Yet I Wlll Rejoice.

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.
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 3:17-19 ESV

Things don’t always turn out like we expect or desire. The circumstances of life have a way of showing up in surprising forms, both good and bad. Difficulties can appear suddenly and stay long past their expiration date. These are all truths we know from experience. They are part of the reality of life on this planet. They come with having to lie in a fallen world, mired by sin and under God’s curse and condemnation. But the one thing we tend to forget is that the very same God has provided a way for men and women like us, to escape the long-term effects of the curse and be exonerated from the just condemnation of God. God sent His own Son. He sent a Savior. And those who place their faith in that Savior, believing that He came, He died and that He rose again, are provided with the assurance that their sins are forgiven and their future is secure. They are guaranteed abundant life here and now, and eternal life to come. And it is that promise on which they are to hope as they endure the pain and suffering that comes in this life. Salvation does not provide us with escape from the difficulties of life. It is not some kind of spiritual immunization, inoculating us from trials or suffering. But it does provide us with a new perspective, a radically different way of looking at our time on this earth. The apostle Paul puts that new perspective in words for us:

For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! – 2 Corinthians 4:17 NLT

But what about Habakkuk? What was he to put his faith in as he wrestled with the news that God was going to judge the people of Judah for their sins and send the Babylonians as the means to accomplish that task? The Messiah had not yet come. The Savior had not yet been sent to redeem mankind from its sins. And yet, Habakkuk displayed saving faith. He knew that He could trust his God. His God had promised to provide for and protect the people of Judah, and Habakkuk took God at His word.

The closing lines of Habakkuk’s prayer contain some of the most powerful statements regarding faith in God that are found in the Bible. They are spoken by a man who has boldly, and somewhat dangerously, expressed his frustration with God over what appeared to be His lack of action. The prophet was frustrated with the unrepentant nature of the people of Judah. They refused to listen to his message. They were wicked and rebellious and Habakkuk wanted to know when God was going to act. And when God told Habakkuk that He was going to send the Babylonians to enact His judgment on the people of Judah, Habakkuk had the temerity to question God’s will and wisdom. And yet, once God explained Himself and reassured Habakkuk of His unwavering faithfulness to the people of Judah, Habakkuk had a change of heart. He literally sang God’s praises. This entire last chapter of his book are a song, composed to promote the goodness and greatness of God. And nothing had changed. Habakkuk’s circumstances had not been altered one iota. The people of Judah were still in rebellion against God. The Babylonians were still on God’s divine schedule to destroy Judah and Jerusalem. But in spite of all of that, the prophet was able to say:

yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation – Habakkuk 3:18 ESV

And Habakkuk wasn’t talking in a future tense. The rejoicing he mentioned wasn’t some kind of post-salvation joy that would show up once God had destroyed the Babylonians and put everything back the way it was supposed to be. No, Habakkuk was talking in the present tense. He qualifies his statement by saying:

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
    and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
    and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
    and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! – Habakkuk 3:17-18a NLT

Do you catch what he is saying? In spire of the circumstances, the negative circumstances, of life, Habakkuk was going to rejoice in the Lord. He was going to praise the God of his salvation. Before the fact. That is the essence of faith. The apostle Paul provides us with one of the most succinct definitions or descriptions of faith found in the Bible: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV). Faith shows up in the form of assurance or certainty in a good outcome, long before the outcome is clear. It is a conviction regarding events that have not taken place. It is a trust in God, a reliance upon His promises and a confident assurance in His goodness. Once again, the apostle Paul gives us some insight into what true faith looks like.

Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. – Romans 8:24-25 ESV

Habakkuk had hope in God, and he was willing to wait for God’s deliverance with confident patience. Even is the figs failed to show up or the vines were bare of fruit, he would keep trusting. If they ran out of olive oil or experienced a drought because of a lack of crops, he would keep patiently waiting. Why? He tells us:

The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
    He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
    able to tread upon the heights. – Habakkuk 3:19 NLT

God would be his strength. His faith in God would give him the energy to endure whatever came his way. His trust in the goodness of God would provide him with the strength he needed to walk the paths of life with confidence and sure-footed stability. He knew God would not let him down. The Babylonians were coming. God had assured it. But Habakkuk was not worried. He knew God was in control and that He had promised to restore His people and remove the Babylonians. The days ahead were going to be difficult and full of unpleasant experiences, but Habakkuk was able to say, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord!” What a timely reminder for those of us who are Christ-followers, as we wait for our Savior to return. We too, live in difficult days. We are surrounded by those who would love nothing more than our destruction. The world hates us. The enemy is out to destroy us. And yet, we can rejoice in the Lord. We can have an assurance of things hoped for and a conviction of things not yet see. All because we trust in God.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

I Will Quietly Wait.

A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.

O Lord, I have heard the report of you,
    and your work, O Lord, do I fear.
In the midst of the years revive it;
    in the midst of the years make it known;
    in wrath remember mercy.
God came from Teman,
    and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah
His splendor covered the heavens,
    and the earth was full of his praise.
His brightness was like the light;
    rays flashed from his hand;
    and there he veiled his power.
Before him went pestilence,
    and plague followed at his heels.
He stood and measured the earth;
    he looked and shook the nations;
then the eternal mountains were scattered;
    the everlasting hills sank low.
    His were the everlasting ways.
I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction;
    the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble.
Was your wrath against the rivers, O Lord?
    Was your anger against the rivers,
    or your indignation against the sea,
when you rode on your horses,
    on your chariot of salvation?
You stripped the sheath from your bow,
    calling for many arrows. Selah
    You split the earth with rivers.
The mountains saw you and writhed;
    the raging waters swept on;
the deep gave forth its voice;
    it lifted its hands on high.
The sun and moon stood still in their place
    at the light of your arrows as they sped,
    at the flash of your glittering spear.
You marched through the earth in fury;
    you threshed the nations in anger.
You went out for the salvation of your people,
    for the salvation of your anointed.
You crushed the head of the house of the wicked,
    laying him bare from thigh to neck. Selah
You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors,
    who came like a whirlwind to scatter me,
    rejoicing as if to devour the poor in secret.
You trampled the sea with your horses,
    the surging of mighty waters.

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 3:1-16 ESV

How many times has your response to hearing from God been to sing? That what Habakkuk did. When the prophet heard that God’s plan included the use of the Babylonians to punish the people of Judah for their sins against Him, but that He would also bring destruction on Babylon, Habakkuk sang. Or at least he wrote words that were later turned into a psalm of praise. Even though Habakkuk knew that the Babylonians were going to be God’s chosen instrument of judgment against the people of Judah, he rejoiced in the fact that God was merciful and had no plans to do away with His people – even though they deserved it.

Habakkuk opens up his prayer with an acknowledgement of God’s greatness. He admits that he has heard about the greatness of God. As a young boy growing up in a Hebrew home, he would have heard the stories of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from captivity in Egypt. He would have known well the story of the Israelites miraculous crossing of the Red Sea and their many God-ordained victories that led to their occupation of the Promised Land. Habakkuk would have been well-verses in the history of the people of Israel and God’s sovereign work among them. So, knowing what he knew about God in the past, he appeals to God to so the same thing in the present.

In this time of our deep need,
    help us again as you did in years gone by.
And in your anger,
    remember your mercy. – Habakkkuk 3:2b NLT

Habakkuk knew that God was angry with the sins of the people of Judah. That was the whole reason He was bringing the Babylonians against them. He was doing to them what He had done to the northern kingdom of Israel. He had punished them for the wickedness and rebellion by bringing the Assyrians against them. Because of their worship of idols and stubborn rejection of Him as their God, He allowed them to fall at the hands of their enemy and be taken into captivity. And now, God had revealed to Habakkuk that He was going to do the same thing to Judah, but this time, using the Babylonians as His instrument of judgment. But Habakkuk pleads for mercy. He knew God was just in what He was going to do, but appealed to His grace and mercy, asking Him to deliver His people, just as He had done in the past.

The next thing Habakkuk does is describe what it must have been like when God delivered the people of Israel from captivity in Egypt. He says, “God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran” (Habakkuk 3:3 ESV). Teman was located in Edom and Mount Paran was nearby. They were east of Egypt and Habakkuk describes God as having come from that direction as He approached His people in order to deliver them. Habakkuk describes God as having a brightness like light. This is most likely a reference to God’s shekinah glory. This Hebrew word was used to describe God’s visible presence as displayed in a form of light or other natural manifestation. When the people left Egypt, they were led by God, who revealed Himself to them in a tangible form that was to give them confidence and courage.

And they moved on from Succoth and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people. – Exodus 13:20-22 ESV

Habakkuk also recalls what it must have been like when God descended upon Mount Sinai in order to give His people the law.

When he stops, the earth shakes.
    When he looks, the nations tremble.
He shatters the everlasting mountains
    and levels the eternal hills.
    He is the Eternal One! – Habakkuk 3:6 NLT

God had revealed Himself to the people of Israel in an unforgettable fashion. His glory had been literally earth-shaking and fear-inducing.

On the morning of the third day, thunder roared and lightning flashed, and a dense cloud came down on the mountain. There was a long, loud blast from a ram’s horn, and all the people trembled. Moses led them out from the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. All of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the Lord had descended on it in the form of fire. The smoke billowed into the sky like smoke from a brick kiln, and the whole mountain shook violently. As the blast of the ram’s horn grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God thundered his reply. – Exodus 19:16-19 NLT

To the Israelites at the foot of the mountain, the glory of the Lord appeared at the summit like a consuming fire. – Exodus 24:17 NLT

Habakkuk also recalls God’s power as displayed in the ten plagues that He used against the people of Egypt, forcing them to let the people of Israel go.

Before him went pestilence,
    and plague followed at his heels. – Habakkuk 3:5 ESV

God is all powerful. His majesty and might are incomparable. He controls the heavens and His very presence shakes the earth. Egypt was no match for Him. And Habakkuk knew that the Babylonians would also find themselves unequal to the task of trying to stand against God. 

Those nations that witnessed the Israelites’ divinely ordained departure from Egypt would have been amazed at what they witnessed. The Israelites, nothing more than slaves, had somehow defeated one of the world’s greatest powers and walked out of Egypt without firing an arrow or throwing a single spear. It had been a divine deliverance, complete with the parting of the Red Sea. This miraculous event, as well as the God’s of the waters of the Nile into blood, are both referenced here by Habakkuk.

