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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Smith :: A Faith to Cling To

Don Smith :: Habakkuk 1:1-4

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A Faith to Cling To — A Call to Rejoice in the God of Our Salvation

Part One: “The Mysterious Ways of God” – Habakkuk 1:1-4

Introduction: The God of the Bible is infinitely wise in all His ways.

  • As His finite creatures, we question His ways, especially His timing.
  • His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are His ways our ways. (Isa 55:8-9)
  • His ways and thoughts are higher than our ways as much as the heavens are higher than earth.
  • This huge chasm between our wisdom and His has troubled the righteous since the beginning of time.
  • In the days of Seth, men began to call upon the name of the Lord for deliverance from the pain of the curse and the persecution of the Serpent’s seed. (Gen 4:26)
  • Noah must have wondered how long he had to wait until God brought judgment on the earth.
  • Abraham and Sarah waited twenty-five years for God to fulfill His promise of a son.
  • In Job’s time of suffering he accused God of deliberate procrastination, “How long? Will You not look away from me, And let me alone till I swallow my saliva?” (Job 7:19)
  • Moses complained to the Lord, “How long must I endure this stubborn grumbling people?
  • David joined the chorus by asking, “How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psa 13:1-2)
  • Add to these a long list of people, including ourselves, who have questioned and complained about God’s mysterious ways, especially his apparent delays to answering our prayers.

The Lord graciously and patiently listens to our pathetic protests about the way He does things until even He says “enough is enough.”

  • For example, after Pharaoh persisted in denying every request made by Moses to let Israel go, Moses came to him and warned, “Thus says the LORD God of the Hebrews: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me?’” (Exo 10:3)
  • The Lord also grew weary of Israel’s grumbling in the wilderness with God’s ways and asked of them, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me?” (Num 14:27-28)
  • Even our Lord grew weary of man’s inclination to question and doubt His ways.
  • Jesus in Matthew 17:17 responded to the lack of His disciple’s faith and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?”

We read in Revelation 6:9-11 that even the redeemed in heaven, who were slain for the Word of God, grow impatient waiting for God to bring justice on the earth.

  • They cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
  • God’s ways and timing seem mysterious to the finite mind because man cannot comprehend the magnitude of God’s grace.
  • His patience is longsuffering but His judgment is sure.
  • This is the explanation of 2 Peter 3:8-13,
But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
  • Waiting for God to act on our behalf or that of others is a true test of our faith.
  • The faith of the ancient prophets was especially tested when they proclaimed God’s message to their generation but were rebuffed and buffeted by their stubborn, rebellious countrymen.
  • That is why the study of the Old Testament prophets provides such rich insight into the mysterious ways of God.

The Mysterious Ways of God are Uniquely Revealed by the Prophets.

1. But why were the prophet’s messages rejected in their day? People then were uncomfortable when they heard the message of sin and wrath.

  • They disliked hearing this kind of message.
  • The prophet’s message was aimed at turning the hearts of rebellious sinners to repent and receive God’s all-sufficient grace and forgiveness.
  • Instead, the prophetic message only further hardened their already hard hearts like the hot sun hardens clay vessels.
  • Their ears were itchy and their souls restless.
  • They wanted easy prescriptions and formulas that would bring them success.
  • They insisted on hearing feel good messages that appealed to their goodness.

The prophet’s audience was also unconvinced that God’s evaluation of their plight fit their condition.

  • They would argue they were of Abraham’s seed, kept the law of Moses and went to the Temple regularly to offer sacrifice.
  • They were unconvinced that such “good” religious people like themselves could be compared to the people condemned in the prophet’s message.
  • They welcomed the prophet’s message of judgment on their enemies but rejected his message, which exposed the true condition of their hearts and lives.
  • Elijah the prophet, for example, asked the people of his day for an answer to his message, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” 1 Kings 18:21
  • There came a time in each prophet’s life when they called for the question, a vote was needed, a decision one way or another as to whether they would follow the Lord God or other gods.
  • Some repented but others continued in rebellion.
  • Some might protest today and say their message was for that generation and not ours.

2. So why is the prophet’s message necessary to be preached today?

  • The O.T. Prophets, especially the Minor Prophets are the least understood and preached today.
  • Because they are called “Minor Prophets”, many consider them to be of “minor” significance.
  • The term “minor”, however, is not a designation of importance but for the size of the prophesy.
  • Studying the prophets help us gain an adequate and appropriate view of God.
  • That is exactly what this generation of “God-Shrinkers” needs to hear!
  • The life and message of the prophets prove God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises.
  • They also expose our desperate need to live by faith not by sight.
  • That is why our study of Habakkuk is a timely pursuit.

The Mysterious Ways of God Test Our Faith in His Attentiveness to Our Prayers for Help – Habakkuk 1:1-2

  • Habakkuk is appropriately placed in the Scriptures after the book of Naham.
  • Naham prophesied against the Assyrians for their violence against Israel.
  • Habakkuk follows this prophet demonstrating God’s faithfulness to His promises.
  • Habakkuk witnessed the demise of the Assyrians and was about to learn about the impending invasion of the Babylonians, who God raised up to be His chastening rod against Judah.
  • Habakkuk would prophesy against the Chaldeans for their violence against Judah.
  • Not much is known about this faithful passionate prophet of God’s glory.
  • What we do know is very helpful.
  • He was a contemporary of Jeremiah.
  • They were both Judean prophets prior to the Babylonian invasion.
  • His ministry came after King Josiah’s revival around 612 BC.
  • When Josiah died, a new Judean king by the name of Jehoiakim came to power in 605 BC.
  • Even though he was Josiah’s son, he did not resemble his rule.
  • He was instrumental in plunging the nation into idolatry and moral decay.
  • Habakkuk’s prophesy speaks against Judah’s sin.
  • He also is unique among the prophets as a temple priest, who composed worship psalms for the choirmaster. (3:19)
  • This man, therefore, had a high view of God’s holiness in worship but struggled to comprehend how a holy God could withhold justice on the likes of King Jehoiakim and the wicked of his day.
  • It was to Habakkuk that the Lord appeared to briefly explain His mysterious ways.
  • This message, however, was “heavy,” “weighty,” and “burdensome” because it was a message of judgment not only on the Chaldeans but also on Judah.
  • His contemporaries would undoubtedly reject him as they rejected Jeremiah.

1. It causes us to ask, “Why does God lay heavy burdens on the righteous?” (Nah 1; Isa 13:1)

  • Habakkuk was not the only prophet with such a burdensome unpopular message.
  • Nahum for example carried the burden of his prophesy against Israel and Nineveh.
  • His hard-hitting message sounded like this,
God is jealous, and the LORD avenges; The LORD avenges and is furious. The LORD will take vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies; The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, And will not at all acquit the wicked.
  • When we hear such a forceful message uttered by Nahum, it should cause us to wonder how it would be received by our generation living in the Saddleback Valley or any American city.

God placed this unique calling upon Habakkuk.

  • His name literally means “embrace” or “cling.” (Hab 3:19)
  • If it is used in a passive tense then he was “Embraced in the arms of God as a favorite child”.
  • If is used in an active tense, then he is called to “Cling to his faith in God.”
  • Both tenses are applicable and appropriate.
  • He closed his prophetic message with a psalm of praise that is consistent with his name.
  • In Habakkuk 3:19 he declared,
The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.
  • Any prophet with a message like his must learn to “cling to the Lord” and “embrace his faith.”
  • This message was not to be trimmed down or softened because it was offensive.

