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Habakkuk

7: Dissident Joy

May 19, 2024 • Sean Higgins • Habakkuk 3:16–19

This final paragraph is what living by faith looks like. This is what living by faith *sings* like. This is how trust in tension responds when it's about to get worse before the glory of the Lord covers the earth. This is living with *dissident joy* (dissident comes from *dis*=apart and *sedere*=to sit, so to sit apart), when we oppose the world’s official narrative in the peace of God which surprises their understanding. These final verses of Habakkuk are often referenced at weddings; they have a "in sickness…in want…in sorrow” vibe. That said, the original context belongs to the economic devastation due to war. Some marriages are a battleground, but this has a bigger application. The covenant people of Judah were corrupt, Habakkuk asked why the LORD seemed to be allowing it. The LORD said He was raising up a foreign nation to judge Judah, Habakkuk asked how it was right for the LORD to use such a wicked people. The LORD said He would judge them too, He purposed judgment for everyone who was puffed up. Habakkuk wrote a psalm as his reply. The song started with Prophetic Requests in verse 2; Lord, *work*! Remember mercy! Verses 3-15 were Prophetic Remembrances, celebrating times when God showed up, through natural means and among the nations to do His work. Now the Prophetic Resolution comes in verses 16-19. It is the end of the song, and a fitting final paragraph to the book. Habakkuk's resolution is a declaration of faith to rejoice amidst ruin. # Reaction (verse 16) The revelation of ruin *on Babylon* caused visceral reaction. > I hear, and my body trembles; > my lips quiver at the sound; > rottenness enters into my bones; > my legs tremble beneath me. > Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble > to come upon people who invade us. > (Habakkuk 3:16 ESV) This is full-body feedback, from head to feet, into the guts and skeleton. The **body** is more like the “belly” (KJV) or one’s insides; his “stomach churned” (NET), and **trembles** could be like "pounded." The **lips quiver** like a mouth-seizure making it hard to speak intelligibly. The **bones** are supposed to be the structure and support system, but they are being eaten away. **Legs** could be translated "feet" and they are wobbly, unsteady; he’s gone limp. **I hear** follows up with “I have heard” in verse 2; Habakkuk got the message. And so he will **quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon the people who invade us**. This isn't the catastrophe and captivity of Judah, this is the calamity on the Chaldeans. *That* trouble won't be the end of Judah's troubles, at least not immediately, it will be worse for everyone. The body keeps the prophecy, so to speak, and who knows how long it will be while God’s judgment runs the course. When we see and fear and laugh (as in Psalm 52:8)—taunts included, we can’t skip the fear (where Habakkuk’s song started too in verse 2). # Resolution (verses 17-18) It's a resolution with concession: “Even though, still.” It’s all a piece, one sentence. > Though the fig tree should not blossom, > nor fruit be on the vines, > the produce of the olive fail > and the fields yield no food, > the flock be cut off from the fold > and there be no herd in the stalls, > yet I will rejoice in the LORD; > I will take joy in the God of my salvation. > (Habakkuk 3:17–18 ESV) Six lines of progressive collapse, disruption, and scarcity provide the context. There’s loss of options, luxuries, and essentials. Figs/dates were more sweet and like treats, fruit on the vine was grapes for wine. No olive oil and no wheat, then no baking and no bread. Now we're talking food basics not on the table. Without a flock there'd be no milk and little for sake of clothes, and no herd in the stalls meant no help for the work, and together no meat. The land has been gutted, the supply chain broken. They didn't even have the Fed print worthless money to get these levels of inflation. The Chaldeans consumed the land and their own loans defaulted, now no one had the goods. This isn’t just a downturn or decline, it’s distress and devastation. Verse 18 is the *single* resolution of the whole psalm (verses 1-19), said in two parallel ways to emphasize Habakkuk's faith. It’s a contrast, a “counterexpectation” (Kenneth Barker). When society crashes is when faith won’t crash. He will **rejoice**. The reason will not be sight, it will be salvation. His hope is not in earthly goods but in God. **I will take joy**, “I will joy in” (KJV). “I will exult/triumph and I will shout in exultation.” The integrated and comparative categories do work here. When we live by faith we do *not* ignore bread and wine, clothes and work. When we live by faith and God blesses us, our faith is integrated. We trust God for, and with, the stuff. If the stuff was bad, then Habakkuk’s rejoicing would be *because* of the losses not in spit of them. And yet comparatively, if we do not get the stuff, we are no less glad with God. Both hunger and plenty, abundance and need are tests, but rejoicing in God belongs with both. The song helps the rejoicing, the corporate nature of the singing helps the rejoicing. Also, declaring the resolution to rejoice helps the resolve and the rejoicing. When the trouble burdens us, so much so that the body is wasting away, the inward man is renewed in his resolve to rejoice day by day. # Recognition (verse 19) Here is strength not just in potential but in practice. > GOD, the Lord, is my strength; > he makes my feet like the deer’s; > he makes me tread on my high places. > > To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. > (Habakkuk 3:19 ESV) Note that **GOD** is all caps in the ESV, and **the Lord** is lowercase "ord" unlike verse 18. It's *Yahweh Adonai* in Hebrew, which the NASB turns into "Lord GOD" and the NIV makes "The Sovereign LORD." Names for God are many, and all of them good for us to know. This pulls us into remembrance of His covenant/promise=Yahweh, His office/position=Lord, and His work/power=strength. He is “my salvation” (verse 18) and **my strength**. The final two lines of the song make the same point and show one way the strength works (an analogy found also in Psalm 18:32). **Feet of a deer** is the last image, why? Deer bound around, but with agility and stability. They are known for their ability to navigate difficult terrain without fear or failure and falling. They are sure-footed in places where it's hard to hold on. Being made to **tread on high places** means we can navigate uncertain and even dangerous ground. # Conclusion A few final things as we finish Habakkuk's burden. The whole book is a framework of faith: See. Complain. Hear. Submit. Sing. Or the fuller version: - see (the corruption and sin) - complain (in prayer to the Lord) - hear (His Word) - submit (to His purposes for judgment and glory) - sing (Psalms) - together (under the direction of the choir director) - all by faith *This is living.* By way of application, it doesn't hurt to see the LORD's instructions for the captives in Babylon. > But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:7) We’re not burying our heads in the sand, the Ostrich Option. We’re not digging deeper bunkers to hide. When it’s bad, we do what we can, knowing that it could be better, and one day *will* be better when God’s glory is known on earth, and in that tension we trust Him to work. In a world that is negative toward Christianity, we are guerrilla rejoicers, those who rejoice in our salvation as part of our resistance. "Take my stuff? Okay, you can't take my *joy*” (see Hebrews 10:34). A dissident opposes the official policy of anger and anxiety. In order to take joy in God we've got to have faith to "see" better from up where the deer run. ---------- ## Charge Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice. To exhort you to this again is no trouble to me and is safe to you. The LORD is your strength and your song. May the Lord renew your strength, and may He bless you with deer’s feet, ready to run and rejoice and not hold back. ## Benediction: > [May you be] strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:11–12 ESV)

