Today we begin the book of Habakkuk. Written approximately between 700 and 600 B.C., the book of Habakkuk is a short but powerful book by a prophet called Habakkuk. In this book Habakkuk writes down his revelations from God at a time when Babylon is emerging as a world power and Habakkuk’s own nation of Israel is fraught with internal corruption.
Today’s passage is Habakkuk 1:1-17. Let’s go!
Habakkuk 1:1 (NIV) 1 The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received.
On verse 1: Little is known with certainty about Habakkuk, the author of this book. In fact the very first line and the very last line of this book tell us more about Habakkuk then all the writing in between. The first line tells us that Habakkuk was a prophet chosen by God. The last line, “For the director of music. On my stringed instruments” (Habakkuk 3:19), tells us that Habakkuk was a musician who probably played and wrote worship music for the temple where people worshiped the Lord. The body of this book shows us that Habakkuk was sensitive to God’s voice, sensitive to the injustice he saw around him as well as the visions God was showing him. Many scholars believe Habakkuk’s name comes from the Hebrew word for “to embrace”. This is fitting given that in this book we get a glimpse of the intimate relationship between the Lord and Habakkuk. Interestingly, some have speculated that Habakkuk is the son of the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4:15-17 since Elisha tells the woman, “next year you will embrace a son in your arms”. This is really just conjecture, but an interesting one at that to think that the prophet Elisha may have had a hand in the prophet Habakkuk’s life.
What can we learn from this verse? Notice that chapter 1 contains an oracle, or vision, that Habakkuk “received”. Prophetic words and visions are not something you can make up, but they are something you receive from the Holy Spirit. To use an American football analogy, it’s like the Holy Spirit is the quarterback and we are the receiver. Our job is to get open and available to receive the ball while running the route marked out for us. May you run the route marked out for you and receive revelation from the Holy Spirit.
Habakkuk 1:2-4 (NIV) 2 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? 3 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. 4 Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.
On verses 2-4: If you’ve ever wondered why God seems silent in the midst of great injustice, why He allows certain evil in this world, or why in a particular situation He did not come to the rescue the way you expected Him to, then you’re not alone. Habakkuk, a prophet, someone with a close relationship with God, had similar questions and complaints.
What can we learn from this? When God doesn’t do what You expect Him to, that doesn’t mean that there is no God. It simply shows that you are not God. When God does not act as you hoped, remember that God is writing a far greater story than anything you could write yourself, and that God is not finished writing the story.
Habakkuk 1:5-6 (NIV) 5 “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. 6 I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own.
On verses 5-17: Here God Himself describes how He is raising up the Babylonians as His appointed tool to bring judgment on the nations. God acknowledges that this will seem strange or even unjust to some, as He says, “I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (v5) The Babylonians did not fear the Lord. Habakkuk describes them as a “ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own”. He describes them as those who “mock kings and scoff at rulers” (v10), “guilty people whose own strength is their god” (v11). He calls them “treacherous” (v13), “wicked” people (v13) who do as they please with those weaker than them (v14-15), idol worshipers (v16) who worship the tools they use to get wealth instead worshiping the God who allows them to have wealth (v16). Yet despite not fearing God at all, the Babylonians are God’s tool to accomplish His purposes in judging the nations. Without knowing it and without trying in any way to be part of God’s plan, the Babylonians would wreak havoc on nations and in so doing would be the instrument God used to pronounce judgment on certain peoples.
How could God use “guilty people whose own strength is their god” (v11) to fulfill His purposes? It’s because God is sovereign. God can do whatever He pleases and He can use whomever He wants. In fact, in all things God works for the good of those of love Him (Romans 8:28). That means that whether we know it or not, and whether we like it or not, God is using every thing and every person to accomplish His purposes in the end. God has a way of orchestrating everything so that it ultimately tells the story He wants to tell. Since we will all be used by God in some way, the more important question is: how will we be used by Him? Will we be used by God the way He used the Babylonians, as a passive, unconscious tool in God’s work on earth and which He will discard later? Or will we be used by God the way He used Habakkuk, as a living, active participant and partner in God’s work, who has a relationship with God based on love and trust that will last long after He uses us on earth? We don’t get to choose whether God will use us, but to a great degree we do get to choose how God will use us. So much of it depends on how we respond to Him on a daily basis.
Heavenly Father, You are the Sovereign Lord. I pray that like Habakkuk I would get open long enough to receive words of revelation from You. I want You to use me, not as a passive tool who has no idea about You but as an active participant, partner and servant in Your kingdom, working with You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!