2. The book begins with Habakkuk’s cry to the Lord.

  • He asked of the Lord what many continue to ask today, “How long should we expect to pray before God answers our prayers?”
  • The Lord revealed Himself while Habakkuk was in prayer, perhaps during his priestly duties while worshipping in the Temple.
  • He saw by way of vision the glory of God.
  • His vision, however, was not just a divine revelation of God but also a personal observation of Judah’s sin…that is why prophets were called “Seers,”
  • He will be instructed by the Lord to stand watch to see what God was going to do and write it down on tablets.
  • These prophecies would be fulfilled in God’s appointed time. (Hab 2:1-3)
  • Even though God tarries to bring judgment on Judah, He is demonstrating great patience in offering His grace to a people under condemnation.
  • Therefore, Habakkuk was to keep faithfully praying and preaching until judgment came.
  • The same was said to Isaiah when he questioned God about how long should he keep preaching to a stubborn and rebellious people. (Isaiah 6:9-11)
  • The Lord answered “Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant, the houses are without a man, the land is utterly desolate,”
  • God’s faithful prophets and people are to cling to their faith as long as they have breath and there are still people to hear the proclamation of His glory and grace.
  • Judgment is coming…it is coming in God’s appointed time.
  • Our part is to remain faithful and overcome until that day arrives.
  • Ours is not to question God’s timing for answering our prayers but to keep praying for His glory to be declared through out the earth in until judgment day comes.

3. Why does the Lord seem silent to Habakkuk’s and our desperate prayers?

  • Habakkuk’s prayer reveals his perplexity with God’s mysterious ways.
  • He deeply believed in God’s holiness and wished to see it acknowledged by God’s people.
  • Instead, what he experienced was a general disrespect and disregard for personal holiness.
  • God had become a national trophy, a token of prosperity and an insurance policy in crisis times.
  • Judah’s corruption had spread through out the land.
  • He was especially troubled by his people’s preoccupation with graphic violence…evident in the way they treated and spoke to each other.
  • Over the years they had been desensitized by the violence they saw in the world around them.
  • His generation was like that described before flood.
  • At that time the earth was corrupt and filled with violence.
  • Every intent of the heart was continually evil. (Gen 6:11-12)
  • His generation was also consumed with covetousness.
  • They went so far as to oppress the righteous and shed innocent blood for personal gain.
  • Habakkuk was perplexed why the wicked seemed to prosper at the expense of the righteous.
  • He wanted to know how God could tolerate this kind of sin while still being holy and just.
  • Habakkuk’s prayer, therefore, was a shout of desperation and a scream for understanding.

He fervently prayed for deliverance, but God remained silent.

  • His fellow prophet, Jeremiah also joined in questioning God’s ways.
  • He pleaded with God, “Righteous are You, O LORD, when I plead with You; Yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously?” (Jer 12:1)
  • Habakkuk’s prayer now turns from questioning God’s silence when he prayed for Judah’s deliverance to questioning why the Lord called him to see his dying culture’s inequity yet God seemed unmoved by the same things he was commanded to see.

From this we learn that one of God’s mysterious ways is to cause the righteous to be overwhelmed by His Holiness and at the same time be outraged by their own ungodliness. – Habakkuk 1:3-4

1. But why does God show us the painful reality of the iniquity surrounding us?

  • Certainly, God intends to sensitize our hearts to our sin so that we appreciate His grace.
  • By calling Habakkuk to take a serious look at the plight of humanity, his heart was broken.
  • This is the same reason Jeremiah’s heart was troubled and he wept as he preached.
  • It is from a humble broken heart that God pours out His Spirit.
  • Those with proud self-righteous critical spirits are full of themselves not Christ.(Jer 22:3,13-17)
  • When we learn to see others through God’s eyes we cannot help but be broken for others.
  • God’s messengers of grace must first see their own desperate need for it before they effectively go out in His name to preach against the sin of their nations.

2. Habakkuk further questioned why God would caused him to see the impending troubles that lay ahead, yet God didn’t seem moved by his prayers for deliverance?

