Habakkuk’s Second Complaint – 1:12-2:1
It is clear from the prophet’s second complaint that God’s answer didn’t clear up any of his concerns, rather the opposite has happened – Habakkuk now has more questions than before. Babylon is evil, God must punish them for these things, yet God is going allow their sin to go further and increase by punishing His own people with them? How can a righteous God use wicked Babylon to discipline and punish His own people? You may respond and say, “How can a thrice holy God look on at all, much less use it for His own glory?” They’re vile, He’s pure, they’re evil, He’s good. 1:12 shows this confusion at play within his heart. Habakkuk rightly states that God is eternal, and holy, and powerful – then the new questions come: 1:13 shows us that Habakkuk thinks God’s people are “more righteous” than the Babylonians, and because of this it is evil of God to punish the righteous with the wicked.
1:14-15 shows that Habakkuk thinks if Babylon does invade them that it would be utterly humiliating, as a fish is humiliated after being caught and would be dangling on a hook. 1:16-17 portray Babylon as proud of their strength and wickedness, to which Habakkuk responds with the question: how can they keep on “mercilessly killing nations forever?” Where is God’s justice? How can God’s holy character tolerate this? To Habakkuk, the character of God would never move God to do such a thing. Did you notice 2:1? As a soldier waits and watches on the watchtower for some sign of war, Habakkuk is waiting for God to answer him. This language signifies a direct challenge from the prophet to God, and this prophet is demanding a response.
God’s Second Reply – 2:2-2:20
Well, as you can imagine – God didn’t remain silent when His own prophet called His character into question. Now God does not always respond to people who bring His character into question. God is not a puppet King sitting atop a Fisher-Price throne worried about the opinions of others. He is the King of Kings, unafraid of any who take a cheap shot at Him. But graciously, God does reply to His prophet – and we learn a lot from it.
We learn in 2:3 that though it seems like nothing is changing, the time is coming soon when God will act. We learn in 2:4-5 that Babylon is a proud nation, drunk with their own greed and power, and we learn Habakkuk shouldn’t resemble them in character, but should show himself to be who he has been called to be, a righteous man who lives by faith resting/trusting in the promises of God even if it appears that “God is idle.”
In 2:6-20 God reminds Habakkuk that though it may look like a further injustice is going on, that is not the case. Though it may look like evil prospers God is providentially moving history in the direction He wants it to go. The wicked always come to an end, and God never overlooks any sin from any creature that He made to dwell in His creation. These verses (2:6-20) contain 5 woe’s against Babylon, 2:6, 2:9, 2:12, 2:15, and 2:19. Notice exactly what was in Babylon that caused God to pronounce woe’s against them: greed/violence (2:6-8), love of wealth (2:9-11), injustice (2:12-14), drunkenness/sexual immorality (2:15-17), and idolatry (2:18-19).
These woe’s remind Habakkuk and us that God’s judgment will move mightily against any human power that sets itself up against God’s reign and rule. From the generation of the flood, to those who built Babel, from the Philistines, Moabites, and the Cannanites, to the Roman empire, from North Korea, to ISIS – even our precious United States of America, if we continue our current trend and move away from God one heart at a time – God will not sit by idle. In time, and ultimately at the final judgment every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Again the clearest example is the cross of Christ. How much does God hate sin? He turned away from His one and only Son once all the sins of all who would ever believe in Jesus were laid on Him. God forsook His Son, and laid the punishment we deserve on Jesus. God doesn’t just remove sin, He doesn’t just sit by idly, He crushes it, defeats it, conquers over it in the death of Jesus on the cross. But for all those who refuse and reject Jesus, judgment is still coming.
What should our response be from hearing these things in chapter 2?
a) 2:14, into the dark night of the soul for the prophet Habakkuk God makes a promise that floods his heart with blazing light. When it seems like nothing but sin, lawlessness, and evil is filling the whole earth we hear this stunning promise from God, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge (perception and pondering is happening) of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” There is always hope because God Himself promises that though it may look otherwise, He will make sure that one day the knowledge of His glory will fill the whole earth. Now, someone may read this and say – this is the most selfish and egotistical statement God has ever made. C.S. Lewis said this before God saved him. That “God in the Psalms seems like a vain old woman craving for compliments because He tells us to praise Him so much.” If you agree you reject the fountain of all delight, pleasure, joy, and happiness. I 100% disagree with these statements because they miss a huge Biblical reality that the whole Bible puts on display for us. God’s glorifying Himself is how God loves His people the deepest. Why? Because it is when His glory goes public, when it is seen, when it gazed at, our hearts fill up with a forever happiness and we are satisfied to the depth of our souls. Therefore God glorifying Himself is good news for us, because God’s passion for His glory is the measure of His commitment to our joy.
b) Second, after receiving the wonderful promise that the knowledge of the glory of the Lord will fill the earth, even though it looks like it won’t ever happen we ought to be stunned to silence. 2:20 says, “The Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him.” There is not much to explain this except to say that true awe produces silence in us. This is not a quiet respect that we tell kids to do when they’re being too noisy in a setting they shouldn’t. This is being struck speechless by glimpsing the Lord of Glory. Nothing is better for the soul than to be struck speechless by the glory of God, priorities will fall in line, what’s important will rise up, what’s secondary will take a back seat, fires in heart will be calmed, worries, cares, and concerns won’t seem to worth our attention.
Habakkuk’s Prayerful Response – 3:1-19
Habakkuk got the message, was rebuked, and responds to God with some of the most joyful words in the entire Bible. So we see, that another benefit of being struck speechless by the Lord of Glory is that when we begin speaking again, beautiful things come out. 3:17-19 is the apex of this prayer – this is where God’s promise in 2:14 leads to.
So we’ve seen Habakkuk 1,2,3 put on display before us – remember how I asked you to dig up those things you’ve tried to bury on Monday? Your cares, concerns, problems, issues that seem to large to be resolved? If you haven’t dug down and gotten them out, do it now. Remember I said that God was about to deal with us? He’s about to do so now. If you haven’t picked up on it by now, we’ve seen how God dealt with the heart of His own prophet here in the text.
Do you believe that God is willing to do the same thing with you?
You and I must be reminded that God deals with our issues sometimes by solving them, but I do think that’s the exception. Most of the time, God deals with our issues not by removing them but by dealing with our hearts. How does He deal with our hearts? By putting Himself on display. “One fresh glimpse at the glory of Christ can do more toward scattering the darkness and doubt than anything else you can do.”
Most of you know Psalm 46:10, but I don’t think most of you know the whole verse. We’ll end with this, “Be still and know that I God, I WILL BE EXALTED AMONG THE NATIONS, I WILL BE EXALTED IN ALL THE EARTH.”
(Image courtesy of Gilbert Lennox Photography)