I have always been attracted to the minor prophets. Since they only had one message to proclaim, it must have been an important one. Not to diminish the importance of other prophets such as Jeremiah or Ezekiel, we might call the minor prophets “one-hit wonders” to use a baseball term. What we see recorded about these prophets was likely the pinnacle of their lives, their moment in the spotlight.
The message of Habakkuk is important for us today. He wondered where God’s justice was. Habakkuk was perplexed, confused. The nation of Judah, following the reforms of Josiah, had fallen back into idolatry and lawlessness. “Why wasn’t God doing anything about this?” was Habakkuk’s complaint. But rather than complain from the pulpit, rather than abandoning God, he took an important first step. He voiced his complaint to God.
In Habakkuk 1:2-4, he complained to God (NASB) “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. 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.” Pretty harsh words. Especially when spoken to the God of the universe. I wonder if Habakkuk was expecting to be hit by a bolt of lightning for his boldness.
But this was an important action on his part. Despite his confusion, Habakkuk realized the answer to his questions could only come from God. So, to God he went.
God’s initial response was even more confusing to Habakkuk. God replied “I am doing something. I am raising up the Chaldeans (Babylonians). Two things strike me here. First, God invoked his name twice. We see that he said “I am.” I am the God you think I am.” I am in control. But Habakkuk was astounded. “The Chaldeans! They are more corrupt and sinful than Judah. You’re using them?”
Habakkuk then took the second important step. He goes to his quiet place (to his watchtower) to wait for God. He has petitioned God, he is confident God will respond more fully. How often do we pray and then forget about our prayer? Or occupy our minds with other pursuits. Habakkuk wanted an answer, he expected an answer, and he waited on God to answer. This is not always what we should do after petitioning God in prayer. Sometimes we just need to keep doing what we have been doing until God tells us otherwise. It doesn’t tell us in the scripture that Habakkuk fasted, but I can envision him doing so. He was showing God how concerned he was about the situation he was bringing to God. He wanted God’s attention. Sort of like sitting in the outer office of an important person we want to talk with, and we don’t have an appointment.
We don’t know how long it was before God responded, but He did. And the first thing God told Habakkuk was to take notes. In Chapter 2:2 we read “Then the Lord answered me and said, “Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who [c]reads it may run.” Whoa! God’s telling Habakkuk to write this down for others to see. And when they see it, they run. This is some serious stuff, God. So, as a third step, Habakkuk wrote God’s response so that he would remember the details and could spread God’s message to Judah. And that when God proves himself just and true, everyone can remember that He is a God of His word.
God described five woes of the Chaldeans. But what must not be overlooked is that these could describe Judah as well.
- Greed. Woe to him who increases what is not his (2:6)
- False Security. Woe to him who covets evil gain for his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of disaster! (2:9).
- Violence Woe to him who builds a town with bloodshed, who establishes a city by iniquity! (2:12).
- Arrogance. Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor, pressing him to your bottle, even to make him drunk, that you may look on his nakedness!” (2:15)
- Idolatry. Woe to him who says to wood, “Awake!” To silent stone, “Arise! It shall teach!” (2:19)
The text describes each of these in detail. I would encourage you to read the full descriptions of these woes.
But then Habakkuk takes another step. He lifts a prayer, or song to the Lord. We don’t know much about Habakkuk but we believe he was a musician as the book adds a footnote “For the choir director, on my stringed instruments.”
God never changes. He is the same today as he was when Habakkuk voiced his concerns to God. Habakkuk concludes with a prayer/song exclaiming “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. (3:18-19). We, too, can take assurance that God is still in control and knows the end game.