Habakkuk 1 – 3
The hymn that we sang appropriately sums up what we’ve learnt from Habakkuk: ‘the bud may be bitter, but the flower will be sweet’. That’s what Habakkuk was struggling with – he was seeing some bad things coming and he wrestled with God because of that. If often happens to us as well. We see bad things happening around about us and we wonder why – why do bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people?
We need to know that Habakkuk is a bit different to the Minor Prophets in the Old Testament. Normally God speaks directly to the people through the prophet. The prophet stands with his back towards God, facing the people and speaks on God’s behalf to them. With Habakkuk there’s something different – he almost has a priestly role too, standing with his back to the people also at times in his prophecy as he addresses God on behalf the people and of himself. He has certain things that concern them. There are elements of that in the other prophets as well. We know that Jonah and Jeremiah also spoke to God in that priestly way as prophets, but there’s not a single prophet in the Old Testament that does it in such a way as Habakkuk does it. He pleads with God for the people, but he does so as a prophet.
In chapter 2 the Lord tells him to write down what God has revealed to him regarding his queries.
In chapter 3 he sets his whole prophecy in a Psalm – something that has to be sung by the people of Judah, so that they would never forget it – a song that they need to sing over and over, so that they remember God’s response to Habakkuk’s queries.
We know little about Habakkuk. He prophesied 20 years after Zephaniah (±600 BC). His name means ‘someone who embraces’, meaning he’s someone who held the people very close to his heart. He is a wonderful brother whom the LORD used mightily – a man who worshipped God, who loved God – holding on with all that he had. He was a man who dared to challenge God, wrestling with Him and insisting to get answers to his queries, and also talk back to God when he didn’t like the answers that he got. So, although we don’t know much about his background, we at least know something about his personality and character – what kind of man he was.
This book that he wrote at the command of God has great application for us in the days in which we live, because it deals with some very important questions that virtually all thinking believers ask themselves every day, such as: “If God is good and all-powerful, why doesn’t He do something about the evil that is in the world? One philosopher put it this way: “Is God able to eradicate evil but not willing? Then He’s not a good God. Is God willing to eradicate evil but not able? Then He’s a weak God. Is God both able and willing to eradicate evil? Why then is there evil? We grapple with questions like that. Most people wrestle with these issues with themselves or with other people, but the best way of dealing with it is to wrestle with God – to hold on and to give Him no rest until He gives us an answer, and that is what Habakkuk did. He gave us a wonderful example of a man who did just that! We praise God for that. He was bold and honest, and all of that comes through in his prophecy. As a result of that, the book is both challenging and delightful to us.
There are some verses that stand out in the book of Habakkuk in the life of every believer:
“The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” says Habakkuk. He reminds us “the LORD is in His holy temple, let all the earth be silent before Him.” and “though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, yet I’ll rejoice in the LORD, I’ll be joyful in God my Saviour!” And the most famous verse from Habakkuk which has become the very core of the Reformation: “The just shall live by faith.” Remember what Luther did with that in the time of the Reformation!
Here is a very simple outline of the book (given by David Pawson):
- Habakkuk’s First Complaint
In verses 1:2 to 2:20 he complains that God is not doing enough about Judah who has fallen into so much sin. He looks at his own people and says “look at them, look how they’re living – like Pagans, and God, You’re not doing enough about that!” And he has a question: “why don’t these bad people suffer God? You’re not doing enough!” God answered him saying: “the bad will suffer – I’m going to send the Babylonians (Chaldeans) upon them, it’s coming Habakkuk!” The minute God says this, now suddenly God is doing too much: “how can You do that? These people are worse than we are! First You didn’t do enough, now You’re doing too much!” Aren’t we like that with God very often? If we started praying true contrite prayers before God and we were serious about them, we would stand trembling before God as we wait for Him to answer that prayer.
Why do we always think that if God answers an honest prayer that we pray that it is going to work out very pleasant for us? What if you prayed: “Lord, free me from my sin! Look what is inside of me, look what is in my mind, my heart, my motives! Father, free me from that!” Why do we so easily think “O that’s going to be pleasant?” Will it be pleasant? What effect will it have if God did that? Will you be a happier our holier person? If you’re going to be a holier person, then the way in which God is going to answer the prayer, is probably not going to be pleasant to you, because we love our sin, weaknesses and the things that come naturally to us – we’ve spend a lifetime holding on to them, cherishing them, building them. What if God started taking them away? It will feel like the Chaldeans are coming upon you! Why do we think that will be pleasant? We often pray like that – first God doesn’t do enough, then He does too much.
- Habakkuk’s Second Complaint
He now complains that God is doing too much, asking Him why He is using bad people to punish bad people – why do the good now suffer? God’s answer comes and He says the good will survive, and the bad will suffer. That culminates into the third chapter, on which we will spend the remainder of our time this morning, because it leaves us with that Psalm that the LORD told him to write – it’s a Psalm that we ought to always be singing. It gives us the answer to all these queries from Habakkuk that we dare never forget.
- Habakkuk praises God, because he gets (understands) what God said.
He responds with fear, putting his face in his hands, saying “O LORD, I’ve heard the report of You, and Your work, O LORD do I fear – I’m afraid of it – I can see it’s not going to be pleasant – in Your wrath remember mercy!” then he says: “ in the midst of the years revive it – make it known”. He said that he could see that it was going to be hard, but that he was not asking God to stay His hand and do things his way, knowing that it was going to be hard. Instead he said: “Do it Your way”. God didn’t change Habakkuk’s circumstances, except to promise him that it was going to get worse – He changed Habakkuk – from the inside out, and He makes him the man that every Christian man and woman ought to be. The man that you ought to be when you sit in your home and complain about how bad the world is around about you, thinking that you must fix the world. Even Jordan Peterson would tell you to fix your own life before you try to fix the world – clean up your room. Before you try to fix your own world, let God fix you first, because if you try to fix the world before God has fixed You, you’ll make a bigger mess of the world than it already is.
So God changes Habakkuk:
|Habakkuk in Chapters 1&2||Habakkuk in Chapter 3|
|From being Miserable,||To being Happy,|
|From Shouting,||To Singing,|
|From having Prayer,||To having Praise,|
|From being Impatient,||To being Patient,|
|From asking God for Justice,||To asking God for Mercy,|
|From being Down in the Dumps,||To being On a High,|
|From viewing God as being seemingly inactive in the present.||To viewing God is active in the past and future.|
Chapter 3 – A Psalm
a. Prologue (verses 1-3)
(i) His comprehension – saying “I’ve heard the report of You”
In the midst of this pandemic and everything that we face and what we see happening on our farms that doesn’t even make the news – in the midst of the political and ideological upheaval – the ideas of man clashing with the ideas of God, and it’s finding expression in every sphere of our society – what do we do in the midst of that?
We need to be able to stand back like Habakkuk and say “I’ve heard the report of You – looked back in the past, and You have a good report God when it comes to taking care of Your people, and the way You did it – I fear Your work O LORD! It puts the fear of God in my heart!”
(ii) His call and cry – asking God to revive His work, to do it His way.
(iii) His contrition – knowing that it is going to have harsh effects he asks God “in wrath, remember mercy!”
Brothers and sisters, when God begins to do things His way in this life – in your life and in my life, it’s going to get us out of our comfort zones. We often think when God has His way in my life – oh, it’s going to be such a bubble! What if it isn’t? What if it takes away everything you have? Are you ready to still stand and say ‘I see Your work!’?
The fear of God is the beginning of all wisdom. We live in a world where we have this achy, flaky heart Christianity that is like candy-floss. It looks like a lot – it’s a ball like that – when you show it to kids they start drooling. It’s so colourful and looks so tasty, but a little bit of spittle makes it all dissolve into nothing but some stickiness and a bad aftertaste!
But rock-solid Christianity rests on the Rock of ages! It has substance, and for fallen and sinful people that substance is often – when God begins to establish it in a life, a family, a nation – not pleasant, because we’ve taken our pleasure from things that we should never have had! When God begins to establish His order, He takes those things away and it’s not pleasant! So you’d better ask Him before the time “before You change my life – before You change my circumstances – God, I’m not ready for that – I’m too full of the flesh, the devil and myself to be able to handle that. Before You change my life and my circumstances, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – change me so that I can handle what You change in my life! Because if God changes your life and circumstances before He changes you, you couldn’t handle it. Amen?
And that’s what had to happen with Habakkuk.
b. Three stanzas:
(i) First stanza (verses 3-8):
He learned from history that God came forth – he remembers the past – God’s glorious presence, glorious praise and great power – all of that for His glorious purpose: “when You rode on Your horses, on Your chariot of salvation.” There’s His purpose – the salvation of His people. Habakkuk sees it in the
(ii) Second stanza (verses 9-13a):
God in battle for His people. Again we see His power – the sun stood still; His promises and His purpose – coming to do it for the salvation of His people.
(iii) Third stanza (verses 13b-):
Two weeks ago we looked at The Wicked, the Warriors, the Waters, the Woes and the Waiting. We saw what God did to the wicked – He crushed his head, destroyed his house and humiliated him, laying him bare from side to neck. I said then in my message to every ideology that stands up and imposes it again on God and sets itself up in opposition to God and every power on this planet who does that – I don’t care if you’re a Communist, a Marxist or even a Horticulturist – if that does not come from the mind and purposes of God – you need to hear me this morning as a simple preacher – God will take you down! I don’t have to – my little congregation doesn’t have to – the Elders of my church don’t have to – Dr John MacArthur doesn’t have to, nor does Dr John Piper need to help him – we don’t have to take you down – God will take you down!
Just look what He did to these warriors:
Their pain – He pierced, disarmed and defeated them.
Their power – even though they came like a whirlwind.
Their purpose – to scatter to scorn and to swindle God’s people.
God took them down, and He will do that in the future too!
The waters came over the people of Judah – God subjugated the waters, even though it had a great surging and strength.
You remember what it did to Habakkuk: In his mind and in his members he said “I hear and my body trembles. My lips quiver at the sound. Rottenness enters my bones and my legs tremble beneath me.” But what did it move him to? Here’s the application: It moved him to waiting. Here’s what you need to do in the midst of all of it – you need to watch and pray and do your best every day. There needs to be a resolve – I will, a rest – I will quietly wait and your reward will be the day of trouble to come upon the people who invade us.
The lesson that we take away from Habakkuk is the title of my final message last week:
“In the Worst-case Scenario, you and I will Worship our Saviour and we will Walk Sure-footedly”. That’s our plan – you ask me what the battle-plan is for CPBC and for your family? It is this: Even in the worst-case scenario – the fig tree doesn’t blossom (there’s no food on the table) we will worship our Saviour, the Father of eternal salvation – his resolve: I will do it and rejoice in the LORD, who is the God of His redemption and we will walk sure-footedly – that’s his readiness.
The conclusion of the matter (Habakkuk 3:19):
It’s our Psalm, because it ends with the words “to the choir master, with stringed instruments”. What is the song? How do we conclude?
Looking round about, you become frightened at the bigness and confusion of the world. Here’s what you say to yourself – when you look at that cross where God’s justice and grace was fully satisfied, where Christ our Saviour hung and you say: “If He could deal with my sin, He can deal with anything.”
So I conclude: “God the LORD is my strength. He makes my feet like the deer’s and makes me tread on my high places.”