  • He specifically identified four sins of Judah that were tearing the nation apart: “plundering, violence, strife, and contention”
  • This once law abiding nation was bent on violence and destruction.
  • This atmosphere of every man for himself but me first, created a lawless society.
  • Social strife and contention became endemic.
  • The government attempted to curb this crime wave with a proliferation of legislation and laws.
  • The courts were overwhelmed with ill conceived laws, frivolous lawsuits, and shrewd lawyers.
  • By any ones definition justice was denied.
  • Judah’s lawlessness was intensified by its commitment to political correctness.
  • Since there was a growing population of immigrants from other countries with strange gods and different moral values, the king tried to appease them all.
  • “The law” which once united their nation became cold and powerless because there were no longer any moral absolutes by which to govern society.
  • The perpetrator, the rich and the wicked were favored over the victim, the poor, and the righteous.
  • Therefore Habakkuk saw this cultural chaos and was troubled about his nation’s dark future.
  • He also was troubled knowing the righteous were encircled, intimidated, and persecuted by the wicked. (Psa 22:12)
  • John Calvin commenting about Judah’s predicament described it this way,
Those in authority ignored the law and no one dared to oppose the torrent, though frauds, rapes, outrages, cruelty and even murders everywhere prevailed: if any righteous men still remained, they dared not come forth into the public arena for the wicked beset them on all sides.
  • In other words, the righteous feared to speak out against injustice and to proclaim their faith.
  • Their silence left a vacuum that was filled with wickedness.
  • Habakkuk was convinced his nation was headed for moral disaster.
  • Is it any wonder he “screamed” and “shouted out” to the Lord in prayer.
  • He was given a burdensome message that put him at odds not only with the pagan culture around him but also with God’s people because they wanted him and Jeremiah to stop their threatening rhetoric, lest they too became the objects of persecution.

Conclusion: The God of the Bible is infinitely wise in all His ways.

  • He has uniquely revealed His mysterious ways to the prophets.
  • Their message is a necessary reminder of our desperate need to have an adequate and appropriate view of God if we are to live as He intended.
  • God has ordained that our prayers accomplish the pleasure of His will, but His answer to our prayers come in His appointed time and rarely on our time schedule.
  • His delays are not necessarily denials but the expression of His longsuffering grace with sinners.
  • We are to keep on praying for the things that burden our hearts.
  • God also burdens the righteous with the heartbreak of a sinful world.
  • In this way we learn to see and feel the very heart of God for sinners.
  • .
  • When the righteous are encircled by a perverse culture, they are to not remain silent but dare to speak out in the name of Christ.
  • We are to speak with practical expressions of love and tears rolling down our faces.
  • This is a time to cling to our faith, when everything else fails us.

Questions for Further Discussion and Discovery

  1. Which ways of God seem the most mysterious to you? Why?
  2. What reasons do you think our culture gives for not believing in Christ?
  3. How do you think the prophets of old would be received if they preached their message in our part of the world today? Why?
  4. Why do you think the preaching and studying of the prophets has been neglected in churches across America?
  5. Why do you think Habakkuk felt his calling as a prophet “a burden”?
  6. What did the Lord reveal to Habakkuk in his day?
  7. In what ways was his vision a necessary vision for our generation to see?
  8. How can you relate to the desperate prayer life of Habakkuk?
  9. How long do you think we should expect to pray before we see answers?
  10. If Habakkuk looked around and saw a culture filled with violence, what signs have you seen in our culture of violence? Be specific.
  11. Why must the path to becoming holy first remind us of God’s blazing glory; second sensitize us to our own sin; and third to be burdened for the sin surrounding us?
  12. Why is the judicial system a mirror of cultural values and beliefs?
  13. If Habakkuk saw in his day the righteous encircled by the wicked so they kept silent and fearful, how would you describe the predicament of the righteous today?
  14. What questions are you pondering about God’s mysterious ways in responding to your prayers and the prayers of the righteous today?
  15. What should we be praying for? Why?
Habakkuk Introduction ← Prior Section
Habakkuk 1:5-11 Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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