6: A Framework of Faith

May 12, 2024 • Sean Higgins • Habakkuk 3:1–15

Habakkuk himself didn’t know it, but we're told that those who are filled with the Spirit and richly indwelt by God's Word speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:18-19; Colossians 3:16). We're told that anyone who is cheerful should sing psalms (James 5:13, the command is *psalleto*). And we're also given a prophetic example that when there is corruption in the land, and when God sends ruin not revival, the right response is to (write and) sing a psalm. Habakkuk 3 is described as a prophet’s “prayer" (3:1), just as chapters 1-2 were introduced as a prophet’s “oracle” or burden. But the final note in chapter 3 is that it was for the "choirmaster," so a *corporate* not just personal prayer-song (which follows the taunt-song in 2:6-20). We also see three uses of the word "Selah," which is some sort of musical notation, and the only books of the Bible that have "Selah" are Psalms and this chapter in Habakkuk. So Habakkuk 3 is a prophet’s prayer-psalm. Of the commentators I read, only one argued that verse 2 is a refrain/chorus which he thought would be sung between three sections as titled before each Selah. Others weren't as certain of that breakdown. But you can see the changes of person. Verse 2, and again in verses 7 and 16-19, have the first person "I." Verses 3-6 talk about God's works in the third person, and verses 8-15 address God directly in the second person, "You." The ESV adds a break with a heading between verses 16-17, and that's...odd. I think we can see the Prophetic Request (verse 2), Prophetic Remembrance in two parts (verses 3-15), and Prophetic Resolution (next time, in verses 16-19). That’s the framework of the song, but the song itself belongs with the *framework of faith* (a phrase used by O. Palmer Robertson in his commentary). The just shall live by faith, requesting help and remembering God’s previous help in history. Go to God with questions and complaints, get perspective from God on what He’s doing, and then worship God with the saints. # Prophetic Requests (verse 2) The only Asks in the entire prayer come in verse 2. > O LORD, I have heard the report of You, > and Your work, O LORD, I do fear. > In the midst of the years, revive it, > in the midst of the years, make it known, > in wrath remember mercy. The initial framework of faith: *hear and fear*. This pairing is found four times in Deuteronomy (13:11, 17:13, 19:20, 21:21). The prophet heard when the LORD said, “I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told” (Habakkuk 1:5), and he was awed by it. “I hear You!” The repeated phrase **in the midst of the years** seems to refer to the time between Habakkuk's questions and the fulfillment of the LORD's answers. This would at least be after Josiah’s death in 609 BC, then during Judah’s anticipation of then captivity to the Chaldeans, up until the Chaldeans got what they deserved. Since Cyrus took control of Babylon in 539 BC, the "midst" could have been the 70 or so years. That said, we are still waiting for all Babylon's daughters to shut their mouths in silence, as well as for the knowledge of the glory of the Lord to cover the earth. We are at least in a related "midst" of waiting. The three requests are: 1) **revive it**, meaning revive the work of the LORD. “Bring it!” 2) **make it known**, again the work of the LORD. And 3) **remember mercy** in the midst of the **wrath**, which is a word for wrath that relates to angered agitation. Knowing that the judgment is *deserved*, and knowing that the judgment will be brutal, does not mean we cannot pray that there would be mercy. The just shall live by faith—with trust in tension, and here is faith longing for the Lord to work and depending on the Lord for His mercy. # Prophetic Remembrances (verses 3-15) There are two approaches to the prophet’s remembrances, descriptive (third person) and then direct address (second person). But all of this reminds us about the value of knowing our history, especially the history of the works of the Lord. The just live by faith, not by waiting to gather all possible data. We often don't feel comfortable because we think we don't have enough information. For some decisions that makes sense. But for sake of our *peace*, even when the foundations are crumbling, the inspired psalms demonstrate that we should not lean on our own understanding but trust in the God of deliverance. Habakkuk rehearses the work of the Lord in a way that expects the Lord to show up again and *work*. He starts: **God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran**, which are places near the southern border of Judah, places that recall when God delivered Israel out of Egypt and then near Sinai where He revealed Himself and gave them His law. That was where **His splendor covered the heavens and the earth was full of His praise. Selah.** Verses 4-5 recall God's works in and through nature. He can raise up nations, like the Chaldeans, but He also uses lightening and what men call "natural" disasters to accomplish His supernatural purposes. That God **measured the earth** shows the scope of His dominion. Even the parts of creation that seem the most dependable, such as the mountains, tremble compared to Him. The **eternal mountains** and **everlasting hills** can't stand or last, though **His were the everlasting ways**. In verse 7 Habakkuk slips back into first person, and though **Cushan** is only mentioned here in Scripture, **Midian** is a place that recalls Gideon’s conflict with the Midianites in Judges 7. His men blew 300 trumpets and the Midianite soldiers killed one another in the confusion. This is what happens when the LORD goes to work. Verses 8 to 15 speak directly to the LORD. The questions about the **wrath against the rivers** and **indignation against the sea** seem to be obviously *no*; God was not mad *at* them. But during the flood and at the Red Sea the waters God shook them out of their normal patterns for His purposes. The imagery of horses and bow and arrows at the end of verse 8 and into verse 9 remind us that God battles with all resources available in His arsenal. More waters in verse 10, then the sun and moon in verse 11, and that they **stood still in their place** recalls the day God made long to enable victory for His people under Joshua (Joshua 10:12-13). Amidst all this wrath there is mercy. > You went out for the salvation of Your people, > for the salvation of your anointed. (verse 13) The LORD does His work in both judgment and **salvation**. The parallelism indicates that **Your people** (a singular collective noun) and **Your anointed** (also singular) refer to the same group (see also Psalm 28:8). Salvation TIMES TWO is emphasized for the saints! Verse 14 is a reference to providential self-destruction, **You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors.** > “Rather than being terrified at the strength of their enemies, God’s people ought to rest confidently in the assurance that the strength of the enemies’ power only displays their capacity to destroy themselves.” (Robertson) More about horses and water and effective judgement in verse 15 to complete the prophetic remembrance. # Conclusion We'll see Habakkuk's resolution in verses 16-19 to finish off the psalm next Lord's Day. Unprecedented times? More precedented praise! > “history…is the master and commander of the good and blessed life, from which all our usages proceed and from which all experience concerning public administration and policy is brought to life.” —Ermolao Barbaro, introduction to his translation of Aristotle’s _Physics_, published in 1480 Recall God’s works in creation, the Exodus, different battles, His power over nature and nations. The song/psalm in the third chapter is distinct from the burden and complaints in the first two chapters. But it is the last response of the prophet to the news of ruin. Here is a test to know whether you're living by faith or not. Do you hear and fear? Can you trust Him enough to request mercy? Can you remember His works and ask Him to work again? Can you sing psalms? Here is the framework of faith, to seek mercy and salvation while singing psalms with the saints. ---------- ## Charge There are many kinds of music, and many of the many can be enjoyed, cranked up, danced to, sung in the shower. All are yours. *And* make sure the Psalms are in your arsenal. Are you suffering? Pray a psalm. Are you cheerful? Praise with a psalm. Encourage one another with psalms! “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand!” ## Benediction: > But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:8–11 ESV)

