Habakkuk Bible Study
Lesson 2 — Look, Be Astounded!
In Habakkuk 1:2-4, the prophet cried out to the Lord against the evil and violence that he saw in his land. We ended lesson 1 with verse 5 of chapter 1 in which God answers Habakkuk’s cries. He begins by telling Habakkuk (and the nations) to Look! Wonder! Be Astounded!
5“Look among the nations, and see;
wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
that you would not believe if told.”
Then, as God continues with his divine oracle, in Habakkuk 1:5-12, Habakkuk realizes that God’s reply, that he hoped would be repentance and salvation for his people, was instead going to be judgment. If, as many commentators believe, Habakkuk lived during the time of King Josiah, then he had seen that the people of Judah at that time had repented of their evil ways, stopped worshiping idols, and turned their hearts back to the Lord. But, as we read on, we see that this was not to be the case this time. When God explains His plan to Habakkuk, it is truly an unbelievable plan.
6 “For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation,
who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own.
7They are dreaded and fearsome; their justice and dignity go forth from themselves.
8Their horses are swifter than leopards, more fierce than the evening wolves; their horsemen press proudly on. Their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swift to devour.
9They all come for violence, all their faces forward. They gather captives like sand.
10At kings they scoff, and at rulers they laugh. They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it.
11Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!”
Habakkuk must have been astounded from the Lord’s first words– Behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans! The Chaldeans were aka the Babylonians, and their king was none other than Nebuchadnezzer II. Even though Habakkuk had surely heard of this violent and evil nation, God describes in great detail (in verses 6-11) this nation (that He is going to use for His purposes.)
Who Were the Chaldeans?
The Christ-Centered Exposition commentary summarized verses 6 – 11 in a way that our pastor would love… with alliteration. They used an adjective starting with “H” to summarize the character quality of the Chaldeans described in each verse:
vs. 6 Hostile— (bitter, impetuous, marching through the earth)
vs. 7 Haughty–(a law unto themselves, they disregarded all other laws)
vs. 8 Hasty— (they and their horses were described as animals that are fast and fierce– leopard, wolf, eagle)
vs. 9 Harmful–(they were full of violence)
vs.10 Hardened— ( they were strong and adept at battle, and they scoffed at kings and rulers.)
vs. 11 Hellbent— (they considered themselves “gods”, yet God called them guilty.)
While studying these traits that God highlighted to Habakkuk, I saw that the very same evils that Habakkuk cried out to God about were also characteristics of the evil Chaldeans that God was going to use.
In verse 2, Habakkuk cried “Violence!”
In Vs 9, The Chaldeans came for violence.
In verse 3, Habakkuk saw “Iniquity and wickedness”
Verse 7 says the Chaldeans are terrible and dreadful.
Also in verse 3, Habakkuk saw “Destruction”
Verse 6 The Chaldeans march through the earth, (Leaving destruction behind).
Verse 8 They are compared to ferocious, ravenous beasts.
In verse 3, Habakkuk saw “Strife and Contention”
Verse 10 states, They deride every stronghold, scoff at rulers.
In verse 4, Habakkuk observed “Lawlessness and Injustice”
Verse 7 describes the Chaldeans as a law unto themselves.
For every evil that Habakkuk saw in the people of Judah, God was sending a people that were even MORE evil in that way!
Sowing and Reaping
The Jewish people in Judah were about to learn God’s law of the harvest. As God said in
Galatians 6:7-8 “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
When we plant, we plant little, tiny seeds. Barely visible. But, when we reap, we harvest full-grown, mature, large plants. This analogy is used in Scriptures to show that the things that we plant into our lives in small ways are what we will eventually reap as mature fruit. If we plant righteousness, then righteousness will grow in us. But, if we plant sin– even tiny little seeds of sin– we will eventually reap large, ripe, full-grown sin with its consequences.
As an example, think of the person who decides allow a little seed of greed to grow. They start gambling in order to ‘get rich quick’. It isn’t long before they gamble beyond their means. Now, they decide to just “take a bit” from the company cash drawer. Soon, they are ‘cooking the books’ to cover the theft. Then, maybe they go to greater extremes to either get more money or to cover what they already owe. If they can’t steal enough to cover their losses, they have evil people coming after them, trying to get them to pay. Now maybe their life is in danger. The sins grow and grow. They sowed a tiny seed of greed, and now they are reaping violence, perhaps prison, widespread corruption, and poverty.
The Jewish people were sowing violence and strife, lawlessness and injustice, sin and destruction. But, what they were going to get in return was all that on a much greater scale!
