The book of Habakkuk is a different style that other prophetic books. Habakkuk is not addressing the people but is involved more in a dialogue, between himself and God. He asks difficult questions and then struggles with reconciling what he knows about God’s character and comparing it with God’s current actions. One of the big questions Habakkuk struggles with is why a more wicked nation like Babylon will be victorious over a less wicked nation like his own, Judah. Though there were many acts of unrighteousness committed by both the people of Judah and the people of Babylon, both nations were guilty of idolatry. He saw the punishment as somewhat unfair. Very little is known about Habakkuk and his life except for what is mentioned in his short book. There is even disagreement over the meaning of his name, whether it means “embracer” or “embraced.” Habakkuk is saddened by the injustice and violence occurring around him. He is puzzled by God’s tolerance of it.
Not only was Habakkuk a prophet, but he was also a skilled poet. In the book of Habakkuk, the prophet shows great literary skill in how he records the dialogue between himself and God. His book includes a psalm-like song intended to be performed with instruments (Habakkuk 3:19). Habakkuk likely was written several years before judgment, between 640–609 BC. His prophecy was that God would use Babylon to punish Judah (the southern kingdom) just as he used Assyria to punish Israel (the northern kingdom) in 722 BC
The people of Judah had been spiraling into unfaithfulness. They had become devoted to practices of many different religions, worshipped the pagan god, Baal, and even offered child sacrifices to the pagan god, Molech. Children were burned alive! Is this any different than today, when we abandon tens of thousands of children into sex trafficking or turn their lives over to hard drugs? This is abhorrent behavior before God and God was preparing to pour out his wrath upon them. Since Habakkuk prophesied about the Babylonians and the destruction of Jerusalem (Habakkuk 1:6), many scholars place him around the same time as Jeremiah, who also prophesied about the coming Babylonian Captivity. It is possible that, like Jeremiah, Habakkuk lived to see the destruction of Jerusalem.
(Habakkuk 1:1-3) 1NIV New International Version Translations– “The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received. How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.”
Habakkuk questions why God would allow suffering and let those who are evil go unpunished. God answers in (Habakkuk 1:6), “I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own.“
Whether idols are literal (made of stone and wood) or idols of the heart (things like power, money, or fame), anything that takes our heart’s allegiance away from the One True God is a sin and is deserving of God’s wrath. After a frank and open dialogue with God, Habakkuk responds by saying he will stand by, take his position, and wait and watch God. Habakkuk is reaffirming that God’s wisdom and justice go beyond human understanding. God’s response is not one of anger. We need to take note here. Even when we do not understand but reach out to God for answers, God’s response is always one of affirmation.
(Habakkuk 2:4) – “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness”
The Babylonians will eventually experience God’s judgment as well. This is a typical pattern of how God answers the “Why” questions. Like in Job 40:2, “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” In all conversations with God, He is willing to interact with those who are asking him questions. God, however, never fully explains every detail of his plans to them. God is God and they are not. God’s plans and purposes will come and be merciful. They are always for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). But those plans do not need to be pre-approved by those who love Him, because there is only One all-powerful God who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). Maybe the most reaffirming statement that God can give humanity is that His victory over evil is sure.
(Habakkuk 2:14) – “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
This verse gives us an eternal perspective of what seems to us like a horrible injustice. As the Psalmist explains, “A thousand years in your [God’s] sight is like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4). The reason that history must never be forgotten or re-written, it that all evil can ultimately be traced to idolatry. The worship of inanimate objects is a fool’s journey. God’s power should humble even the righteous. Habakkuk’s response to God’s words about idolatry is full of humility. He simply pleads for mercy and resolves that God’s plan is for the best. When we are faced with divine sovereignty and not told why God does everything he does, we have a choice. People can be angry, and even pretend that they are the ones who oversee the world. That attitude is nothing more than a complete abandonment of God. We must admit to our limits as humans and trust that the future we cannot see and the plans we don’t fully understand have been ordained by God Himself (1 John 4:8).
- Do you believe we are a sinful nation?
- Ideas to Explore: Statistics on abortion, crime, drugs, the national debt, the lack of transparency from leadership, the abandonment of church and God, and the lack of honesty; oh, please add your favorites!
- The disaster was imminent. The people of Judah just watched their neighbors captured, and enslaved. Yet they would not listen to a message of repentance. Why do you think that was the case?
- Ideas to Explore: They became comfortable with sin. They abandoned God. Their leaders misled them into captivity. What do you think?
- Do you have conversations with God?
- Ideas to Explore: An active prayer life leads to communication with God. Do you think humility is necessary? Are we too busy?
- Do you believe there is merit in prophecies like that of Habakkuk?
- Ideas to Explore: Where does our advice come from? Is it Godly and reliable? How do you know?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations