Habakkuk Series (Part One)
Text: Habakkuk 1:1-5
Well Good Morning everyone. It’s good to see you here this morning, and it’s good to be in the House of the Lord – Amen! We’re starting a new series on the Book of Habakkuk this morning. Now I know what you’re thinking… “Habakkuk – that’s the book of the Bible that everyone loves, and everyone knows hundreds of verses from Habakkuk. It’s most people’s favorite book in the entire Bible…” Ok, ok, I’m being a little cynical. The truth is – it’s probably been awhile since you’ve looked at the Book of Habakkuk. It’s not one of those books we turn to a lot. But… it’s where the Lord has led me to preach from for the next few weeks… and maybe even the next few months.
So again; Habakkuk is not what we’d call a “well known” book of the Bible, and I’ve never actually heard anyone say that Habakkuk was their favorite book in the Bible. I mean; after all, he’s a minor prophet, and he’s often overshadowed by guys like Isaiah, and Ezekiel, and Jeremiah, but just so everyone is clear – that term “minor prophet” doesn’t have anything to do with how important a prophet was… it has to do with how long their book was. If it is a long book in the Bible, they’re called a major prophet, and if their book is short, they’re called a minor prophet. So the minor prophets are just as important as the major prophets. They’re still speaking for God, to God’s people. Something else you might want to take note of… when the prophets of the Old Testament spoke and gave prophecies, they weren’t always speaking to the same groups of people. Some of them were before the exile – in other words, before the Babylonian captivity. Some of them were during the exile, that would be when God’s people were enslaved by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Persians… and some of them were prophesying after the exile. The books of Hosea and Amos were written to the nation of Israel... and Lamentations, Micah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, Zephaniah and Habakkuk (the one we’re looking at) were all written to Judah. Both Jonah and Nahum were actually to the Assyrians… And Obadiah was directed to Edom. And some of them, like Malachi were written specifically to the city of Jerusalem, but not necessarily to the nation.
Now Habakkuk writes this book right around 609 BC… in other words, right before Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians come down and wipe out Assyria and eventually Jerusalem as well… so it’s right before the people of Judah are taken into captivity.
And really; when you get right to it, this book is about having faith. Having faith, even when you don’t understand… even when you don’t see the whole picture. It’s about trusting that God is good, no matter what, and trusting that He’s in control, even when it seems like He’s not. In-fact; if you look with me really quickly to chapter 2:4, at the last part of that verse, that’s the key to the whole book (READ). Later on its quoted in the Book of Romans, and then later Galatians, and then in Hebrews. “The Just Shall Live By Faith.”
So this is a book about faith… having faith and keeping the faith, even when your world gets turned upside down. So let’s go ahead and open our Bible’s up to Habakkuk 1:1 – 5 (READ).
Now this passage starts out by giving us a lot of information… information that you wouldn’t see unless you were really looking closely for it. So for example: That word “oracle” there… it’s the Hebrew word “massah”. It literally means a burden or a heavy load. So it’s an “oracle” a vision or message from God, but it’s also a heavy load on Habakkuk once he sees it and hears it. In other words, God speaks to him and gives him this prophecy, and it’s a heavy thing for Habakkuk to bear. And here’s why… Habakkuk… in these verses we just read, is talking and praying to God and he’s saying, “God, this world is messed up. This world is wicked, and evil, and corrupt, and full of hate and violence, and full of selfishness, and sin… and I’ve been praying to you, but it seems like you’re far away from me God. It seems like you’re not hearing, or listening to my prayers. And God I know you’re a good God. I know you care about your people. I know that you can fix things, and change things… but it seems like this world is on fire and you’re not doing anything.”
That’s what Habakkuk is saying… and it’s a burden to him, because he doesn’t understand why God seems so distant and so unconcerned with what’s going on in the world.
Now I don’t know about you all, but I’d be willing to bet that at least some of us have felt that way before. You look around at the world and you see the crime, and immorality, and perversion, and wickedness and corruption and you’re like, “Lord please do something about this… this is getting to be too much. We know this isn’t pleasing to you.” Well this is what Habakkuk is doing in this passage that we’ve just read. And he’s burdened by the sin and evil and wickedness of the world around him. But as we go on next week, we’re going to see that Habakkuk is going to be burdened by God’s reply. Because sometimes the way God does things, isn’t the way we think that He should.
You see; God sees the wickedness of Habakkuk’s day… and God’s aware of it, and God’s going to do something about it. But it’s not what Habakkuk was expecting. Habakkuk want’s God to turn people’s hearts back to Him… He wants the people, and the society, and the culture around him to return to a Godly, and morally upright way of living, and what God does is say, “Nope. I’m not bringing restoration this time, I’m bringing judgment. You’re right Habakkuk, it’s gone on long enough, and it is detestable to me (the Bible says that the Lord is angry at sin every day), so I am going to do something about it. I’m going to bring the Chaldeans as the instrument of My judgment upon Israel.”
