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Minor Prophets: Habakkuk - What Are You Doing, God? 120317

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Scripture Reading:

Introduction

What would you think if God said He was raising up someone to deal with the problems in your nation? Would you celebrate? What if He said the one He was raising up was not some sort of godly leader, but a bloodthirsty hoard who worshipped their own military strength? Would you still celebrate? Or would you question how a righteous God could allow a more wicked nation to swallow up your nation? If the latter, then you know how Habakkuk felt.
begins a little bit different than some of the other minor prophets. We are not given a definitive timeframe. We don’t know what king of Judah was reigning and we are not told anything about Habakkuk. But from what we do see within the book, we see that Habakkuk prophesied during the time that Judah was all alone. The northern kingdom has been taken into captivity by Assyria because of their unwillingness to turn back to the LORD, and God says within the book that He is bringing the Chaldeans - the Babylonians against Judah. So this would place Habakkuk anytime after the reign of Hezekiah when Babylon is growing in it’s power until the captivity.
This book also is different than many of the other minor prophets in how the prophecies of judgment are given by the LORD. So far in our studies of the Minor Prophets, we have observed that from the beginning of each book we have God give His thoughts and share His dissatisfactions to the people through the preaching of the prophets. In Habakkuk, this pattern is reversed. Habakkuk begins by Habakkuk calling out to God about what he sees within the nation, and then we have God’s response to Habakkuk’s prayer, saying what He is going to do to Judah.
kuk 1 - Habakkuk Questions God

1. Habakkuk’s Prayer of Frustration (1:2-4)

This happens twice within this book. Habakkuk prays to God twice. After each prayer he receives an answer from God. Then the book ends with a final prayer of Habakkuk.
Let’s begin by reading Habakkuk’s first prayer in 1:2-4. This is a prayer that we can often relate to:
How long, Lord, must I call for help and you do not listen or cry out to you about violence and you do not save? Why do you force me to look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Oppression and violence are right in front of me. Strife is ongoing, and conflict escalates. This is why the law is ineffective and justice never emerges. For the wicked restrict the righteous; therefore, justice comes out perverted. (, CSB)
Habakkuk laments over all of the wickedness and violence among his people. This seems to be something that he had been doing for some time now. Injustice is all around him. He cannot get away from it. It is in every direction that he looks, and he wants to know, “God, when are you going to do something about it? When are you going to bring it to an end? When are you going to bring justice for the righteous who are being oppressed?”
May this be a question that you and I have asked of God before? As you see all of the evil around us in our country, or even as we see physical suffering among God’s people, have you ever thought to yourself or have prayed to the Lord, “When is this going to end? When, Lord, are you going to turn things around?” Honestly, this should be the response of one who is seeking the Lord. It pains them to see injustice and oppression. They don’t like to see sin all around them. They don’t like to see people suffering. They want God to be active and working. They want justice to come. The longer God’s people see sin and its effects, they desire God to get involved in history and to do something about it all.
And often,
hus far in our studies in the Minor Prophets, we have observed God’s thoughts and dissatisfaction being communicated to the people through the preaching of the prophets. In Habakkuk, this pattern is reversed. Habakkuk calls out to God
It may be possible that this is how Habakkuk was thinking at this point. We don’t know for sure what was going through his mind. But may it be the case that he wanted to see things improve for God’s people. He wanted to see God bring change among the people - that they would turn to the LORD and seek Him. If this is what he was thinking as he offered such a prayer, this is certainly not how the LORD responds...

2. God’s Answer to Habakkuk (1:5-11)

Look at the nations and observe— be utterly astounded! For I am doing something in your days that you will not believe when you hear about it. (, CSB)
I am doing something. I am busy. I am active. If I told you about it, you wouldn’t believe it Habakkuk… And what is He doing?
God is at work even though we may not see anything happening. And what is He doing?
Look! I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter, impetuous nation that marches across the earth’s open spaces to seize territories not its own. They are fierce and terrifying; their views of justice and sovereignty stem from themselves. Their horses are swifter than leopards and more fierce than wolves of the night. Their horsemen charge ahead; their horsemen come from distant lands. They fly like eagles, swooping to devour. All of them come to do violence; their faces are set in determination. They gather prisoners like sand. They mock kings, and rulers are a joke to them. They laugh at every fortress and build siege ramps to capture it. Then they sweep by like the wind and pass through. They are guilty; their strength is their god. (, CSB)
God is going to do something about the injustice in Judah… And it is not what one would expect… He is bringing a wicked nation - the Babylonians into Judah to destroy Judah and to clean up the mess. And God knows that even as they come to administer His judgment on Judah, they are not going to look at it as though they are an instrument of the LORD. They are going to glorify themselves. They are going to worship their own power. They are going to be unjust and oppressive and violent.
Our hope usually whenever we may ask God to do something about all of the sin and injustice may
This surely would not be what we expect if we as Americans prayed for God to make things right and to remove the sin and injustice and suffering that we are surrounded with. Our prayers for America may incorrectly assume that the only good response that the Lord could give to our prayer and that the only thing that is God’s just and holy will is that the nation would have a revival, come to repentance and make the laws be in line with God’s will, and that all suffering that we see would end in this life. This is what we desire God to bring, but we don’t consider that God may have something entirely different in mind. His way to take care of a wicked nation may be to bring another nation that is just as wicked to judge it and destroy it because of its sin. His will may be to judge the injustice, to not stop the pain or suffering. Sometimes things get worse before they get better, and we struggle to understand why… We don’t understand why God gave Satan permission to afflict Job as He did. We don’t understand why the Apostle Paul had to suffer so much for the Gospel. We don’t understand why God called His people to surrender to Babylon when they came to destroy Jerusalem. What seems right to us is to say, “Fight for your nation. Fight for your people and your family. That seems like it would be God’s will for those in Jerusalem. But it wasn’t. Hope was only for those who would trust in the LORD, put down their arms, and surrender as Jeremiah commanded.
We don’t understand why would God ever want these types of things to happen to His people or why He would ask them to do certain things? These kinds of things fill us with questions. With confusion.
By Habakkuk’s response in 1:12-2:1, we see that God’s answer is nowhere near what he was expecting… God’s response was surprising to him… He struggles with God’s response. He is confused by it just as we probably would be.

3. Habakkuk’s Prayer of Confusion (1:12-2:1)

Let’s read verses 12-13:
Habakkuk prophesied during the time that Judah was all alone. The northern kingdom has been taken into captivity by Assyria because of their unwillingness to turn back to the LORD, and Judah was next on God’s radar to be taken into captivity because of their sin.
Are you not from eternity, Lord my God? My Holy One, you will not die. Lord, you appointed them to execute judgment; my Rock, you destined them to punish us. Your eyes are too pure to look on evil, and you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. So why do you tolerate those who are treacherous? Why are you silent while one who is wicked swallows up one who is more righteous than himself? (, CSB)
To Habakkuk, God’s response to his prayer doesn’t seem right! Habakkuk, although, is right in some of what he says here. God is from eternity. He is eternal and is Holy. But then he has a problem trying to bring these facts into line with the idea that God is going to use an evil and idolatrous nation to judge His people. It seems that Habakkuk’s sense of justice has been violated. How can a God who is good and holy use evil men - an evil nation - to judge Judah - a people who are more righteous than Babylon? How could God be fair by saying, “things are going to get bad for Judah. They are going to be judged by oppressive men.”
This goes to show that we as finite human beings look at justice at a different level than the LORD. Just because we feel that something is unfair or unjust that God commands or allows or causes to happen does not mean that it is. And just because we may think one person or one nation is more righteous than another does not mean that this is the case! We often have the same struggle that Habakkuk does here. But God is the one who knows what is going on. God knows what is truly fair and just. We don’t see the whole picture!
The truth is that God shows time and time again in the prophets that his people got so bad that they were comparable to Sodom and Gomorrah. They were not better or more righteous than Babylon. Their injustice and idolatry was just as bad, if not worse than Babylon… Sometimes we can be so proud in thinking we know what is right and fair, especially when we then judge God by our standard of justice we have created.
Habakkuk is struggling to understand God’s actions here, as we often do, but thankfully, he wants to try to understand what God is doing. He wants to trust that what the LORD is doing is right. So in 2:1, he decides that he will wait for the LORD’s reply.
This goes to show that we as finite human beings look at justice at a different level than the LORD. Just because we feel that something is unfair or unjust that God commands or allows or causes to happen does not mean that it is. And just because we may think one person or one nation is more righteous than another does not mean that it is! We often have the same struggle that Habakkuk does here. The truth is that God shows time and time again in the prophets that his people got so bad that they were comparable to Sodom and Gomorrah. They were not better or more righteous than Babylon. Their injustice and idolatry was just as bad, if not worse than Babylon… Sometimes we can be so proud in thinking we know what is right and fair, especially when we then judge God by our standard of justice we have created.
Habbakuk is struggling to understand God’s actions here, but thankfully, he wants to try to understand what God is doing. So in 2:1, he decides that he will wait for the LORD’s reply.

