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Habakkuk 1

Sunday Morning Bible Study

June 15, 2014


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it address the person who is: Empty, lonely, guilty, or afraid to die?  Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision Is the church loved? Regular:  2900 words    Communion: 2500 words

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We can only get a ballpark idea of when Habakkuk wrote.

The best guess is that he wrote during the early part of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah, somewhere between 606 and 604 BC
It was a time when Judah was not walking with the Lord.
It is at the early part of Jeremiah’s ministry.
It is also around the time of Nahum, when the Assyrians were about to be defeated by the up and coming Babylonians.
It is before the Babylonians would wipe out the nation of Judah (586 BC).

Habakkuk the man

We don’t know much at all about the man Habakkuk at all.

Various traditions popped up over time, but they don’t seem to have any credibility.  One of the traditions is in the Apocrypha (Bel and the Dragon 33-39).  In the story, Habakkuk is making bread and a stew when an angel appears, grabs Habakkuk by the hair, and flies him from Judea to Babylon where he delivers the food to Daniel while he’s in the lion’s den.  Then the angel flies Habakkuk back to Judea.  I think the angel’s name was “Domino” and we have the first recorded pizza delivery.
(Bel and the Dragon 33–39 NRSV) —33 Now the prophet Habakkuk was in Judea; he had made a stew and had broken bread into a bowl, and was going into the field to take it to the reapers. 34 But the angel of the Lord said to Habakkuk, “Take the food that you have to Babylon, to Daniel, in the lions’ den.” 35 Habakkuk said, “Sir, I have never seen Babylon, and I know nothing about the den.” 36 Then the angel of the Lord took him by the crown of his head and carried him by his hair; with the speed of the wind he set him down in Babylon, right over the den. 37 Then Habakkuk shouted, “Daniel, Daniel! Take the food that God has sent you.” 38 Daniel said, “You have remembered me, O God, and have not forsaken those who love you.” 39 So Daniel got up and ate. And the angel of God immediately returned Habakkuk to his own place.

Some have suggested that because of the song that he writes at the end of the book (ch. 3), that Habakkuk might have been not only a prophet, but a priest familiar with Temple worship.

We really just don’t know much about Habakkuk.

Habakkuk the book

Habakkuk is different from most other prophecies in that it is not directed at a specific nation, but is more about asking questions of God.

Instead of the prophet speaking to people for God, the prophet is speaking to God for the people.

Habakkuk is a man with questions, questions that we often find ourselves asking.

He’s going to ask God why the wicked could go unpunished.
God is going to reply that Habakkuk is just going to have to wait and see what God is going to do in history.  God will take care of it.
Habakkuk is also going to ask God why God will be allowing the people of Judah to be judged by Babylon, when Babylon was far more evil than Judah had ever been.
God is going to reply that He will also take care of Babylon one day as well.

One of the main themes in Habakkuk is the affliction of the righteous and the prosperity of the wicked.

How come I work hard at serving God, and I still experience trouble?
How come wicked people seem to be prospering?

The key verse in the whole book is

(Habakkuk 2:4b NKJV) …But the just shall live by his faith.
Even though the book is a small one, and one that most of us hardly ever read, this one verse will be quoted three times in the New Testament – in Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews.  This verse is a cornerstone of Christianity – the importance of faith.
(Romans 1:17 NKJV) —17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
(Galatians 3:11 NKJV) —11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.”
(Hebrews 10:38 NKJV) —38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”

You could also make a case that Paul is quoting the principles of Habakkuk when he writes to the Philippians:

(Habakkuk 3:17–18 NKJV) —17 Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— 18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
(Philippians 4:4 NKJV) —4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
(Philippians 4:10–19 NKJV) —10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 14 Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. 19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

1:1-4 Habakkuk’s question

:1 The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw.

:1 Habakkuk – “embrace”

Martin Luther explained the prophet’s name in this way:  “Habakkuk signifies an embracer, or one who embraces another, takes him into his arms.  He embraces his people, and takes them into his arms, i.e., he comforts them and holds them up, as one embraces a weeping child, to quiet it with the assurance that, if God wills, it shall soon be better.”

:2 O Lord, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, “Violence!” And You will not save.

