For You have rescued
my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling.
I love this psalm that begins and ends with the message Praise the LORD! Please join me in praising our LORD!
A Psalm of Praise.
Praise the LORD!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
2 Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
3 Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
4 Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
5 Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD!
Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You,
command me to come to You on the water.”
And He said, “Come!”
And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water
and came toward Jesus.
But seeing the wind, he became frightened,
and beginning to sink, he cried out,
“Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand
and took hold of him, and said to him,
“You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
When they got into the boat, the wind stopped.
And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying,
“You are certainly God’s Son!”
A Call to Worship the Lord
the Righteous Judge.
Sing to the Lord a new song;
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.
3 Tell of His glory among the nations,
His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.
4 For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the Lord made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
7 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name;
Bring an offering and come into His courts.
9 Worship the Lord in holy attire;
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns;
Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved;
He will judge the peoples with equity.”
11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
Let the sea roar, and all it contains;
12 Let the field exult, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy
13 Before the Lord, for He is coming,
For He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
And the peoples in His faithfulness.
Published first in TRC Magazine on October 31, 2014:
Habakkuk Devotional Series:
By Anna Popescu
If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed.
If you look at God you’ll be at rest.
—Corrie ten Boom
A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.
LORD, I have heard the report about You and I fear.
O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years,
in the midst of the years make it known;
in wrath remember mercy.
In Chapter 2, Habakkuk listens as God replies to his concerns. At the end of that chapter, he acknowledges God’s power and pre-eminence:
But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him. —Habakkuk 2:20
Now he prays to God in the form of a Shigionoth, which was considered to be a highly emotional poetic form. Habakkuk has confronted God about the havoc he sees going on around him and asks Him why He is not doing anything about it. God has replied to his concerns, but Habakkuk is still wondering if God will really do anything about it.
Isn’t that just like us? We pray about a situation, telling God that we trust Him to take care of things as He deems right. And yet if we don’t see something happen quickly, don’t we find ourselves questioning God’s timing and motives?
Habakkuk goes on to tell God that he knows the way God has worked in the past when chastising rebellious peoples. But why is he begging God to remember mercy? It seems Habakkuk has forgotten the times God followed up the punishment by granting mercy to these same sinners. He still sees nothing but chaos, madness and war all around him and wonders if God will really do anything to stop these wicked Babylonians.
Finally, Habakkuk remembers that God is still in control and makes the choice to trust Him. Although he is still afraid, he pleads for God’s mercy.
Habakkuk’s Prophecy – Praise
God comes from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah.
His splendor covers the heavens, and the earth is full of His praise.
His radiance is like the sunlight; he has rays flashing from His hand,
and there is the hiding of His power.
Before Him goes pestilence, and plague comes after Him.
What a song of praise Habakkuk now sings! As was so often done in Old Testament times—and as we still do today—he is remembering and praising God’s past faithfulness, mercy and grace. Now he acknowledges a few of God’s awesome attributes:
- His holiness (verse 3)
- His splendor (verse 3)
- His radiance (verse 4)
The Shekinah glory, which protected and led Israel from Egypt through the wilderness (cf. Ex 40:34-38), was the physical manifestation of His presence. Like the sun, He spread His radiance throughout the heavens and the earth. —John MacArthur
The term Shekinah as commonly used describes the visible manifestation of God’s presence and glory usually in the form of a cloud.1
- His power (verse 4)
This description seems to refer to the unfathomable “inner recesses of the divine power.” How can a finite being, even the godly prophet Habakkuk, comprehend and stand in the presence of infinite power? But dear child of God, don’t forget that this very One is also YOUR Father, YOUR God, YOUR Protector! Be encouraged! —Richard Patterson
- His righteous anger (verse 5)
He is powerful, as the earth shakes, the nations tremble, and the mountains crumble. If nature is brought low, fear and reverence by people is inevitable. “His ways are eternal”—nothing human, natural, or supernatural can stand against Him. —Today in the Word, Moody Bible Institute
He stood and surveyed the earth; He looked and startled the nations.
