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Bible verses about Habakkuk
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Habakkuk 1:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is a very simple introduction. He does not say, "In the tenth year, in the tenth month of the reign of a certain king, Habakkuk the prophet, from a certain town, who was a Levite and a priest, saw a vision." He simply says, "This is what the prophet Habakkuk saw." We begin to see immediately some of Habakkuk's character. He removes himself almost entirely from the book. He is not worried about himself or his pedigree. His book is just a narrative of his conversation with God.

All we know about Habakkuk is that he was the prophet at the time. He is an obscure character, not appearing anywhere else in Scripture. In effect, there is nothing to learn except from what he says; the Bible contains no extraneous details about him. It is possible to extrapolate a few things about him. He may have been a Levite, one of the singers or musicians in the Temple, perhaps one of the sons of Asaph, because he writes a very fine song in the third chapter.

Even his name is uncertain. It seems not even to be Hebrew but foreign, an Akkadian word. Moreover, its meaning is disputed, the best guess being that Habakkuk means "embracer," almost like "hugger"—one who wrestles. In a way, that is what he does throughout the whole book. He embraces God, wrestles Him, for an answer—similar to what Jacob did—and he does not let go because he wants God to answer his troubling questions.

The date of the book is also uncertain. We know a general time, that it was probably written within twenty-five years of Jerusalem's fall in Judah, somewhere between 610-585 BC. This was right after Nineveh fell to the Babylonians in 612, and about the time that Nebuchadnezzar was besieging Tyre and before he came against Jerusalem. His first attack on Jerusalem occurred in 604, so the general consensus is that Habakkuk was probably written sometime during Nebuchadnezzar's seige of Tyre.

The awesome might of the Chaldeans was just one country away, and Judah itself was sinking further into sin. Josiah, one of Judah's best kings, had died, and his sons had come to the throne, and they had failed to hold the country together morally. Judah was beginning to fear that they would be next in the domino of nations that were falling, and they were terrified because word had reached them of what the Chaldeans, the Babylonians, did to those they conquered. Judah's day of reckoning was near, and so Habakkuk's cry to God is only a natural response of a man who loved his people and his nation.

We can see that Habakkuk's situation fits current circumstances quite closely. The fall of Israel is not too far off. This land is sinking further into sin, and no one seems to want to stand up to stop it. It could go quickly, even though we are the world's superpower. Just one terrorist who says he has a briefcase-size nuclear bomb could hold this country hostage, because no President would want to give up Houston, Denver, Seattle, Chicago, or any city in the United States to call the bluff of some terrorist group or some nation who decides that America needs to be cut down to size.

Not only that, things are happening in the church itself that make people ask questions, even of God Himself. "Why are you doing this, God?" "Why is the church disintegrating?" "Who are these people that have come in and destroyed the doctrines of the church?" "Why have You allowed it to happen?" Many of us have asked questions like these. They are the same questions Habakkuk was contemplating. He did not know what to think because what was happening did not seem to follow what he knew of God. "Why would God work this way?"

Like Habakkuk, we want to reconcile what we know of God with what is happening because we understand that He is sovereign. However, sometimes with God, it seems that two and two do not quite equal four, but with God two and two always make four. Our perspective is just not the same as His. So, we must go to God for answers when things do not seem to be going the way we expect them to. In this is the real value of this little, obscure book: It helps to answer some of these kinds of questions.

Notice that Habakkuk calls his message, his prophecy, a "burden." This is a very important word. Sometimes God's ministers, especially the prophets, had to deliver messages that people really did not want to hear. Often, speaking God's words is a burden because they are not always sweetness and light. Sweetness and light seem to come only at the end of the message, as a quick conclusion to the matter. What is so burdensome are the heavy, depressing terrible things that are the main part of the message. In addition, we all know what often happens to the messenger who bears bad news—sometimes he gets his head cut off! People who hear bad news too often take their wrath, their disappointment, their frustration out on the messenger. So it is no wonder Habakkuk says this is a burden! He bears a heavy load: He must tell his people something that they will despise, and because he says it, they will despise him. Thus, as he begins, Habakkuk says, "All right, here goes. You will not like what I have to say here, but read on." And so he presents his "burden."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Habakkuk 1:2-4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The anguish in his voice is palpable. "God, I've been crying out to You day and night, and still violence, perversity, and all these terrible things are happening in the land. How long will this evil last? How much longer must we endure this constant wickedness, this corruption? When are you going to act, God?" We have probably prayed similar prayers ourselves: "We need You, God. How long, O Lord?"

