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An Introduction to the Book of HABAKKUK


The prophet's cry for justice (1:1-4)

Injustice fills the land. How long must we wait before God deals with it?


God's answer (1:5-11)

"I will raise up an 'evil empire' to judge the nation." God warned the prophet that he would be surprised at the way he was going to respond (1:5)!


The prophet's perplexity (1:12-2:1)

How can a holy and pure God use an even worse nation to judge us?

There are different ways that a person can ask such a question. Habakkuk asks with a spirit of trust, knowing that God is pure and righteous. Because of this, he expectantly waits for an answer (2:1)... and God does answer.


God's answer (2:2-20)

The evil empire will also be destroyed; for what he does is done with evil motives.

  1. Woe #1 (2:6-8)
  2. Woe #2 (2:9-11)
  3. Woe #3 (2:12-14)
  4. Woe #4 (2:15-17)
  5. Woe #5 (2:18-20)
  1. Some of the possible questions might include: Have we ever exploited people of other nations, for our own profit? Have we ever shed the blood of innocents? Have we ever delighted in (enjoyed) things that God describes as "shameful"? Have we ever engaged in widespread destruction of nature - which is God's creation (compare to verse 17a)? Have we ever trusted in anything else, other than God? [Hint: If you are familiar with past history and present events, you will discover that our nation is guilty of all of these - and more.]
  2. If we have been guilty of any of these, what do we deserve?

This is a dark scene. Yet in the midst of this, we find some "shining lights" that form a beautiful contrast to all the darkness and evil.

The things mentioned in these verses are the ultimate desire of the person who loves God. Such a person wants to see God honored and glorified. Only then will he be satisfied.

Though these statements may have been fulfilled to a limited extent, at various times in history, there is an "ultimate" fulfillment that is yet to come. At the final Day of Justice, all humanity will bow before God and acknowledge him for who he is. Even now, as the good news is being taken all over the world, the "knowledge of the glory of the Lord" is increasing worldwide - and it will continue to increase.

This statement, that the righteous will "live by faith" is the foundation to much for what is found in the New Testament. It is quoted in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:37-38. Even though the righteous may have to go through some of the same trials (such as when a nation is overthrown by another nation), they will ultimately be the victors. They, not the conquering nation, will be the ultimate "overcomers." Habakkuk got a glimpse of what this meant, but the New Testament explains it more fully.

So how should we respond? This is seen in chapter 3.


The prophet's prayer of praise and trust (3:1-19)

Two main themes (3:2):

Reflecting on God's past works (3:3-15)

  1. Another underlying theme - hope in the midst of judgment.
  2. Today, some of these verses might remind us of things Jesus did, when he accomplished an even greater deliverance (one of eternal significance), on our behalf.

The expression of a "living faith," when judgment is at hand (3:16-19)

This is an active trust, a confident hope, based on his knowledge (and acceptance) of who God is.


Additional thoughts from other Scriptures

The attitude of others who were about to experience the "day of calamity":

The attitude of one who did experience the "day of calamity" that Habakkuk referred to. [The prophet Jeremiah not only warned the people what would happen (if they refused to change their ways), but witnessed the very judgment he warned them about.]

The attitude of people who trust God - knowing that God will be with them through the calamity and will use it to accomplish good.

Dennis Hinks 2004