Yes, the perpetual mountains were shattered, the ancient hills collapsed.
His ways are everlasting.
Habakkuk praises God’s magnificence and power. Who else can stand and survey the entire world at one time? God now gives him a vision of how He will demolish the evildoers by literally shaking up their world. The mountains and hills which have been in place since God put them there will be no more as they collapse and destroy the savage armies.
But the multitude of your enemies shall become like fine dust,
and the multitude of the ruthless ones like the chaff
which blows away; and it shall happen instantly, suddenly.
Habakkuk goes on to praise God as the everlasting One, who has always been, always will be, and whose ways are forever just and true.
I saw the tents of Cushan under distress, the tent curtains of the land of Midian were trembling.
Did the LORD rage against the rivers, or was Your anger against the rivers, or was Your wrath against the sea, that You rode on Your horses, on Your chariots of salvation?
Your bow was made bare, the rods of chastisement were sworn. Selah. You cleaved the earth with rivers.
The mountains saw You and quaked; the downpour of waters swept by. The deep uttered forth its voice, it lifted high its hands.
Sun and moon stood in their places; they went away at the light of Your arrows, at the radiance of Your gleaming spear.
In indignation You marched through the earth; in anger You trampled the nations.
You went forth for the salvation of Your people, for the salvation of Your anointed. You struck the head of the house of the evil to lay him open from thigh to neck. Selah.
You pierced with his own spears the head of his throngs. They stormed in to scatter us; their exultation was like those who devour the oppressed in secret.
You trampled on the sea with Your horses, on the surge of many waters.
This section is unquestionably difficult to understand. Habakkuk starts by recalling past events, stating and praising the way God protected His people (Israel) time after time. He continues to confirm God’s awesome power over His creation as He overtakes and subdues the enemies of His people by demolishing the very things He placed on this earth.
He ends this portion by heaping praises on God for protecting and saving His chosen people.
But while He comes thus, executing wrath and judgment upon the ungodly, He comes in mercy. He goes forth for the salvation of His people, for the salvation of Thine anointed, that is, the elect nation (Israel) and the God-fearing, waiting remnant of the last days (see Ps. 105:15).
—A. C. Gaebelein
I heard and my inward parts trembled, at the sound my lips quivered.
Decay enters my bones, and in my place I tremble.
Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress,
for the people to arise who will invade us.
Habakkuk is sharing his own personal reactions to all God has revealed to him of what is to come. Although he knows that God will take care of the terrible Chaldeans, he also realizes that it will not be pretty.
Warren Wiersbe explains Habakkuk’s current state of mind this way:
“If Habakkuk looked ahead, he saw a nation heading for destruction, and that frightened him. When he looked within, he saw himself trembling with fear, and when he looked around, he saw everything in the economy about to fall apart. But when he looked up by faith, he saw God, and all his fears vanished.”
Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord GOD is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.
For the choir director, on my stringed instruments.
In spite of Habakkuk’s fears, his faith enables him to express his absolute trust in God. He exults (rejoices) in His LORD; “the Lord GOD is my strength.” He quietly and patiently acknowledges that only God is his help and directs his every step no matter how steep the mountain of trials may be.
Summary of Habakkuk
Habakkuk is the only Old Testament book consisting entirely of a dialogue between God and a man. Other prophetic books consist mainly of a record of the prophets’ message (preaching) to the people.2
In the first chapter, we considered Habakkuk’s confusion in a world filled with chaos. He felt that God saw and knew about all the injustice and corruption but did not care enough about His people to do anything about it.
In Chapter 2, Habakkuk patiently waits as God replies to his questions by saying that He is using the Babylonians for His purposes and will punish them for their sins in His timing. God reminds Habakkuk that no matter what he sees or feels, He is still on His throne taking care of business as He sees fit. Ultimately Habakkuk submits to God’s authority and continues to praise Him.
