulfilled.  "The deliverance was not to come immediately, but it was sure to come; the godly should wait for it.  Delay is only in the heart man; God is working out the details according to His own wise plan.  Patience was needed.  The purpose of God cannot be hastened nor can it be delayed.  It comes to fulfillment at the appointed time. "Taken from The Minor Prophets by Charles Feinberg.  Copyright 1952 by Moody Press." 

When we put all the data available to us into the computer we call our minds, we often conclude with Habakkuk that evil is winning; everything looks out of control and it looks as if there is no solution.  What is the solution?  God's got more data, and He has a bigger computer.  From His side, everything is under control and good will win out in the end.  What should we do?  Wait! See also Isaiah 40:27-31

2. The righteous will live by faith, but Babylon is arrogant and greedy; and never at rest. (2:4-5)
"See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous will live by his faith— indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest.  Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples."

Thought Question:  "The righteous will live by his faith" is a very important verse in the Bible; why do you think God says it to Habakkuk at this time?

 

 

"the righteous will live by his faith"  These words are repeated three times later in the Bible: Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; and Hebrews 10:38.  Each time it is a key verse or even the key verse in that book.  So, it can easily be said that Habakkuk 2:4 is the key verse in four books of the Bible.

The opposite of faith is arrogance.  The opposite of arrogance is also humility.  Those who come to faith are the humble or poor in spirit.  The humble are those who know of their need for God.  The Babylonians were the very opposite of those who were humble.  They were the very opposite of those whom Jesus described in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12.  They were "puffed up" and "arrogant," not "poor in spirit."  Their desires were "not upright" rather than "pure in heart."  They were "greedy" rather "hungering and thirsty after righteousness."  They were "never at rest," rather than "filled" or satisfied.  On the other hand, those who are righteous before God are those who no longer put their faith in themselves.  They have come to realize that apart from God they are sinful and empty.  They, instead, have put their trust in God for life and salvation.  Those who trust in God look to Him to bring good out in the end.  Verse fourteen describes what those who trust God believe He will do:  "For the earth will be filled with knowledge of God."

Habakkuk was questioning why it was that sin and wickedness appear to be winning.  He was struggling with his faith in God.  This whole book of Habakkuk and particularly Habakkuk 2:4 was God's encouragement that Habakkuk could trust God to bring a just result in the end.  Habakkuk needed to put his faith in God and to live a life of faith in God: "the righteous will live by his faith."  Who are those throughout the years who have been right with God?  They are those who have stopped relying on themselves and have put their complete reliance on God.  Hebrews 11:6, another familiar verse on faith, says:  "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."

The one who is righteous with God is he or she who puts total faith in God's reliability that He can be trusted to do that which is right and good in the end.  The "arrogant," on the other hand, put their faith only in themselves and live only for themselves.  He "is puffed up" and "greedy as the grave."  The righteous do not live by what they see, but by what they believe God will bring about in the end.  What pleases God?  It is when we believe that God is reliable and trustworthy even when it appears that evil is winning.  It is when we continue to believe even when there is no visible reason to believe.  We believe that one day, "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God."

Doctor Edgar C. Jones of Moody Bible Institute observes the following about the places where Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted in the New Testament:  "The phrase 'the righteous' is emphasized in Romans, which shows how a righteous God can make unrighteous people righteous.  The next phrase, 'will live' is emphasized in Galatians and shows how believers are to live.  They are not to live by the law, but rather by the Spirit of God.  The last phase is emphasized in Hebrews.  Believers are to live by faith, by one's trust in God.  This is what will carry us through the trials of life." "From an article in Moody Monthly magazine; November 1984."

3. In the future, there will be a time when all nations will ridicule Babylon and pronounce upon this nation the following five woes. (2:6-20)

a. Woe to him who plunders, for he will be plundered by those he plundered (2:6-8)
"Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying, 'Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion!  How long must this go on?’  Will not your debtors suddenly arise?  Will they not wake up and make you tremble?  Then you will become their victim.  Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you.  For you have shed man’s blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.' "

Thought Question:  Which nations and which individuals can you think who have become the victims of their own greed?