Was your wrath against the rivers, O Lord?
    Was your anger against the rivers,
    or your indignation against the sea? – Habakkuk 3:8 ESV

This rhetorical question was Habakkuk’s way of stating that God’s anger was directed against those two bodies of water, but they were simply instruments or weapons in His hands. He used them to accomplish His will, much like a soldier uses his sword or spear. Habakkuk describes God in all His might and majesty, using metaphors that provide the reader with a sense of God’s awe and power. The mountains shake. The sun and moon stand still. All nature stands in awe of God. The entire created order is nothing compared to the greatness and grandeur of God.

All of this imagery is Habakkuk’s feeble attempt to describe the power and sovereignty of God. And it causes him to fear and tremble. But he says, “I will wait quietly for the coming day when disaster will strike the people who invade us” (Habakkuk 3:16 NLT). Habakkuk was putting His faith in the God of the past and trusting Him to be the God of the future. He was placing His faith in God’s consistency of character and proven track record of faithfulness. God had proven Himself powerful enough. God had repeatedly shown Himself more than faithful enough. And that was enough for Habakkuk to place his hope and trust in God.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Trust God.

Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him, and say,

“Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own—
    for how long?—
    and loads himself with pledges!”
Will not your debtors suddenly arise,
    and those awake who will make you tremble?
    Then you will be spoil for them.
Because you have plundered many nations,
    all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you,
for the blood of man and violence to the earth,
    to cities and all who dwell in them.

“Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house,
    to set his nest on high,
    to be safe from the reach of harm!
You have devised shame for your house
    by cutting off many peoples;
    you have forfeited your life.
For the stone will cry out from the wall,
    and the beam from the woodwork respond.

“Woe to him who builds a town with blood
    and founds a city on iniquity!
Behold, is it not from the Lord of hosts
    that peoples labor merely for fire,
    and nations weary themselves for nothing?
For the earth will be filled
    with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.

“Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink—
    you pour out your wrath and make them drunk,
    in order to gaze at their nakedness!
You will have your fill of shame instead of glory.
    Drink, yourself, and show your uncircumcision!
The cup in the Lord's right hand
    will come around to you,
    and utter shame will come upon your glory!
The violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you,
    as will the destruction of the beasts that terrified them,
for the blood of man and violence to the earth,
    to cities and all who dwell in them.

“What profit is an idol
    when its maker has shaped it,
    a metal image, a teacher of lies?
For its maker trusts in his own creation
    when he makes speechless idols!
Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake;
    to a silent stone, Arise!
Can this teach?
Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver,
    and there is no breath at all in it.
But the Lord is in his holy temple;
    let all the earth keep silence before him.” Habakkuk 2:6-20 ESV

In verse five, we get a glimpse of Babylon as it appears to Habakkuk and the people of Judah:

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.

But God reveals to the prophet that things are about to change. Babylon’s stock is about to plummet. Its 15-minutes fame are about to come to an abrupt end. For years they had been forcing their will on weaker nations. Their wealth had grown through the accumulation of plunder and from the exorbitant interest rates they charged on loans. And God finally determines to answer one of Habakkuk’s first questions: When? But He does so by having the question posed by those who find themselves living under the heavy hand of Babylonian rule.

“But soon their captives will taunt them.
    They will mock them, saying,
‘What sorrow awaits you thieves!
    Now you will get what you deserve!
You’ve become rich by extortion,
    but how much longer can this go on?’” – Habakkuk 2:6 NLT

When is God going to do something? When will He finally bring about justice and give to the Babylonians what they deserve? And while God does not provide a specific time frame or give Habakkuk a firm date, He does let the prophet know that the day of Babylon’s judgment is fast approaching. He tells Habakkuk that the day is coming when the captives of Babylon turn against them in rebellion.

They will turn on you and take all you have,
    while you stand trembling and helpless. – Habakkuk 2:7 NLT

This would actually take place in 539 B.C., when the Medes and Persians, two nations who had suffered at the hands of the Babylonians, would rise up and destroy their oppressor. The Babylonians would find themselves at the receiving end of the violence and persecution they had meted out to others. The Babylonians had built a great city, but had done so on the blood of others. They had made themselves a great nation by greedily plundering other, weaker nations. They had showed no mercy in the process. And God warns them:

What sorrow awaits you who build cities
    with money gained through murder and corruption! – Habakkuk 2:12 NLT

God pronounces five woes on the Babylonians. And right in the middle of this section, God announces that all their efforts at glory and fame will amount to nothing, because God has deemed it so.

Has not the Lord of Heaven’s Armies promised
    that the wealth of nations will turn to ashes?
They work so hard,
    but all in vain! – Habakkuk 2:13 NLT

All their efforts would prove fruitless in the end and go up in the smoke of the fires that burned throughout their destroyed capital. All their conquests and victories would ring hollow once God turned His wrath against them. Their walls and wealth would prove no match for God’s judgment. Like the water fills the seas, the earth will one day be filled with a knowledge of God’s glory. The people of Judah will know that the fall of Babylon was the work of God, not men. They will realize that Yahweh, the Lord of Hosts, has brought about a great victory over their enemy. And this prophecy has a now/not yet aspect to it. While Babylon would fall in 539 B.C., there is a greater fall of a far more wicked Babylon to come.