Ezekiel was a slightly later contemporary of Habakkuk. In Ezekiel 9:1-6 is a prophecy, a vision, that he saw while a captive in Babylon. The vision describes what God was doing in Judah and answers, at least in part, Habakkuk's question: "Why have You not judged all this evil, God?" His reply in Ezekiel 9 is, "I am going through the land, through My chosen people, and I am marking each one who sighs and cries over what is happening. I am searching out and seeing who is righteous, who has character, and whom I must destroy."

It is good that we mourn over all the corruption, wickedness, and abominations that are happening in this land. It tells God something about our heart and our character. He is seeking out those who are concerned, distressed, and repulsed by what is occurring around them, and He is setting them apart for deliverance. All the while, we must endure it, but it is a necessary wait, because it takes time for God to evaluate our character, to see what we will do over the long haul. As Jesus advises in Luke 21:19, "In your patience possess your souls."

So we must ask ourselves, "How do we react to what is happening in our nation?" How do we react to sex and violence on television, movies, and magazines, in books, on billboards, and in just about all advertising and entertainment? How do we react to terrorism, to drug use, to abortion, to oppression? How do we react to our court system, which allows so much injustice to stand? How do we react to racial inequalities? Have we become numb and hardened to all of these things, or do we still sigh and cry over the depths of this nation's depravity?

Habakkuk is certainly concerned, and so he asks God for answers, crying out, "Save us!" God replies in Habakkuk 1:5-11, and His reply is very interesting.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Habakkuk 1:5-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God says, "You are not going to believe what I am about to tell you, Habakkuk, but I am already at work to deliver you and punish the sinners around you." Then what does He do? He tells the prophet that He is sending the ferocious, bloody, terrifying Chaldeans to conquer Judah!

The prophet must have been stunned! This was not the answer he expected in the least. What kind of deliverance is humiliating defeat at the hand of these utterly godless people who struck terror into the entire Middle East? In addition, they were Gentiles, and God was taking their side and cruelly punishing His own people. It must have shaken his faith to hear God tell him, "I am coming to spank this nation with the worst of the heathen."

And just as God said, Habakkuk did not want to believe it. In his eyes, the deliverance was worse than the original corruption—at least that is what he thought at first. From what he understood of God, this made no sense. How could a loving God punish His own special people with a club like the Chaldeans?

To understand God's answer we have to understand what God's work is. Psalm 74:12 says, "God is . . . working salvation in the midst of the earth." Genesis 1:26 says God is creating man in His own image, building character in us so that we can live eternally as He does. What is astounding is how He chooses to do it because He does it far differently than we would. As the old saying goes, "God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform." To a man's way of thinking, His works are truly mysterious; sometimes, we do not have a clue how He works.

Isaiah 55:8-11 explains that God sometimes does things in a very round-about way, but it has a kind of boomerang effect. At times, it seems God goes in one direction, off the beaten path, but that is merely our perspective of it. We find out later—after we have grown in wisdom and understanding—that He has been following His plan all along. We are the ones who have not kept up. Habakkuk deals a great deal with perspective—man's perspective versus God's. God always gets His job done. When He sends forth His word to accomplish a work, it always comes back to Him with the result He intends. It may not make much sense to us at the time, but it surely works because God is behind it. In the end, it is the best way.

