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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Smith :: A Faith to Cling To

Don Smith :: Habakkuk 1:5-11

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A Faith to Cling To — A Call to Rejoice in the God of Our Salvation

Part Two: “The Sovereign Plan of God” – Habakkuk 1:5-11

When the Righteous must Bear God-given Burdens, They Are Apt to Question His Ways and His Will.

  • They cry out in prayer, “How much longer must I endure the heavy weight of my burden?” “Is this ever going to stop?”
  • It isn’t uncommon for questioning to turn to complaining.
  • “Why God did You lay this burden on my life in the first place?”
  • “Why will You not answer my prayers when You tell us to pray without ceasing?”
  • “Where are You when I need You?”
  • “Do You not care that I am troubled and perishing?”
  • “Are You unmoved by my desperate prayers for deliverance?”

These are questions and protests common to the righteous when they cry out in prayer during times of personal and national crisis.

  • Only a few times in history, however, has God personally answered these complaints.
  • Job pleaded with God for answers to his prayers.
  • God appeared but rather than answer his questions began to question Job.
  • Job’s perspective and appreciation of God had diminished during his suffering.
  • It was time to enlarge Job’s view of God’s supremacy over all things.
  • The prophet Habakkuk shared the same need in his life.
  • He labored under a God-given burden.
  • The Lord called him to be a prophet-priest to Judah during very chaotic times.
  • The Northern Kingdom of Israel had already been invaded by Assyria and taken many into captivity in 722 BC.
  • Judah seemed destine for the same fate.
  • As a priest Habakkuk fervently interceded daily in the Temple for the plight of his nation.
  • As a prophet he cried out for the people to repent of their sins.
  • He, like his contemporary Jeremiah, was ridiculed and rejected.
  • His message of law/gospel…condemnation and grace was outright rejected.
  • Habakkuk was watching the very fabric of society unraveling before his eyes.
  • His culture, preoccupied with violence, was being torn apart by strife and contention.
  • This was evident not only in government, courts and businesses but also in families and the religious institutions associated with the Temple.
  • Legalists could only find fault with lawbreakers and not see their own stubborn hearts.
  • People wrangled over interpretations of the law while neglecting justice and grace.
  • The Law that once governed this great nation had been compromised, nullified and rendered ineffective.
  • The government was powerless to protect the innocent and prosecute the guilty.
  • The proliferation of legislation only added to injustice.
  • Jerusalem, once known as “Peace City” had become “Sin City.”
  • There was unparalleled moral decay and death in the streets of the city.
  • Habakkuk saw these things and was a broken burdened prophet.
  • One day while pouring out his burden in prayer, the Lord appeared and addressed his questions.
  • The first of God’s two responses is recorded in Habakkuk 1:5-11.

God Announces that He Was Working in His Day among Other Peoples – Habakkuk 1:5

1. He calls His people to look and be astounded what He is doing. (Hab 1:5)

  • His message applied to everyone in Judah and not just the prophet,
  • God’s commands “look!” and “be astounded!” are 2nd personal plural forms.
  • Habakkuk’s message was to be preached through out the land.
  • They were to look for God’s work among other nations or peoples as a clue to what lay ahead for their nation.
  • If they took the time to look beyond their own self-centeredness, they would see God at work beyond their shores and borders.
  • God’s people are called to look beyond themselves to other peoples and nations.
  • They are not to think and pray only for themselves.
  • Those with a myopic spiritual vision pray only for what concerns themselves and not for what concerns others.
  • That is why committing to pray for missionaries and ministries expands our burden for others so that we gain a world vision.

2. He calls His people to heed the prophet’s message now. (Acts 13:38-41)

  • To Habakkuk’s surprise God had heard his prayer for deliverance from a violent culture
  • But the answer to his prayer would come in a very different unrecognizable form.
  • That is why the Lord told the people to take a good look at what He was doing in other parts of the world and be astonished.
  • Their astonishment was intended to provoke them to fear God and repent of their sin.
  • God was saying, “I have told you things like this before through the prophets but you did not believe.”
  • Neither would they believe His work in their day even if He told them.
  • The words spoken by the Lord here have been mentioned in other Scriptures.
  • They are a warning as well as a hope.
  • It was God’s offer of resurrection hope for a decadent and dying culture.
  • The Apostle Paul when he preached to the Jews in the synagogue of Antioch of Pisidia, quoted Habakkuk 1:5.
  • After he had recounted the promise of Christ from Genesis, the Psalms and the prophets, he then turned to warn his fellow Jews of the consequences of once again rejecting the gospel once preached to their fathers.
  • This same gospel was being preached among the nations.
  • They were to look and be astonished at God’s work among the Gentiles.
  • Instead, they did just as their fathers had done…rejected the Gospel.
  • In Acts 13:36-41 Paul told his Jewish audience to hear the Gospel of Christ, to reject Him was to perish at the hands of another nation. He pleaded,
For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; but He whom God raised up saw no corruption [referring to Jesus Christ]. Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man [Christ Jesus] is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him [Christ] everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. [He warns them as the Lord warned them before through Habakkuk] Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you: “Behold, you despisers, marvel and perish! For I work a work in your days, A work which you will by no means believe, Though one were to declare it to you.”
  • Like Habakkuk, Paul called his fellow Jews to be amazed and astonished at God’s work among the Gentiles.
  • He further identified the gospel as the fulfillment of all Old Testament Scriptures.
  • The Christ had to suffer and be raised from the dead.
  • He alone has resurrection the power not only to raise up spiritually dead men but nations.
  • Did Israel have ears to hear?
  • In AD 70, Rome crushed and sacked Jerusalem…there was death in the city.