 

 

Babylon will, in God's time, be crushed by those they plundered.  The victim will become the victor!  There is a principle in the Bible that says if we give it will be given to us; but here we find that the opposite is also true: "Take and it will be taken from you."  In Proverbs 1, a father warns his son that if he goes along with those who are stealing from people that he will, in the end, lose rather than gain; for though he may gain stolen riches, he will lose his life.  He will suck the riches out of some poor passer-by, but at the same time he will be sucking the life out of himself.  So, the Babylonians will lose in the end.  The tables will turn on them and they will become the victims.  Habakkuk needed and we need to have the type of faith in God that believes that as long as He is sovereign, evil is not winning even when it appears that evil is winning.

b. Woe to him who builds his realm with wickedness, for his own buildings will cry out against him. (2:9-11)
"Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high, to escape the clutches of ruin!  You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life.  The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it."

Thought Question:  What do you think is meant by "shaming you own house" and "The stones of the wall will cry out and the beams of the woodwork will echo it"?

 

 

As a rich mansion in a poor country is evidence of a person's greed and how the riches were gained at the expense of the poor, so the very riches that are gained by wickedness cry out "injustice"!  The buildings themselves are evidence of one's greed and wickedness.  In recent years, the media put the spotlight on the mansions of some television evangelists.  Their golden water faucets, heated doghouses, and luxurious cars spoke of their greed and their sin.  The wife of a former president of the Philippines immense number of expensive shoes was all we needed to know about her greed.  So, Babylon's riches cried out about their wickedness.

c. Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed, for his labors are for nothing. (2:12-14)
"Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime!  Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?  For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."

Thought Question #1:  What do you believe it will be like when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How should these verses affect the way you look at the world today?

 

 

God created the world to reflect his glory, not Babylon's glory!  It is of no use for Babylon or any other nation to exhaust itself trying to conquer the world for itself and for its glory, for in the end, God's kingdom will prevail and God alone will receive the glory. 

Verse fourteen is one of the most quoted verses in the Bible:  "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."  "A great hymn has been written about that sublime proclamation.  The first line is:  'God's working His purpose out, as year succeeds year!'  The last line of every verse contains these words:  'The earth shall be filled with the glory of God, as the waters cover the sea!'  It is a stirring hymn to sing rousing the Christian to faith to serve the Lord.  But in spite of it being a grand hymn, the author has misquoted the Bible in every verse.  The Bible does not say 'The earth shall be filled with the glory of God, as the waters cover the sea.'  Notice the three missing words!  'The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God, as the waters cover the sea.'  The earth is already filled with God's glory; what is missing is the knowledge of God's glory.  It is the knowledge that the Spirit says will come." "Taken from Major Truth from the Minor Prophets by John E. Hunter.  Copyright 1977 by Zondervan Publishing House."

The reason that "the knowledge of the glory of the Lord" does not fill the world is because men are choosing to ignore God.  "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities---His eternal power and divine nature---have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God, nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles…They exchanged the truth of God for a lie…" (Romans 1:18-23,25)  Godlessness is choosing to live as if there is no God.  Godlessness is the very opposite of what will occur in the future when "the knowledge of the glory of the Lord" will fill the world.

d. Woe to him who enjoys promoting drunkenness and lewdness for his own entertainment, for you will be brought to shame, for God will replace your glory with disgrace. (2:15-17) (And in 2:17, their violence against Lebanon will come back on them.)
"Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies.  You will be filled with shame instead of glory.  Now it is your turn! Drink and be exposed!  The cup from the Lord’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory.  The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, and your destruction of animals will terrify you.  For you have shed man’s blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them."

Thought Question:  How do these verses affect the way you look at the world today?

 

 

"Ancient writers confirm this statement that the Babylonians were very much addicted to wine.  Note the disaster it brought in Daniel 5.  A heathen writer said of them:  'The Babylonians give themselves wholly to wine, and the things which follow upon drunkenness!" "Taken from The Minor Prophets by Charles Feinberg.  Copyright 1952 by Moody Press."

Feinberg is commenting on 2:5, "indeed wine betrays him."  Like in our country, drunken parties were common in Babylon.  These drunken parties would lead to Babylon's shame.  It was, in fact, a drunken party that made it possible for the Medo-Persians to conquer them. See Daniel 5  It is drunken parties that have led to shame in our country.  They have led to famous people being charged and convicted of rape, others being charged and convicted of murder, and people losing their jobs.  After the drunken party, as God predicts of Babylon, there comes shame!

e. Woe to him who worships idols of his own creation, for God alonedeserves to be worshipped. (2:18-20)
"Of what value is an idol, since a man has carved it?  Or an image that teaches lies?  For he who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak.  Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’  Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’  Can it give guidance?  It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it.  But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him."