Many have questioned why God has allowed the church to decline and scatter in recent years. What is happening here? Why has God had to do this in order to bring us into His Kingdom? Why must He destroy to make well? We have shaken our heads at the swiftness and brutality of it all. That is how Habakkuk felt with the Chaldeans breathing down the Judeans' necks. If God had told us a few decades ago that the church would lose, say, two-thirds of its members, would we have believed Him? Would we have even considered that a work of God? "Look . . . and watch—be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you" (verse 5). Now we can understand how Habakkuk felt. He had prior warning, and it made him question God's very nature.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Habakkuk 1:5-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In the first chapter, the prophet Habakkuk was upset with God because He had made prophecies regarding where Judah's punishment would come from—from the Chaldeans. Habakkuk was irritated by this because he considered the Chaldeans to be worse than the Judeans. His questions run: "God, why are you doing this? Why don't you at least punish us by a righteous nation instead of sending upon us a nation far worse than we are?"

That was the way Habakkuk looked at it. God did not look at it that way because He would not have sent the Chaldeans if He did not think it was the right thing for Him to do. Maybe they were worse in an overall sense, but who was more responsible for what they were—the Chaldeans or the Jews? Had the Chaldeans had God's way revealed to them as the Judeans had? Of course not. Maybe the Judeans were not as bad on paper, maybe statistically, but they were more responsible. To whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).

God would punish them with a hasty nation, He says, a nation violent and rapacious in the way it did things. Habakkuk did not like that one bit, so he appealed to God, and his appeal was hotly delivered.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 2)


 

Habakkuk 1:12-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse begins a section that leads up to Habakkuk's second question. He begins immediately with asking, "Is this really the holy God of Israel? Am I talking to the very God of the universe, the One who lives forever? Can this really be God, if He will punish His own people by the hands of these terrible Chaldeans?" This verse shows how much his faith was shaken.

"We shall not die" is an emendation by the Jews. They think that God should never be linked with death. But Habakkuk actually says, "You shall not die." He is reaffirming to himself just who is speaking to him—the Eternal God! He is desperately trying to square what God had just told him in verses 5-11 with what He understood of God's nature.

"You are of purer eyes than to behold evil." Habakkuk understood God to be pure and holy, so he wonders, "How can God do this evil thing to His people? He is purer than that." God has revealed something about Himself that the prophet has not yet grasped. His understanding is being stretched. He thought he knew what God's character was like, but God had just thrown him a curve ball.

Habakkuk asks God, "How can You restrain Yourself from just simply annihilating these Chaldeans? Look how wicked they are!" In verses 6-11, God Himself had described all of their evil doings. They take what is not theirs. They march through the breadth of the earth and gobble up town after town after town. They eat what they want. They take the jewels, the gold, the silver, the people themselves, and they transport them back to their own lands. Habakkuk cries, "These are terrible people, God, and You are going to let them punish Your own special people? This is not the God I remember learning about as a child."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Habakkuk 1:14-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Verses 14-17 use an extended metaphor in which the Chaldeans are seen as fishermen and the peoples of Judah and the nations around them are the fish. Habakkuk visualizes the people, especially his own, as fish in a barrel! They cannot escape—easy pickings for the cruel Chaldeans. Whether by hook or by net, these evil Gentiles will have their way with the Judeans—because God is letting them!

This, of course, makes the Chaldeans pretty happy (verse 15). It is like shooting fish in a barrel! To the prophet, it makes no sense; it seems as if God is acting against His own people. The enemy is happy, wealthy, and powerful because God is not punishing their wickedness, and the Judeans are being killed, enslaved, robbed, and beaten to a pulp! In effect, Habakkuk is accusing God of letting them get away with murder!

In verse 16, Habakkuk speaks of the Chaldeans "sacrific[ing] to their net." Their net is a symbol of their weapons of warfare, their means of conquering the nations around them and gaining wealth. This is similar to Daniel 11:37-39, where Gabriel prophesies that the King of the North will honor "a god of fortresses."

Finally, the prophet asks, "Are You going to continue to allow them to get away with all this?" (verse 17). With this, his frustrations seem to abate, and he concludes in Habakkuk 2:1 with a remark that is very smart and wise.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Habakkuk 2:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice what the prophet says: "God, I don't understand. It looks like You're doing wrong to Your people. But unlike some, I'm not going to jump to any conclusions. There is something I don't understand, so I'm going to do what You said. You told me to look and watch, and I'm going to do just that. I want to know from You why this is happening. And when You correct my thinking on this, then I'll figure out how I should respond to You."