And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. – Revelation 16:18-19 ESV

This future Babylon is a representation of the wicked of the world. It will be a literal nation that sets itself against God, under the leadership of the Antichrist. It will be a world order that aligns itself in rebellion against God’s rule. But it will be destroyed once and for all when Jesus Christ returns to set up His kingdom on earth. Ever since the fall of man in the garden of Eden, mankind has been in rebellion against God. And the greatest expression of man’s rebellion has been the desire to be as God – to their own god. At Babel, men joined forces in an attempt to build a tower to heaven. Their goal was to make a name for themselves.

“Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” – Genesis 11:4 ESV

But God saw into their hearts and knew what they were attempting to do, so He confused their languages and dispersed them over the face of the earth. But the desire that drove their efforts to make a name for themselves and bring themselves glory has not gone away. Babylon was just another in a long list of nations that had tried to establish itself as the gods of this earth. But God warns them, “You will have your fill of shame instead of glory” (Habakkuk 2:16 ESV). Their days were numbered. They were going to get drunk on the cup of God’s judgment.

Drink from the cup of the Lord’s judgment,
    and all your glory will be turned to shame. – Habakkuk 2:16b NLT

The party was over. And their idols were going to prove incapable of standing up to the judgment of God. Those lifeless images made with their own hands would be exposed for what they were: Chunks of wood and lumps of clay.

What sorrow awaits you who say to wooden idols,
    ‘Wake up and save us!’
To speechless stone images you say,
    ‘Rise up and teach us!’
    Can an idol tell you what to do?
They may be overlaid with gold and silver,
    but they are lifeless inside. – Habakkuk 2:19 NLT

But God was alive and well, dwelling in His holy temple. And He would prove to be anything but lifeless and helpless. He would bring down His judgment on the heads of the Babylonians, destroying their once-mighty city and bringing an end to their legacy of power and glory. Habakkuk and the people of Judah needed to be reminded that their God was great and all-powerful. He was on His throne and fully capable of dealing with a nation like Babylon. He had the capacity to raise up other nations. He could call down fire from heaven. He could sent the hosts of heaven. Dealing with the likes of Babylon was not a problem for God. But He wanted His people to trust Him. He wanted them to stop looking at their circumstances and assuming God was either not there or didn’t care. He was fully aware of what was going on and in complete control of the circumstances surrounding them. They needed faith and a reminder that their God was faithful.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Live by Faith.

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. 

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.

“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,
    but the righteous shall live by his faith.

“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 2:1-5 ESV

Habakkuk has asked God two primary questions so far: “When?” and “Why?” In responding to Habakkuk’s first question, God simply told the prophet how He was going to deal with the violence and iniquity taking place in Judah: He would send the Babylonians. That news led Habakkuk to question why God would ever consider using a pagan nation to do His bidding, especially to punish His own people. And now, the indignant prophet tells God that he is going to sit and wait for God’s answer, like a guard standing in the watchtower on the battlements of a city wall. And Habakkuk is fully prepared to continue his dialogue with God if the answer if the answer he received is not to his liking. He seems to warn God that his response will be dictated by what God has to say to him.

And, as before, God answered Habakkuk. He tells the prophet that he will receive a vision and that he is to put it in writing on tablets. He is to write it clearly and legibly so that whoever reads it can run and tell others what he has seen. The vision will involve future events. In other words, it will be prophetic in nature, but it will all take place. Knowing Habakkuk’s tendency toward impatience, God tells him, “This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed” (Habakkuk 2:3 NLT). It’s as good as done. And by having Habakkuk write the details concerning the vision in stone or clay tablets, God emphasizes the permanence and inescapable nature of what is to come.

The author of the book of Hebrews quotes from this verse in an attempt to encourage the believers in his day to remain faithful to the end and trust God for what He has promised to do.

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay” – Hebrews 10:35-37 ESV

God is always faithful to keep His word. What He says He will do, He will do. He keeps His promises. And the author of Hebrews goes on to say, quoting from verses four of Habakkuk chapter two: “but my righteous one shall live by faith” (Hebrews 10:38 ESV).

God now gives the prophet His vision of what is to come. He speaks of the unrighteous and the righteous, the faithful and the unfaithful – those who trust in themselves and those who place their trust in God.

“Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked. But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God.” – Habakkuk 3:4 NLT

The apostle Paul will also quote this verse on two different occasions, emphasizing the “righteous”.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” – Romans 1:16-17 ESV

Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” – Galatians 3:11-12 ESV

Paul used the words of God given to Habakkuk the prophet to emphasize and promote the key to righteousness before God. It is based on faith in God and faithfulness to God. In Habakkuk’s day, the people of Judah had not been faithful to God. They had turned from Him time and time again. They, like their northern neighbors in Israel, had worshiped false gods and proven themselves to be unfaithful to the God who had chosen them and redeemed them out of slavery in Egypt. They had turned their back on the one who had given them the great king, David. The land in which they lived had been the result of God’s gracious provision for them. And yet, they had filled it with idols.