5: Fuel for the Fire

May 5, 2024 • Sean Higgins • Habakkuk 2:6–20

It never works out to work without God, let alone to work against God and against His ways. It would not work out for Judah, and Habakkuk wondered in prayerful complaint to God why it seemed like corruption and violence were going unchecked (Habakkuk 1:1-4). God answered that the Chaldeans were coming, give it time, and they would make captives out of the covenant people who had become so corrupt (Habakkuk 1:5-11). This provoked a deeper complaint from Habakkuk (Habakkuk 1:12-2:1). How could the brutal Babylonians be one of God's instruments to judge those who were, by comparison, at least some more righteous? The Lord's answer takes up Habakkuk 2:2-20. In verses 2-5 the contrast is between the “puffed up” (mostly a reference to the Chaldeans) and the believers (which must have been only a small remnant in Judah). The arrogant were bent against what is right, the righteous keep living faithfully to God by faith. In verses 6-20 the Lord reveals what's coming to the Chaldeans. It will be the Lord's doing--so He is not letting them slide. And also, the Lord gives lines to the survivors. > Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him, and say, (6a) The **these** are "all nations" and "all peoples" from verse 5, those that Babylon swallows up. The **him** is the singular reference, not just to Nebuchadnezzar or one of his future heirs, but to the Chaldeans collectively. There will be **taunt** or “taunt-song” (NASB), **scoffing**, and **riddles for him**, or these last two combined as a “taunting proverb” (KJV). The Chaldeans will become an international proverbial punchline. In Hebrew it’s easy to see multiple double-entendres, rhymes, and word plays. In a day that "will surely come" (2:2), the impossible will be possible, and the superpower will be the super-loser. There will be taglines, ditties, jokes, one-liners. There will be memes, memes that are both clever and condemning, sober but with real *faith-driven taunting*. While the “all these (who) take up their taunts” are those who are hurt by the Chaldeans, these taunts are *by faith*. The taunts are pre-captivity. They are announcing the woes *before*, because they ask “for how long?” They ask, “will not” these things happen, and talk about future tense, “the stone will cry out” and “the earth will be filled.” The just shall live in tension, and *the just shall learn to taunt*. The Lord gives five smooth taunts (so to speak) for us to pick up and put in our verbal arsenal. While this is a big chunk, it's obvious that the woes address the same general group of people, and it's easy to outline, woe by woe. We won't cover every phrase, but we'll get the point. The puffed up will be poked at and put down. There are also two key contrasts, one in verse 14 and another in verse 20. If living by faith is the key to Habakkuk, knowing what we're having faith *for* is what the key gets us into. # Woe to those who take what isn't theirs. (verses 6b-8) The first three woes have some similarity in taking someone else's stuff for opportunistic benefit, future security, and building a public name for oneself. Here is the first: **Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own**. In verse 8 the description is: **you have plundered many nations**, with plundering as violent acquisition of others goods and property, often during a time of disorder. They would also make loans to survivors in defeated cities, to make even more from interest and exert their own power. But those **debtors** would come calling, and **all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you.** What goes around comes around isn't a Bible verse, and yet it is a pattern of Providence. # Woe to those who seek selfish security. (verses 9-11) The second woe is looking not just to one's current bank account but to one's financial security, even legacy. **Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house**, and while that has application to his today, it probably means more about his future, with **his house** doing double duty as a reference to his property and posterity. They were making piles of their riches, and trying to set themselves up to be unreachable, **safe from the reach of harm!** This is likely metaphorical, not topological; **his nest** is a reference to a secure place he puts valuable things (like we refer to our nest egg), not to a tall tree-house. But **cutting off many peoples** to take his cut will result in cutting off his own life. And even the lifeless materials used for the walls will be a witness; the **stone** and the **beam from the woodwork** will cry out. When the sheetrock and two-by-fours mock you there will be no dynasty. # Woe to those who build by blood. (verses 12-14) The third woe looks to those who want to extend the party to the city. These are a different sort of city planners, violent visionaries. **Woe to him who builds a town with blood, and founds a city on iniquity.