Thought Question:  How are these verses helpful to you as you look at how godlessness dominates the world all around us?

 

 

We find here, God giving a contrast between the empty, man-created idol worship of Babylon and the worship of Israel's God: "the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him."  God's final words to Habakkuk put everything into perspective.  On one side of the battle you have all the false religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and many more and on the other side of the battle you have the one true God who now reigns supreme in His holy temple.  Which side will be the winning side?  Man and man-made religions are weak, puny, and ridiculous compared to the one true God.  Yet, we like Habakkuk can feel that we are on the losing side.  We see absurd teaching like evolution, postmodernism, new age thinking, Islam, and many others dominating institutions and countries in our world and we can think, "What is the use?"  The answer?  "The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him!"  See Isaiah 44:7-20 for a more lengthy description of the foolishness of idolatry.

HABAKKUK'S PRAYER OF FAITH (3)
Habakkuk moves from a time of doubting to a time for shouting!  This chapter was clearly used in public worship—notice the three "Selahs" in the chapter.  This chapter is the only place in the Bible where "Selah" is used outside of the Psalms.  The Amplified Bible provides the following translation of "Selah":  "Stop and think calmly of that."  Readers of Habakkuk will benefit from doing what we are instructed to do by "Selah": pausing and thinking calmly about what is said just before each "Selah."

1. His prayer request (3:1-2)
"A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth.  Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.  Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy." ("shigionoth" is probably a guide for the musical use of this chapter.  See Psalm 7:1)

Thought Question #1:  What do you believe completely changed the way Habakkuk looked at the problems in his world?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How has what changed Habakkuk's view of his world changed the way you look at your world?

 

 

As a result of God's words to him, Habakkuk appears to have gone from words of dismay to words of hope.  At first, he wonders why God is not doing anything.  But, in these verses we pick up an air of confidence.  The problem for most of us when we get down or discouraged is not the circumstances we are going through, but how we look at the circumstances.  Many of us have gone to a Christian retreat and have come back with a whole new confidence in God.  Our circumstances that we returned to were exactly the same.  What changed?  What changed is the new way we looked at God and the new way we looked at our circumstances.  This is what happened to Habakkuk.  He went from being under dark clouds and not seeing God clearly, to being lifted above the clouds by God's words until he began to see God more clearly!  Now, he is brimming over with confidence that God is willing and able to do something about all the sin and injustice he sees all around him in the world.  "I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds."  He sees God more clearly now.  He is confident, now that God, as he now sees him more clearly, will do what needs to be done.  But, he does not just want God to pour out wrath on the wicked; he also wants God to be merciful.

2. A vision of the glory of God's future coming (3:3-15)
Habakkuk sees, with the eye of faith, God rescuing Israel from Babylon in a similar manner to the way in which He rescued Israel in the past.  In these verses we see the future coming of God, but it is described in terms of His past mighty acts on behalf of the nation of Israel.

a. God came from Teman and Mount Paran, His glory covered the heavens and the earth, plagues went before Him, the earth shook, and the tents of Cushan and the dwellings of Midian are in distress. (3:3-7)
"God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah  His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth.  His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden.  Plague went before him; pestilence followed his steps.  He stood, and shook the earth; he looked, and made the nations tremble.  The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed.  His ways are eternal.  I saw the tents of Cushan in distress, the dwellings of Midian in anguish."

Thought Question:  What do you believe it is that Habakkuk is referring to in these verses?

 

 

Paran is mentioned in Numbers 13:3 as the place where the twelve spies were sent out from when they went out to spy on the Promised Land.  And Teman was one of the large cities of Edom and the name of the city in Edom that had become representative for all of Edom (like Washington might be used to represent the United States).  God's people passed through Edom, which is to the southwest of Israel, on their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. See Numbers 20:14-21  God was with His people in the wilderness with great power: there were plagues (See Numbers 12, 25:1-9) and the earth trembled (See Numbers 16:28-34).  Then, when they entered the Promised Land, God was with them there with great power: "I saw the tents of Cushan in distress." (See Judges 3:8-10) and "the dwellings of Midian in anguish." (See Judges 7)  "In a sublime manner the prophet now pictures a future redemption under figures taken from past events."  "Taken from The Minor Prophets by Charles Feinberg.  Copyright 1952 by Moody Press."

