Habakkuk 2:1-5; 3:17-19
SS Lesson for 10/05/2014
Devotional Scripture: Rom 5:1-11
The lesson teaches that when things seem their worse, we need to Rejoice Anyway. The study's aim is to understand how God used suffering to accomplish His mission in Israel, in particular, how He used their trials to mature them spiritually and to demonstrate that suffering ultimately accomplishes God's good purposes. The study's application is to experience and help other Christians who suffer understand and access God's resources for enduring.
(Adapted from the Bible Expositor and Illuminator Commentary).
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
Obviously anyone who witnessed this amazing display of God’s power would be left in awe. Habakkuk was no exception. He had asked for a show of God’s might (v. 2). Little did he realize what a display it would be. The prophet’s heart pounded, his lips quivered, and his legs trembled. Habakkuk was about to collapse from this amazing encounter with God. He felt as though his bones were in a state of decay and his nervous system was all unraveled. In his weakened state, however, his confidence and hope were renewed. He found a new sense of peace and purpose in his prophetic ministry. He said he would wait patiently (lit., “rest”) for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading Judah. The prophet was determined to wait for that day which would be filled with destruction and yet be a day of victory and vindication over wicked Babylon. God’s deeds on Israel’s behalf in Egypt, at the Red Sea, at Mount Sinai, at the Jordan River, and in the Conquest of Canaan were unquestionably awe-invoking. This review of God’s power in the past assured the prophet that God would provide a similar deliverance for Israel from Babylon. Habakkuk was confident that someday God would again “renew” (v. 2) those acts of power, with “wrath” on Babylon and “mercy” (v. 2) on Judah. The prophet’s weakened physical state contrasted with his incredibly strong spiritual state. Habakkuk outlined the worst possible consequences: complete failure of crops (figs, grapes, olives, and grain—on which the nation depended for food) and total loss of sheep and cattle. Even in the midst of absolute ruin and abject famine (which came when the Babylonians captured Jerusalem, Lam. 2:12, 20, 4:4, 9-10; 5:17-18), the prophet was prepared to trust God. He realized that inner peace did not depend on outward prosperity. Habakkuk did not state that he would merely endure in the hour of distress. He said he would rejoice in the Lord and be joyful. God is the inexhaustible source and infinite supply of joy. God my Savior is literally, “the God of my salvation” (the same Heb. words are in Pss. 18:46; 25:5). Far too many people keep trying to buy joy, but happiness is not found in circumstances. Joy is available to everyone, even to those stripped of every material possession, for joy is to be found in a Person. It comes through an intimate and personal relationship with the Lord, so that even those in the worst circumstances can smile. The unfailing source of strength and confidence necessary to satisfaction and contentment is the Sovereign Lord (Yahweh) Himself. The strength He gives is like the power found in the feet of a deer, a gazelle, or any active, swift-footed animal. Much as a deer can quickly bound through a dark forest, so the prophet said he could move joyfully through difficult circumstances. Though his legs trembled (v. 16) at the awesome theophany of God, that same Lord was His joy (v. 18), strength (v. 19), and assurance. Furthermore, God enabled the prophet to walk on the heights. Not only would he bound through trials; he would also climb to the mountaintops of victory and triumph. The poetic language of this verse is common in other passages (e.g., Deut. 32:13; 2 Sam. 22:34; Ps. 18:33). A deer or gazelle pictures strength, surefootedness, beauty, and speed.
The concluding words, For the director of music. On my stringed instruments, serve as an addendum and are related to the heading of the prophet’s doxological ode (Hab. 3:1). They refer to the use of this song in worship. The prophet appointed his psalm for use in public worship accompanied by players with stringed instruments. The sour drone of Habakkuk’s complaining (1:2-4, 12-2:1) was replaced by vibrant chords of hope and happiness. The Sovereign Lord gives triumph over circumstances to those who trust Him. The way to get out from under the load is to get right under the Lord. To be under the Lord is to be over the circumstances. That lesson is worth the price of the book, especially when the world seems like a cesspool of quicksand. Habakkuk was about to “go under” when he started this book. Destruction, violence, strife, conflict, injustice, and wickedness were all he could see. But he cried out to God and his cry did not go unheeded. The Lord not only answered his complaint but also provided the confidence needed to lift him from the quagmire. Habakkuk started in the pits, but ended on the mountaintop. His journey was not exactly an easy one, but it was certainly worth it.
God directed Habakkuk through the dialogue (chap. 1) in which He revealed His plans for disciplining Judah and destroying Babylon. Then at God’s command Habakkuk recorded a woeful dirge (chap. 2) that further justified God’s judgment on Babylon. Finally, the prophet reached a pinnacle of praise in which God revealed Himself in all His glory and power. The doxology (chap. 3) concluded with Habakkuk’s unwavering trust in the Lord.
The prophet’s complaints were swallowed up by confidence. His fear turned to faith. Habakkuk was transformed from a sour, jittery prophet weighed down with burdens to a secure, joyous preacher buoyed up with blessing. The just, the upright, the happy, the contented, the victorious live by their faith. Yes, faith is the victory that overcomes the world! (1 John 5:4)
Still living with mom and dad three years after graduating from college. Didn’t get that raise— again. Chronic pain persists. Expenses still exceeding income. Rejected by another potential employer. Reconciliation with an estranged relative seems impossible. The rich seem to keep getting richer, and the poor seem to keep getting poorer. Where is the light load and abundant life that Jesus promised? Most people feel that way at one time or another. For some, it happens only periodically. For others, it feels like the very rhythm of their lives. We who follow Jesus know that we have eternal life. But how should we process our earthly woes in the meantime? What might God say were he to speak directly to us during times of frustration and doubt? Though God may seem silent during our darkest nights, we realize when we open the Bible that he is not. God speaks to us through prophets such as Habakkuk. That man stared doubt in the face, questioned God, and received answers. In today’s lesson we sample a slice of that conversation and discuss its abiding relevance.
Habakkuk probably ministered in the final decade of the seventh century BC, although some date his prophetic ministry to as early as 630 BC. Those closing decades of the seventh century BC saw God’s people under stress. The northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BC as God’s judgment on his people’s idolatry, social injustice, and unholy political alliances came to fruition. The people of the southern kingdom of Judah did not learn from that “visual aid,” and the same sinful patterns became their norm. In Habakkuk 1:2-4, the prophet cries out about the violence, injustice, and wide-scale abandonment of God’s laws that resulted in the trampling of Israelites by the wicked. The prophet pleaded as one who had been crying out to God for a long time without receiving an answer. In Habakkuk 1:5-11, God answered. Not only was he aware of the sins of his people, he planned to use the Babylonians to level the southern kingdom of Judah just as the Assyrians had done to the northern kingdom of Israel. Habakkuk was not comforted by that answer. He complained that the Babylonians were far more treacherous than the Israelites, and that they were known for trampling the righteous (Habakkuk 1:12-17). How could a holy God use such a wicked people as his instrument of correction? As our text opens, we find Habakkuk awaiting an answer to that question.
1 I will stand my watch And set myself on the rampart, And watch to see what He will say to me, And what I will answer when I am corrected.
2 Then the Lord answered me and said: "Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it.
3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry.
4 "Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.
5 "Indeed, because he transgresses by wine, He is a proud man, And he does not stay at home. Because he enlarges his desire as hell, And he is like death, and cannot be satisfied, He gathers to himself all nations And heaps up for himself all peoples.
21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession — to the praise of his glory.
22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.
3 What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." 4 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
6 Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." 7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." 9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
13 It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken." With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.
5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. 6 My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
20 We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.
15 I wait for you, O Lord; you will answer, O Lord my God.
166 I wait for your salvation, O Lord, and I follow your commands.
18 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!
25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
23 Love the Lord, all his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full.
25 The Lord tears down the proud man's house but he keeps the widow's boundaries intact.
5 The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.
4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
5 Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not endure.
11 The eyes of the arrogant man will be humbled and the pride of men brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
5 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
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.
19 The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer's feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills. To the Chief Musician. With my stringed instruments.
14 "Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.
22 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
21 They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
22 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
I am reminded of the words of the writer to the Hebrews 11:13-16; 23-40, especially verse 39:
39 And these all were commended for their faith, yet they did not receive what was promised. (Hebrews 11:39, emphasis mine).
