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I. Habakkuk’s Dialogue with God (Habakkuk 1:1–2:20)


I. Habakkuk’s Dialogue with God (1:1–2:20)

A. Habakkuk’s First Question (1:1-4)

1:1-3 Most prophets spoke to the people what they heard from God. Habakkuk spoke to God about what he saw (1:1). And what he witnessed caused him no small amount of consternation. All around him, he saw injustice . . . wrongdoing . . . oppression . . . violence . . . strife . . . and conflict (1:3). Godly King Josiah had loved the Lord and his law (2 Kgs 23:1-27), but Josiah had been killed and replaced by his wicked son Jehoiakim who “did what was evil in the Lord’s sight” (2 Kgs 23:36-37). And Judah’s citizens followed his example.

So Habakkuk did something about it. He was a praying man and cried out to God. But his prayers seemed to go unanswered: How long, Lord, must I call for help and you do not listen (1:2). In time, Habakkuk decided God was taking too long to come through. He asked, Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? (1:3).

Have you ever felt alone in standing for justice in the world, while God seemed to be indifferent? This happens when we forget that God alone can see the whole picture, and he is working out his sovereign plan in the midst of the chaos. The Lord decides when to answer our prayers and how best to answer them. When you realize that he is omniscient (all knowing), omnipotent (all powerful), and holy (perfectly righteous in all he does), then you’ll realize he knows how to run things better than we do.

1:4 Here, Habakkuk argues that when justice does not emerge, the law is ineffective. In order for laws to have teeth, there needs to be some form of enforcement behind them. Habakkuk wondered why God didn’t do something about the wickedness in Judah.

B. God’s First Response (1:5-11)

1:5-11 God was listening to his prophet, and now he answers. Indeed, he plans to do something about the injustice in Judah—and it will leave Habakkuk utterly astounded (1:5). God will punish Judah, and he names his minister of punishment: the Chaldeans, that bitter, impetuous nation that marches across the earth’s open spaces to seize territories (1:6). Chaldeans is another name for the Babylonians. These people were fierce and terrifying and unleashed violence like animals (1:7-9). They mock and laugh at the rulers and lands that stand in their way (1:10). The nation God will use to finally punish his people, then, does not acknowledge the Lord; rather, their strength is their god (1:11).

C. Habakkuk’s Second Question (1:12–2:1)

1:12-17 While Habakkuk got his answer, it wasn’t the response he was looking for. How could a holy God tolerate those who are treacherous (1:13)? How could God be silent while a wicked people swallowed those who were more righteous (1:13)? Sure, Judah was bad, but the Chaldeans were even worse! All the nations were like fish in their net, just waiting to be slaughtered without mercy (1:14-17). Habakkuk cannot comprehend that God, who is righteous and pure, gives free reign to an evil nation that does not give him glory.

2:1 In Habakkuk’s mind, it’s not fair that God is using an ally of Satan to judge the people of his kingdom. So, he registers his frustration and says, I will watch to see what he will say to me . . . about my complaint.

D. God’s Second Response (2:2-20)

2:2-3 Though God is the Creator and Judge of the universe, he takes the time to respond to his servant and let him in on what he’s doing. He commands Habakkuk to write down this vision . . . so one may easily read it (2:2). History would be a witness to God’s revelation. The Babylonians would surely invade at the appointed time (2:3).

2:4-5 Yes, Habakkuk is exactly right about the Babylonian king. His ego is inflated. He is without integrity . . . arrogant . . . and never satisfied (2:5). But—and this is what Habakkuk and all those who follow God need to know above all else—the righteous one will live by his faith (2:4). So, Habakkuk did not get a ten-point answer to his concerns. Nor did he receive a long, drawn out discussion of God’s ways. God simply told him in essence, “Trust me and follow my instructions.”

We, too, can operate in the knowledge that God has everything under control. God’s agenda may be mysterious, but it’s perfect. Everything he does will bring him glory and is ultimately for the good of his people (see Rom 8:28).

2:6-8 God would use the wicked Babylo-nians to punish Judah, but that didn’t mean Babylon would get off scot-free. The Chaldeans, too, would be judged. The mocker would be mocked. The one who had plundered many nations (2:8) would himself be plundered. God’s principles of righteousness and justice can be flouted—but not without consequence.

2:12-20 God reminds his prophet that the king of Babylon is nothing compared to him, the Lord of Armies (2:13). Though Babylon will be filled with disgrace (2:16), the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord’s glory (2:14). Those who worship an idol worship what is lifeless and cannot speak (2:18), but the Lord is alive and in his holy temple (2:20).

God has a track record of consistency, and persistent sin always brings about his judgment. Even the wicked who escape judgment in this earthly life will face it in eternity. All human sin will either be judged in hell or at the cross of Christ.