It is even as God said in
Hosea 8:7 “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.”
On top of this, God adds in vs 11, that the Chaldeans credit all of this to themselves as gods! God knew ahead of time that He was using and directing the steps of this nation, yet they were completely ignorant of Him.
Read more about the Chaldean/Babylonian capture of Jerusalem in II Chronicles 36:1-21
Several times in Habakkuk, we are confronted with two different perspectives… God’s and man’s. God’s description of the coming judgment by the Chaldeans illustrates this difference:
From God’s perspective– He is raising them up. He is going to use them for His purposes. They are only going to do what He allows.
From Man’s (Chaldeans’) perspective– They were great and mighty on their own. They did everything in their own strength. They did not know, need, or acknowledge God.
Romans 1:25 “because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever”
Psalm 10: 4 “In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
Guzik’s Bible Commentary sums up God’s answer to Habakkuk with “It would be like crying out to God about the state of the church in America, and hearing God respond by saying, “I’ll fix the problem by a Communist invasion of America.”
I often pray for this country. I pray for salvation and revival. I pray that evil will cease and Christians will be strengthened. I pray that good will come. However, I would be completely astounded if God showed me that he was planning to judge America by sending judgment that would come in the form of reaping everything that we have sown, but at a much greater rate. ThaSt must have been how Habakkuk was feeling at this point. Astounded indeed!
For application this week, I was struck by God’s answer to Habakkuk — an answer that was beyond understanding. There are so many things in the nations of the world today and throughout history that seem too astounding for words. Last week, I mentioned the Holocaust or slavery as two such times where people of God were subjected to incredible hardship and death. There are many, many other situations across the globe today that would also fit in this category… genocides, religious persecutions, evil dictators, even great famines and poverty. Things that to us seem beyond comprehension.
When we see these things, we must remind ourselves that God is good– all the time. Good is part of who God is! Just like God is defined as “love”, God is defined as “good”. It is an attribute of his character, so it must always be true.
Psalm 106:1… Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
And, God’s judgment is just as much a part of His goodness as His mercy. We forget that. We often don’t understand that.
I think that application can also be made closer to home. In the smaller things of our daily lives. If we pray and ask God for a certain outcome, and He gives us the opposite, is He not good? If a friend is waiting on test results to find out if they have cancer, and the result is negative, no cancer, we rejoice. We add that to our prayer list as a Praise! We got what we wanted! Yay! God is good! But, what about if the result IS cancer? Is that a praise? Is God still good?
Romans 8:28 – And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
We know this verse, but do we really think it applies when we see evil things happening to the people of God? To us? If we were Habakkuk could we look at the answer that God gave and quote this verse?
We are also to be thankful in everything! Because God is good.
Philipians 4:6 …in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
I Thess. 5:18… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Can we look at what we consider “bad” situations and give thanks? Can we be like Daniel, and offer prayers of Thanksgiving to God, even if it means that we will be thrown to the lions?
The sermon during worship this past Sunday, which really hit home to me as I studied this passage, cautioned against worshiping an “imagined God”. We must be very careful not to worship a God of our own making… one who is always love and never wrath, always salvation and never judgment. The God of the Bible is the perfect, equal, balance of both.
I know that I really need to work on my realization of God’s goodness in all situations. God is not only good when I get what I want. God is not only good when He blesses me with health and wealth and a good family. God is good in the sickness, good in the poverty, good in the really tough and downright abusive family situations. The EVIL is not good, but GOD is good. This is a very difficult concept for me, as it was for Habakkuk, to incorporate.
12Are you not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One?
We shall not die.
O Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment,
and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof.”
We end lesson 2 with Habakkuk’s reply to God’s oracle. He begins with a rhetorical question. He knows that God is eternal and Holy. Because He knows that, He also knows that God is not going to totally wipe out his people. God has had an eternal plan for his people, the Jews. He understands also that God is sending judgment and reproof.
Even though the plan of God is very unbelievable, Habakkuk starts his reply to God with what He knows of the character and truth of God. He also refers to God as the Rock– the firm foundation of his faith. Yes, God’s reply was unbelievable, but God was still the same Holy, eternal, Rock that Habakkuk knew.
When we are confronted by things in our lives that we don’t understand, that we find truly astounding, let us remember to be like Habakkuk. Let us go back to the character of the God we know, and rest in the eternal plans of our Rock.
Next week, we will see the continuing of the conversation between Habakkuk and His Lord.
I am posting one lesson each week for Habakkuk. You can find the rest of the Bible Study Lesson Notes here. Thanks for joining me in this study. If you find this helpful, please share.