** This is the center woe, and verses 13 and 14 need some extra attention. > Behold, is it not from the LORD of hosts > that people labor merely for fire, > and nations weary themselves for nothing? (verse 13) Riddles and taunts have proverbial power, and this smells of Solomonic wisdom-cynicism. Only those with the perspective of faith, so those who can see beyond the sun by the Lord's Word, know that everything is vanity and striving after staying warm. They need fire so they don't have to eat raw meat, and they need fire so they don't have to freeze at night. Wow. Much impressing. Is that all you can do? Whole **nations weary themselves** to get a big ZERO for what matters and what will last. This is the LORD's doing. He made it that way for the puffed up people. They *think* that they are glorious, that their progress is inevitable, and all their efforts are merely fuel for the fire. By contrast, > For the earth will be filled > with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD > as the waters cover the sea. (verse 14) This is where I want to be, don't you? This is what we long for. This is the truest target for our "How long?"s. See Numbers 14:21 for glory all over, along with Isaiah 11:9 with knowledge all over (as an explicit reference to the Messiah’s millennial kingdom), but Habakkuk makes clear: ***knowledge* of the *glory* of the LORD**. Every thumb's-width. The rocks and the hills cry out. Deep and wide; deep calls to deep. Wherever there is sea there is water, it's a tautology, true by definition. Without waters there is no sea, and at the appointed time, there will be no spot on the planet that does not *know* the glory. Every measurement--height, depth, breadth, length, through and through. Everything not attached to this vision is vanity. This hasn't happened yet. We don't even have cell signal covering everywhere yet, and while many of the taunts against Babylon are in syndication re-runs. This faith-stretching and faith-strengthening vision from the Lord to Habakkuk goes *hard*. # Woe to those who degrade others for pleasure. (verses 15-17) This woe is about gross levels of entertainment; it’s the back rooms in Hollywood and politician’s offices. **Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink...in order to gaze at their nakedness.** Turns out, they will be made drunk and show off their own uncircumcision. They forced shame on others, **you will have your fill of shame**. The perversion they poured out will come back to them from the Lord. **Lebanon** is mentioned in verse 17, a place of great trees, used for buildings and ships. Foreign rulers knew about this lush and productive forrest, and the Chaldeans must have wrecked it for sake of their aesthetic selfishness. Such violence would be done back on them. # Woe to those who listen to silent gods. (verses 18-20) Here is the last woe, which could be the first in terms of a motivation for their violence and greed and debauchery and shamelessness. They were following the counsel of silent idols. We become like who or what we worship. And the Chaldeans became profitless, the product of lies and fake news. **Speechless idols** is the phrase * ʾilləmîm ʾeălîlîm*, or “dumb nothingness,” a mute nonentity. Their gods are laughably silent. **Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise. ** It's all show, all smoke, all veneer of **gold and silver** but **there is no breath in it.** This is insult to idolatry. > But the LORD is in his holy temple; > let all the earth keep silence before him. (verse 20) We sing it, ironically then not being silent. And, it's ironic that this verse leads to Habakkuk's response of a *song* in all of chapter 3. But the puffed up really should shut their mouths and reckon with the LORD. # Conclusion Faith is trust in tension, and these lines given by the Lord are so the just will learn to taunt by faith. They are not taunts *down* as a power play, they are taunts up to those in unrighteous power. These are not taunts to the broken and humbled, but to those who are puffed up. These are not even taunts after the fact, but in faith trusting that the Lord is *now* in His holy temple. Not everyone needs to put a taunt in their Twitter bio. And, not everyone who taunts does it by faith for the glory of the Lord. But the just know that Habakkuk 2:14 is the great telos of our faith, the end for which God created the world. *Woe* to all who work against it. ---------- ## Charge The righteous shall see and fear and laugh at those who will not make God their refuge, who trust in the abundance of their riches. The righteous seek refuge in the anointed Son, and “blessed are all who take refuge in Him.” Remember all that is yours as those who are Christ's. ## Benediction: > [May you] have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:18–19 ESV)