Finally, in this last chapter, we see that Habakkuk has done a complete about-face. He now completely understands that God has not abandoned His own people. His faith is renewed and his why is replaced with great rejoicing over the strength, constancy and faithfulness of God.
The theme of Habakkuk is faith. He has been called the prophet of faith. This little book opens in gloom and closes in glory. It begins with a question mark and closes with an exclamation point.
—J. Vernon McGee
This short book of prophecy is a great comfort to me. When I am feeling low regarding events currently going on in the world or even about the personal issues that make my daily life a struggle, I have great peace in knowing that God is always available to hear my questions and concerns.
Habakkuk had a conversation with God about the wickedness going on in the world. He thought God was not paying attention to the evil Babylonians but God assured him that not only did He know all that was happening, but that He already had a plan in place to take care of the matter.
Our world today is full of violence, injustice and depravity. We are daily faced with news of war, pandemic illnesses and terrorist activity. Christian values are being laughed at, and we who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior are scoffed at and treated as fools.
Is this any different than in Habakkuk’s time?
Take heart! No matter how awful and frightening the world is today, God is still in control. He is not surprised by anything that is happening. He is fully aware of what is going on, is using every single thing for His purposes and His glory, and will continue to do so forever.
Perhaps the evil is worse now; we’re closer to the end than we’ve ever been before. But evil has been around since the Garden of Eden, and God’s plan for victory was designed before the world began. The Bible tells us to fear no evil. Because Christ triumphed, we will also overcome evil in the end. Trust Christ in this evil age and redeem the time, for the days are evil.
Make no mistake: sin will be punished. Satan and his minions will eventually be sealed in the Lake of Fire where they will spend eternity. Those of us who claim Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord will live in peace and harmony with Him in heaven forever. There we will bask in the precious, lavish and all-encompassing love of our Abba Father.
He who testifies to these things says,
“Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
Originally posted on TRC Magazine on July 31, 2014:
GOD ANSWERS HABAKKUK
I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart;
and I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me,
and how I may reply when I am reproved.
In chapter one, we considered Habakkuk’s confusion in a world filled with chaos. He felt that God saw and knew about all the injustice and corruption, but did not care enough about His people to do anything about it.
Habakkuk was understandably perplexed, but instead of internalizing his confusion, he let God know that he didn’t understand and asked Him to unravel the mystery. God now answers Habakkuk, who sees that, although God’s ways don’t seem to make sense, He is still in complete control.
Recording the Vision
Having asked God for clarification, Habakkuk now declares that he will watch and wait for God’s answer. He was ready to wait patiently, believing God would answer his questions.
Waiting is never easy and in our current culture of fast food, video chatting, quick texting, and constant and instantaneous social media updates, waiting is harder than ever. We can’t even seem to take a walk without having our cell phones to keep us company.
God does sometimes delay in answering our prayers, not because He wants us to suffer, but because His timing is much different than ours.
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:
With the Lord a day is like a thousand years,
and a thousand years are like a day.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise,
as some understand slowness.
He is patient with you,
not wanting anyone to perish,
but everyone to come to repentance.
–2 Peter 3:8-9
Sometimes God wants us to learn something during the waiting. Other times, He is using the waiting time to orchestrate events according to His timetable. Mostly, He simply wants us to trust Him no matter what.
Habakkuk lived in a very different era than we do, but I’m sure he had been watching all the troubling events around him for some time. Even though he had been patient, he was probably wondering when God would finally provide him with some answers.
Then the LORD answered me and said,
“Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets,
that the one who reads it may run.
For the vision is yet for the appointed time;
it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
for it will certainly come, it will not delay.”
Habakkuk was the embodiment of Paul’s reminder to the Corinthians to, “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). He knew what he was seeing, but chose to wait on God to reveal the why of it.