This is a smart thing to do. When we do not know what is going on, and we have deep questions about how God is handling things, it is wise just to look, watch, and wait. Once we see God's answer, then we can respond. It is dangerous to jump to conclusions with God because His character is perfect. He knows what He is doing. We do not.

God answers Habakkuk, but it is not the answer he wanted. He wanted a straight-forward answer, but God's answer only seems to raise more questions.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Habakkuk 2:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

First, God allays some of the prophet's fears by implying that what He has told him is not necessarily a revelation of doom and despair. It may seem that way, but ultimately, the vision is encouraging, hopeful, and glorious. This is why He instructs him to write it down plainly so people will understand it and be encouraged by it—and thus run.

Hebrews 12 contains a similar metaphor of running. Perhaps Paul had Habakkuk in mind as he wrote it, since he quotes Habakkuk in Hebrews 10:37-38. The apostle explains in Hebrews 12:1 that the race we run is our Christian lives. We can take the words of Habakkuk and run because we know that it all works out right in the end (Romans 8:28). Our Savior has already done His work, so if we finish our race, we will be saved. There is no doubt about this because He is not only the beginner of our faith, but He is also the finisher of our faith. So we can run with patience, just as God told Habakkuk to do. Even if it seems to tarry, patiently wait for it, because it will happen just as He has promised. His will will be done.

In Hebrews 12:5-11, Paul goes through a section on discipline, chastening, correction. This is what Habakkuk had just heard—that God would discipline, chasten, correct His people by the wicked hand of Babylon. Paul says in Hebrews that if God does not chasten us, we are bastard children! The chastening, though unpleasant, is for our good. We may not like the humiliation of it, but we can patiently endure it because it is for the best.

Our chastening is not a time to lag or worry but to strengthen ourselves through God and move forward because it is important that we endure and finish (Hebrews 12:12-13). When things get tough, the tough get going. Do not be like Esau (Hebrews 12:15-17), who had a great promise and inheritance and threw it all away for some temporary relief. We should never settle for temporary relief if it will knock us off the path! It is not worth it because it will end in bitterness, tears, disappointment, and failure.

Paul shows in Hebrews 12:28 how we should approach God, even when things do not seem to be going the right way. We must serve Him acceptably with reverence and godly fear, just as Habakkuk did. Yes, he questioned Him, but he said, "You are God, and You know something that I do not understand, so I will wait patiently. I will see this through, and then I will respond." If we do not approach God properly, we may find ourselves caught under the heel of the Chaldean with the sinners.

"That he may run who reads it" suggests a herald, like in medieval times, who went from place to place with a message from one person to another. God is instructing Habakkuk to put the revelation down clearly so that someone in the future can take it and deliver it into the right hands, those who need to hear it. Anyone in the end time who is speaking God's words fulfills this.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Habakkuk 2:3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse comes in two parts. The first two lines parallel each other, and the last two lines parallel each other. "An appointed time" and "at the end" mean the same thing. In Daniel 12:4, God tells the prophet, "But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end" (see also Daniel 8:17; 10:14). God is telling Habakkuk the same thing. The message was not necessarily for him and the people of his time. It is for the herald who runs and the people he will deliver the message to. It will be sealed until the appointed time, then it will be revealed.

This, then, is a revelation for our time today. He says, "At the end it will speak," an interesting image. It literally means the message will pant, like a runner after a marathon. Again, it is the heraldry image. The herald runs for miles with his message, and when he arrives, he is out of breath, panting. Then, he speaks his message to the recipient before he has recovered his breath, emphasizing its urgency. It must be given at the right time because things will happen swiftly, and the recipient must be ready. The wording mixes excitement with fatigue and urgency, a messenger rushing to get the words out because of shortness of time and breath!

God immediately reassures us that the message is truth. It will not lie. It will come. It will begin to be fulfilled right away. But it is God's truth, so we should believe it!

"Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry" is also a parallel construction. God is saying, "Be patient. If things seem to be delayed, it is only your perspective because it will come right on time. I do things when I want them to happen."

What is the vision? In Hebrews 10:35-37, Paul not only quotes this verse, but he interprets it for us.

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry.