:2 how long shall I cry


When God is silent

Habakkuk is disturbed by the wickedness that he has seen going on in his nation of Judah.  He has been asking God about this, but God hasn’t been answering.
There are times in life when it seems like we pray, but God isn’t listening.

We ask questions, and God doesn’t seem to be answering.

It’s kind of like when the kids ask that particular question on a long car ride…

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Some of the reasons God may be silent may include…
Sin in my life
David wrote,

(Psalm 66:18 NKJV) If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.

Isaiah wrote,

(Isaiah 59:2 NKJV) But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.

King Saul went through a time when he didn’t hear anything from God.

Saul used to be able to ask God questions and get answers.  He’d ask a priest, or he’d get answers from a prophet.

Toward the end of his life, he had been living in such rebellion against God that God simply didn’t answer.

(1 Samuel 28:6 NKJV) And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets.

Saul was praying, but God wasn’t answering.

Saul resorted to going to a witch to find answers.  This was one of the things that ended up costing him his life.

What was Saul’s problem?  He wasn’t right with God.

Spiritual warfare
We might not often to think about it, but we are surrounded by a multitude of invisible beings called angels.
While we live in a world that’s visible to the eye, they live in a world that is not necessarily observable by human beings.
The prophet Daniel had been fasting and praying over his people, the nation of Israel, for three weeks.  He wasn’t getting any answers from God.  And then an angelic being appeared before him.

(Daniel 10:12–14 NKJV) —12 Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. 14 Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.”

Sometimes the answers you seek involve a spiritual battle.  You need to keep doing your part and praying.  Keep at it.

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Don’t quit when the enemy attacks and flattens you.  Get back up, keep praying, and keep going.

It’s just not time
For one reason or another, sometimes we just have to wait.
It’s not necessarily because we’ve sinned, we need to wait for God’s time.
After Jeremiah survived the Babylonian invasion, there was an assassination of the governor put in place by the Babylonians.  The people weren’t sure what to do.  Should they run away?  They ask Jeremiah to ask God what they should do.

(Jeremiah 42:7 NKJV) And it happened after ten days that the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah.

The answer didn’t come instantly.  It came ten days later.

My wife and I are constantly amazed at how technology has changed how we connect with people.

You can be sitting at home in Fullerton looking at Facebook when you see Kim Beller posting pictures of their kids in Hungary.  Then you see pictures that Laura Grant has posted of her babies in South Africa.  On Easter Sunday I had a text message early in the morning and spent a few minutes chatting with Alexi in Russia.

We have a difficult time waiting five minutes.  Jeremiah waited ten days.

:3 Why do You show me iniquity, And cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; There is strife, and contention arises.

Habakkuk had been praying about the sin of his own nation, Judah.

Habakkuk is troubled by the wickedness in Judah.

:4 Therefore the law is powerless, And justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgment proceeds.

:4 the law is powerless

powerlesspuwg – to grow numb, be feeble, be benumbed

The judges in the land were corrupt and not following the law.

Jeremiah recorded what was going on at that time.
(Jeremiah 22:13–17 NKJV) —13 “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness And his chambers by injustice, Who uses his neighbor’s service without wages And gives him nothing for his work, 14 Who says, ‘I will build myself a wide house with spacious chambers, And cut out windows for it, Paneling it with cedar And painting it with vermilion.’ 15 “Shall you reign because you enclose yourself in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink, And do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. 16 He judged the cause of the poor and needy; Then it was well. Was not this knowing Me?” says the Lord. 17 “Yet your eyes and your heart are for nothing but your covetousness, For shedding innocent blood, And practicing oppression and violence.”

:4 Therefore perverse judgment proceeds

When God doesn’t punish sin immediately, people get the idea that they can get away with anything.  It also works the same in the human justice system – people think they can do anything when they aren’t caught.

Solomon wrote,

(Ecclesiastes 8:11 NKJV) Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

These are the things that have been worrying Habakkuk.

1:5-11 God’s Response

:5 “Look among the nations and watch— Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days Which you would not believe, though it were told you.

:6 For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, A bitter and hasty nation Which marches through the breadth of the earth, To possess dwelling places that are not theirs.

:6 I am raising up the Chaldeans

ChaldeansKasdiy – “clod-breakers”

The inhabitants of Chaldea, living on the lower Euphrates and Tigris

“Chaldeans” is another name for the Babylonians.

