is a very simple book, with a very simple message. Much like us, Habakkuk was
living in an evil society; he saw the evils of the present world and wanted to
know why God did not seem to be doing anything about it.
Habakkuk calls himself a prophet twice (1:1; 3:1). He ends his book with musical direction: “To the chief singers, on my stringed instruments (3:19).” This could have meant that he was involved in the temple worship. We don’t know much, if anything else, about this man, but based on history, we can place him at a time just before the Babylonian invasion.
Here in the 21st century, even though there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10), we are exposed to the evils of the world now more than ever because of the media. It’s not that the world is actually more evil than it was before, but that we have more access to it. Habakkuk didn’t have FOX News or CNN to tell him what was going on back then; he saw it with his own eyes, but even in a limited capacity, that was enough for him to ask the Lord, “How long?” He had been shown violence, iniquity, grievance, strife, contention, and wrong judgment. Jeremiah said almost the same thing: “Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? Wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously (Jeremiah 12:1)?” Job also knew that the wicked seemed to live long and prosper (Job 21:7).
The world we live in today is no different. I wanted to bring up a few examples from the recent past; one national, and one local.
A few weeks ago, the United States Senate voted on S.311, a very brief bill introduced by Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) and was co-sponsored by 43 Senators. The title says, “A Bill: To amend title 18, United States Code, to prohibit a health care practitioner from failing to exercise the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion.”
This was not even an anti-abortion bill; what this bill essentially says is that if a child (not “fetus”) survives an abortion, it should be given the same medical treatment as if it had been a baby whose parents brought it to a medical care facility. There was nothing else attached to this bill (for example, it didn’t say “this bill also allows for $20 billion for the border Wall). It should have been the easiest 100-0 vote in the history of the United States Senate. All it needed was 60 votes to pass, and it would then be voted on by the House before going to the President’s desk (where it would have certainly been signed into law). It only got 53 votes. 44 Senators voted against it, and most likely, entirely for political reasons. Even if it had passed and gone to the House, with the current setup, it would not have passed there, even with a simple majority. You know, I always thought abortion would be as far as politicians would go; I never thought they would vote in favor of allowing a newborn BABY to be left to die after surviving an abortion.
More locally, I’m sure most if not all of us recently heard the story about the poor dog that was set on fire (“Tommie”) and died a few days later. I don’t think they have yet found the culprit.
In both these cases, I personally wondered why the Lord didn’t do something: “Lord, these people just voted against a bill that would have prohibited infanticide…Lord, get that idiot who burned the dog and give him the works!”
Obviously, these are only two examples of the way this world is, and how evil seems to prosper.
Verses 3 and 4 are certainly applicable to our time, aren’t they? Did you know there are only two reasons listed as to why God flooded the earth? The two reasons were violence and corruption (Genesis 6:11); these two are all-encompassing.
It is very reasonable for us to think the way Habakkuk and Jeremiah and Job did; to wonder why the Lord has not acted.
God then tells Habakkuk not to worry, that he is already making plans for dealing with the situation; he is going to send the Chaldeans to punish Judah. To Habakkuk, this may have been confusing; the Chaldeans were terrible, cruel people. Quite often, God uses very unrighteous people to carry out his judgment. In no way did all this mean that somehow the Chaldeans were more righteous; God was also planning their punishment and we read about that multiple times in scripture. They went around and conquered everyone and everything, and they worshipped false gods. God would have his day with them later on, as he will have his day with all wickedness.
I listen to Glenn Beck almost every morning (sorry if that offends anyone); one of the days after the anti-infanticide bill was defeated in the Senate, he quoted Thomas Jefferson, who once said, “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference!”
Just before he introduces the Chaldeans, the Lord says his plans are so incredible that Habakkuk would not even believe them; these are obviously some very negative plans, but how much more is the Lord able to make positive plans for those of us who obey him? Paul writes that the Lord is able to do for us exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).
Habakkuk had asked the Lord, “How long?” The Lord says, “not very.”
There’s an old saying that we would do well to keep in mind: “God is never late, but he’s never early.” He has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). We know that God will act as well on a smaller, individual scale; he is not unrighteous and he does not forget what you do for him (Hebrews 6:10).
A brother I (and many of us) know, has mentioned in various talks and such, an experiment that he likes to do: he asks people, “If God came to you and gave you his power for one day, to allow you to change anything in the world, what would you change?” Some may say, “I’d make myself rich,” or “I’d make myself famous, maybe even the President!” Some may think less selfishly and say “I’d end world hunger,” or “I would cure all diseases,” or even “I would bring the Kingdom today!” There is a right answer to this question, the brother argues, and that is, that if God gave you his power for a day and allowed you to change anything in the world, you should change…nothing. What he means is that by changing something, you’re essentially saying, “Well, God, I’m a bit smarter than you; if you had all the facts, you would do things this way.”
It may be another 100 years until our Lord returns to set up the Kingdom; but that doesn’t make God’s promises any less valid; he’s told us no less than “no man knows the day nor the hour (Matthew 24:36).” But as he tells Habakkuk, “the just shall live by faith.” The word “faith” is a very “New Testament” word. It’s only used twice in the Old Testament: once in Habakkuk, the other in Deuteronomy 32:20.
This verse is quoted three times by Paul (Romans 1:16-18; Galatians 3:10-12; Hebrews 10:34-39). The context for each occasion is similar to what we read in Habakkuk.
We know from Hebrews that faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).” Faith is never blind.
Abraham believed God; it was counted as righteousness; if we believe, it will be counted as righteousness. God knows the difference between the faithful and the unfaithful; Paul says to Timothy, “The Lord knows them that are his (2 Timothy 2:19).”
The Lord inserted his Gospel into his message to Habakkuk, that the day was coming when “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
I’d like to read a few verses about that time (Isaiah 11:1-9, 40:3-4, 65:17-25).
God’s words to Habakkuk end with, “But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.” He has the last word; he will in the future as well.Solomon says, “God is in heaven, and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few (Ecclesiastes 5:2).”Interestingly, God goes silent for the rest of the book of Habakkuk; but that is alright, since Habakkuk continues with a prayer of praise in Chapter 3, ending with Habakkuk saying, “although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: YET I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
At the end of the day, even though life may not be easy being a Christadelphian, you should still be happier than anyone else; the world out there has many gods (lower-case ‘g’), but they don’t have “the God of [your] salvation.” Just because times may get bad for us, it doesn’t mean God isn’t good. A brother at the Conference last year said, “God is always good, win, lose, or draw. Whatever happens, you are the Lord’s.”
To summarize: this book is a great example of good, wholesome dialogue between a man and God; there is no anger on either side; no bitterness. Habakkuk is very much like us; we see the world around us and wonder how much more of it God will put up with before he sends his Son to rule in righteousness and peace and truth, as he has promised, and that no matter what happens, we can rejoice in the Lord; he is on our side and will do far beyond what we can ask or think if we will but seek him and obey him. We’ll close with Psalm 37:1-18.