Present application: Are we to preach in our day a message like Habakkuk and Paul?

  • The message they preached was the gospel of Christ.
  • They proclaimed God was Holy and Just.
  • They uncompromisingly announced judgment on those who disclaimed their sin and need to repent.
  • Faith in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection was their only hope.
  • Only He could raise up spiritually dead men.
  • Only He could forgive sin and empower them to live godly lives.
  • Judgment must come when there is death in the city.
  • How different from the Gospel preached today! We hear things like:
God loves everyone and wants to make everyone healthy, wealthy, and wise. If you want to have prosperity in your business and family, and if you want self-esteem for yourselves and your families, then here are ten commandments and principles for successful living.
  • Habakkuk and Paul would be shocked to hear another gospel like this being pawned off as the true Gospel.
  • There must be a passionate declaration of Law which exposes our utter inability to keep God’s holy standards and our desperate need for God’s sovereign grace.

The Lord now reveals to Habakkuk what He was doing among the nations.

  • It will shock them to see how God was going to work in Gentiles to become His rod of wrath upon their nation for Judah’s rejection of God’s grace.
  • It is another reminder, that the answers to our prayers often come in ways we would never anticipate or even want.
  • The Lord answered three of Habakkuk’s complaints:
    • “How long shall Habakkuk cry out for deliverance?” (It will come in his day.)
    • “Does God hear his prayers?” (Yes, God directly responded to his prayers.)
    • “Why does he have to see and be burdened with the iniquity of his generation when it appears God shares this troubling burden?” (God does care about holiness and justice.)
    • God’s answers to these questions are shocking and even more troubling than his burden.

God Was Preparing for the Day of Judah’s Judgment – Habakkuk 1:6-10

1. The Lord affirmed He will accomplish all He has ordained – Habakkuk 1:6

  • His answer to Habukkuk’s prayer was “He was raising up the Chaldeans”.
  • They were an ancient people of Semitic origin but did not come upon the world scene until twenty years before Habakkuk’s prophecy.
  • Their capital city Babylon, was already mentioned by Isaiah as the city of Judah’s captivity. (Isaiah 39:6)
  • They had risen quickly to world power conquering Assyria in 614 BC; destroying Nineveh in 612 BC and Haran in 610 BC.
  • Their sights were now set on tiny Israel.
  • Jerusalem’s destruction by the Chaldeans would fulfill ancient prophetic warnings like the one given by Moses to Israel while wandering in the wilderness. (Deut.28:49; Jer.4:13)
  • In Deuteronomy 28:47-53 Moses warned Israel that judgment would come upon them when they settled in the land if they ever rejected the Lord and His Word.
Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you. The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies, a nation whose language you will not understand, a nation of fierce countenance, which does not respect the elderly nor show favor to the young. And they shall eat the increase of your livestock and the produce of your land, until you are destroyed; they shall not leave you grain or new wine or oil, or the increase of your cattle or the offspring of your flocks, until they have destroyed you. "They shall besiege you at all your gates until your high and fortified walls, in which you trust, come down throughout all your land; and they shall besiege you at all your gates throughout all your land which the LORD your God has given you.
  • Moses warned God would bring a nation against them because they did not serve god out of joy and gladness of heart.
  • Joy and gladness had left years before Habakkuk.
  • When he prayed for justice…the Lord answered his prayer to fulfill what Moses had warned centuries before.
  • God was sending one of the most violent people who have ever lived since the days of early Babylon!

2. Then Lord the described the swift devastation that was coming upon Judah by the Chaldeans – Habakkuk 1:6-10

  • He described the mind set of this invading enemy in the follow manner – Hab 1:6-7
  • They were “A bitter ruthless people” filled with anger, antagonism and hatred.
  • They were a “hasty impetuous nation” planning as they went along the spread of their kingdom around the world.
  • They believed in the “scorched earth” policy.
  • They didn’t hesitate to rape, pillage and destroy everything and everybody in their path.
  • Their goal was to make kings their vassals and cities their playground.
  • They were in God’s own words “A terrible and dreadful” people.
  • The irony was God would use this violent and unjust people to chastise Judah for her violence and injustice.

