The Prophet Habakkuk’s Greatest Hits

The Prophet Habakkuk’s Greatest Hits

The Prophet Habakkuk’s Greatest Hits.

AUTHOR. Habakkuk is the presumed author of this book, and little is known of his life as a prophet. We do know he was probably working as a prophet during the reign of Jehoiakim, between 612-588 BC. His name means “embracer” or “one who clings to.” Habakkuk is often referred to as the “prophet of faith.” He didn’t speak God’s word to the people in this book as much as speak the people’s word to God. He asked universal questions in utter frankness before God, yet he remained a man of genuine faith throughout the questioning. He had questions, and he knew Who to ask for the answers. The final three verses in his song in chapter 3 indeed establish him as a man of monumental faith.

THE BOOK. Habakkuk more or less interrogated the Lord twice, and both times God provided His answers. Habakkuk first asked the Lord why He wasn’t punishing the people of Judah for their wickedness. Why do the evil-doers in our midst prosper while the righteous seem to suffer? After a series of evil kings in Judah, the nation had indeed sunk into lawlessness, immorality, injustice, violence, and was a place where “the wicked surrounded the righteous.” God answered that He is going to punish Judah by sending the Babylonians to conquer them. Be patient, God said, and you will see the Sovereign Lord in control and ready to discipline Judah through the Babylonians (Chaldeans). The seeming prosperity and success of the wicked is only temporary.

The second question from Habakkuk referred to the Lord’s use of Babylon to exact His judgment. How can you punish the bad with something worse? The Babylonians are cruel, treacherous pagans! You are sending a godless nation to punish your Chosen People? God responded by stating that He is indeed going to punish the Babylonians in due time for their sinfulness. Take the long view, God says, look at the big picture. With me in control, there is ultimate justice and moral accountability in this world, and I know what I’m doing, says the Lord. God encouraged Habakkuk to trust Him that He has a long-term plan. God’s word of advice to Habakkuk was, “If justice seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place.” (2:3). God will execute judgment in due time.

WATCHMAN. Habakkuk said in 2:1 that he was going to his watchtower to wait for the Lord. The standard prophet’s stance was that of the watchman, waiting and listening with an attitude of expectation, patiently watching for God, keeping an eye out for the Lord to speak and act. It’s doubtful Habakkuk was referring to a literal watchtower, where one could see in the distance for any visitors approaching the city. Instead, Habakkuk’s watchtower was his undisturbed place of spiritual meditation and focus. His watchtower was where he was to receive God’s word. It was his spiritual lookout tower to wait for the Lord’s response. In this case, his watching and waiting bore fruit, because God indeed approached him and speaks about all the reasons God wants to punish the Babylonians: pride, arrogance, greed, corruption, violence, extortion, murder, gluttony, idolatry. And the list goes on. God will not stand for all those deadly sins running rampant. Is it any wonder, God asks, why I want to punish them severely? The clock is ticking, their time is coming

FAITHFULNESS. While on his watch, Habakkuk heard God tell him one of the most quoted and written about verses in Scripture, “The righteous will live by their faithfulness (or, by their faith).” (2:4). God is saying those who survive will be those who trust in God and remain loyal to Him. Remain faithful, keep the faith, and you will be considered righteous, you will be saved from any spiritual calamity, says the Lord. One’s righteousness is established by one’s faithfulness.

FILLED FULL. In the midst of the Lord’s woes put upon the Babylonians, the Lord offers a glimpse of heaven, of the end of history in which God is all in all. “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (2:14). One thinks of a similar prophecy in Isaiah 11:9, “The earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Because the Hebrew word for know indicates reverence and intimate relations, the Tanakh (Jewish translation) has awe instead of knowledge in Habakkuk, and devotion instead of knowledge in Isaiah. In the Hebrew mind, knowledge involves intimate personal experience, and is not limited to intellectual activity. Spiritual knowledge is akin to worship and reverence. Since glory is synonymous with the magnificent splendor and Presence of God, Habakkuk must have been encouraged when the Lord foretells the time when the whole earth will be aware of and participate in the glorious Presence of the Lord. Keep that in mind, the Lord seems to be saying, and fret not about the wicked who are prospering or the nations that seem to be avoiding judgment. The Lord in His presence will settle all moral debts.

FAITH. Habakkuk 3 is a song that is one of the highlights of the Hebrew Bible. After all their earlier dialogue, Habakkuk stands in awe of God, he is astounded at the Lord’s greatness. Habakkuk has only one petition in mind… Work your redemption, Lord, during the time of punishment. He pleads for compassion in the midst of judgment with his famous words, “In wrath remember mercy.” (3:2). This brings to mind the Lord’s assuring words in Isaiah 54:8, “In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer.” Habakkuk then poetically recalls Israel’s history and God’s ongoing interventions, the faithfulness and power of God.

Habakkuk’s song reaches a crescendo in verses 17-19, one of the most powerful statements of faith in all of Scripture. As he considers the impending doom of Babylonian destruction in Judah, Habakkuk remains triumphant in his faith in God. As he anticipates famine and the dismantling of Judean life, the failure of crops and livestock and economy, he nonetheless rejoices in God and His salvation. Even if his life is stripped from everything he enjoys and produces, he will walk like a king of the mountain, without a stumble or a fall. Habakkuk’s confidence in God is remarkable and articulate. Even if everything in life fails, he will continue to trust in his God.

Though the fig tree does not bud

And no yield is on the vine,

Though the olive crop has failed

And the fields produce no grain,

Though sheep have vanished from the fold

And no cattle are in the pen,

Yet will I rejoice in the Lord,

And exult in the God who delivers me.

My Lord God is my strength,

He makes my feet like the deer’s

And lets me stride upon the heights.”

(Tanakh, the Jewish Publication Society).