And, to provide Habakkuk with a symbol of unrighteousness run rampant, God tells him to look at Babylon. They are the epitome of arrogance and pride. They are puffed up by their military success and their many conquests. They trust more in themselves than they do in God. In fact, they don’t trust in Yahweh at all. They have their own gods whom they worship and give credit for their many victories in battle. And they use their growing wealth as proof of their gods’ divine blessings. The word in verse five should probably be “wealth” and not ”wine”. Most of the more reliable manuscripts contain “wealth” and it would make more sense given the context. The New Living Translation renders verse five this way:

Wealth is treacherous,
    and the arrogant are never at rest.
They open their mouths as wide as the grave,
    and like death, they are never satisfied.
In their greed they have gathered up many nations
    and swallowed many peoples.

The greed of the Babylonians was insatiable. They couldn’t get enough. They were never satisfied with their conquests or the plunder they provided. They were the ultimate consumers, swallowing up everyone and everything in their path. They lived by what they could see, take, and enjoy. They lived by sight and immediate gratification. But God tells Habakkuk that the righteous are to live by faith. Faith in what? In God. The people of Judah were to put their hope and confidence in the God of their ancestors. He had proven Himself faithful time and time again, and He would do so again. The righteous are those who place their faith in God, not money, military might, false gods, other nations, or any other earthly resource. God tells Habakkuk that “the righteous shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4 ESV). The people of Judah would live through what was coming, but they would have to trust God with the results. They would survive the coming of the Babylonians and their deportment as slaves. The righteous would be those who kept trusting in the faithfulness of God – in spite of the circumstances that surrounded them.

Too often, our faith and our faithfulness is based on our circumstances, not on God and His faithfulness. We take a look at what is happening around us and to us, and begin to doubt our God. We question His faithfulness because we don’t like what is happening to us. We doubt His love because we can’t fathom how a loving God would allow us to experience what we are going through. But God would have us remember that the righteous live by faith. And Paul would have us remember that the righteous are those who endure because they know their God can be trusted.

God is trying to remind Habakkuk that his hope is to be in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is to trust in the God of David – the covenant keeping God who never fails to keep His promises and fulfill His commitment to His people. Just because the Babylonians were coming did not mean that God was done with Judah or turning His back on them. The book of Numbers gives us some powerful words of reminder concerning our God.

God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through? – Numbers 23:19 NLT

God can be trusted. So, as His people, we are to put our trust in Him. The righteous belong to Him and rely upon Him. They do not circumstances dictate or determine their trust. They don’t let the presence of bad times diminish the goodness of their God. They accept the good and the bad as having come from the hand of a loving, faithful God who knows what He is doing and whose plan for them can always be trusted. Like Job, we need to be able to say, “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” (Job 2:10 NLT). God was going to do something great for the people of Judah. But first, they would have to experience something painful and inexplicable. Yet, they were to keep their faith in God. He was not done yet.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Questioning God.

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.
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?
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.
Therefore he sacrifices to his net
    and makes offerings to his dragnet;
for by them he lives in luxury,
    and his food is rich.
Is he then to keep on emptying his net
    and mercilessly killing nations forever?
Habakkuk 1:12-17 ESV

In this section, we have the beginning of the second exchange between Habakkuk and God. His oracle opened with him asking the question: “When? ” He wanted to know when God was going to hear his prayers and do something about all the wickedness and iniquity that surrounded him in Judah. But God answered Habakkuk’s question by addressing the issue of “How.” In other words, He simply told Habakkuk how He was going to deal with the people of Judah – by using the Babylonians. God didn’t give Habakkuk a time frame or a firm date. He just simply let the prophet know that He had it all in control. In the verses above, we have Habakkuk’s response. He asks the question: “Why?” He wants to know why God would choose to use a pagan nation like the Babylonians to punish His own people. He boldly voiced his concern to God:

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 is a man who is filled with inner conflict. On the one hand, he realizes that Yahweh is the one true God. He refers to him as everlasting or eternal. He even views Him as holy, gracious and compassionate, faithful to the end – which is why he is able to state, “We shall not die” (Habakkuk 1:12 ESV). Habakkuk did not fear annihilation at the hands of the Babylonians, but abject humiliation. He knew God would not wipe out His own people, but Habakkuk was struggling with why God would choose to use a wicked nation like the Babylonians to do His bidding. Over and over again, Habakkuk asks the question, “Why?”

…why do you put up with such treacherous people? – Habakkuk 1:13 NET

Why do you say nothing when the wicked devour those more righteous than they are? – Habakkuk 1:13 NET

Habakkuk goes on to describe the situation as he sees it. As far as Habakkuk could tell, mankind was no better off than the fish in the sea – easy pickings to someone like the Babylonians. He describes the fate of the people of Judah using helpless and hopeless imagery.

Are we only fish to be caught and killed?
    Are we only sea creatures that have no leader?
Must we be strung up on their hooks
    and caught in their nets while they rejoice and celebrate?
Then they will worship their nets
    and burn incense in front of them.
“These nets are the gods who have made us rich!”
    they will claim. – Habakkuk 1:14-16 NLT

There are actually ancient Babylonian monuments that have been discovered which depict what Habakkuk has described. Etched on these monuments are images of captured people being led along in chains, single file, with their lower lips pierced through with hooks. The Babylonians were known for worshiping or giving credit to the tools they used in their conquests. Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian tells the story of the Babylonian king, Xerxes, who was attempting to cross the Hellespont with his massive army by using pontoon bridges his engineers had built. But a storm came and destroyed the bridges before they could use them. In his anger, Xerxes had the engineers beheaded, but he also had the waters of the Hellespont flogged 300 times. Then he had shackles dropped into the water as a mark of enslavement.