Up to this point in history, the Assyrians were the empire that dominated the world, but things are going to change.

We saw in the book of Nahum that the Babylonian Empire was beginning to sprout.
In 624 BC, war had broken out between Babylon and Assyria.
In 612 BC, Babylon joined with the Medes, Persians, Cimmerians, and Scythians to conquer Nineveh.
In 605 BC, Babylon would finally break the back of the Assyrians at the battle of Carchemish

It is possible that in Habakkuk’s day, the Babylonians were still considered “friendly”.

They had been honored guests of King Hezekiah after an angel of the Lord had wiped out the Assyrian army and after Hezekiah had been sick and later healed.
Hezekiah liked the fellows from Babylon so much that he gave them the big tour of his palace and all his treasures. (2Ki. 20:12-19)
(2 Kings 20:12–19 NKJV) —12 At that time Berodach-Baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick. 13 And Hezekiah was attentive to them, and showed them all the house of his treasures—the silver and gold, the spices and precious ointment, and all his armory—all that was found among his treasures. There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them. 14 Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say, and from where did they come to you?” So Hezekiah said, “They came from a far country, from Babylon.” 15 And he said, “What have they seen in your house?” So Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shown them.” 16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord: 17 ‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the Lord. 18 And they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’ ” 19 So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “Will there not be peace and truth at least in my days?”

Isaiah had warned Hezekiah at that time that there would be a day when the Babylonians would come back and take everything away.

That time is just around the corner for Habakkuk.

:5 a work … Which you would not believe



Sometimes we put God in a box and think that He will only work in certain ways.
For example, we have this notion that good guys win and bad guys lose.
 We think that good guys will always be rewarded and bad guys will always get what’s coming to them.

That’s one of the reasons why we wonder what we did wrong when something bad happens to us.

Unbelievably Bad
The “unbelievable” thing to Habakkuk was that God would use a wicked people to bring judgment on His own people.

Of course the people of Judah had also become wicked, but the Babylonians were off-the-charts wicked.

How could God use people more wicked than Judah to punish them?

That doesn’t seem fair.

That would almost be like America experiencing defeat by a nation more wicked than we are.

Jeremiah wondered the same thing as Habakkuk.

(Jeremiah 12:1 NKJV) Righteous are You, O Lord, when I plead with You; Yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously?

The Psalmist also wrote,

(Psalm 73:2–3 NKJV) —2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. 3 For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

When Paul was preaching in the synagogue at Antioch in Psidia, he ended his sermon by quoting Habakkuk 1:5

(Acts 13:40–41 NKJV) —40 Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you: 41 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.’ ”

Paul is warning those who would reject the gospel that they would be facing God’s judgment, just as God judged Judah through the Babylonians.

Unbelievably Good
Sometimes the thing that seems unbelievable is something too good to be true.
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Isaiah wrote something similar,

(Isaiah 43:18–19 NKJV) —18 “Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.

Who could imagine something so cool as a river running through a desert?

Last March a cool event was captured on video.  The river Zin is 75 miles long and runs through the Negev Desert in Israel into the Dead Sea.  It’s usually just a dry river bed, and has been dry for years.  On March 14, heavy rainfall on the mountains miles away caused water to run down and fill the riverbed. 

Video: River Zin March 2014

God can do anything.

Isaiah also wrote,

(Isaiah 64:4 NKJV) For since the beginning of the world Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, Nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him.

In context, Isaiah is speaking prophetically about Israel’s coming captivity.  They might have been taken away for seventy years, but God had good things planned for them.

Paul quoted Isaiah when he wrote to the Corinthians (1Cor. 2:9-10) to talk about the good things that God has for us, things that God has planned from eternity past for our good.

(1 Corinthians 2:9–10 NKJV) —9 But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.

These “good things” include

The cross of Christ – where Jesus paid for our sins.

The good things in life that God has ahead for us.

(Romans 8:32 NKJV) He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

Ultimately it includes heaven.  Unbelievable, right?