As we now look back on the Book of Habakkuk, how do we explain the prophet’s change of heart? What happened to Habakkuk between chapter 1 and chapter 3? We must first point out that this change was not instant, but the result of a process, a somewhat painful process. Habakkuk did not understand what God was doing. He was angry with God for apparently failing to deal with the sins of His people. He could not understand how God could use the Chaldeans to judge the people of Judah. Through a sequence of events, God changed the heart of Habakkuk. God changed Habakkuk’s perspective. Habakkuk had been looking at his circumstances and even His God through the eyes of man. The prophet rightly abhorred the wickedness and injustice that was rampant in Judah, but he wrongly accused God of “sleeping at the wheel,” of failing to act justly and in a timely way. The change came when he viewed himself and his circumstances from a divine perspective. Did Habakkuk think that God was doing nothing about Judah’s sin? He was wrong! God was already at work, raising up the Babylonians as His chastening rod. They would bring swift and strong justice by punishing the people of Judah. When God revealed what He was about to do, Habakkuk protested that the Chaldeans307 were not the ones to be bringing judgment upon the people of God. Habakkuk felt that the people of Judah were more righteous than the Chaldeans. God’s revelation of Himself in chapters 2 and 3 set the record straight, and it set Habakkuk’s thinking straight as well. God did not take any sin lightly. Eventually, He would judge the Babylonians for their sins, just as He was about to judge the people of Judah and Jerusalem for their sins. Habakkuk was wrong to think of the people of Judah as “more righteous” than the Babylonians. If it is true that judgment is proportional to the degree of revelation one has received (and it surely is),308 then the people of Judah were even more culpable than the Babylonians. They had the Law, and they were the benefactors of God’s faithfulness to His people. They were well aware of the judgment God had brought upon the northern kingdom of Israel, and yet they persisted in the very sins for which the Babylonians would eventually be judged.
It is my opinion that as God pronounced woes upon the wicked in chapter 2, it dawned upon Habakkuk that he was at least guilty of pride, which God despised. It would not take much reflection for Habakkuk to realize that all of the sins that merited God’s judgment were true of the people of Judah, as much as it was true for the Babylonians. Judah was no better than the Babylonians. I believe Habakkuk began to think beyond his own times, and as he did so, he remembered that God had promised to use the surrounding nations to discipline His disobedient people. Israel’s history was ample evidence of this, especially in the Book of Judges. Habakkuk began to look upon his times in the light of Israel’s history. As a result, I believe that Habakkuk had second thoughts about the arguments he had raised against God’s use of the Babylonians in 1:12-17. It was not God who was wrong; it was Judah, and even their prophet, Habakkuk. The prophet now views Judah’s future in the light of her past. God had previously judged His people, but He had also preserved a remnant; He had always accomplished their salvation. So He would do once again. And so the prophet humbly pleads, “In judgment remember mercy” (3:2). James Montgomery Boice shares some principles that Martin Lloyd-Jones included in a commentary on the Book of Habakkuk entitled, From Fear to Faith. I would like to call attention to some of these principles as I conclude (I will indicate the principles mentioned by Martin Lloyd-Jones with an *). Consider, then, the lessons that we can learn from the Book of Habakkuk. History is under God’s control.* In the light of the tragedy our nation underwent this past week, let modify the words of Martin Lloyd-Jones: All history is under God’s control. God is sovereign, in complete control of all things, including every event in human history. Nothing happens that catches God by surprise. Nothing happens that is outside His control. I have heard a number of comments this past week by well-meaning Christians that go something like this: “God allowed this to happen, and He is able to use it for good.” I do not pretend to know why tragedy has come upon our nation, nor do I know how God will use it. I do know this with great certainty: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28, NAU). Someone was kind enough to send me the words of John Piper in response to the events of this past week, and particularly in response to the words of some Christians, in an effort to “get God off the hook.” I would strongly encourage you to prayerfully consider his words. History follows a divine plan.* History is the outworking of God’s eternal plan. History has a goal toward which God is moving it. We know that the goal of God’s plan is to fulfill His purposes and His covenant promises. We likewise know that God’s plan is all-inclusive, and that it will not be thwarted or altered. God’s plan includes calamity and blessing, prosperity and pain. When men sin and when wicked men cause others great pain and agony, they do so out of the corruption and evil of their own hearts. Nevertheless, God has purposed to incorporate the sinful acts of men into His eternal plan, to accomplish His purposes in a way that brings Him glory (see Romans 9:17).
God’s divine plan is often not apparent, because we are unable (and sometimes unwilling) to comprehend it even when we are told in advance. God does have a plan, but it often does not appear so to us. God is at work, though we may not recognize it as such. Who would have thought that the rapid rise to power of the Babylonian empire was God’s hand in human history? God’s ways are above our ways, and thus we must leave the future in His hands. When the Israelites came to the Red Sea, trapped between the sea and Pharaoh’s army, it appeared that God had miscalculated, that God had led them to destruction. The truth was that God was preparing to destroy Pharaoh’s army, while at the same time saving His people. God’s plan to save His people through a Messiah was not even clear to the prophets who wrote of His coming (1 Peter 1:10-12). Who would ever have believed that God was going to save sinners by sending His Son to this world, to be rejected by sinners, who would crucify Him as a criminal on a hill outside Jerusalem?
God employs the deeds of wicked men to further His purposes. This does not mean that God approves of sin. God will ultimately punish the wicked for their sin. But what a reassuring truth it is to know that the wicked deeds of men cannot thwart the purposes of God; indeed these very deeds are ordained of God to fulfill His plans and promises. God is not limited to using the obedient deeds of faithful saints. If He were, we would be in a great deal of trouble. Nothing can keep us from the love of God toward His saints – nothing (see Romans 8:31-39).