In 3:3, Habakkuk described the extent of God's coming – from Paran and Teman God's glory covers the whole earth.  In 3:4, the powerful effect of His coming – the earth shakes!

b. The waters are in tumult (3:8-10)
"Were you angry with the rivers, O Lord?  Was your wrath against the streams?  Did you rage against the sea when you rode with your horses and your victorious chariots?  You uncovered your bow, you called for many arrows. Selah You split the earth with rivers; the mountains saw you and writhed.  Torrents of water swept by; the deep roared and lifted its waves on high." ("arrows" probably refers to lightning bolts from heaven)

Thought Question #1:  How do these verses show to us that Habakkuk's way of looking at the world has radically changed?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How can you tell whether or not you have the same type of attitude about your world that Habakkuk had toward his?

 

 

Habakkuk appears to be looking back to the crossing of the Red Sea and to the crossing of the Jordan River (and possibly to the plagues on the Nile and other acts of nature such as lightning and storms).  Whatever works of the judgment of God Habakkuk is reflecting on, he was certainly referring to God's total mastery over the waters of the earth and His using even the works of nature to bring about His judgment on evil!  Habakkuk is, again, using these past events to look forward in the future when this same God, who has all of nature under His mighty control, will once more strike out with this type of power against His enemies.

What about you?  Do you see God as the powerful and total Master of all that is happening in the big world around you and in the little world that immediately surrounds your life?  You may not feel as sure as Habakkuk was at this point, but Habakkuk's God is also the God of the 21rst century.  He is just as much, today, the all-powerful God who opened up the Red Sea and raised Jesus from the dead today as He was in Bible times.  All that is left is for you and me to believe it!

c. The sun and moon stand still. (3:11)
"Sun and moon stood still in the heavens at the glint of your flying arrows, at the lightning of your flashing spear."

Thought Question:  What does the fact that God once made the sun and moon stand still help us as we face our problems today?

 

 

In Joshua 10:13-14 there is a description of the time when God did stop the sun and the moon.  In the future it is predicted there will be signs in the heavens. See Matthew 21:25  At that time, God will once again show us His total mastery and power over even the planets, the sun, and the stars.  But, He is just as much the Master over all nature today as He was in the past and will be in the future.  We can put our total trust in this God.

d. In anger God moved through the earth to deliver His people and His "anointed One," and to crush the "leader of wickedness" (3:12-15)
"In wrath you strode through the earth and in anger you threshed the nations.  You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one.  You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness, you stripped him from head to foot. Selah With his own spear you pierced his head when his warriors stormed out to scatter us, gloating as though about to devour the wretched who were in hiding.  You trampled the sea with your horses, churning the great waters."

Thought Question:  What value is there for Habakkuk to reflect on what God did in the past or what he will do in the future when He is not doing that type of thing right now?

 

 

The "anointed one" could be God's people Israel or it could be the Messiah.  The "leader of the land of wickedness" could be Babylon or it could be the Antichrist.  Possibly both could be pictured in these verses.  Habakkuk could be seeing by faith into his future to a time when God will rescue Israel from the kings of the Gentiles of which Babylon was one, and he could also be seeing into a future time when God will rescue His people who are in Christ (the Anointed One) from the Antichrist in the very last of days.  There could be both a near fulfillment and a latter fulfillment of Habakkuk's prophecy.  These verses also sound somewhat like the defeat of the Pharaoh at the Red Sea.

2. Habakkuk's faith (3:16-19)
"I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled.  Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.  Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights."

Notice that Habakkuk is no longer impatient, wondering why God is not doing anything.  But, now he is confident God will one day come with power and bring justice.  And we see that he is even willing to wait until it happens!  "Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us."

He was both awed and excited about what God was going to do:  "I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled."  Nevertheless, he would wait until the arrival of the future Day he saw through the eyes of faith.  So we, as we look at all the sin, immorality, crime, and injustice around us, also look forward in faith to what Jesus will do when He returns.  But, in the meantime, we wait patiently in faith.