Now think about this for just a second Church… this would be like you and me praying and saying, “Ok Lord, please do something about the situation in America. There’s so much sin and wickedness going on around us. Corruption and violence. 700 + people being murdered in Chicago every year, 700 + people being murdered in Baltimore every year, 500 + people being murdered in Philadelphia every year… and we haven’t even gotten to the 50000 babies that are murdered legally in abortion clinics every year. Or homosexuality, or political corruption, or lawlessness on our borders.” And we should pray about these things, and ask for God’s help with these things… but imagine praying that and praying that the Lord would move upon this nation, and then God saying to us, “Yes, there is great evil in the land… I’m going to bring Muslims into America and have them attack America and destroy America as a judgment for this wickedness.” Well that’s pretty much what God is going to say to Habakkuk… and we’ll look at that next time. But I want you to understand why this is such a burden to him. I know that some translations say “oracle” but “burden” is the right translation…
And let me just say this really quickly – if you are close to God, and you’re walking with God, and you’re thinking God’s thoughts and the love of God has been shed abroad in your heart… there is a kind of burden that goes with that. The evil and sin around us should never be something that we just shrug off and say, “Oh well, that’s the way it is.” And the suffering that sin causes should cause our hearts to ache for people. When we see people whose lives have been damaged by sin… whether it’s their own, or just sin in the world… as followers of Christ, our hearts should be moved with compassion for people. And I’m not saying we don’t call people to accountability and that we excuse or ignore sinful behavior… but again; as followers of Christ, we understand that if not for the grace of God, that could just as easily be us as it is them. “If not for the grace of God – there go I”
And also… we’ve got to realize that as followers of Christ… as people who love God, and who believe in Jesus, we see this differently than the world does. Because the world looks at the evil and sin around them, and sometimes, they don’t even see it as sin. To the world, acceptance of a deviant lifestyle is a good thing. To the world, acceptance of false religions and godless atheism is a good thing. They don’t see abortion as sin, they don’t see homosexuality as sin, they see those things as actually being good things, and acceptable things. They don’t come at it from the understanding of a Christian who believes that there is a holy God, who is angry at sin every day.
And so in Habakkuk’s day, just like in our day, there are worldly people who don’t see things from a Biblical perspective. They don’t have a Biblical worldview, and so when you call them to holiness, and when you call them to repent, and you call them to live in a Godly manner, they look at you like you’re speaking another language to them.
Ok… let’s get back to the text. Habakkuk has this burden… and the initial burden is the apparent silence from God. But there’s another part to this that we need to look at as well… You see Habakkuk is not only burdened by all the sin and evil and iniquity he see’s going on in the world around him… and he’s not only burdened with what seems like God not acting to stop this stuff…
But there’s also the idea here that Habakkuk is burdened with the fact that it’s not just lost sinners who are acting wickedly… it’s also God’s own people.
I like the way R.C. Sproul says it. He says, “The prophet was grieved and shocked by how God’s people continually departed from covenant life. They no longer lived like a chosen and saved people.”
And I think it’s interesting that we’re beginning this series today… because it’s this time of year when we remember what happened 17 years ago when Muslim terrorists hijacked those planes and flew them into the twin towers in New York, and into the Pentagon, and the plane that crash landed in a Pennsylvania field. And today we have a memorial for those 3000 or so lives that were lost on that day, but it doesn’t even register that we lost 3000 babies due to abortion that very same day… and on the next day, and the next, and the next. In the 17 years since 9-11 in the United States alone, over 2,600,000 innocent babies have lost their lives. Habakkuk says, “There’s violence, iniquity, destruction strife, contention… all of this stuff is going on.” How are we any different?
And let me just give you the definition of those words….
VIOLENCE: In the Hebrew, this term is talking about the “deliberate, brutal, and insensitive infringement of the rights and privileges of members of God’s people.” In other words, there’s violence in the regular sense of the word, but it’s going beyond that… God’s faithful people are being persecuted, and attacked, and slandered, and losing their rights…
INIQUITY: That’s the inherent sinful behavior we have from Adam… so Habakkuk is saying he’s seeing people fall into these habitual sinful lifestyles… and that includes drunkenness, and debauchery, and immorality, and perversion, and wrath and anger, and hatefulness, treating others like dirt.
And he says that STRIFE AND CONTENTION ARISE: Basically that means that when wickedness goes unchecked it results in a divided community, where you see people getting suspicious of one another, and begin accusing one another of things (whether real or not), and people launch personal attacks on their neighbors. And then look at verse 4 (READ). The Law is paralyzed. Literally – “The Law has become numb.” In other words, Habakkuk is saying, “People have become desensitized to God’s standard of right and wrong.” What used to be seen as wicked and scandalous, and immoral and corrupt is just the new normal now. It’s the way things are.
Church, Habakkuk was seeing all of this and he’s crying out to God to intervene, and we should be doing the same, because the same kind of wickedness and lawlessness is in our world. But if God seems silent, that doesn’t mean that He’s not aware, and that He’s not working. But we need to really be aware that His answer to these problems may not be what we think it should be. God brought judgment upon His people, who were living in an ungodly, sinful way, by using another group of people who were even more ungodly. And what made it worse, was that they were pagans…
So God is going to act… and it’s not the way Habakkuk thought it would be, and the truth is, Habakkuk doesn’t know how to handle that, and he doesn’t know what to do about it. But here’s what he does know. He knows that God is a good God, and that if God is doing something, even when it’s not what you expect Him to do, it’s still good, and right, and better than anything you might think. And so ultimately Habakkuk is going to have to have faith like a child. He doesn’t understand everything his heavenly Father is doing, or going to do, but he trusts Him, and he knows that God loves and cares for him.
The question for you and me this morning is – DO WE KNOW THAT? Do we trust God like that?
Can you trust Him even when you don’t understand? Can you lean on Him, and rest in Him, or are you trying to get ahead of Him and get it done your way, and make it happen the way you think it should? It’s better to trust Him, to listen to Him, and obey Him.