Today: [Habakkuk 2] Habakkuk indicts the Faithfulness of God. Have you ever wondered why God isn’t acting on His promise in your life? Do you feel you have acted in faith and believed to the best of your ability, and now it is time for God to move in your circumstance? Habakkuk feels the same way in our chapter today, and he makes his complaint before God and waits for an answer. Most of the time when these questions arise, leaders simply say we cannot know God’s ways in such things, but that is a fallacy. In ch. 2 God gives a detailed and plain spoken answer to the contradictions in our lives to His promises, and exhorts us not only to hear Him, but to act on His counsel, if we have the heart to do so.
[Hab 2:1-20 KJV] 1 I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. 2 And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make [it] plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. 3 For the vision [is] yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. 4 Behold, his soul [which] is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. 5 Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, [he is] a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and [is] as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people: 6 Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and a taunting proverb against him, and say, Woe to him that increaseth [that which is] not his! how long? and to him that ladeth himself with thick clay! 7 Shall they not rise up suddenly that shall bite thee, and awake that shall vex thee, and thou shalt be for booties unto them? 8 Because thou hast spoiled many nations, all the remnant of the people shall spoil thee; because of men’s blood, and [for] the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein. 9 Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil! 10 Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many people, and hast sinned [against] thy soul. 11 For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it. 12 Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity! 13 Behold, [is it] not of the LORD of hosts that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity? 14 For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. 15 Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to [him], and makest [him] drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness! 16 Thou art filled with shame for glory: drink thou also, and let thy foreskin be uncovered: the cup of the LORD’S right hand shall be turned unto thee, and shameful spewing [shall be] on thy glory. 17 For the violence of Lebanon shall cover thee, and the spoil of beasts, [which] made them afraid, because of men’s blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein. 18 What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? 19 Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it [is] laid over with gold and silver, and [there is] no breath at all in the midst of it. 20 But the LORD [is] in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.
In chapter 1 of Habakkuk, the prophet contends with God because it seems that Jehovah is allowing the Babylonians to overthrow the nation of Judah, which in fact ultimately happens. The problem for Habakkuk is while he admits Judah is corrupt and evil (given over to abuse of the impoverished and pagan worship) it is incomprehensible to him that Babylon, being so much more wicked than Judah would be used by God, allowed by God to invade, enslave and destroy the nation of Judah. Chapter 2 opens up with Habakkuk having made his case, now standing to see just how God will answer his well-crafted objection. How many times in our lives are we tempted, like Habakkuk, to question the faithfulness of God? Habakkuk is impugning the promises of God by calling Him by His covenant name “Jehovah” and then objecting that those promises are not being fulfilled. He readily admits in ch. 1 that Judah has sinned, but in his thinking, that does not justify God withdrawing His blessing and allowing the nation to come to failure. How many times do we go through things, and our first question is “why God”? We question God but never seem to get around to considering the fact that throughout the law and the prophets the explanation for failed experience of God’s blessing in our lives and universally connected with disobedience and occasioned by sin? We don’t necessarily argue as New Testament believers that we are without sin, we simply believe that the blood of Christ should cover the sin so that we are not held accountable, just as the Jews didn’t deny they were offenders, they simply believed that because they were children of Abraham, that God should have given them a pass.
With Habakkuk standing with arms folded, confident in his argument against God, the Father answers in verse 2, telling him to get a stylus and tablet, and prepare to record the answer that will be given. The answer, God explains is for a time to come, but that it will surely be applicable as an answer to Habakkuk’s objections that God has unjustly allowed the people to suffer contrary to the promises of His own word. The following statement embodies everything that God has to say to Habakkuk and by extension to you and I when we lament the contradiction to God’s covenant promises in our lives, when we feel we have done all that was expected and that God should act, but apparently isn’t, here is His answer to Habakkuk and to us:
v. 4: Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.
I somehow think that is not what Habakkuk expected to hear. The answer is this – in making the objection, God is telling Habakkuk his heart is not right before God. We feel at times we have a right to ask and to object when we think we have done all and God isn’t following through that our objections are well justified. God’s answer to the “why God” question is to state that the underlying heart motivation betrays the fact that deep repentance is needed. We hear this all the time, when people come to us wounded and feeling victimized by God’s seeming lack of response to their alleged faithfulness. “I’ve paid my tithes, I go to church, I have done my part, I’ve paid my dues…” is the lament, but the answer of God ignores all that and simply says that to ask the question is to betray a heart out of fellowship with God and in need of a return to humility and repentance.
The second part of the answer from heaven is “the just shall live by his faith…” In other words, to question the faithfulness of God is indicative of a heart filled with unrighteousness, but the just person, the person who is looked upon as in right relationship is the one who maintains his faith in God regardless. Why? Because God knows more than we do. He knows the end from the beginning. It may look like God’s word has not been made good on in your life at times but God works from the canvas much broader and more complex than we are seeing at the time. Our limited scope causes us to make assumptions. Even when we are blessed we tend to think it has more to do with our own works than His unmerited favor.
When we are blessed we think we earned, and when we are not blessed we blame God as though our works are not connected with the outcome of circumstances in our lives. This is colossal error on our part and betrays a willfully darkened mind. The answer is – put your faith in God and trust Him, then we will live. God is correcting Habakkuk and correcting us, if we will hear it.
The chapter goes on to declare by the hand of God that Babylon will indeed be dealt with, in God’s time and not Habakkuk’s. They are portrayed as a city and an empire built on blood guiltiness and savagery, and will be brought to their end, which happened when Cyrus the Great took the city in 589 BC. In verse 13, the surmising given is that it is “not of the Lord” that the people “labor in the fire…” In other words, regardless of the ill-conceived logic of asking the question “if God is who He says He is, then why are we suffering…” it is not “of the Lord”. This is a truth difficult to grasp, not because it is too complex, but because man’s heart is inherently self-vindicating, more willing to blame God than to lay responsibility at the charge of sinful flesh. We expect (in spite of all the scripture says to the contrary) that God should overlook our flawed humanity. We attempt to plead the blood of Christ as a cover for our human frailty, just as the Jews used their status as Abraham’s descendants as an objection to God’s refusal to shield them from the consequences of their actions.
The chapter ends with a denouncement against idolatry, and worshipping the works of men’s hands. The Lord is in His Holy Temple. Even in the midst of a corrupt and decadent Jerusalem, where every street corner was known to be dedicated to a different pagan deity, God reminds the people that He hasn’t gone anywhere. He is still in His temple, therefore let all the earth (flesh) be silent before Him. We have no grounds for clamoring and complaining. God will not respond to the thinly veiled clock of false humility and objection we make when we see ourselves as victims of God’s refusal to act in our behalf. The faithful heart acknowledges that whatever we may face, or others around us as Habakkuk looking upon his suffering people, the only answer is to keep silence before God, and wait upon His salvation.
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