Habakkuk finds it hard to believe that God would use pagan people like this to do His bidding. They did not honor Yahweh. They worshiped false gods and even gave undue credit to inanimate objects. Why would God, the faithful, holy, compassionate God of Judah, stoop to using such wicked people? And, because Habakkuk was convinced that God was going to do exactly what He had said, he asks one final question:

Will you let them get away with this forever?
    Will they succeed forever in their heartless conquests? – Habakkuk 1:17 NLT

Habakkuk understood that God was punishing Judah. He just was having a difficult time understanding why God was going to use a nation like Babylon. They were wicked, unjust, known for their excessive violence and renowned for their disregard for human life. Habakkuk knew God was justified in His punishment of wicked Judah. The prophet had even asked God how long He was going to delay in dealing with all the violence that surrounded him. But God’s chosen methodology caught Habakkuk by surprise. He just could not fathom why God would accomplish His will in this manner.

There are times in every believer’s life when they are forced to ask of God, “Why?” Those circumstances inevitably arise that cause us to question God, demanding to know why He is doing what He is doing or why He has not done something to stop what is happening. We struggle with our circumstances. We see what is happening to us as unfair or undeserved. And we either conclude that God doesn’t love us and has chosen not to help us or we wrongly determine that God is powerless to help us. But the prophet Isaiah has some timely words of warning for us:

“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator.
    Does a clay pot argue with its maker?
Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying,
    ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’
Does the pot exclaim,
    ‘How clumsy can you be?’” – Isaiah 45:9 NLT

We are free to ask God, “Why?” But He is not obligated to provide us with an answer or defend His actions by explaining Himself to us. He is God. He alone knows what is best. He can choose to do whatever He wants to do and use whoever He wants to use to accomplish His perfect, divine will. Habakkuk was going to have to trust God. He didn’t have a clear picture of how the story ends. God had not yet revealed the entire scope of His plan. What appeared to Habakkuk as illogical and unfathomable, was part of God’s just, righteous and sovereign plan for the people of Judah. We always have to remember that God’s plan is bigger and more comprehensive than what we can see at any given moment. We also need to recall that His plan is universal in scope. It is not limited to our isolated, individual life. His plan was bigger than Habakkuk. It was grander in scope than just the lives of those living in Judah at that time. God was looking down the corridors of time, with His eyes fixed on His future plan to send His Son into the world. He would be born into the tribe of Judah. Bethlehem, in Judah, would be his birthplace. He would do all of His ministry within the confines of that region of the world and be crucified outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem. For all that to happen, God would need to spare the nation of Judah. This coming calamity was nothing more than a blip on God’s radar screen of history. God had greater plans for Judah. He had an inescapable destiny of destruction already planned for Babylon. But for now, they were going to be His chosen instrument to accomplish His divine will and bring about this portion of His perfect plan for mankind.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

"I Am Doing A Work."

“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.
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.
They are dreaded and fearsome;
    their justice and dignity go forth from themselves.
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.
They all come for violence,
    all their faces forward.
    They gather captives like sand.
At kings they scoff,
    and at rulers they laugh.
They laugh at every fortress,
    for they pile up earth and take it.
Then they sweep by like the wind and go on,
    guilty men, whose own might is their god!” Habakkuk 1:5-11 ESV

Habakkuk thought God was disinterested in what was going on in his world or had simply decided to do nothing about it. From Habakkuk’s perspective, God was not answering his calls for help or taking seriously his description of just how bad things had gotten in Judah. The place was filled with violence and sins of all kinds. Habakkuk saw himself as this isolated and lonely figure speaking the truth of God, but seeing no response to his message. And he was growing weary waiting for God to do something.

Then God spoke. He finally responded to Habakkuk’s impassioned pleas, but the answer He gave was not exactly what His despondent prophet was expecting. God was going to provide Habakkuk a glimpse into the unseen world of His sovereign plan. He would let Habakkuk in on the hidden and mysterious ways in which He works. And He tells Habakkuk “I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told” (Habakkuk 1:5 ESV). In essence, God tells Habakkuk that if he had heard any of this from anybody else but God, he wouldn’t have believed it. This was going to be jaw-dropping, I-can’t-believe-what=I’m-hearing kind of stuff.

God tells Habakkuk that His answer to the violence and iniquity of Judah is going to be the nation of the Chaldeans, whom God describes as “bitter and nasty.” And God breaks the news to Habakkuk that He will be the one to raise up the Chaldeans and use them as a weapon of judgment in His hands against His own people. Now you would think that this news would not be that shocking or surprising to Habakkuk. He would have known of God’s dealings with the northern kingdom of Israel and their fall at the hands of the Assyrians. He would have been well aware of how God had used foreign nations to inflict judgment on the people of Israel during the period of the judges. And yet, God knew that Habakkuk was not going to believe what he was hearing. The very idea that God would use a pagan nation to punish His people was going to shock Habakkuk. It would sound unreasonable and unjustified. It would come across as unfair and totally unnecessary to Habakkuk, like a massive overreaction on God’s part. Which is why God clarifies that He is doing a work in Habakkuk’s day that was going to be unbelievable. The Hebrew word God uses is 'aman and it means “to stand firm, to trust, to be certain, to believe in” (“H539 - 'aman - Strong's Hebrew Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible). God warns His prophet that he is going to have a hard time accepting what God is about to tell him. Habakkuk is going to be tempted to lose trust in God over what he is about to hear. It is not that this news is going to be astonishing, but that it will be unacceptable to Habakkuk. It is not what he wants to hear from God.

