In our study, we look at the complaints that the prophet brings to God and look at the reasons for them. We may be quick to judge and say that there is no such thing as righteous anger but we will look deeper into God's Word for the answer to this and other questions. Habakkuk whose name means "love's embrace" was a prophet to the people of Judah. An embracer is one who takes another in his arms and comforts them much as you would a weeping child. Anyone who has raised children will tell you that, at a certain age, they start to ask the question "Why?" about everything. As adults, we also want the answer to that question and that is what the prophet is doing throughout this book of the Bible. This book was written after the last "good" king of Judah when men were turning away from God.
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The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received.
The word "oracle" actually means burden and we shall see the burden that he carried as we proceed through this chapter.
How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, 'Violence!' but you do not save?
You can almost feel the anguish as the prophet pours out his heart to God. He is simply asking the question: "Why don't you answer my prayers?" We have all probably either wanted to ask that same question or have asked it.
Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.
The prophet continues by simply asking God why He allows the evil of the world to continue and even to seem like evil is winning. This is an age old question as even King David struggled with this issue (see Psalm 73:2). Today, it seems like it is even worse as the ungodly seem to have all of the wealth and power of this world. Have you cried out like the prophet for answers? This is the righteous anger that he is dealing with in that he is not concerned about his personal wealth or power but the prophet is concerned about the reputation and name of God. Many ask the question "Why do I need God when I have all of this?" and that is what is concerning him.
Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.
The prophet goes on to say that the whole system is corrupt and God's people are surrounded. This verse could be talking about our world today as it seems that the law does not apply if you have enough money or know the right people.
'Look at the nations and watch - and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.'
God begins to answer Habakkuk by simply telling him to watch and see what He does. This is good for us as well in that, as with the prophet, when we cry out to God, He hears and answers but it is in His time and not ours.
'I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own.'
Imagine the reaction of Habakkuk when he is told that God is going to use the Babylonians as an instrument of judgment. In his eyes, their actions would have been more evil than those of his people. Even so, God tells him that they are being prepared for His use. The Babylonians thought of themselves as a superior race of people and, here, God describes them as "impetuous" which means they do not consider their actions and the consequences. It is interesting to note that it says they "sweep across the whole earth" but they had not done so yet. But, in Revelation 18, we see that their system has overtaken the world prior to the return of Jesus Christ.
'They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor. Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like a vulture swooping to devour;'
God describes the Babylonians and their arrogance. They are the mightiest war machine of the day and they are aimed at God's people as an instrument of judgment. It is interesting to note that God speaks of their calvary instead of the chariots that the people had been used to seeing and this speaks about the swiftness of the coming judgment. (Calvary is quicker than a horse pulling a chariot.)
'they all come bent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand. They deride kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at all fortified cities; they build earthen ramps and capture them. Then they sweep past like the wind and go on - guilty men, whose own strength is their god.'
The Babylonians thought of themselves as being unstoppable. This passage describes them as a desert sandstorm and if you have been in one of those you can appreciate what is being said. These sandstorms are caused by the wind picking up sand and there can be such a great cloud of sand that it actually gets dark in the middle of the day. These people are guilty of idolatry in that they think of themselves as gods. This is much the same attitude as many people today as they trust in their own efforts and strength.
O Lord, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, we will not die. O Lord, you have appointed them to execute judgement; O Rock, you have ordained them to punish. Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?
Habakkuk acknowledges who God is and the fact that He is just in bringing judgment on His people. (God answered his first complaint by telling him that He was going to use the Babylonians to conquer His people.) Now, the prophet is not happy with God's choice of instruments as he basically tells God that they are even worse than the people they are going to conquer. We may be quick to judge Habakkuk but we must all admit that we probably have the same type of complaint with God sometimes. We want God to do things and He does but when He does them His way we complain because it is not what we expected. Growth in our faith allows us to not only trust God to do things but also to trust that His methods are best.
You have made men like fish in the sea, like sea creatures that have no ruler. The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks, he catches them in his net, he gathers them up in his dragnet; and so he rejoices and is glad.
The prophet continues to question God's choice of instrument and wonders why both the good and the bad are to all be conquered. We may ask ourselves why we are subjected to the bad effects of those around us who do not try to follow Jesus Christ. Why do we, as Christians, have to live in this world today with all of its ungodliness? That is similar to the question that Habakkuk is asking God in this passage.
Therefore he sacrifices to his net and burns incense to his dragnet, for by his net he lives in luxury and enjoys the choicest food.
The Babylonians thought that they were so superior to everyone else because of their conquest of so many other nations. That military power brought them wealth and they really lived it up. The same thing is happening in our world today as there is a rush to have the best and biggest military and, in many cases, that military power has become a false god. Many have turned away from trusting in the power of God and turned to trusting in a military machine.
Is he to keep on emptying his net, destroying nations without mercy?
Habakkuk ends this chapter with a simple question to God which is: Are you going to allow the evil Babylonians to continue to win victories?