01 Habakkuk 01v1-11 A Puzzled Prophet

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God is asked more questions than anyone
else! These questions don’t simply change
from person to person but from age to age.
The problems troubling most thinking people
today are personal and historical. Questions
such as: “Who am I? Why am I here? What is
the meaning of life? Does God involve himself
in history? Why is there evil in history? How
can I believe in a loving, personal God when
he allows bad things to happen to me?”
Habakkuk had a question. He asks, “Is God in
charge of history?” The book of Habakkuk
speaks as directly to our own times as any
comparable portion of the Word of God.
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The Problem Of History
We know little about Habakkuk the man, for
he is mentioned nowhere else in the O.T. He
seems to have written sometime after the fall
of Nineveh to the Babylonians in 612 B.C. [as
prophesied by Nahum] and before the fall of
Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 587 B.C.
If Habakkuk was a mature man when he
wrote he must have spent his childhood in
Judah during the reign of the boy king Josiah.
Josiah had been crowned at the age of eight
(in 639 B.C.), and when he was sixteen he
began a religious reform that changed the
nation’s life.
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The Problem Of History
The chronicler describes the eighth year of
Josiah’s reign, “he began to seek the God of his
father David. In the twelfth year he began to
purge Judah and Jerusalem of high places,
Asherah poles, carved idols and cast images.
Under his direction the altars of the Baals were
torn down; he cut to pieces the incense altars
that were above them, and smashed the
Asherah poles, the idols and images. These he
broke to pieces and scattered over the graves of
those who had sacrificed to them. He burned the
bones of the priests on their altars, and so he
purged Judah and Jerusalem.” 2 Chron. 34v3-7
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The Problem Of History
In the eighteenth year of his reign Josiah began
to repair the temple, which had been allowed
to fall into ruin. In the process of this repair,
Hilkiah the priest found the book of the Law
and brought it to Josiah. When it was read,
Josiah and those with him were convicted of
their sin and a reform process began. Some
lives were spiritually transformed but the
reform was spiritually superficial as far as the
majority of the nation was concerned. This is
evident from the fact that after the death of
Josiah, Judah reverted to her former evil ways
until Jerusalem eventually fell in 587 B.C.
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The Problem Of History
Habakkuk lived and wrote immediately after Josiah’s
reforms but before the fall of Jerusalem. It is against
this background that we must understand the
questions the puzzled prophet raised. The first
verses describe the period of spiritual and moral
decay that followed after Josiah’ death:
“How long O lord must I call for help but you do not
listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not
save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why
do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are
before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds,
Therefore the law is paralysed, and justice never
prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that
justice is perverted”. Hab. 1v2-4
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The Problem Of History
It’s the anguished cry of one who loved justice.
He’d seen justice perverted and had cried out to
God against the evil. It is the kind of cry we might
utter over the deplorable state of the church in
our own day or over the moral decline of our
nation. Habakkuk must have waited a long time
for the Lord’s answer for his complaint begins
with the words, “How long, O Lord must I call for
help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you,
‘Violence!’ but you do not save?”
At last the Lord did answer, but the answer was
an unexpected one and created for Habakkuk
new and even greater problems.
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The Problem Of History
“Look at the nations and watch and be utterly
amazed For I am going to do something in your
days that you would not believe, even if you
were told. I am raising up the Babylonians, that
ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep
across the whole earth to seize dwelling places
not their own. They are a feared and dreaded
people; they are a law to themselves and
promote their own honour”. Hab. 1v5-7
No doubt, Habakkuk had expected God to send
revival building upon what had been done in
Josiah’s day. But when God answered, he said
he would send the Babylonians to scourge his
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The Problem Of History
Habakkuk had questioned God’s inactivity in the face of
increasing injustice in Judah. God’s answer was the
promise of judgement. Now Habakkuk faced a situation
in which the ungodly Babylonians, would be used to
judge Israel, God’s special people. Habakkuk cries out,
“Wait! Hold on just a minute! I understand why you are
judging us. We deserve it. But I don’t understand how
you can use the Babylonians as instruments of judgement.