Did you catch the phrase in verse 2 which says “that the one who reads it may run?” In this context, God is telling Habakkuk to record what He is about to reveal to him, and encouraging him to be well prepared to carry His message to his cohorts. To apply this verse to our current times, I believe God wants us to immerse ourselves in His Word so that we may be fully prepared to share the hope we have in Him.
Behold, as for the proud one,
his soul is not right within him;
but the righteous will live by his faith.
Furthermore, wine betrays the haughty man,
so that he does not stay at home.
He enlarges his appetite like Sheol, and he is like death, never satisfied.
He also gathers to himself all nations and collects to himself all peoples.
The phrases “proud one” and “haughty man” refer to the Babylonians and others like them—those who are arrogant, filled with their own importance, and never satisfied. Although they have much, they constantly want more, even if it means crushing people (figuratively and literally) in the process.
These people place themselves above the Lord and do not recognize or acknowledge God’s sovereign authority. They are their own lords, and more is never enough for them.
In verses 6 through 19 (below), God answers Habakkuk’s concerns with five woes directed at the conceited, self-important Babylonians. These five woes are significant because God is telling Habakkuk that these oppressors will themselves suffer the same kinds of horrors they are inflicting upon others.
“In this chapter the five woes of God to the Chaldeans are universal principles. The principle is that everything that is evil will be met with the judgment of God. Habakkuk learns that the Chaldeans would be in power for a while, but the limit of their power and prosperity was absolutely fixed by God. The wicked may triumph for a while, but it will not last. Their doom is sealed.” –Dr. Harold L. White
Revealing the Reasons
6 Will not all of these take up a taunt-song against him, even mockery and insinuations against him and say, ‘Woe to him who increases what is not his—for how long—and makes himself rich with loans?’
7 Will not your creditors rise up suddenly, and those who collect from you awaken? Indeed, you will become plunder for them.
8 Because you have looted many nations, all the remainder of the peoples will loot you—because of human bloodshed and violence done to the land, to the town and all its inhabitants.
In verse 7, creditors, and those who collect from you, can be translated as, “those who bite you and violently shake you.” How many times have we read about loan sharks, people, and organizations who are more than happy to loan us money when we are desperate, but who also tack on high finance charges—sometimes more than the actual loan itself? People have been murdered when they cannot come up with the exorbitant amount demanded.
9 Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house to put his nest on high, to be delivered from the hand of calamity!
10 You have devised a shameful thing for your house by cutting off many peoples; so you are sinning against yourself.
11 Surely the stone will cry out from the wall, and the rafter will answer it from the framework.
For the Babylonians, more was never enough. They felt entitled to help themselves to whatever would satisfy them. If it took fighting and bloodshed to get what they wanted, so be it. They didn’t care.
How is this any different in today’s culture of robbery, murder and the like, simply to grab what you want merely because you covet it?
12 Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and founds a town with violence!
13 Is it not indeed from the LORD of hosts that peoples toil for fire, and nations grow weary for nothing?
14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
Babylon became rich by waging war with the surrounding nations. Bloodshed was second nature to them in their zeal to get what they wanted. But God also points out that, even though the Babylonians are slaughtering people to get what they want, they will be repaid in kind.
Verse 14 is a comfort to those of us who are awaiting the return of Jesus Christ, when he will rule the earth. This is a direct reference to Isaiah 11:9:
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
15 Woe to you who make your neighbors drink, who mix in your venom even to make them drunk so as to look on their nakedness!
16 You will be filled with disgrace rather than honor. Now you yourself drink and expose your own nakedness. The cup in the LORD’S right hand will come around to you, and utter disgrace will come upon your glory.
17 For the violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, and the devastation of its beasts by which you terrified them, because of human bloodshed and violence done to the land, to the town and all its inhabitants.
The Babylonians fueled their desire to possess more with alcohol and regularly drank to excess. They did their best to cause others to carouse along with them so they could take even more advantage of them in their diminished capacity.