History follows a divine timetable.* God has a timetable for all of His plans, and since God is in no hurry, He often seems to act too late for our satisfaction. God is not in any hurry, though we often are. Divine delays are not an indication of His lack of concern or resolve, but of His mercy:
3 Above all, understand this: in the last days blatant scoffers will come, being propelled by their own evil urges 4 and saying, “Where is his promised coming? For ever since our ancestors died, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately suppress this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water. 6 Through these things the world existing at that time was destroyed when it was deluged with water. 7 But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, by being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 8 Now, dear friends, do not let this one thing escape your notice, that a single day is like a thousand years with the Lord and a thousand years are like a single day. 9 The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; when it comes, the heavens will disappear with a horrific noise, and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze, and the earth and every deed done on it will be laid bare. 11 Since all these things are to melt away in this manner, what sort of people must we be, conducting our lives in holiness and godliness, 12 while waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God? Because of this day, the heavens will be burned up and dissolve, and the heavenly bodies will melt away in a blaze! 13 But, according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness truly resides (2 Peter 3:3-13, emphasis mine).
God’s ways are not our ways. When we seek to grasp what God is doing from our present circumstances, we will surely be puzzled and perplexed. Abram was told he was to become a father of a great nation, but he and Sarah did not have a son for 25 years. He was told he was going to possess the Land of Canaan, but he had to buy a burial place for his family from the Canaanites. God chose to give us eternal life through the death of His Son. Who can ever anticipate how God will accomplish His purposes?
The righteous must live by faith. Since we cannot anticipate how God will accomplish His purposes and promises, and since we most often cannot understand what He is doing, we are obligated to live by faith, if we are looking to Him for salvation. We should not leave the Book of Habakkuk without remembering the impact this book had on Martin Luther. As a monk, Luther had become deeply aware of his sin and knew that he fell short of the standards set by God’s law. The words of Habakkuk 2:4 struck Luther as the key to his problem, but it was some time before he grasped that his sins were forgiven by faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, apart from any works of his own. Luther’s son wrote: “As he repeated his prayers on the Lateran staircase, the words of the prophet Habakkuk came suddenly to his mind: ‘The just shall live by faith.’ Thereupon he ceased his prayers, returned to Wittenberg, and took this as the chief foundation of all his doctrine… . Luther himself said of this text, ‘Before those words broke upon my mind I hated God and was angry with him because not content with frightening us sinners by the law and by the miseries of life, he still further increased our torture by the gospel. But when, by the Spirit of God, I understood those words – “The just shall live by faith!” “The just shall live by faith!” – then I felt born again like a new man; I entered through the open doors into the very Paradise of God.”
Having come to faith in Jesus Christ by faith, apart from human works, Luther not only grasped the glorious truth of Habakkuk 2:4, but he rejoiced in the greatness of the God in whom he came to trust. He was then delivered from his fear of divine judgment and able to pen the words of the great hymn "A mighty fortress is our God".
Adapted from URL: https://bible.org/seriespage/just-shall-live-faith-habakkuk
The battle was over before it began. Yet, Habakkuk was never truly at war with God, though the prophet directed frustrations to him. That itself was an act of faith. Rather than brood over Israel’s misfortunes, Habakkuk verbalized his concerns to the only one powerful enough to do something about them. God was not threatened by Habakkuk’s complaint. He responded with grace, with good news. In our day, God has spoken good news to us through his Son (Hebrews 1:1, 2). Jesus lived out the perfect example of patiently trusting in God alone. We see such trust in his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42), and in his final words on the cross, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (23:46). Before that, Jesus had encouraged people not to strive to elevate themselves by taking seats of honor at banquets, but to wait for the host’s invitation (14:7-11). How much better it is to be elevated by God than by one’s own pride! The Babylonians of this world will continue to elevate themselves. May we model for them a better way, the better way that Habakkuk learned and Jesus exemplified. It is the way that looks up in faith, no matter the circumstances
1. The answer to our problems and lack of understanding rests in the Lord (Hab. 2:1)
2. The Lord's promises often require patience, but they do not require revision (vss. 2-3)
3. God's people must follow Him by faith, for they do not know all the answers (vs. 4)
4. The proud will never be content in this life and are doomed to suffer judgment in the next (vs. 5)
5. The worst conditions in this life cannot rob us of the joy of our salvation (3:17-18)
6. Strength to endure anything in this world rests in the Lord alone (vs. 19)