A Minor Prophet, only because of the length of his prophecy, Habakuk’s impact has been the opposite of his brevity. The Apostle Paul uses the foundation laid by Habakuk for his doctrine of Justification by Faith. Paul quotes Habakuk 1:5 in Acts 13:41. And he quotes Habakuk 2:4 in Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38, the latter being one of the supports for the Pauline authorship of Hebrews. In his Outline Bible, Robert Lee opines that Habakuk could properly be referred to as the Grandfather of the Reformation, since Paul relied on him and Luther relied on Paul.
Prophesying during the transition period between Israel’s oppression by the Assyrians and their oppression by the Babylonians, Habakuk essentially has a conversation with Yahweh in Chapter 1 in which he discusses the problem of the apparent triumph of sin. In chapter 2, his discourse features God’s assurance of the impending punishment of the Babylonians. In chapter 3, Habakuk displays his confidence in God that having rescued His people in the past, and having said that He would destroy the Nations that were oppressing them, he must accept God at His Word and praise Him in the process.
Both the Southern and Northern sides of the split kingdom of Israel had been sinning grievously in the sight of God. Their favorite sin was idolatry and all that went with it. God’s most abominable sin, in a manner of speaking, was idolatry. It is more than coincidence that the first of the Ten Commandments is, “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me…” (Exodus 20:1-6). This is easy to understand. When we give God the priority in our lives that He deserves and demands, then we will do what He says to do. When doing what God tells us to do, there is a zero % chance of our disobeying God.
Habakuk could not understand how God would use a sinful people to punish the sins of His people. But God’s judgement on His people is never sudden. He gives warnings. Israel had been repeatedly warned with figurative “slaps on the wrist” from God. But instead of repenting, they dived deeper into sin. And when God did begin using heathen Nations to punish them, they refused to recognize the hand of God in their affliction. Instead, they tried to rebel against their oppressors, and of course, were defeated. God is righteous and loving and He loves His people Israel and He loves His Church. We can choose to incur God’s punishment by disobedience, or earn His good pleasure by obedience. But in either case, we don’t get to choose how He blesses us, or how He punishes nus.
Habakuk 3:16 concludes a recital of the historical triumphs of Yahweh, and a yearning for the day when Yahweh will similarly destroy their Babylonian oppressors. Then comes perhaps the most beautiful conclusion in supreme poetic eloquence. Habakuk 3:16 concludes a recital of the triumphs of Yahweh over His enemies and a yearning for the day when Yahweh will similarly destroy their Babylonian oppressors. In Habakuk 3:17 in a series of six graphic imageries of emptiness, desertion and desolation, covering the fig tree, vine, olive crop, fields, sheep pen and cattle stalls, Habakuk asserts that regardless of the clear evidence of God’s desertion, He will rejoice in the Lord (Habakuk 3:18-19). It is unfortunate when we incur God’s wrath. But when we do, the very least we can do is trust His loving purposes and plans for us and worship Him during His wrath, knowing that His wrath is but for a moment, but His love endures forever.
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