4: Faith Enfleshed

April 28, 2024 • Sean Higgins • Habakkuk 2:2–5

There are only two kinds of people in the world: those who break down everything into twos and those who don't. We can get ourselves confused by trying to make some things too simple, but we can also confuse ourselves making the simple complex. In the world that God made, we can either love Him or not, either be in fellowship with Him or out. We can be righteous or in some level of rebellion. We can trust Him, or trust something or someone less wise and strong as Him. Some are of the seed of the serpent, some are of the seed of the woman, and the difference is where they put their faith. God tells us what to want and how to get it. He tells us the dangers of wanting other things as well as the consequences of wanting the right things but pursuing them the wrong way. What is before us is one or the other: life or vanity. We are about to hear the Lord's response to Habakkuk's second complaint. Habakkuk lamented the violence in Judah (and for interesting/ironic connection, in Hebrew the word for violence is pronounced *(c)hamas*), and the Lord replied that He was raising up the Babylonians to take the covenant people captive. Habakkuk questioned this, because how could it be right to punish the wicked by the hands of even more wicked? We're about to see; the Lord's answer takes up the rest of Habakkuk 2. There are two parts to the reply, and the second part comes in five WOES in verses 6-20. But in verses 2-5 we get what is arguably the key to Habakkuk’s book and burden. It is no exaggeration to say that it is the key to life. # Time Announced (verses 2-3) Here is not merely a reply, but dependable revelation for Habakkuk and all who would hear him. > And the LORD answered me: > “Write the vision; > make it plain on tablets, > so he may run who reads it. > For still the vision awaits its > appointed time; > it hastens to the end—it will > not lie. > If it seems slow, wait for it; > it will surely come; it will > not delay. > (Habakkuk 2:2–3 ESV) The *content* of the **vision** will come in verse 4, with clarification in verse 5. The *capture* of the vision should be written **on tablets**, which is unique (an article and plural), and even echoes the writing of the 10 Commandments on two tablets. There is a permanence to this vision: etched in stone. There will be relevance beyond Habakkuk’s day. This will also make it **so he may run who reads it**, which either means simple like a sign/billboard that's legible for someone running by it or simple for sake of a herald rushing around to give the announcement. The *context* of the vision is that it will take place soon but not immediately. As the Babylonians were appointed, so the vision is **appointed**, and certain, **it will surely come**. From Habakkuk's standpoint it might seem slow, but getting all the pieces in place in the Middle East is always a work of God. We don’t even know what the announcement is yet, but here is a call for faith in tension. Knowing that it *will* be, but not knowing when. # Trust Alternatives (verse 4) The vision narrows the options to the binary. > “Behold, his soul is puffed up; > it is not upright within him, > but the righteous shall live > by his faith. > (Habakkuk 2:4 ESV) "Look at this," says the Lord, **Behold**. The **his** is a collective reference to the Babylonians, and the Lord gets right to the heart: **his soul** and **within him**. Two problems: **puffed up** and **not upright**. The second half of the verse shows the contrast, and it is critical. The puffed up man is bloated, swollen with the hot air of autonomy. Hw worships his own strength (see Habakkuk 1:11). They've made a massive miscalculation at the very core of decision making—trusting themselves, and so all the other decisions/judgments of right will be skewed. **But the righteous shall live by his faith**. We know that Paul quoted this in his letter to the Romans (1:17) and Galatians (3:11) contrasting justification by works with justification by faith. And we see how this word to Habakkuk belongs in that discussion. But Habakkuk's concern and context was different, and this revelation has to do with how you'd get into Hebrews 11 (as evidenced by the quote of Habakkuk 2:4 at the end of Hebrews 10:38) not how you'd get into heaven. The **righteous** are the “just” (KJV). The Lord does not tell Habakkuk that those with faith will be counted righteous (which is true), but that those who are righteous will live (in ongoing righteous conduct) by faith, in systemic trust. Trusting God is how they live their lives, trust in the Lord touches everything. It turns out that the righteous here start by faith as well, humble before the Lord rather than puffed up in self. But they live from faith to faith, by their “faithfulness.” By faith, Habakkuk and those who listened to him accepted God’s judgment and were taken into captivity. By faith they sought the good of the foreign city (per Jeremiah 29:7). By faith they returned to the land (Ezra and Nehemiah). By faith they fought and built, Jerusalem’s walls and temple. What living by faith did not allow was pietistic passivity. The faith of the righteous was enfleshed. # Traitorous Arrogance (verse 5) Before the five woes of the Lord’s judgment there is a bit about the drunken deceit brought by the Babylonians on themselves. > “Moreover, wine is a traitor, > an arrogant man who is never > at rest. > His greed is as wide as Sheol; > like death he has never enough. > He gathers for himself all nations > and collects as his own > all peoples.” > (Habakkuk 2:5 ESV) It’s an interesting personification of **wine**. Later copies changed it the word to "wealth," and that would work, but wine does even deeper work by analogy. Their self-trust, like wine, went to their head (Baker). God says that wine gladdens a man's heart, but if not received as a gift, it can turn a man into its slave, and so an addict, always needing more. The Babylonians would be drunk on their power and luxuries, and like **Sheol** or the grave, never satisfied. This vision from the Lord shows that they will get what they want, and be consumed by their consuming. As a comment about Babylon’s coming judgement, we know that Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s son, was in the middle of a feast where he called for the gold and silver cups from Jerusalem’s temple to be brought for drinking (Daniel 5:1-4). That was his last night in power, his last night *alive* (Daniel 5:30-31), and the last night of Babylon’s reign. # Conclusion We hate tension, so we seek fun/distraction rather than live by faith. We hate tension, so we use force/power to get to the expectation our way, and faster, no waiting required. Faith is *trust in tension*. Faith is the assurance of better but later. Faith fights doubting and double-mindedness (see these opposites of faith in James 1:6-8). Faith is life*style*. Enfleshed faith, put flesh to faith, not flesh rather than faith. Sell, spank, read, write, vote, run, lift, mow, build, brew, study, teach, play, sleep, laugh, love, and do it all because of humble dependence on the Lord. Faith knows that unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Faith also knows that when the Lord builds the house He’ll call us to get off the couch. You must not be puffed up, and you have no excuse to be passive. You must not be puffed up, and so you had better pray before and during and after whatever work you offer to the Lord. You must not be puffed up, nor puff up any other man, any politician or political scheme, as if we could even make a seed grow let alone make a soul repent, or a nation. The contrast is not between quiet-internal-right-thoughts (faith) and doing things (works); Hebrews 11 is filled with active/living faith-ers. But, what/who are we trusting in while in tension? Faith is the key to Habakkuk’s burden, and the only way for the righteous to live. ---------- ## Charge Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. May your hands be ever faithful and never manipulative. ## Benediction: > [M]ay our God make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:11–12 ESV)