The Babylonian’s unconventional ways of war were unstoppable – Habakkuk 1:8

  • Their horses were “swifter than leopards” able to strike fear into their enemies as they rode from city to city in rapid succession.
  • Jeremiah 4:13-14 pleaded with Judah as well to heed God’s warning and repent before it was too late,
Behold, he shall come up like clouds, And his chariots like a whirlwind. His horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us, for we are plundered! “O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness, That you may be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you?”
  • Even though the prophets foretold of their coming, Judah found ways to disregard this warning.
  • They argued they had the historic Temple of God in Jerusalem and God had bailed them out of similar messes before so why worry now?
  • They just couldn’t admit their sin or the plight of their nation.
  • They also rejected the prophets because they were more interested in their own personal success and prosperity than they were about the decay of the culture around them.
  • They were self-deceived into thinking, “Why should good men do anything as long as they can live in affluence and personal peace?”
  • The soldiers in the Chaldean army were more “fierce” than starving “wolves.”
  • They had the proverbial “eye of the tiger”…seeking whom they could devour.
  • Their horsemen also could swoop down upon their enemy like an “eagle” who dives upon its prey.
  • Judah had become morally weak and therefore vulnerable.
  • Babylon was driven to conquer the world.

The violent nature of this invading enemy is further characterized by some of the very sins for which Judah was being chastised by God – Habakkuk 9-10

  • “They all come for violence” even greater than the violence in the streets of Jerusalem.
  • They come like an “east wind” capturing sand (Gen 32:13)
  • The Babylonians threatened to destroy God’s promised blessing upon Abraham.
  • God blessed Abraham and his seed until their numbers were like the sands of the sea.
  • The Chaldeans, however, were coming like a tornado to gather up the blessed sand.
  • They “scoffed and scorned” the kings of other mighty nations.
  • They respected only brute force not peace treaties or empty rhetoric.
  • When they sought the destruction of a city they derided every “stronghold” and found ways to enter mighty walled cities.
  • If the city put up resistance, their armies built ramps to scale their walls.
  • These ferocious soldiers thought nothing of blowing up cities and killing innocent men, women and children.
  • They sought retribution on any people who did not share their faith in Marduk, the feared god of the nether world.
  • Judah was like people when warned about a destructive hurricane think it won’t hit them.
  • The think they can ride it out and not get flooded by all the filth and corruption in the city.
  • God’s wrath was coming like a level five storm but only in the form of a violent nation.
  • The Lord concluded His first answer to Habakkuk’s prayer with an affirmation of His own supremacy over all nations even Babylon.

God Laughs in Heaven at Proud Powerful Nations Who Plot Against Him and His People – Habakkuk 1:11

1. The Lord informed Habakkuk that the seeds Babylon’s destruction were already sown in self-deifying arrogance.

  • As Babylon sought world domination, it would cry out for God’s wrath against their vile transgressions against God and other nations.

2. He would judge this “Glory-Robbing” self-sufficient, self-deifying nation as He has many others through out history. (Psalm 2)

  • God revealed this through Habakkuk not only to provoke Judah to repentance but also to remind them of His covenant faithfulness.
  • The sands of Abraham’s blessing might be blown away and put in Babylonian captivity but the Lord would deliver them.
  • He would bring forth one from Abraham’s seed who would bless all the nations of the earth.
  • Psalm 2 gives God’s perspective of earthly kings and kingdoms who seeking their own glory. It finds prophetic fulfillment in Jesus Christ who is the one in whom God is well pleased.
Why do the nations rage and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The LORD shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel.” Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.

Conclusion: God rules and reigns over all things even kings and kingdoms.

  • He sets them up and takes them down.
  • Every time He does this He is accomplishing His preordained sovereign will.
  • As in Habakkuk’s day there is a need to hear a prophetic voice today in our land.
  • We need a clear uncompromising message of Law/Gospel that calls the church and our people to repent of their sins and accept God’s grace found only by faith in Jesus Christ.
  • When the righteous bear a God-given burden they are called to intercessory prayer.
  • If the church continues to say nothing and do nothing there will be death in the city.
  • Our only hope and confidence is faith in Christ and His sovereign will.
  • This is a time to pray even as Habakkuk carried his burden for his people.

Questions for Further Discussion and Discovery

  1. Why is it important to pray with a vision for God’s work around the world?
  2. What do you think God is doing in this nation that burdens you to prayer?
  3. What do you think God is doing in other countries around the world that may change the face of history?
  4. If there were a message God wanted to convey to our nation what do you think it would be? Why?
  5. How do you think our generation would respond to His message?
  6. Who do you think are the greatest enemies facing Christian churches in America?
  7. Why are these enemies so dangerous?
  8. How can the church prepare itself to face uncertain times?
  9. What do Christians need to know today about God?
  10. Why is belief in God’s sovereignty so vital to our hope and faith?
  11. Why are the seeds of self-destruction for any nation arrogance, pride and self-deification?
  12. In light of God’s revelation in Habakkuk 1:5-11 how should we be praying for your family, church, nation and Christians in other nations?

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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