What God has promised is His rest. The Israelites could not enter into His rest because of their unbelief (Hebrews 4:1). They showed no endurance. They did not see it all the way through to the end. So Paul says we need endurance to claim our reward.

Though the wording is somewhat different, the meaning is the same. Paul explains that what God told Habakkuk is, "Christ is coming!" That is the vision! That is the urgent message that we must understand—and not just that He is coming but all the end-time events too. Bad things and good things accompany His coming. Which side will we be on? The side that gets the bad things? Or the side that gets the good things? This is the revelation, the vision, that Habakkuk receives from God: that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, would come and solve the problems he is so worried about.

How does this answer his question, "Why do You use the wicked to punish us, who are the righteous?" Revelation 11:15-18 provides the answer. Because everything will be squared in the end; God will punish the wicked and reward the just. We have no need to be worried about why the wicked seem to prosper and the righteous are persecuted and killed. He soothes Habakkuk's troubled mind by giving him a dose of reality. The horrendous things God predicts will still occur, but they are His will, part of His plan. But events must take this course to produce the right fruit in the end. It will all be sorted out. No evil deed will go unpunished, and no good deed will go unrewarded.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Habakkuk 2:5-20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This section is part of God's answer to the prophet's second question, and it is primarily directed at the particular circumstances of Habakkuk's day regarding the Chaldeans. Obviously, we can derive symbolic spiritual meaning regarding ourselves and modern-day Babylonians. The passage, verses 5 through 20, is a series of five woes that God pronounces on the Chaldeans for their particular sins. The five woes are five particular infractions of the commandments that God promises to punish them for, and in the end, this consoles Habakkuk. Knowing that the Chaldeans would not get away with their depradations of Judah, he is reassured that this was indeed the God he knew and understood. The Chaldeans would get what was coming to them.

These five woes succinctly describe modern society, which in the church we call Babylon. God chooses to describe these particular sins of Babylon, and their primary theme is gain, filthy lucre. It is no coincidence that our modern society is founded on the same shaky foundation. Everybody wants to get his "due" however he can. He will get it by oppressing others, by plotting and coveting, by promoting violence, by promoting debauchery and getting other people in trouble and shaming them, and so forth. Their idol, of course, is gain.

This passage, then, has present-day implications. Just like Habakkuk, we can be comforted that, though the wicked seem to have the upper hand now, God is not blind to what they are doing. He has seen their wickedness, and they will have to give a full account for their evil deeds.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Habakkuk 2:20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is a very interesting way to conclude these five judgments. It reveals the proper attitude that we should have when God speaks. Perhaps, too, it was a little correction for Habakkuk. God seems to be saying, "There is no need to doubt Me, Habakkuk. I am still on My throne as the judge of all nations. Everyone will eventually submit to Me. Right now, you need to deal with the fact that Judah needs to be punished, and I will do it the way that is best. So keep silent when I make My decrees."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Habakkuk 3:1-19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Chapter 3 is Habakkuk's prayer. The best part of this song is that it shows that Habakkuk truly grasped what God was teaching him. The song is a prayer, the response that he promised God in Habakkuk 2:1. After being greatly chastened, he tells God that he understood what He was saying.

One commentator called this section "the greatest expression of faith in all the Bible." Habakkuk is a good example of what a person of true faith does. He obeys God by listening. He waits patiently for God's answer to his dilemma, and he receives understanding. Then, he expresses his faith in this song.

We could almost compare it with Job's expression of faith in Job 42:2-6. Habakkuk finally sees God as He really is, and he expresses his joy and his faith that God is on his and Judah's side. In the same way, we could express our faith and joy that He is on our side and the church's side because we know Him.

The prophet goes through all the ways that God has worked on behalf of His people, particularly the Exodus. He admits that he had forgotten all these things. He realizes that, though they were not understood at the time, all these acts of God worked to bring about what He had planned. God's acts brought Israel into the Promised Land and made them into a nation. No matter how much we fail to understand, God is still wonderful and working hard to bring us blessing. So he tells God, "I am sorry that I forgot all your power and that I let my fears get in the way."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Find more Bible verses about Habakkuk:
Habakkuk {Nave's}
 




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