4. God’s Response to Habakkuk (2:2-20)

There are two main ideas that God responds to Habakkuk with in verses 2-20.
First, God will judge the wicked. The nations that trust in themselves and are wicked will be judged. That is good. And second, The just will live by faith. God is saying to Habakkuk, “just trust me. The righteous - those who have faith will live. The wicked will be judged. Justice will prevail. It may look like the wicked are prospering at this moment, but it will not last. Judgment will come. Justice will prevail.”
In God’s response in ch2, God pronounces five woes on Babylon and all of the “Babylons” of the world. All of the nations that steal, are deceptive, and are unjust will receive the wrath of the LORD. Nations that take advantage of the vulnerable and weak, and those who worship created things - military power, wealth, false gods - will receive the LORD’s judgment. God’s response to Judah and to Babylon and to any nation who does these things is, “Woe to you!”
The just will live by faith. Just trust me. The righteous - those who have faith will live. The wicked will be judged. Justice will prevail. In God’s response in ch2, God pronounces five woes on the Babylon’s of the world.
What’s the lesson for Habakkuk here? Yes, Judah is going to be judged. They are going to receive God’s just and righteous judgment. But Habakkuk needs to remember that the unjust and oppressive Babylonians are going to get theirs too. Every nation who commits these sins will have a day of reckoning, whether it be Judah, Babylon, or America. Every nation that has existed or will exist on this earth will receive God’s judgment for their injustice and sin.
The only ones who have hope in all of the injustice and oppression and sin that is in this world are those who have faith in God and trust him. Those who trust in God - they are His nation. They are the ones who have hope no matter what the circumstances may be physically.
: “But the righteous one will live by his faith/faithfulness.” Even though the world may be filled with sin, the ones who are the recipients of God’s blessings are those who have faith and are faithful to God - those who trust him and do what’s right in spite of the cesspool of sin and wickedness around them. Even when we have times in which we just don’t understand what God is doing or why He is allowing something to happen in our lives or our nation - we can have hope that even through the pain and the doubts - God is active. He is at work. He is working within us as His people to make us more like Christ.
But the righteous one will live by his faith

5. Habakkuk’s Prayer of Praise, Trust, & Rejoicing

In this chapter we see in Habakkuk a man who is responding to God in faith. He shows us what Biblical faith is all about. Biblical faith is not about trusting that God is going to make everything comfortable here in this life. Biblical faith does not assume that God is going to do what we think is right and fair. Biblical faith says, “God, I trust in you to do what is right and good and just, no matter what that may mean for me, my family, my city, or my nation physically.” Biblical faith trusts that even when the circumstances are terrible and uncomfortable physically, God is still at work. He is working something amazing toward the end of His glory and for the glorification of His people.
Throughout this chapter Habakkuk praises the LORD for His power and for His righteousness and justice.
Let’s read 3:16-19…
I heard, and I trembled within; my lips quivered at the sound. Rottenness entered my bones; I trembled where I stood. Now I must quietly wait for the day of distress to come against the people invading us. Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though the flocks disappear from the pen and there are no herds in the stalls, yet I will celebrate in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! The Lord my Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights! (, CSB)
Even if all of these things are going to happen to Judah… Habakkuk, even with his questions, he is willing to accept the distress that He will bring on them. And if God even brings famine or makes their possession - their flocks - disappear, Habakkuk says, “I still have a reason to rejoice.”

Application/Lesson

God is active and at work even when we don’t “see Him” doing something.
There is a valuable lesson for us in this that we need to consider before we bring this lesson to a close. What is our joy tied to? Too often, we place our hope and trust in things of this world. If things are going well physically, we feel like we have hope. If we are healthy, the economy is going well, the president has not led the country into war, then we have hope and security, and we have reason to rejoice. But this is not how the Bible looks at things for God’s people. Even if things are not going well physically. If the economy crashed tomorrow or if America fell to an enemy - if you or I go to the doctor and receive terrible news about our health - if everything is falling down around us, then STILL, we have hope because our trust is the LORD. He is the one who we find security in. He is the one who we rejoice in. Our rejoicing is not based on physical and temporary things. It is based on eternal things.
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though the flocks disappear from the pen and there are no herds in the stalls, yet I will celebrate in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! The Lord my Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights!
God does what is right. It is at times His will to remove pain and suffering, but at times it is His will to use pain and suffering to being about good within us. It is at times His will to bless a nation, and it is at times His will to judge a nation.
Just because we think something is God’s will does not make it so
Just because God is using you for something does not necessarily mean you are pleasing to God. God used the Babylonians to judge His people, but they were just as evil as God’s people were.
Just because God is using a nation or person DOES NOT mean that they are pleasing to Him.
Trust the LORD. Live by faith no matter the physical circumstances.
Wait on the LORD and trust in Him. Have faith that He will ultimately do something about evil around us.
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