Thank you for joining me for the book of Habakkuk! Just a couple of comments before we start:
- Don’t just accept my word, or anyone’s word, for things relating to Scripture. Acts 17v11. It’s your responsibility to search the Scriptures to find truth, and to discard what you can’t find written in it.
- With that said…no translations are 100% accurate. As far as possible I am going to be using the NKJV, but every now and then I might insert a verse as close to the original Hebrew text as possible so that we can get a clearer and more accurate understanding of that verse. A site that is really helpful in helping you to study the Bible is biblehub.com. I also find the Hebrew to English (or vice versa) translate tool invaluable. These can be found on google.
We will begin by reading a short portion: Habakkuk 1:1-4
Other than what he recorded, we know very little about Habakkuk. We know his name and that he was a prophet of the L-rd. We can also surmise that he lived before the Babylonian captivity. Prior to the time of the fulfilment of this prophecy, the great enemy of Israel was the Assyrians. When the Assyrian rule weakened, the Babylonians (also called Chaldeans) conquered them, and rose to the position of world superpower. The Babylonian empire neither feared nor served G-d (although He used them, and their evil, for His purposes – as an instrument of punishment). They were responsible for bringing about oppression and exile to the people they conquered. G-d was not pleased with the Babylonians. He is not going to reward them for the punishment and suffering that they inflicted upon those in Judea. Ultimately, G-d is going to punish them for their disobedience, wickedness, and evil desires.
v1: Burden (מַּשָׂא): No burden is pleasant. Habakkuk’s prophecy, like so many other prophecies G-d gave to His prophets, was not pleasing to the people. Words of judgement and of discipline are difficult to hear. Never-the-less, they are words that need to sometimes be spoken. Habakkuk was faithful to speak these difficult words to the people. This reveals to us that he was a man who was willing to speak the truth without compromise, regardless of the consequences. We can also surmise that Habakkuk had a relationship with G-d – he heard from G-d.
- Saw (חָזָ֔ה): Received, gazed upon. This is a difficult word to translate, but its meaning is not difficult to understand. It is a word that means ‘vision’ but is written in a verbal form (a doing word). Habakkuk was allowed to gaze upon, perceive, contemplate what was going to take place. He saw it, and therefore he spoke it to the people.
v2: Note: The first thing that Habakkuk did was to help the people understand why G-d had given him the vision of judgement. He wanted the people to know why G-d was displeased with them. What was the foundational reason for G-d bringing judgment upon His covenant people? i.e. Why did He bring the Babylonians (the Chaldeans) to the land of Israel?
- How long shall I cry: A plea. Habakkuk was rightly able to discern that the people were living rebelliously, unrighteously, and in conflict with the commands/instructions of G-d. He was therefore beseeching G-d for assistance. He wanted to know how long he needed to cry out before G-d responded and did something to bring about a change – perhaps Habakkuk was hoping that G-d would move in such a way that the people would repent, amend their ways and embrace the Word of G-d without the need for judgement. We know from history, however, that this was not the case. G-d did eventually end His patient long suffering, but His response was to move in judgement against His people.
- Cry: The word used here could be translated ‘yelling’ or ‘shrieking’. It is a very loud cry; one that demands attention. Habakkuk wanted G-d’s attention. He was desperate for G-d to bring about a positive (G-dly) change in the behaviour of the children of Judah. Habakkuk was grieved, as he knew that if there was no change the people would go into exile.
Note: The Judeans (those who were in the Southern kingdom of Israel – Israel, the Northern kingdom, had already been dissolved at this time) were going to experience the same fate that their Northern counterpart had experienced. They were simply going to have a different punisher – instead of the Assyrians they were going to be punished by the Babylonians.
- Violence: [חָמָ֖ס (ḥā·mās)]. People who carry out this kind of violence do it on purpose, as they delight in inflicting pain and suffering on others. The first time we see this word mentioned in the Bible is at the time of the flood (Gen 6:11). This violence was one of the reasons which caused G-d to send the flood. The use of this word here indicates to us where the people of Judah were at spiritually at the time of Habakkuk. They were not only practising disobedient things but, more than that, they were delighting in doing them. Rather than reflecting the character of G-d, the people were reflecting the character of satan.
- You will not hear…You will not save: Up to this point there has been no response from G-d. He is patient and longsuffering, restraining Himself and thereby giving people the time and opportunity to repent – even though righteousness would demand that He respond immediately (2 Peter 3:9). However, there comes a time when G-d’s relenting comes to an end (Jer15:6) and He says ‘Enough!’ Judgment on the horizon was now the vision that Habakkuk saw.
v3: Show me…and cause me to see: This vision would have been unsettling for Habakkuk.He had been made to intentionallylook or gaze upon the wickedness and trouble taking place in Judah. He would not have enjoyed looking at how Israel had gone in the wrong direction. The people of G-d were out of position. They had wilfully placed themselves into an unrighteous state.
- Iniquity/Wickedness: (אָוֶן): The people practiced wickedness, sought it out, and desired it. They were not acting in ignorance but were intentionally rebelling against G-d.
- Trouble: When someone does something that is incorrect (against the proper order of things) the result/outcome/consequence is going to be trouble.
- Contention: Conflict. The people in Judah strongly disagreed with G-d and His ways.
- Strife and contention arises: This means that there was going to be an escalating prevalence of this type of behaviour. People were not practicing love for one another. As each pursued their own desires, the desires of others became a hinderance and a point of contention between people (James 4:1-2).
v4: Therefore: Because of wickedness and wrong behaviour (strife, lack of love between people, no one understanding their responsibilities to G-d and to their fellow man) something happened.
- The law is powerless – (תָּפ֣וּג – a ‘ceasefire’ in modern Hebrew). The Torah (The first 5 books of the Old Testament) was no longer practiced. It was no longer taught and no longer revered. The people had no interest in the law of G-d.
Note: When we become saved (through faith in Yeshua) the Holy Spirit begins to move in our lives. We become new creations (2 Cor 5:17). As we submit to His leadership and guidance, He leads us into all truth (John 16:13). The Spirit of G-d will create in us a desire to obey and fulfil the commandments of G-d – not according to the oldness of the letter, but according to the newness that the Spirit brings (Roms 7:6).
- Justice/Judgement: Prophecy is, by and large, poetic in nature. Here we see a relationship between the Torah (law) and judgement (or justice – a putting of things into order). It is through the Torah that we are given the framework, the understanding, to know what G-dly justice is and how it can be achieved. In the past, the elders would sit at the gate of the city and would render judgment (according to G-d’s terms of justice – what must be done, how the situation needed to be handled, etc) according to what they heard (Ruth 4, Prov 31:23). In the New Testament nothing has changed. The standard of justice remains the same and it is this standard that should be taught and adhered to. We are supposed to demonstrate the commandments in the newness and fullness of the Spirit – whole heartedly fulfilling the purposes of G-d, not simply skidding through and doing the letter of the law (the bare minimum).
- Wicked: (רָשָׁע֙): The intentional conduct of the people. Their behaviour was wilfully in conflict with the instructions of G-d. They were not ignorant, but were flagrantly rebellious and disobedient, choosing to do evil rather than good.
- Surround or Crowns (מַכְתִּ֣יר): Most Bibles will translate this as ‘Wickedness will surroundthe righteous’. However, this word also means ‘crowns’ which would give this sentence a slightly different slant: ‘Wickedness crownsthe righteous’. The implication is that either the righteous ones have been defeated or conquered and so are unable to function correctly due to a corrupt environment (going with the first translation of the word), or the righteous have themselves become corrupted (crowned with wickedness). Either way, there is a moral and spiritual decay among people.
- Perverse judgement/“Justice”: The decisions of the leadership (the elders) and what the priests were teaching was not true justice – they altered justice to suit their own desires and to suit the desires of the people. In the books of some of the other prophets, we read that the judges, elders and priests often made their decisions based on bribes.
- Perverse (מְעֻקָּֽל): Bent or distorted. Perverted. Judah was thoroughly corrupt and did not have any desire to change.