The challenge of Habakkuk is to believe, even the unbelievable.
Whether it’s a bad thing that’s beyond our comprehension, such as God using a wicked people to punish His people, or whether it’s a good thing that we can’t imagine that God has for us, the challenge is for us to “believe” and not get caught in “unbelief”.
:5 you would not believeaman – (Hiphil) to stand firm, to trust, to be certain, to believe in

This is the root word for “faith” that is used in Hab. 2:4

(Habakkuk 2:4b NKJV) …But the just shall live by his faith.

God is bigger than we are.  He’s wiser than we are.  He knows what He’s doing.

Jesus said,

(John 3:16 NKJV) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

You can trust Him.

:7 They are terrible and dreadful; Their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves.

Talking about the Babylonians…

:8 Their horses also are swifter than leopards, And more fierce than evening wolves. Their chargers charge ahead; Their cavalry comes from afar; They fly as the eagle that hastens to eat.

:8 leopards … wolves … eagle

The Babylonians would invade quick like a leopard.

They would be scarier than wolves stalking their prey at night.

They would swoop down on their enemies like an eagle.

Moses warned the people seven hundred years earlier:
(Deuteronomy 28:49 NKJV) 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,

:9 “They all come for violence; Their faces are set like the east wind. They gather captives like sand.

:9 They all come for violence

One of the sins of Judah (the “good guys”) was also violence. 

(Habakkuk 1:3 NKJV) Why do You show me iniquity, And cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; There is strife, and contention arises.

They would be punished with violence.

:9 east wind … captives like sand

(Habakkuk 1:9 NLT) …Their hordes advance like a desert wind, sweeping captives ahead of them like sand.

:10 They scoff at kings, And princes are scorned by them. They deride every stronghold, For they heap up earthen mounds and seize it.

:10 they heap up earthen mounds

This is describing how they would lay siege to a city.

They would surround it and build up an earthen ramp to breech the city’s wall.

:11 Then his mind changes, and he transgresses; He commits offense, Ascribing this power to his god.”

:11 his mind changes…

The Hebrew is a bit difficult.  A better translation:

(Habakkuk 1:11 NASB95) “Then they will sweep through like the wind and pass on. But they will be held guilty, They whose strength is their god.”
Even though the Babylonians will be used to bring judgment on Judah, they too will be guilty of sin.  Their sin will be in thinking they are invincible, that their power is their “god”.

1:12-17 A bigger question

So God is going to judge the wicked in Judah, but He’s going to do it with a people even more wicked, the Babylonians.

This doesn’t seem right to Habakkuk.

:12 Are You not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O Lord, You have appointed them for judgment; O Rock, You have marked them for correction.

:13 You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, And hold Your tongue when the wicked devours A person more righteous than he?

:13 You are of purer eyes than to behold evil

This verse has been misunderstood by some to say that because God is good, that God can’t dwell where sin is present.

First, that is not true.  After all, God dwells with us.
God is indeed holy and good, but God is also gracious and compassionate.
When you opened your heart to Jesus, the Holy Spirit came to dwell inside of you.

He doesn’t leave you each time you do a bad thing.  You don’t have to be saved all over again each time you sin.

Second, that’s not what Habakkuk is trying to say.
Habakkuk is struggling with the fact that God is going to actually use godless, wicked Babylon to judge the nation of Judah.
Judah may have been bad, deserving of judgment, but Babylon was WAY worse than Judah.

Habakkuk now describes how the Babylonians treated people, like fish…

:14 Why do You make men like fish of the sea, Like creeping things that have no ruler over them?

God is treating men like they were fish in the sea.

God is going to be sending fishermen (Babylonians) to catch them.

:15 They take up all of them with a hook, They catch them in their net, And gather them in their dragnet. Therefore they rejoice and are glad.

A fisherman is happy when he has a large catch.

The Babylonians were happy with each nation they conquered.

:16 Therefore they sacrifice to their net, And burn incense to their dragnet; Because by them their share is sumptuous And their food plentiful.

The Babylonians worshipped their own military abilities (their “net”).

:17 Shall they therefore empty their net, And continue to slay nations without pity?

:2 O Lord, how long


Keep Asking

God can handle you asking your questions.
He might not answer you right away.
Habakkuk didn’t hold back.
God told Jeremiah:
(Jeremiah 33:3 NKJV) ‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’
Whatever your question is, friend you keep asking.
Perhaps today is the day to ask Jesus to forgive your sins and come into your life.