Return to Study Guide for Habakkuk -by Don Kugelberg
As we ended our lesson last week, Habakkuk had received some very bad news from the Lord. God’s answer was not the one Habakkuk was expecting or hoping for. He learns that Israel will be invaded by a merciless foreign army who will utterly devastate them. Habakkuk also learns that both the innocent and guilty will suffer and that he personally will see this happen with his own eyes.
God’s answer has produced a “crisis of belief” in Habakkuk’s life. How will he react? Habakkuk is being forced to decide what he believes about God. The importance of this question confronts us all as we live this side of glory. As Habakkuk grapples with God’s response he returns to his foundations; the truths which he lays down, which he resolves to abide by, and with which he comforts himself.
Are you not from everlasting,
O LORD my God, my Holy One?
We shall not die.
O LORD, you have ordained them as a judgment,
and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof.
With a settled heart, the prophet reminds himself that God has confirmed and ratified a treaty with His people. They are His and He is theirs. In Exodus, God makes an astounding revelation to Moses:
I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them.
The patriarchs knew the name Yahweh but they experienced him as “El Shaddai”. Israel would, in leaving Egypt, come to know Yahweh as their covenant keeping God. Indeed, from that day forward, Yahweh or Jehovah became Israel’s name for God whenever they remembered the covenant.
Habakkuk uses the covenant name of God to open verse 12. You could paraphrase his thoughts “Did you not establish your covenant with us in ages long past?” He starts by remembering the unique relationship which Israel has with the Lord and reaches his first conclusion: “we shall not die.” His logic is impeccable. God uses it later as He speaks of Himself to Malachi:
For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.
God’s covenant and relationship is with Israel. The Chaldeans have no such relationship with Him. Notice that Habakkuk speaks of “My” God, “My Holy One”. It is on the strength of this established relationship that Habakkuk reminds himself that no matter how bad it gets, the nation will be preserved because God has promised.
Habakkuk perhaps looks back in his mind at all those altars God told Moses and Joshua to build.
And he [Joshua] said to the people of Israel, When your children ask their fathers in times to come, “What do these stones mean?” then you shall let your children know, Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground. For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.
Joshua uses the covenantal name “Yahweh” in every case in these verses. The places where the stones were piled up into altars were where Israel was to remember when God was faithful in each instance.
Habakkuk reminds Himself that God was faithful in the past and He will be faithful now. This has always been the mainstay of believers. I like the way Isaac Watts wrote it in hymn form:
Oh God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast and our eternal home.
Before the hills in order stood, or earth received her frame, from everlasting Thou art God, to endless years the same.
He finishes in verse 12 by acknowledging that God is going to use the Babylonians to judge the nation. Reiterating what God revealed in verse 6 that their rise in not coincidental.
After laying down his foundation, he asks the questions that are troubling him.
You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and are silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he? You make mankind like the fish of the sea, like crawling things that have no ruler.
Lord, why will you use the Chaldeans to judge us when they are more wicked than we are? Where’s the justice in that?
Notice it is God’s actions that make men like animals that have no ruler. The world looks at calamity and draws this conclusion – there is no ruler because if there were one there would be justice. Or perhaps, if there is a God, he is not the kind of God I want to worship.
Continuing with the analogy, Habakkuk asks the Lord if he has taken a good look at the Babylonians.
He brings all of them up with a hook; he drags them out with his net; he gathers them in his dragnet; so he rejoices and is glad.
Look at what a thorough job they are doing Lord! Those that they can’t capture with rod and reel, they dragnet for; they are indiscriminant in their catch and they revel in their total conquest.
Therefore he sacrifices to his net and makes offerings to his dragnet; for by them he lives in luxury, and his food is rich. Is he then to keep on emptying his net and mercilessly killing nations forever?
They don’t even acknowledge you as God. They are sacrificing to the nets as if they deserve the credit for their catches. Doesn’t that upset you, God?
It is interesting to me that God has already stated in verses 5-11 that He is well aware of who the Babylonians are and what they are doing.
Habakkuk 1:15 is paralleled by verses 9-10
Habakkuk 1:16 is paralleled by verse 11.
Habakkuk cannot bring his dilemma to a conclusion. He therefore waits:
I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.
Habakkuk pauses to hear the answer from the Lord. He anticipates a continuing dialog with the Almighty! I am convicted by this thought. In the midst of trials and duress I pour out my problems to the Lord. Sometimes I get the feeling that I am doing so much talking that the Lord can’t get a word in edgewise!
As we leave chapter 1, we find Habakkuk waiting intently on the Lord’s reply.
Return to Study Guide for Habakkuk -by Don Kugelberg