After God has spoken to him, Habakkuk is now willing to wait upon God in faith.  Habakkuk has concluded that God knows best, and he is willing to let God do what is best.  In the meantime, Habakkuk will trust God.  Notice the "I wills" in these last verses of the book of Habakkuk.  Habakkuk committed himself to choose to trust God no matter what were the circumstances.  Is it not true that God always knows best and is always in control?  Yet, there are times when we like Habakkuk feel as though things are out of control.  We need to also do what Habakkuk did here.  Even though everything seems to be out of control, we need to willfully choose to rejoice because of our faith in God.  Things are out of our control, but not out of His control!  That is why Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to give thanks in all circumstances and to rejoice always. See I Thessalonians 5:16-18

a. Though he is in fear of the Babylonians, he will wait patiently until God punishes them. (3:16)
"I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled.  Yet I will patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us."

Thought Question:  What does this verse tell us about what courageous faith is like?

 

 

Notice Habakkuk's description of his fear in this verse: his "heart pounded," his "lips quivered," and his "legs trembled."  Courage and faith do not mean that you do not realize that you are in real danger.  But, faith means that you trust God in spite of the very real danger.  Someone has said that courage is not being fearless, but doing what is courageous even when you are fearful.  The evil power of the enemy and the righteous wrath and power of God are both fear-producing.  Certainly, fear of the evil of a powerful enemy and awe toward God were both causes for Habakkuk's state of fearfulness.  Nevertheless, Habakkuk will wait in faith for Babylon to receive God's punishment for all of their evil doings, while his heart is pounding, his lips are quivering, and his knees are knocking together.

Babylon's end did come, though.  They are no longer in power today—even though Saddam Hussein attempted to revive Babylon.  They were conquered by Persia many centuries ago!  Many other formidable foes have also fallen: the Roman Empire, Genghis Khan, the Huns, Nazi Germany, the Communist Soviet Union, and more.  Those who seek to conquer by doing evil are on the wrong side!

b. Though there is nothing around him to cause him to want to rejoice, he will rejoice in God. (3:17-18)
"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior."

Thought Question #1:  Please put these verses into terms that fit the world that you live in today.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do these verses tell us about the difference between the world's form of happiness and Christian joy?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What are some truths that the Bible says are true of you that you can rejoice in even when you are going through trials?

 

 

"The literal is, 'I will spin round for delight in God.'  Here is hilarity of faith – joy at its best with circumstances at their worst!  What a victory!  May it be ours!"  "Taken from Explore the Book by J. Sidlow Baxter.  Copyright 1960 by Zondervan Publishing House."

In these verses we find words worth remembering: "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior." In modern times we might say that even when there are no groceries in the kitchen, there is no gas in the car, and we do not have a job, yet we will rejoice in the Lord!

There has been somewhat of a debate about whether happiness is the same as joy.  These verses tell us that those who trust in God can be joyous and happy even when the circumstances are not those that usually produce happiness.  True joy and happiness comes from having a profound trust that what God says in His book is true is true and what God says He will do He will do. See Romans 5:1-5, 8:28-39; I Corinthians 15; Ephesians 1:3-14; Ephesians 2:1-10; Colossians 3:1-4; I Peter 1:9-10; Revelation 21:1-22:6 for some examples of what the Bible says is true of you if you have put your trust in God.

c. God is my strength and He makes me to be as full of life and bounce as if I had the legs of a deer  (3:19) ("hinds' feet" in the King James Version)
"The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights."

Thought Question:  If you have come to the same conclusions as Habakkuk, you will also have "hinds' feet."  What in the book of Habakkuk has given to you a new bounce to your step and to your life?

 

 

"A hind: 'a species of deer noted for its fleetness and surefootedness.'"  "Taken from Major Truth from the Minor Prophets by John E. Hunter.  Copyright 1977 by Zondervan Publishing House."  What is it that we find so beautiful about a deer?  Is it not their bounciness?  Genuine faith in God will give us this type of bouncy-joyous faith.

