Except for the first verse of chapter 2, all the second chapter is God’s response to Habakkuk’s second complaint. Habakkuk has questioned how God is going to judge the nation with such devastation when he had made a promise to Abraham about this nation would bring about the Messiah. Further, Habakkuk has questioned how God can use a more wicked nation to judge them. He has concluded his questioning of God by saying that he will wait watching for God’s response and how God will reprove him. There are two answers that God gives. The first answer is from verses 2-5 and the second answer is from verses 6-20. In this lesson we will concentrate on God’s first answer for Habakkuk.
Write The Vision (2:2)
The first instruction God gives to Habakkuk is to write the vision down on tablets. To write the message on tablets signifies the certainty of the coming judgment. Just as the ten commandments were written on two stone tablets signifying the permanence of the covenant God made with Israel so also the vision Habakkuk has seen being written on tablets signifies the certainty that what God has decreed. Further, the message was to be written plainly and clearly so that those who run can read it. This message is to be circulated through the land of Judah and the message must be written so that all who pass by will know the coming judgment.
Judgment Surely Coming (2:3)
The message is not a lie. This devastating judgment is coming with certainty even though it had not begun yet. God makes the point in verse 3 that the fulfillment of the vision awaits its appointed time. The judgment is coming quickly even though it may seem slow to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. God did not want his people to think that Habakkuk’s message was false simply because there would be an interval of time before it was fulfilled.
This is a common statement made by our Lord concerning his judgments. Wait for his judgments. His words and promises are certain. Even though his judgments are not immediate does not mean that God’s declaration will not be fulfilled. The apostle Peter made the same point to the dispersed Christians to whom he wrote.
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 ESV)
God has an appointed time for judgment. Wait for it.
Deliverance Not Found In Ourselves (2:4-5)
God is not wrong in bringing this judgment. Habakkuk has been crying out for judgment against his people because of their sins. God is using a sinful nation to judge a sinful nation. No one is innocent in this matter. “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him.” God tells us the problem that we have and it is arrogance. God makes it clear in verse 5, “An arrogant man is never at rest.” Our world tells us that the answer to our troubles is a high self-esteem. The world tells that we need to think better of ourselves and by doing so we can deliver ourselves from our problems and troubles. God says our problem is arrogance. Our souls are puffed. We are not upright people. We think too highly of ourselves. It is arrogance to think that we can deliver ourselves.
Further, God says our other problem is greed. The greed is as wide as the grave. Like death we never have enough (vs. 5). We are puffed up and our appetites are never satisfied. Life is all about us and what we can get out of life and what people will do for us. Our souls are puffed up and we are not upright at all. All the wealth you can possibly attain is not going to deliver you. Wealth does not fix all problems. If we are honest we will realize that wealth does not fix most problems and is the cause of many problems. You are arrogant to think that you can save yourself through your riches. You cannot save yourself from the coming judgment. We are always looking for more and never satisfied. Yet these things will not deliver on the day of God’s judgment.
Have you noticed that the more we turn to ourselves for the solutions to our problems, the more we make a mess of our lives and a mess of this world. Our answer to unhappy marriages has been divorce and remarriage. Our answer to unsatisfying sex lives is promiscuity. Our answer to unruly children is to not spank them. Our answer to sadness is drinking and debauchery. Our answer to happiness is by accumulating wealth. Our answer to happiness is to put the kids in daycare and have both mother and father work full time. Trying to fill the void in our lives with our own solutions only continues to leave the same void and we destroy our lives while thinking we are filling the void. Then we are still empty and left in a bigger mess so we try the next thing that is supposed to make us happy.
We learn something very important from God’s description of uprightness. Outward conformity to God’s requirements is not holiness or uprightness. Don’t forget that this judgment is coming against those who were the people of God. But their outward presentation of holiness did not equal to an upright heart. Doing external acts for God does not mean that we have an upright heart.
The Righteous Live By His Faith (2:4)
The righteous, however, do not live by arrogance or accumulation of wealth. The righteous are not delivered by improving their self-esteem. In the face of judgment, difficult times, and perplexing times, the righteous do not live by relying on wine or wealth. In the face of perplexing times the righteous live by their faith. The righteous put their trust in God. The righteous do not live by their knowledge, by their pride, by their achievements, or by their arrogance. The righteous live by their faith. In contrast to the self-reliance of the arrogant, the righteous rely on God to solve their problems. This means we put our trust in God during the dark times in our lives when we cannot see God at work. The wicked rely on themselves while the righteous rely on God and his promises. This is the way the righteous live everyday. This is a powerful statement to tell Habakkuk, as an answer to his complaints, that the righteous live by their faith. To put this point in its context, we need to understand what the Babylonians were going to do to Jerusalem.
The book of Lamentations was probably written by Jeremiah recording the devastation inflicted.
My eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns; my bile is poured out to the ground because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, because infants and babies faint in the streets of the city. They cry to their mothers, “Where is bread and wine?” as they faint like a wounded man in the streets of the city, as their life is poured out on their mothers’ bosom. (Lamentations 2:11–12 ESV)
Look, O LORD, and see! With whom have you dealt thus? Should women eat the fruit of their womb, the children of their tender care? Should priest and prophet be killed in the sanctuary of the Lord? In the dust of the streets lie the young and the old; my young women and my young men have fallen by the sword; you have killed them in the day of your anger, slaughtering without pity. (Lamentations 2:20–21 ESV)
Her princes were purer than snow, whiter than milk; their bodies were more ruddy than coral, the beauty of their form was like sapphire. Now their face is blacker than soot; they are not recognized in the streets; their skin has shriveled on their bones; it has become as dry as wood. Happier were the victims of the sword than the victims of hunger, who wasted away, pierced by lack of the fruits of the field. The hands of compassionate women have boiled their own children; they became their food during the destruction of the daughter of my people. The LORD gave full vent to his wrath; he poured out his hot anger, and he kindled a fire in Zion that consumed its foundations. (Lamentations 4:7–11 ESV)
The righteous lives by his faith. The righteous trusts God even when devastation as horrific as the book of Lamentations describes takes place. It is important to capture what God is saying. God is not telling Habakkuk that we are justified by faith. God is telling Habakkuk that those who are justified live by faith. This statement to Habakkuk that the righteous live by faith is quoted three times in the New Testament. Paul quotes Habakkuk in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11 and the writer of Hebrews quotes Habakkuk in Hebrews 10:37-38. I do not have the time to discuss those three quotations in this lesson. We will go over these quotations in the Wednesday Bible class. In our last minute I would like to simply summarize the points made in these three places.
The writer of Hebrews uses Habakkuk to make the point they need to persevere through their suffering and continue to do the will of God because the righteous live by faith. The righteous trust in the promises of God and remain faithful to the Lord through suffering. Paul uses the quotation in Galatians 3:11 to show that the righteous put their trust in God because no one is justified before God by the law. No one has been obedient to God’s law and we must therefore put our trust in him to save us because we cannot save ourselves. Paul uses the quotation in Romans 1:17 to show that God has been faithful to keep his word which is seen in Christ. God’s righteousness has been revealed through Christ. Therefore the one who has right standing before God is the one who trusts in God’s promises.