They are even more wicked than we are.” Habakkuk’s own
words are: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you
cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the
treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked
swallow up those more righteous than themselves?
Hab. 1:13.
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The Four Lessons
Four lessons emerge in this opening exchange:
1. First, history [regardless of how it seems to us]
is under God’s control. This is seen in God’s reply to
Habakkuk. He tells him: “I am going to do something
in your days.... I am raising up the Babylonians” Hab.
1v5, 6. One commentator writes:
“Every nation on earth is under the hand of God, for
there is no power in this world that is not ultimately
controlled by him. Things are not what they appear
to be. It seemed to be the astute military prowess
of the Chaldeans that had brought them into the
ascendancy. But it was not so at all, for God had
raised them up. God is the Lord of history.
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The Four Lessons
2. Second, history follows a divine plan. The
events of history are not accidental, though
they may appear so to us. They follow God’s
plan. Again I quote “There is a purpose in
history, and what is now happening in this
century is not accidental... Never forget the
pride and arrogance of the church in the C19th.
See her sitting back in self-satisfaction,
enjoying her so-called cultured sermons and
learned ministry, feeling just a little ashamed
to mention such things as conversion and the
work of the Holy Spirit… How constantly he
denied the very spirit of the New Testament!
Yes, the church needed chastisement”.
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The Four Lessons
3. Third, history follows a divine
timetable. This comes out at several
places in Habakkuk’s prophecy.
In ch. 1 God says, “I am going to do
something in your days,” that is, not
before or after but precisely when God
wanted it to happen. In ch. 2 v3 the point
is made even stronger: “The revelation
awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end
and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it;
it will certainly come and will not delay”
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The Four Lessons
4. Fourth, history is bound up with the
divine kingdom. The key to the history of
the world is the kingdom of God. The
story of the other nations mentioned in
the O.T. is relevant only as it bears upon
the history of the Christian church.
What really matters in the world is God’s
kingdom. We must not be thrown into
confusion when surprising things happen
in the world. Instead, we need to learn to
ask, ‘What is the relevance of this event
to the kingdom of God?’
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The Four Lessons
Or, if strange things are happening to you
personally, don’t complain, but say,
‘What is God teaching me through this? Is there
something in me that needs to be corrected? Or
have I gone wrong in some way and is God
therefore allowing these things for my benefit?’
There is a meaning in them if only we can see it.
We need not become bewildered and doubt
the love or the justice of God. If God were
unkind enough to answer some of our
prayers at once, and in our way, we
should be very impoverished Christians.
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The Four Lessons
Fortunately, God sometimes delays his answers in
order to deal with selfishness or things in our lives
that should not be there. He is concerned about us,
and intends to fit us for a fuller place in his
kingdom. We should therefore judge every event in
the light of God’s great, eternal and glorious
purpose. When we approach the events of our
time with this outlook, we are following the advice
Jesus gave His disciples: “Watch out that no one
deceives you. For many will come in my name,
claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.
You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see
to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must
happen, but the end is still to come”. Matt. 24v4-6.
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Exchange Panic For Assurance
Alarm and panic rise in our hearts when we fail to reckon
on God’s control of history. Habakkuk’s world was about
to experience a momentous upheaval. Invasion was on
the horizon and God was preparing his servant for that
event so that he might not be alarmed. The words of
Jesus, ‘see to it that you are not alarmed’ are designed
to return our thinking to the fact of God’s control not only
of history on the international arena but in the personal
arenas of our own lives. The shadow of unemployment,
chronic illness or bereavement falls across our
lives threatening the collapse of the future
as we saw it and into that situation the God
of Habakkuk whispers, ‘see to it that you are
not alarmed’.
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Exchange Panic For Assurance
God takes a choice servant, whose influence in the
life of the congregation has been significant, home
to be with himself, and into that situation the God
of Habakkuk whispers, ‘see to it that you are not
There will be many situations in our personal,
congregational and national life where all we
can see is loss and heartache. We are tempted
to lose sight of the God’s control in history.
It is then that the God of Habakkuk whispers,
‘see to it that you are not alarmed’.
God calls us all to trust in the fact that
he knows what he is doing!
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