Summary: Habakkuk 2


A 50-second commercial from India features a young man standing by the road and an elderly woman sitting on a bench. The young man was enjoying a chocolate bar nearby when the woman dropped her walking stick by mistake. She asked him, “Young man, can you pick up my walking stick?” The young man said, “Yes,” but he did nothing, not moving an inch from the pillar he was leaning on.

The elderly woman then resignedly got up, stepped down the curb to pick up the stick herself. At that very moment, a giant piano fell from the sky to land on the bench where she was sitting moments ago. They both looked at each other and the sky in astonishment, and she said to the young man, “Thank you for doing nothing,” to which he replied, “It’s my pleasure.”

The ad ends with the product’s new taglines — “Sometimes, try doing nothing.”

In first chapter 1 the person who did all the talking was Habakkuk, but in chapter 2 the Lord did most of the taking except verse 1. The last time we were in chapter 1 the Israelites had a startling message. To their cry of injustice, God said He will use the Babylonians to punish the Assyrians who invaded and exiled the Israelites. To Habakkuk, the second or the latter was worse than the first or former. Wasn’t it better for God to leave things unattended as it was? It was unexpected, unusual and upsetting at the best. In chapter 1 was the conquest of the Babylonians, but in chapter spelled their condemnation.

Where is God when the world needs Him? What is God doing to correct the wrongs around us? Why is God not more visible or vocal?

You Might Be Disturbed, But Do Not Be Disgruntled

1 I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.

The preacher bought a lawn mower at a yard sale. “It runs great,” the seller said.

The next day the preacher brought it back. “Runs great? I couldn’t even start it!”

“Oh, it runs just fine,” the seller said with a smile, “but in order to start it you first have to cuss up a storm.”

“I’m not sure I can do that,” the pastor protested indignantly. “I haven’t used that language in years.” “Not to worry,” the seller said. “Just keep pulling on the start cord and it will all come back to you in no time.”

Habakkuk no longer courteously addressed the Lord as Lord” as in chapter 1 (1:2). The verbs “stand,” “station” and “look” are cohortatives – an imperative to oneself, translated as “Let me stand. let me station… let me look.” A Hebrew cohortative is an indirect imperative and not a direct imperative because, unlike the imperative which is directed to the second person (“you”), the writer commanded himself in the first person and not others. It was spoken with spunk, swagger and stubbornness. The three verbs corresponds to “stand, sit and see,” of which the last is to lean forward, look far and to wait for. There is a defiant, disputing and dare attitude. A see for yourself, look and see, and don’t you see attitude?

The noun “watch/station” (v 1) is translated as charge (Gen 26:5), keep (Ex 12:6), ordinance (Lev 18:30), safeguard (1 Sam 22:23), ward (2 Sam 20:3), watch (2 Kings 11:5) and office (2 Chron 7:6); it is derived from the verb “keep.” Habakkuk considered himself the champion, the crusader and the custodian of Israel. Weren’t they God’s people, the chosen people and the apple of God’s eye? This is unacceptable, inappropriate and unjust. Unlike the other two disturbed prophets who fled – Elijah lodging in a cave (1 Kings 19:9) and Jonah sleeping on a ship (Jonah 1:5), Habakkuk did not abandon his “watch” or station.

The noun “complaint” occurs 28 times in the Bible - reproof (14x), rebuke (7x), reproved (2x). The prophet risked being rebuffed, rebutted and reproached. He was prepared to intercede for Israel, instruct the Lord and inject his opinion, even at the risk of irritating Him, infuriating and insulting Him. Habakkuk was a prophet who kept watch with an attitude, an agenda and an appraisal.

The verb answer (v 1) is a minority translation (18x), whereas the majority translations are return (391x), again (248x) and turn (123x). No matter Habakkuk must have and will have his say even if he stood chastened, corrected and condemned. God uses us even when we frustrated, fiery and feisty.

You Might Be Disappointed, But Do Not Be Daunted

2 Then the Lord replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. 3 For 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. 4 “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness— 5 indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples. 6 “Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying, “‘Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion! How long must this go on?’ 7 Will not your creditors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their prey. 8 Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them. 9 “Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain, setting his nest on high to escape the clutches of ruin! 10 You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life. 11 The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it. 12 “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice! 13 Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? 14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. 15 “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies! 16 You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and let your nakedness be exposed! The cup from the Lord’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory. 17 The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, and your destruction of animals will terrify you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them. 18 “Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman? Or an image that teaches lies? For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak. 19 Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it.”

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