3: A Proper Complaint

April 21, 2024 • Sean Higgins • Habakkuk 1:12–17, Habakkuk 2:1

There’s a principle in Bible study about interpreting less clear passages in light of more clear passages. When you come to something you don’t know, remember what you *do* know. This applies in a lot of places, because there are probably a lot of things we don’t know. Habakkuk knew that the LORD was righteous; Habakkuk’s first complaint depends on it. The Lord had revealed His law, why is He allowing the law to be paralyzed? The Lord is powerful and right, why is He apparently passive about wrong? The Lord cares, why isn’t He responding to Habakkuk’s cries? I often think of the various ways the Lord could respond to things as if He has a warehouse full of possibilities. Who could have more? He’s not limited by imagination or by resources. He sees *all* the things that happen, He sees all *hearts*, and He could respond almost any way He wanted. The Lord opened the door to His response arsenal for Habakkuk to see. His choice response for the violence in Judah was not inactivity as it seemed to Habakkuk. The Lord had been preparing nations and pushing them into place on the board, getting things set up for the very judgment Habakkuk was crying for. Except it wasn’t exactly what Habakkuk had in mind. Habakkuk cried, “Help!” And then, “Wait! Not like that!” The Lord was raising up the Chaldeans, whom we refer to as the Babylonians, who were going to scoff their way past kings and sweep their way through the land gathering captives like sand. This burden moved Habakkuk to raise his second complaint. He starts with what he knows, asks another version of how long, and then prepares himself for an answer. # What Is Proper - Truth (verse 12) The first question is based on Habakkuk having passed his theology class. > Are you not from everlasting, > O LORD my God, my Holy One? > We shall not die. > O LORD, you have ordained them as a judgment, > and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof. > (Habakkuk 1:12 ESV) The prophet starts with theology *proper*, with the character and attributes of God as God *revealed* through God’s Word from which Habakkuk views the world. God is **everlasting**, which isn’t only about God’s relationship to a timeline but God’s dependability all the time. World history is the lagging measure of God’s eternal will. He is **LORD**, *Yahweh*, the “I am” who IS, who exists, and who revealed Himself and made covenant with Israel. **My God**, and **my Holy One**, refer to the sovereign and the divinely separate. Habakkuk knows (by faith) this LORD, and can state **We shall not die.** The only way to make this claim is based on theology, on God’s faithfulness to God’s promises when God chose a people. There would be judgment, even brutal judgment, but it wouldn’t be annihilation of the nation…at least not if Habakkuk’s theology proper was proper. Yet the Lord **ordained** and **established**the Chaldean/Babylonians as **judgement** and **reproof**. Habakkuk acknowledges the Lord’s answer, but this raises an argument. # What Doesn’t Seem Proper (verses 13-17) Verse 13 builds two parts complaint on two parts proper theology. > You who are of purer eyes than to see evil > and cannot look at wrong, > why do you idly look at traitors > and remain silent when the wicked swallows up > the man more righteous than he? > (Habakkuk 1:13 ESV) Habakkuk got his standard of justice from the Lord. Habakuk argued that violence and wrong were **wrong** because the Lord said it was wrong, and the law of the Lord comes from the nature of the Lord; He is **of purer eyes**. He can’t look at it or tolerate it, same as Habakkuk said in verse 3. So how does that fit with the Lord raising up (verse 6) and having ordained/established (verse 12) **the wicked** to deal with wickedness, especially when, by comparison, those being punished are **more righteous**? Habakkuk not only knew theology, he had enough familiarity with foreign affairs to know that the Babylonians were pretty much doing whatever they wanted, and what they wanted was bad. If the Chaldeans **swallow up**, where will the Lord’s faithfulness be seen? (See the after-swallowing lament: Lamentations 2:2, 5, 16). Verses 14-15 point out how the proper place of man has—by God’s doing—been turned upside-down. > You make mankind like the fish of the sea, > like crawling things that have no ruler. > He brings all of them up with a hook; > he drags them out with his net; > he gathers them in his dragnet; > so he rejoices and is glad. > (Habakkuk 1:14-15 ESV) When I read this description I update it in my mind to shooting fish in a barrel. The Babylonians didn’t have guns, but it is as if **mankind**—here the word *ʾādām*—the rest of the nations, were brainless, helpless little guppies at the mercy. They were less than men, or at least treated as such. The **crawling things** are the same as referenced in the creation account, swarming in the water. And who did it? **You make**, *God* made men to “have dominion over the fish of the sea” (Genesis 1:28), all the swarms of living creatures in the waters (Genesis 1:20), how can this turnover be proper? There’s a **hook**, a **net**, and a **dragnet**, which would be a net for more than an individual. They are caught, gathered together, and dragged away. This could be an extended ichthyological (dealing with fishes) metaphor. But, there’s some historical reasons to think at least some of it is physical, as the Babylonians followed the Assyrians by piercing captives’ lower lips with hooks, leading them on a string. Were there also human-sized nets? > Therefore he sacrifices to his net > and makes offerings to his dragnet; > for by them he lives in luxury, > and his food is rich. > (Habakkuk 1:16 ESV) The Lord said that the Babylonians “own might is their god!” (verse 11). And the **sacrifices** and **offerings** are part of that worship, celebrating the weapons of their victory. These are the tools that enable their lifestyle of **luxury** and **rich food**. The word “luxury” is fine, but the KJV says “their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous.” They liked their plunder so much they worshiped their shopping bags. > Is he then to keep on emptying his net > and mercilessly killing nations forever? > (Habakkuk 1:17 ESV) The question is a desperation “how long?” will this go on? Will it stop? They fill the net, empty the net, like relentless waves on the shore. We’ve got almost nine more months of this administration? # What Is Proper - Trust (verse 2:1) It’s one of those bad chapter breaks, and, we can get over it. > I will take my stand at my watchpost > and station myself on the tower, > and look out to see what he will say to me, > and what I will answer concerning my complaint. > (Habakkuk 2:1 ESV) Habakkuk has been complain-praying, but talking about God and the Babylonians. Now he adds a little third-person narration. Habakkuk is girding his loins for the Lord’s reply, which he knows is coming. The rest of chapter 2 is that **answer concerning [his] complaint**. This is one way to translate the end of the verse, another is, “how I may reply when I am reproved” (NASB), suggesting that Habakkuk expected the Lord’s answer to correct him. He was a *watchman*, and it was proper for him to wait for the word of the Lord. # Conclusion When the earth is not yet filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD (see Habakkuk 2:14), *and* some real pieces of work are in charge, what then? How do we get our clear theology up next to the disordered world? Here are Habakkuk's hacks for handling __deserved__ political catastrophe, or tips for when you're a tiny citizen fish in a totalitarian barrel: (and yeah, stated in a playful way to get your attention, but dreadfully serious about the counsel) - Learn to hate any corruption of justice, large and small, and the strife such corruption causes. Hate lies and bribes more. - Do no wrong to your neighbor, even when it appears that you could get away with it. This includes verbal wrong in the parking lot behind their back, financial wrong in a business deal, any wrong. - Complain (lament and cry) to God, in personal prayer and assembled psalm-singing. Let it be known that our help is in the name of the Lord who is in His holy temple (Habakkuk 2:20). - Get on board that God works in mysterious ways, including His abundant arsenal of judgments. Theology proper that fits neatly on the page may be prim and yet not fully proper. That said, one reason people lose their minds is because they never knew God as God reveals Himself in His Word. - Build all your life on the Rock, hearing and doing His words, so that your house will not fall when the floods come (Matthew 7:24-25). - Then get wisdom and pursue zeal to take every advantage of any open door God puts in front of you to honor Christ the Lord as holy (1 Peter 3:15). ---------- ## Charge George Bernard Shaw said, "Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.” And in our temporal citizenship, that resonates. But also "our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." So live as HE deserves. ## Benediction: > Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible. (Ephesians 6:23–24 ESV)

2: Ruin Not Revival

April 14, 2024 • Sean Higgins • Habakkuk 1:5–11

The burden of Habakkuk hits hard. The violence and numbing of justice in Judah hit the prophet hard, so he cried to Yahweh for help. Why wasn't the LORD *saving*? The answer from the LORD hit even harder. It was *not* what Habakkuk had in mind, and that in multiple ways; the answer was *ruin* not revival. While all of this is 2500 year-old history, the application hits us hard, too. Habakkuk's repeated prayers for help must have come sometime after good King Josiah died (609 BC). And it seems reasonable to think that Habakkuk's prayers must have wanted the Lord to fix the problems by giving Judah another king like Josiah. Josiah didn't restore justice overnight after 55 years of Manasseh's evil rule, but right did return. Josiah led the way. Josiah showed it could be done. Why not send another righteous king to make Judah great again, so that justice would not be perverted but prevail? There are at least three surprising parts of Habakkuk's vision of the Lord’s reply. First, contrary to appearances, the Lord was *not* "idly looking at wrong" (verse 3), because immediately the Lord tells Habakkuk to "Look" (verse 5) at something the Lord has already been doing. Second, there would not be help or saving from violence (verses 2 and 3), but instead *more* violence; violent enemies were coming to kill and take captives (verse 9). And third, the judgment was coming from an upstart and *ungodly* superpower. Habakkuk couldn't have predicted this on his own if his middle name was Blackswan. In the Lord's answer we get an initial call to pay attention and then the identity of the coming punishers with a dreadful set of attributes. # A Harrowing Surprise (verse 5) What you can't see in English is that all the imperative verb endings in verse 5 are *plural*. This is why we're not just peaking in on Habakkuk's melancholy quiet time one morning. This is a harrowing/distressing word to the people of Judah. > Look among the nations, and see; > wonder and be astounded. > For I am doing a work in your days > that you would not believe if told. > (Habakkuk 1:5 ESV) That's a four-fold alert to open the newspaper, turn on the TV, refresh the app, prepare to be amazed: **Look, see, wonder, be astounded**. The first two are the same as Habakkuk's complaint: "Why do you make me *see* (ra’ah) iniquity, and why do you idly *look* (nabat) at wrong?" (verse 3). The Lord could see what was happening, better than Habakkuk, and beyond what Habakkuk could conceive. To look **among the nations** indicates from the start of the Lord's answer that Yahweh's sovereignty covers the world stage, not just the land and peoples of Palestine. **I am doing a work in your days** also pulls back the curtain to reveal a lot of activity, not ignorance or idleness. **That you would not believe if told** is not going to introduce a happy surprise. # A Horrible Superpower (verse 6-11) Here is *the nation*, a horrible/dreadful superpower. > For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, > that bitter and hasty nation, > who march through the breadth of the earth, > to seize dwellings not their own. > (Habakkuk 1:6 ESV) The Lord not only identifies the surprise nation among the nations, the Lord takes credit for that nation’s ascendence in power. **I am raising up the Chaldeans**, which we can call Babylonians, though the Chaldeans were first a nomadic tribe that then moved to and took over the city and region of Babylon (though for less than 100 years). Babylon itself is located in modern-day Iraq, about 50 miles south of Baghdad. During Manasseh's day, and most of Josiah’s reign, Assyria was the dominant power in the Middle East, and Judah paid tribute. Egypt had always been a different world power to the south. But Nobopolassar rose to power in 626, defeated the Assyrian city of Asshur in 614 and the capital city of Nineveh in 612 (after a three month siege). His son Nebuchadnezzar chased the Egyptian Pharaoh Neco in 605, and in that same year Nobopolassar died and Nebuchadnezzar took over. It's one thing when a tiny mob is bitter, though even a TM can cause a lot of havoc. This whole *nation* is **bitter** (or “fierce” NASB, “ruthless” NIV) and **hasty**; they are disgruntled and hotheaded. With speed they **march through the breadth of the earth**, the swath of bitter brutality is *wide*. They take over and occupy furnished buildings that they didn't build (which wouldn’t be the first time in the same land). > They are dreaded and fearsome; > their justice and dignity go forth from themselves. > (Habakkuk 1:7 ESV) **Dreaded** and **fearsome** would be responses to either the previous attributes or the rest of verse 7. The Babylonians were not *reasonable*. It was bad in Judah that the law was paralyzed, but the Babylonians were a law unto themselves. It’s frying-pan when the standard is known but ignored, it's the fryer when the standard is whatever a pagan feels like that day. You can complain, but there’s no grounds to argue your case. > Their horses are swifter than leopards, > more fierce than the evening wolves; > their horsemen press proudly on. > Their horsemen come from afar; > they fly like an eagle swift to devour. > (Habakkuk 1:8 ESV) The horses and their riders are compared to leopards, wolves, and eagles. The military is compared to predators: **swift** and hungry and vicious. Habakkuk said the righteous were surrounded (verse 4), but there was *no* place to escape the Babylonians. They could not be outrun, they could not be hid from. > They all come for violence, > all their faces forward. > They gather captives like sand. > (Habakkuk 1:9 ESV) **Violence**. Habakkuk thought he knew violence, and no doubt he did. And also it would be worse. To see **all their faces forward** implies that the Babylonians could not be appeased. Nothing turned them to the side, let alone turned them back. Many would be killed, others **they gather captives like sand**. This could be a play on numbers, this could be a reference to inhumanity. You could count the grains of sand in buckets but why bother—it’d be a high total, and also you wouldn't think that sand very precious. > At kings they scoff, > and at rulers they laugh. > They laugh at every fortress, > for they pile up earth and take it. > (Habakkuk 1:10 ESV) After a while you'd consider yourself invincible. "You and what army?" This laughing is mock-talk. “That’s all you’ve got?” Kings and rulers and walls meant nothing. When they came to a barrier they'd make ramparts, their own temporary hills. They had time and manpower. > Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, > guilty men, whose own might is their god!” > (Habakkuk 1:11 ESV) Tornados never stick around to see what damage they've done, the Babylonians wouldn't either. The last part in verse 11 is key. Judah was guilty, and these Chaldeans being raised up by the Lord are also **guilty men**. Were any one of the things *good* in verses 6-11? The very first attribute is that they were *bitter*. And the last is that they are *idolators*, **whose own might is their god!** They worship themselves as the superpower. # Conclusion The Babylonians were the Lord’s *tools*. This leads to Habakkuk’s second complaint, 1:12-2:1, but the Lord’s second reply is that the Babylonians they were just temporary tools; they would get their own judgement. We know now that Babylon did conquer Judah by 586 and then that Cyrus and the Persian army conquered the Chaldeans in 539. One question we get to ask is, what about the *Messiah*? The promised King of David? Not only is another righteous king like Josiah or the Messiah *not* the answer to Habakkuk’s complaint, Messiah isn’t mentioned at all in his burden or song. Living by faith, yes, but in Habakkuk’s history God sendt ruin not revival. That said, Paul quoted Habakkuk 1:5 in Acts 13:41, *by way of application*, about those who reject Jesus as the Lord’s Holy One. The burden of Habakkuk had already happened, and yet, more judgement was coming (by way of the Romans in AD 70 on the Jews) if they would not receive the word and grace of God in Jesus. What about the *United States*? I do not know our national destiny, but I do know what we deserve. We do not have the same covenants as Judah, our future is not explicitly revealed. And yet collectively, we have both *more* revelation we’re sinning against *and more* violence. What should we do? “The righteous shall live by his faith.” We should repent and kiss the Son (Psalm 2:12). We should confess that Jesus is Lord. ---------- ## Charge When you hear of wars and rumors or wars, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God. The God of all grace has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, and He is at work. Cast your cares on Him, because He cares for you. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. ## Benediction: > Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:16–17 ESV)

1: A Prophetic Complaint

April 7, 2024 • Sean Higgins • Habakkuk 1:1–4

One of the most frequent questions asked by God's people is, "How long?" It’s more than a question, it’s a complaint, and yet it is *a complaint of faith*. The complaint has no teeth if there is no God to answer the question. And that God must have power and be righteous and have already revealed enough for people with faith to see that how it should be isn't how it is. How long until God makes things *right*? This question opens the burden of the prophet Habakkuk. And while the LORD gave this vision with particular people/nations in mind, and while the first level fulfillments have already taken place, the situation in Habakkuk's day bears much similarity to our own. The realities of God's sovereignty, justice, and salvation are very much still at stake. At least four parts of this three chapter minor prophet are familiar to us. The last few verses (3:17-19) are often quoted at weddings, fitting with a “for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health" vibe. We also sing about all the earth in silence (2:20). We long for the earth to be “filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (2:14). And especially because that is what we want, Habakkuk 2:4 resonates the most: “the righteous shall live by his faith.” This was the whole theme of Romans according to Paul (Romans 1:16-17). The gospel saves believers, and saved believers keep on believing. Faith is life, from start to finish. The author of Hebrews also quotes Habakkuk 2:4 in terms of our confidence and courage and not being cowards (Hebrews 10:38). Faith was necessary for Habakkuk and any of the righteous. Faith isn’t only the first breath, it is the blood and bones of our life. The book has two main divisions, both of which name "Habakkuk the prophet." In 1:1 the prophet has an "oracle" and in 3:1 he has a “prayer.” The oracle includes two complaints, the second caused by the Lord's answer to the first, and the second answer includes five woes. The dialogue between Habakkuk and the Lord take up the first two chapters. The entire last chapter was Habakkuk's submission to the Lord and was intended to be sung, as shown by the final words. This morning we'll meet the prophet and consider his problem in context. It's more than facts of history, it is food for hope. # The Prophet’s Burden (verse 1) There is not much of an intro or background on Habakkuk. > The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw. (Habakkuk 1:1 ESV) Habakkuk is the name of **the prophet**, and all we get is his title. There's nothing else about this prophet in the Old Testament, though based on the content of this book he must have been a contemporary of Nahum and Zephaniah (the books before and after Habakkuk), as well as Jeremiah. This puts him in Israel when Josiah was King of Judah, near the last half of the 7th century BC. **Oracle** is a typical word from the Lord, a message, a “prophecy” (NIV), a “pronouncement” (CSB). Sometimes translated "burden" (KJV); it’s a heavy/hard message. It came in the form of a vision because it was something Habakkuk **saw**. These are small but vital details because it might seem as if Habakkuk's questions are personal. And they are. But the observations Habakkuk makes about Israel and Babylon and the future, as well as the responses from the Lord, are all revelation Habakkuk *received*. The prophecy is God’s Word, and so profitable for *us* as well. # The (First) Complaint (verses 2-4) Here is Habakkuk's complaint of faith. Two questions make up the prophets cries. > O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, > and you will not hear? > Or cry to you “Violence!” > and you will not save? > (Habakkuk 1:2 ESV) Habakkuk calls on the **LORD**, *Yahweh*, the name God gave to Israel when He made covenant with them. The prophet has been praying, this is not his first prayer. He’s wondering **how long shall I cry...or cry**, because it seems that the Lord is not replying. Things are *bad*, and we’ll see more specifics in verses 3-4, but there is **Violence!** (a key word in Habakkuk, used here, the next verse, 1:9, 2:8 and twice in 2:17), such that God is needed for salvation. Why isn’t the Lord answering and stopping the damage and destruction? > Why do you make me see iniquity, > and why do you idly look at wrong? > Destruction and violence are before me; > strife and contention arise. > (Habakkuk 1:3 ESV) > Three pairs of problems that are Habakkuk’s face. Can the Lord not see? Or does He see and **idly look**, doing nothing about it? **Why** is God just standing by? **Iniquity** and **wrong**. The first word also has the idea of injustice, which, we only know about justice because of God to begin with. And so the second word relates to unjust actions, the consequences of violating the standard. **Destruction** and **violence** are filling up his news feed, they are **before me**, all he can see. Violence is what he’s been crying out about (see verse 2), and the results are damaging beyond repair, ravaging and ruinous. The third pair are **strife** and **contention**. Broken standards break society. It’s obvious, but sin makes stupid sinners. Ethics and morality are *relational*, before God, yes, but between one another. We can’t violate what is right toward another person and think that won’t start unraveling the whole into a mess, especially when no one stops it. Why does the Lord “tolerate” (NIV) any of this? > So the law is paralyzed, > and justice never goes forth. > For the wicked surround the righteous; > so justice goes forth perverted. > (Habakkuk 1:4 ESV) Four lines of results. First, **law is paralyzed**, and this is fine translation, but the Hebrew verb carries the idea of making something cold, like one’s hand, so *numbed*, and ineffective, useless, or paralyzed. The law was supposed to *hold back* the violence and bring forth justice. While many cultures/nations had some sort of laws, using the word Hebrew word *torah* for **law** shows that the corruption is in *Judah*. This is *internal* fraud, dishonesty, lawbreaking by judges. So “justice is never upheld” (NASB), no one seems to be getting what they deserve. That leaves nowhere to go for the righteous, **the wicked surround** them, or “hem in” (NIV). When things are working, the righteous could appeal to the authorities and those who disobeyed would be punished, property could be restored. The process provides no protection anymore. And **justice** is **perverted**, twisted; order becomes chaos. Justice comes out *crooked*. # Conclusion Though Habakkuk complains that the LORD was inattentive, He was actually already lining up world powers. Judgment was coming, which, turns out, would be even less comfortable than the injustice. God’s answer is that Judah *will be* punished. God is going to send the Babylonians (Chaldeans) per verse 6. It would be a surprise, and this helps us date Habakkuk itself. Manasseh was king in Judah for 55 years, the most evil and idolatrous king of Judah, and then his son Amon ruled for two years following in Manasseh’s sins. But Assyria was the superpower in the Middle East during their reigns; so Habakkuk’s burden must come later. Josiah became king of Judah around 640 BC when he was only 8 years old. During Josiah’s rule righteousness was restored. He was already reforming the nation, and when workers repairing the temple found a copy of the Book of the Law, Josiah humbled himself and even more so and sought to lead for the Lord. Josiah died in 609. Babylon rose under Nabopolassar and defeated Assyria at Nineveh, just before Josiah’s death, in 612. Then his son Nebuchadnezzar marched on Jerusalem three times: 605 - when Daniel was taken captive, again in 597 when King Jehoiakim was taken captive, and finally conquering Judah and taking even more captives. So the cultural wickedness got bad *quickly*, shortly after 609, and Habakkuk could see the anxiety and agitation. The consequences were coming. This leads to Habakkuk’s “wait a second, though, how can an even *more* wicked people punish this (less) wicked, covenant people?” The oracle of Habakkuk has *happened*; it’s history. Corruption for the covenant community (Judah) had catastrophic consequences. God will judge the wicked, and He will even use other wicked peoples to do it, as He determines is right. The United States are not Israel/Judah. But, by way of application, our nation did know better, it’s in our books. We cannot claim ignorance of God or His standards. With Habakkuk we are allowed to cry for God’s justice. We should want the glory of the Lord to fill the earth. And as Christians we should remember that judgment begins with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17). With Habakkuk, the righteous shall live by faith. ---------- ## Charge When the foundations crumble, that is not the time to abandon hope, that’s when hope is potent. When the windows are broken, that’s not time to leave your trash on the floor. In other words, what should you do when so many things aren’t right? By faith YOU do what is right. ## Benediction: > For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And > “If the righteous is scarcely saved, > what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” > Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Peter 4:17–19 ESV)