Habakkuk chose to rejoice in God and then God enabled him "to go on the heights."  We rejoice in faith and God gives us His joy and peace!  Notice the "he makes my feet" and "he enables me to go on the heights."  When we choose to believe, He gives us His bounce to our lives.  Even when God seems far away and silent today, faith in our ever faithful God will give us "hind's feet." See also II Samuel 22:34; Psalm 18:33  There is a classic book written to teach what Habakkuk teaches here, titled Hinds' Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard

CONCLUSION

Is everything going smoothly in your life right now?  Most of us would answer "no" to that question.  For, we, like Habakkuk, live in a fallen world.  All around us, just like in Habakkuk's day, there is sin and injustice.  We can also wonder, as he did, "Why is God not doing something about all the problems we encounter in our lives?"  "Why is God allowing people to defy Him without just consequences occurring to them?"  But, God has given us His answer for all time through Habakkuk.  God does still intervene and judge evil people, just as He judged the evil Babylonians.  He just does not usually intervene in the way we would like Him to do it, and He does not usually intervene at the time that we want Him to do it.  Just as Habakkuk predicted, God will also powerfully and visibly judge this world at some time in the future.  We can wait, believing God as Habakkuk did, that God will one day make everything right.  He may do everything different than we would do it, but His way is, nevertheless, always the best way.  If we genuinely believe in Him and His wisdom, power, love, and sovereignty, we will also have "hinds' feet;" no matter what will come in our lives!

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. ®   NIV ®   Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.  All Rights reserved.

Other Digging For Gold Studies

The Battle For The Sunshine Psalms Vol I
The Battle For The Sunshine Psalms Vol II
How To Live A Full Life In An Empty World Ecclesiastes 1-6
How To Live A Full Life In An Empty World Ecclesiastes 6-12
God Is Ruler Of The Times Of The Gentiles Daniel 1-6
God Is Ruler Of The Times Of The Gentiles Daniel 7-12
When God Seems Far Away Habakkuk
The Good News About Israel's King Matthew 1-7
The Good News About Israel's King Matthew 8-14
The Good News About Israel's King Matthew 15-22
The Good News About Israel's King Matthew 23-28
The Good News About The Son Of Man Luke 1-6
The Good News About The Son Of Man Luke 7-12
The Good News About The Son Of Man Luke 13-18
The Word Became Flesh! John 1-6
The Word Became Flesh! John 7-12
The Word Became Flesh! John 13-17
The Word Became Flesh! John 18-21
Christianity In The Courtroom Romans 1-4
Christianity In The Courtroom Romans 5-8
Christianity In The Courtroom Romans 9-11
Christianity In The Courtroom Romans 12-16
The Battle For The Sunshine I Corinthians 1-6
The Battle For The Sunshine I Corinthians 7-11
The Battle For The Sunshine I Corinthians 12-16
Paul's Life And Ministry: Triumph Through Weakness II Corinthians 1-7
Paul's Life And Ministry: Triumph Through Weakness II Corinthians 8-13
Rediscovering The Joy Of The Gospel Galatians
Seeing The Church From God's Perspective - Seeing The Riches Of God's Grace! Ephesians 1-3
Seeing The Church From God's Perspective - Seeing The Riches Of God's Grace! Ephesians 4-6
How To Be A Joyful And United Church Philippians
Pursuing Our Fulness In Christ Colossians
A Message To New Christians I Thessalonians
A Second Message To New Christians - A Wider Focus On The Christian Life II Thessalonians
God's Plan For Order In The Church I Timothy
How To Finish Strong In The Lord II Timothy
Doing What Is Good Titus
How To Motivate Others To Do What God Wants Them To Do Philemon
We Should Always Move Forward In Our Faith Hebrews 1-9
We Should Always Move Forward In Our Faith Hebrews 10-13
From Double-Minded To Single-Minded Christianity James
How To Live In Tough Times With An Eternal Perspective I Peter
How To Have Wholesome Christian Thinking II Peter
The Glorious Circle That Is Eternal Life I John
How Our Joy Can Be Complete &
Two Good Examples And One Bad Example
II & III John
What To Do When The Church Gets Off-Track: Contending For The Faith! Jude
The Unveiling Of The Glorified Jesus Christ And The End Of The Age Revelation 1-5
The Unveiling Of The Glorified Jesus Christ And The End Of The Age Revelation 6-11
The Unveiling Of The Glorified Jesus Christ And The End Of The Age Revelation 12-16
The Unveiling Of The Glorified Jesus Christ And The End Of The Age Revelation 17-22