Don’t lose heart though. You don’t have to look far to see that they will reap what they dished out. Verse 17 is a promise that the Babylonians will be hunted down and destroyed with as much violence as they imparted to others, probably more so.
18 What profit is the idol when its maker has carved it, or an image, a teacher of falsehood? For its maker trusts in his own handiwork when he fashions speechless idols.
19 Woe to him who says to a piece of wood, ‘Awake!’ To a mute stone, ‘Arise!’ And that is your teacher? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all inside it.
Cultism is defined as, “obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing”—in other words, worshiping false gods or idols. We are also very good at worshiping things: money, fame, and more and better stuff. How about when we worship nature (creation), and forget to worship and thank the Creator for all the beauty we see around us?
That is what the Babylonians were doing, venerating themselves and their grandiose ideas of how to obtain even more to feed their huge egos. Their idols were themselves! The worst thing people can do is to turn their back on God and start worshiping themselves and the works of their hands.
The downfall of a nation begins in idolatry; it begins in turning away from the living and true God. –J. Vernon McGee
Remembering His Holiness
Habakkuk, in spite of his questioning attitude toward God, finally gets it. God is God, and Habakkuk is not! He hears what God has to say and it soothes his heart, making him trust and praise God all the more.
20 “But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.”
God longs for us to worship and adore Him for who He is; He is, among so many other things, the great I AM; that means He has always been and always will be God. Since He created all things, He also knows all things, thus He has a much bigger picture of events than our puny minds can understand.
Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel,
and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’
Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?”
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”;
and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel,
‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’
This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.
Habakkuk has questioned the Lord’s methods for dealing with the injustice he sees in his world, and the Lord replies by saying He is using the Babylonians for His purposes and will punish them for their sins in His timing. God reminds Habakkuk that no matter what he sees or feels, He is still on His throne taking care of business as He sees fit. Ultimately Habakkuk submits to God’s authority and continues to praise Him.
Beloved, what are you going through right now? Do you have faith that God knows what He’s doing, even if you can’t yet see the results of that trust? Do you truly believe He has your best interests at heart?
The word “believe” is defined as:
to have confidence or faith in the truth of,
to have faith in the reliability, honesty, benevolence of.
So, if we believe that God is the great I AM, do we also believe—in faith— that God wants the best for us? Do we choose to have faith and trust in what we know to be true rather than what we can or cannot see?
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen.
On October 31, we’ll finish our study of Habakkuk, and see why Chapter three is considered a, “psalm of beauty,” according to J. Vernon McGee. I call it a song of praise and adoration to God.
For everything that was written in the past
was written to teach us,
so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures
and the encouragement they provide
we might have hope.
The sun comes up
It’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass
And whatever lies before me
Let me be singing
When the evening comes
Originally published at TRC Magazine (The Relevant Christian) on April 30, 2014.
By Anna Popescu
This prophecy of Habakkuk tells of a struggle and triumph of faith which took place in the soul of the prophet himself. “It begins with a sob, and ends with a song; and it is in the process from the one to the other that the little book discloses the heart of its meaning to us.” —Dr. Harold L. White
How long, O LORD, will I call for help, and You will not hear?
I cry out to You, “Violence!” yet You do not save.
Have you ever questioned how God seems to be working—or not working—in your life? We might be struggling with financial problems, wondering how much longer we can keep a roof over our heads. Perhaps we’ve been praying for such a long time for a specific need, and still don’t have the answer. Maybe we’re living a life filled with physical pain that doesn’t ever seem to end.
And then there is all the crime and evil in our society. The unborn and young children are still being exploited and preyed upon. Too many people feel entitled to have it all without making any effort to earn those possessions. Christianity is being mocked as never before. Our values and beliefs are constantly being laughed at, provoked, and demonstrated against. The claims of open-mindedness seem to embrace everything but Christianity.
Then we look around at the people who seem to sail through life with hardly a care. They have lots of money, the latest tech gadgets, gorgeous clothes and cars. It seems to us that they are never lacking anything.