The Chaldeans were the last thing Habakkuk would have expected. They were Semites, descendants of Kesed, the son of Nahor, Abraham’s brother. But they were Babylonians, and would be the final dynasty to rule the vast Babylonian empire. Under the reign of Nabopolassar, this nation had already made a name for itself as a ruthless and unstoppable force, inflicting its will throughout the ancient Near East. And now, God was telling Habakkuk that this same nation would be used by Him to inflict judgment on Judah. And as difficult as this was going to be for Habakkuk to accept, it should not have surprised him. God had warned the people of Israel centuries before what would happen if they refused to remain faithful to Him. Deuteronomy 28 contains God’s promise of blessings and curses, and He was very clear in what would happen to them should they disobey His commands and turn their backs on Him.

“Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you. The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand, a hard-faced nation who shall not respect the old or show mercy to the young.” – Deuteronomy 28:47-50 ESV

The problem was that the people of Israel had not believed God. They really didn’t think He would do what He said. Somehow they had believed that they were immune to His judgment, that as His chosen people, they were protected from His wrath. But the people of Judah should have known better. They had watched their brothers and sisters to the north, Israel, fall at the hands of the Assyrians. They had seen God use a foreign power to enact justice and judgment on the people of God and take them into captivity. But they still found it hard to believe that God would do the same to them. The ways of God are unfathomable to us. His sovereign will is not only impossible for us to know, even when He reveals it, we find it hard to accept. The prophet Isaiah provides us with a sobering reminder of God’s divine power and perspective.

Haven’t you heard? Don’t you understand? Are you deaf to the words of God—the words he gave before the world began? Are you so ignorant? God sits above the circle of the earth. The people below seem like grasshoppers to him! He spreads out the heavens like a curtain and makes his tent from them. He judges the great people of the world and brings them all to nothing. They hardly get started, barely taking root, when he blows on them and they wither. The wind carries them off like chaff. – Isaiah 40:21-24 NLT

God went on to tell Habakkuk just how devastating the coming of the Babylonians would be. They were going to come like an unstoppable force, laughing at any attempts made to halt their progress. Fortifications would fail. Armies would fall before them. Kings and princes would become their captives. No one would be able to stop them. But God. He would hold them accountable. He would use them, but He would also judge them. He would allow them to have their way, but He would also make sure that they got what they justly deserved: His judgment.

It is interesting to note that the apostle Paul quoted from this very same passage during a sermon he gave in Antioch in Pisidia. He wrapped up his message with the warning:

Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about: “‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’”  – Acts 13:40-41 ESV

Paul delivered this message to Jews in the synagogue on the Sabbath. He was appealing to them to accept Jesus as their Messiah and Savior. He was attempting to get them to not do what their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem had done: reject Jesus as the Son of God.

“Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him.” – Acts 13:26-27 ESV

And Paul warned them that the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus was real. His offer of salvation was legitimate and not to be disbelieved. 

“Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.” – Acts 13:38 ESV

Then he quoted from Habakkuk, telling them that God was doing a work in their midst that they would find hard to believe. He was doing something that would seem improbably and impossible. But God’s ways are not our ways. His methods are not what we would expect. He had used the death of His own Son as the means by whichsinful men and women can be restored to a right relationship with Himself. Unbelievable? Yes. Just as unbelievable as the idea of God using a pagan nation to bring judgment upon the people of God. But Habakkuk was going to have to take God at His word and believe that what He was saying was not only true, but the only way in which salvation and restoration was going to come to the people of Judah. God assured Habakkuk, “I am doing a work!” And God is doing a work in our generation. He is not inactive. He is not distant or disinterested. But His ways will sometimes shock and surprise us. Our job is to trust Him and believe that what He is doing is according to His will and for the best interest of those whom He calls His own.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

How Long?

The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
    and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
    and you will not save?
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.
So the law is paralyzed,
    and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
    so justice goes forth perverted. 
Habakkuk 1:1-4 ESV

Habakkuk was a contemporary of Nahum and Zephaniah, two other prophets of God. Like his counterparts, Habakkuk was a pre-exilic prophet, who was sent by God to the deliver His message regarding their coming fall at the hands of the Babylonians. Like all the prophets of God, He was to call the people to return to God or face the consequences of God’s just and righteous wrath. The northern kingdom of Israel had fallen to the Assyrians in 722 B.C., but their demise had done nothing to persuade the people of Judah to change their ways. In fact, God had some serious charges that He leveled against them:

“Have you seen what fickle Israel has done? Like a wife who commits adultery, Israel has worshiped other gods on every hill and under every green tree. I thought, ‘After she has done all this, she will return to me.’ But she did not return, and her faithless sister Judah saw this. She saw that I divorced faithless Israel because of her adultery. But that treacherous sister Judah had no fear, and now she, too, has left me and given herself to prostitution. Israel treated it all so lightly—she thought nothing of committing adultery by worshiping idols made of wood and stone. So now the land has been polluted. But despite all this, her faithless sister Judah has never sincerely returned to me. She has only pretended to be sorry. I, the Lord, have spoken!” – Jeremiah 3:6-10 ESV

Israel had refused to return to the Lord and had been delivered into the hands of the Babylonians by God. Now, Judah and the royal city of Jerusalem was facing a similar fate if they did not repent of their sins and return to God. More than likely, Habakkuk ministered during the reign of King Jehoiakim. During that time, the people of Judah knew that they were facing the threat of attack by Babylon because they had made their presence known throughout the region. But rather than return to God and place their faith in Him, the people had decided to place their trust in other nations, seeking the help of Assyria and Egypt.

Habakkuk provides us with an unparalleled glimpse into the heart of a prophet of God. Like the other prophets, his ministry had met with little success. The people were stubbornly refusing to listen to his message. They remained obstinate and stuck in their sinful ways. And Habakkuk was frustrated and angry. So, he took his concerns to God in the form of a very blunt and heart-felt prayer.

What is especially revealing about this man’s prayer is its boldness. He pull no punches, even though He is addressing God Almighty. In essence, he accuses God of apathy and indifference. He asks God, “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?” (Habakkuk 1:2 ESV). This was not Habakkuk’s first prayer to God. He had expressed his need for help on more than one occasion, but he had not received what he was looking for. He felt like God was ignoring his pleas for help. From his perspective, God was deaf to his cries for help or didn’t fully understand how bad things really were. So, Habakkuk attempted to bring God up to speed. He lets God know that violence is everywhere. Judah has become a wicked place where sin is rampant and the people. The Hebrew word for “violence” that Habakkuk used is hamas and it refers to cruelty, injustice and oppression. Habakkuk will use this word six times in this book. What he saw taking place in Judah was a rampant disregard for the laws of God. The people saw no repercussions for their sins. They were practicing all kinds of injustice and immorality. They were oppressing the needy and the weak. From Habakkuk’s perspective, there was an overwhelming flood of injustice taking place in Judah, and as far as he could tell, God was doing nothing about it. He has reached the breaking point.

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

It’s all more than he can bear. He wants to see change. He longs to see God do something. God’s law is powerless to stop the people. They simply ignore it. Justice is nowhere to be found. The wicked get away with murder, both figuratively and literally. The wicked outnumber the righteous and any kind of justice that does occur is a twisted, ungodly version that leaves the righteous on the wrong side of the ledger.

Habakkuk’s prayer is not unique. His cry is not an isolated one and his questions for God are not unprecedented. Even King David had expressed similar complaints to God.

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? – Psalm 13:1-2 ESV

Abraham and Sarah struggled with how long was going to wait until He fulfilled His promise to give them a son and an heir. Moses struggled with how long he was going to have to put up with the people of Israel as they bickered, whined and complained their way through the wilderness. The other prophets of God wrestled with the seeming futility of their roles, wondering when God would do something deliver His people. We all struggle with what appears to be God’s indifference and invisibility at times. We call out and He doesn’t seem to hear us. We share our hurts, needs and concerns, and it feels like He is ignoring us. The wicked seem to prosper while the righteous appear to be in the minority and on the receiving end of all the injustice. And God sits idly by.

But one of the things that Habakkuk will learn is that God has a different perspective on things. He has a different viewpoint on what is going on, because He has a divine awareness of the outcome to which Habakkuk is oblivious. There is a method to God’s seeming madness. There is a purpose behind His apparent delay. He knows what He is doing. But Habakkuk was stuck on a horizontal plane, seeing things from his limited, earth-bound perspective. He could not see what God saw. He did not know what God knew. It reminds me of the prophet Elijah when he faced wicked King Ahaz and his queen, Jezebel. He had to go up against these two evil individuals and face off with their false prophets. And when he did, Elijah complained, “I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets” (1 Kings 18:22 NLT). God gave Elijah victory that day and he defeated the prophets of Baal, but then, out of fear of Jezebel’s revenge, he ran for his life. And when God confronted him, Elijah said to God, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too” (1 Kings 19:10 NLT). From Elijah’s perspective, he was all alone. He was the last righteous man left standing. But God let him know that he was wrong. He told Elijah to go and anoint his replacement: Elisha. Not only that, God told him, “Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!” (1 Kings 19:18 NLT). He had not been alone. There had been others all along.

Habakkuk was frustrated. He was confused. And he was more than a little angry with God over His seeming indifference to all that was going on. But perception is not always reality, especially when it comes to God and His ways. Habakkuk was going to learn an invaluable lesson regarding God and His faithfulness. What appeared to be a delay from Habakkuk’s perspective was all part of God’s sovereign plan. God’s awareness of what was going on in Judah was comprehensive and complete. And His plans regarding them were flawless and right on time. Peter provides us with a timely reminder regarding the ways of God and our frustration over what appear to be His delays or indifference.

But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. – 2 Peter 3:8-9 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson