Introduction to the Book of Habakkuk
and Study of Habakkuk 1-3
September 24th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Habakkuk (Overview)

Habakkuk was a prophet in Judah (the southern kingdom) prior to the exile. His short book of three chapters includes several themes and a verse that was important to the early development of Christianity.

The main themes include suggestions to God for dealing with the wicked, advice to readers on living with uncertainty, encouragement to his readers to have confidence in God, and advice on the wrong use of national power (1). Tucked into one of these themes we find a verse that was used three times in the letters of the New Testament. The first two chapters are written as a narrative that covers many of these themes. The last chapter is a Psalm of praise and hope.

Although most of the prophets donít directly reference each other they share many common themes regarding reasons for punishment and the message of hope for a remnant of survivors. However, each has his own personality. Habakkuk is like a B.C. version of the disciple Thomas, who doubted the resurrection of the LORD until he actually could see and feel him. In Habakkukís case he doubted and questioned the wisdom of the LORDís decision on timing and method for judgment This is a good book for our times as we witness the compounding of evil acts all around our little planet. We wonder where is the palm of God's protection and may even shout at him asking when he plans to do something. Habakkuk had similar feelings until he sincerely listened for God's response and then understood.

References used in this study include the following books:

  • Boadt, Lawrence, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ; 1984

  • Boadt, Lawrence, Jeremiah 26-52, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Nahum, Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene Oregon, 1982

  • Heschel, Abraham Joshua, The Prophets, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2001, New York (originally published by Harper & Row in 1962)

  • Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993

  • Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, M; 1991 (with commentary from an inter-denominational team of experts)

  • Men's Devotional Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993 (with daily devotionals from Godly men)

  • Myers, Jacob M, The Laymanís Bible Commentary, Volume 14, The Book of Hosea, The Book of Joel, the Book of Amos, the Book of Obadiah, and the Book of Jonah; John Knox Press, Richmond, VA, 1959

  • The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, KS, 1970

  • Peterson, Eugene, The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, 80920, 2005

Habakkuk 1-3 (Some Suggestions for God to Consider)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

How long, O LORD, must I cry for help
and you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, ďViolence!Ē
and you do not intervene?

- Habakkuk 1:2 (NAB)

Summary of Chapters

Chapter 1 begins with a dialogue between Habakkuk and God in which Habakkuk complains about God's failure to take action during time of violence and injustice within the kingdom. The LORD responded that he is sending the fierce Babylonians as an instrument of justice. Habakkuk then complains that the Babylonians are evil and the LORD is aiding their cause by not intervening.

    God, youíre from eternity, arenít you?
        Holy God, we arenít going to die, are we?
    God, you chose Babylonians for your judgment work?
        Rock-Solid God, you gave them the job of discipline?
    But you canít be serious!
        You canít condone evil!
    So why donít you do something about this?
        Why are you silent now?
    This outrage! Evil men swallow up the righteous
        and you stand around and watch!

    - Habakkuk 1:12-13 (MSG)

In chapter 2 God replies again to say that justice against Babylon will take place because it is greedy and demonstrates too much swagger. There will be a day when all of its victims arise and make Babylon the victim. The LORDís answer includes the verse that is referenced twice by Paul and once by the author of Hebrews: ďBut the righteous live by his faith (Hab 2:4b - NIV).Ē

Chapter 3 concludes the book with a Psalm that begins with words of praise, and then describes the splendor of God and the power of God to create and destroy.

    O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.

    God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.

    And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power.

    Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet.

    He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting.

    I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: and the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble.

    - Habakkuk 3:2-6 (KJV)

Habakkuk concludes by asserting that he will wait patiently for the forthcoming attack by Babylon and will continue to praise the LORD even as the nations suffer.

    The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of the deer, he enables me to go on the heights.

    - Habakkuk 3:19 (NIV)

Reflection and Application

Notice that the LORD did not dismiss Habakkuk because of his complaint, but addressed him directly. We may not think that God advertises a complaint box where we can drop in whatever grievances we want, but we should know that he welcomes our honest opinions. He desires to engage with us, which in this case gives him an opportunity to correct Habakkuk.

We can see the patience of the LORD when he fields the second complaint from Habakkuk. Itís almost as if the LORD was holding a Press Conference and was politely taking a barrage of criticism disguised as questions. The LORD anticipates these questions and reveals part of his plan to the prophet in chapter 2. Paul quotes from this plan in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11 in order to buttress his claim that man is saved by faith alone. The author of Hebrews also quotes verse 2:4 in 10:37-38 of his letter.

Habakkuk shows the sincerity of his faith by concluding in praise to the LORD, recognizing his power and deeds. Now that he has got his complaints off his chest and has heard a more detailed description of the plan from the Chief Executive he is able to be patient and take himself to new spiritual heights.

Do we have a gripe with God today? If we do, we ought to drop it in the box and be open to hearing his response. It seems reasonable to assume that Habakkuk dedicated time each day to prayer and reflection, thus creating the opportunity for him to hear from the LORD. If we spend our days rushing from one place to another without catching our breath and then collapse in a heap at the end of the day we may not find time to hear God, even if he has been pinging us. If we are going to make a complaint we have to make time to hear an answer.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. How long would you wait for a repair person to arrive at your home before giving up? How about a client, or a family member or friend? How long would you wait?
    2. What complaints do you have for God today? What is your hesitation, if any, for not bringing it to him?
    3. What is your plan today for taking some time to listen to Godís response to your prayers?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know that you are all ears to hear our complaints, but you will make changes at your own pace. Help us to speak to you and wait patiently for your word.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Repair people


    (1) Boadt, Lawrence, Jeremiah 26-52, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Nahum, Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene Oregon, 1982 p.168, 169

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Zephaniah (Seek Ye First the Righteousness of God)

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