So we may ask ourselves: Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? Doesn’t He love or care about me anymore? Can’t He see how I’m struggling just to get through each hour of the day?
Beloved, things are no different today than they were back then.
Habakkuk had a big problem. He was looking at all the injustice in his world and wondering why God wasn’t taking care of it. He knew God was just, righteous, and punished evil, but it seemed to him that God was doing nothing to punish the sin and violence he saw all around him. In fact, to Habakkuk, it looked like God was simply ignoring all the wrongdoing and wickedness. Habakkuk’s heart was broken, and in his anguish, he believed God did not care.
Why do You make me see iniquity, and cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; strife exists and contention arises. Therefore the law is ignored and justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore justice comes out perverted. —Habakkuk 1:3-4
Habakkuk lived in a time of some very evil kings. The people of Judah had strayed very far from God, away from Mosaic Law, and had chosen to follow their own path rather than God’s way. Habakkuk became very concerned that God apparently did not care that His chosen people were living such sinful lives, and wondered why God wasn’t taking care of this. How could God ignore such obvious corrupt behavior from His own people?
At this point, Judah was about to be invaded by the Chaldeans who lived in southern Babylon. These Chaldeans (also called Babylonians) were intelligent, aggressive and loved war. They worshiped many idols rather than the One True God. Habakkuk was appalled that God would punish Judah by allowing such a corrupt people to invade them.
J. Vernon McGee described the scene this way:
“The people of Judah apparently felt that they were God’s little pets and that He would not punish them for their sins.”1
Habakkuk was concerned that if the Jews were indeed God’s chosen people, why didn’t God do something? Why was He allowing this to happen to them?
He is about to see that although God’s ways don’t seem to make sense in this case, God is still in control.
Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days—you would not believe if you were told.
For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that fierce and impetuous people who march throughout the earth to seize dwelling places which are not theirs.
They are dreaded and feared; their justice and authority originate with themselves. Their horses are swifter than leopards and keener than wolves in the evening. Their horsemen come galloping, their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swooping down to devour. All of them come for violence. Their horde of faces moves forward. They collect captives like sand. They mock at kings. And rulers are a laughing matter to them. They laugh at every fortress and heap up rubble to capture it. Then they will sweep through like the wind and pass on. But they will be held guilty, they whose strength is their god.
Habakkuk was understandably confused at this point. Although he knew how wicked the people of Judah have become, and heard God say that He will yet set things right, he doesn’t see why God would use such a wicked people to chastise Judah. After all, they weren’t nearly as bad as those awful Chaldeans!
Habakkuk protests first against the violence and injustice of his countrymen in Judah (Habakkuk 1:1-4), and then against the violence and injustice of the Chaldeans whom God is sending to punish Judah.2
Yes, God answered Habakkuk’s first question but God’s answer confuses Habakkuk so much that he has another, even more troubling question:
How can a holy God use a sinful nation to accomplish His purposes?1
Are You not from everlasting, O LORD, my God, my Holy One? We will not die. You, O LORD, have appointed them to judge; and You, O Rock, have established them to correct. Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You cannot look on wickedness with favor. Why do You look with favor on those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they? Why have You made men like the fish of the sea, like creeping things without a ruler over them? The Chaldeans bring all of them up with a hook, drag them away with their net, and gather them together in their fishing net. Therefore they rejoice and are glad. Therefore they offer a sacrifice to their net and burn incense to their fishing net; because through these things their catch is large, and their food is plentiful. Will they therefore empty their net and continuously slay nations without sparing? I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; and I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, and how I may reply when I am reproved. —Habakkuk 1:12-2:1
In essence, Habakkuk is lamenting:
LORD, I know You are in control but You are holy and righteous, so how can You possibly allow this? And then, in spite of his confusion, Habakkuk returns to what he knows to be true: the LORD is almighty, unchanging, holy, just and absolutely faithful. Habakkuk knows that whatever and however God is working in this situation, it must be righteous because God is the Righteous One: “LORD God of Israel, You are righteous, for we have been left an escaped remnant, as it is this day; behold, we are before You in our guilt, for no one can stand before You because of this” (Ezra 9:15).
I will give thanks to the LORD according to His righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High. —Psalm 7:17
For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; the upright will behold His face. —Psalm 11:7
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. —Psalm 19:9
I will come with the mighty deeds of the LORD God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone. —Psalm 71:16
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all it contains; let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the LORD, for He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in His faithfulness. —Psalm 96:11-13
Can’t you just imagine Habakkuk’s bewilderment at these series of events? I can feel Habakkuk’s confusion and anger at God’s strange way of dealing with people who refuse to worship Him and Him alone. He asked God, “Why are You allowing this, but how can Your way be just?”
Habakkuk see the Chaldeans as self-serving–a people who honor their own cleverness. They refuse to worship the LORD, but instead worship the works of their own hands. In verse 1:16 we read that they are worshipping the fishing nets that bring up huge catches of fish. Really?How far they have strayed from their LORD!
Habakkuk’s why was not meant to challenge God’s sovereignty. He was simply confused and asking God for clarification. Questioning God is not wrong as long as we do it with a sincere heart.
“It is entirely different to wonder why God allowed a certain event than it is to directly question God’s goodness. Having doubts is different from questioning God’s sovereignty and attacking His character. In short, an honest question is not a sin, but a bitter, untrusting, or rebellious heart is. God is not intimidated by questions. God invites us to enjoy close fellowship with Him,” from GotQuestions.org: Is it Right to Question God?
Beloved, are things any different today than they were in Habakkuk’s time? Violence and chaos surround us. We are daily inundated by news of catastrophic weather all over the world, like hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, tsunamis, wildfires, and the list goes on.
What about the diseases and chronic pain illnesses that plague mankind? And what about trying to make ends meet when we can’t even find work? How can we afford health insurance when we can hardly pay for the basics such as housing, food and clothing? How do we rationalize all the casualties of war?
Where, oh where, is our God in all of this?
Beloved, hang tight with me while I explore Habakkuk’s change from gloom to glory.1 Next time we’ll sit with him while he waits and dwells on God’s attributes, confirming what he knows to be true:
God always knows best and always works for our good and His glory!
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God,
that He may exalt you at the proper time,
casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.
Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion,
seeking someone to devour.
But resist him, firm in your faith,
knowing that the same experiences of suffering
are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.
After you have suffered for a little while,
the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ,
will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
—1 Peter 5:6-11
1 Thru the Bible with Vernon McGee ©1982. Thomas Nelson.
2 From John Piper’s sermon: The Just Shall Live by Faith.
This year I decided to do a chronological reading through the Bible, which I am really enjoying. A lot of that reading lately has been in Psalms and this particular one really stood out to me the other night, especially this section:
In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me;
turn your ear to me and save me.
Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go;
give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.
For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
my confidence since my youth.
From birth I have relied on you;
you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you.
I have become a sign to many; you are my strong refuge.
My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.
I find myself in a similar mode as David when he wrote this later in his life. When I am floundering in my circumstances, I can only see myself and my problems. But when I focus on my Rock of Refuge, it makes me look at everything He is doing in my life with new eyes.
Yesterday already happened.
Tomorrow I may not be here.
But right now I can rely on the Lord to be my true refuge…to guide me through the mountains and valleys in my life until He finally brings me home with Him.
How about you, Beloved? Is Jesus your Rock of Refuge? Will you totally trust in Him for everything in your life?
Oh, Jesus, we need You so much in our lives! We are so thankful that because of Your sacrifice on the cross, we have the hope of eternal life with You. We love you so much! And how can we ever thank You enough for being our Rock of Refuge? Help us to learn to rely on you daily … hourly … minute-by-minute. Amen.