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Surprises in the life of faith

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Surprises in the life of faith

Habakkuk 1:1-5

Habakkuk is a book of surprises!

Life is full of surprises. Some of them are good, some are bad. Walking with God is a life of surprises.

1. Habakkuk’s name (name was a part of identity)

Hebrew: Habakkuk – ‘to embrace,’ points out closeness to God.

Assyrian: Hambakuku: Assyrian plant, probably ‘cucumber’, which shows an influence of the Assyrian, pagan culture.

God deals with names. In the Bible we have 41 genealogies and they show that names are important for God. Sometimes God changed names.

The reference in 1:1 to Habakkuk as ‘the prophet’ may imply that he was well known.

He is a true prophet with a burning zeal for the glory of the Lord. His ‘burden’ or ‘oracle’ (1:1) is remarkable in that it is not, in the first place, a word directed to the people, but an answer to his own painful questions.

2. Time of Habakkuk

Objective evidence for dating Habakkuk’s prophetic activity is provided by 1:6. The reference to the Chaldeans, or Neo-Babylonians, as the threatening new world power indicates a period after the collapse of the Assyrian Empire (612–605 b.c.) but before the Chaldean armies of Nebuchadnezzar II captured Jerusalem and deported the young king Jehoiachin to Babylon in 597 b.c. (2 Kings 24:8–17). Habakkuk apparently ministered during Jehoiakim’s reign (609–598 b.c.) and was a younger contemporary of Jeremiah.

An important event during this period was the battle of Carchemish in 605 b.c., when Pharaoh Necho II and his Egyptian army, who had come to assist the Assyrians against Babylon, were soundly defeated by Nebuchadnezzar II. Soon afterward, Judah also, like the other previously independent kingdoms of Syro-Palestine, became subject to the powerful Neo-Babylonians. Habakkuk’s inspired vision therefore may be dated to the period between 605 and 600 b.c. when the Babylonians became the dominant force on the international scene, mercilessly sweeping aside all opposition (1:5–17).

This time of international threat coincided with a period of increasing moral and spiritual deterioration in Judah. The evil reign of Jehoiakim formed a sad contrast to that of his father, the good king Josiah (Jer. 22:13–19; 26:20–23). Josiah had instituted spiritual reforms in Judah (2 Kings 22:23). He abolished the idolatrous practices of his father Amon (2 Kings 21:20-22) and his grandfather Manasseh (2 Kin. 21:11-13).As they flouted the covenant laws, the people of Judah increasingly lost their unique character (1:2–4).

Habakkuk questions God’s silence and apparent lack of punishment (Hab. 1:1-2) to purge His people, but the sovereign God was still on His throne.

3. Habakkuk’s ministry – dialogue with God

Prophets were not only inspired preachers of divine messages to the people of God; they also shared the Lord’s burden for His broken world and His profound worry for His people. In this respect, Habakkuk very much resembles Jeremiah. However, even more so than with Jeremiah, Habakkuk’s dialogue with God and his continual prayers (2:1-2; 3:2, 16) take the place of prophetic preaching as the heart of the message.

Habakkuk, a man with a very strong passion for the honour of God (1:12; 3:3), experienced a deep spiritual crisis because of the Lord’s seeming lack of interest to the terrible spiritual situation of His people (1:2–4). The absence of covenant life and obedience was dangerous to the people of God, but even more it was a refusal of the covenant with the Lord and an affront to Him. Since only Divine involvement could change this deadly situation, Habakkuk was determined in his request to the heavenly Judge, even when it seemed to be hopeless (1:2).

In response, the Lord revealed that the Chaldeans now appearing on the picture of history (1:6) would be His instruments of judgment. This treatment seemed even worse than the illness and only added to the prophet’s pain (1:12–17). How could the holy God, who cannot endure wrong (1:13), make use of such wicked people to fulfill His purposes? God’s reply, that He was sending the Chaldeans to judge Judah (1:5-11), creates an even greater theological dilemma for Habakkuk. Why did not God cleanse His people and reinstate their righteousness.

Certain that the events of history were not determined by blind chance but by the righteous and holy God of Israel, Habakkuk waited on the Lord until he received an answer to his hurting questions (2:1). The Lord’s reply came in the vision introduced in 2:2, 3, which provides a correct perspective on history and gives the Divine guarantee about its outcome. This answer does not resolve all the painful questions, but it does instruct God’s people about the way of covenant life in the here and now (2:3, 4). That way is to persevere in hope, waiting with confidence for the fulfillment of the Lord’s unfailing promise. Although God’s ways may be not understood, His purposes are consistent. They culminate in real life for the faithful, but woe and death for the self-sufficient and arrogant (2:4). The Lord’s presence in His temple affirms His Lordship over history and assures us that in the end, His genuine claim to the whole world will be universally recognized (2:14, 20; Is. 45:21–25; 1 Cor. 15:24–28).

The revelation of the Lord’s sovereignty over history transforms Habakkuk’s objection into a hymn of joy (3:2–20). Instead of passively waiting for Divine intervention, he now prayed positively that the Lord would act in harmony with the deeds and qualities He displayed in the Exodus and at Sinai. Anticipating the future, Habakkuk in his prayer celebrates the Lord’s coming (3:3–7), His judgment against nature and the nations (3:8–12), and His triumph over all opposition (3:13–15). From this perspective of faith, even the threat of severe calamity could not stop Habakkuk’s overwhelming joy in expectation of the coming salvation, a salvation guaranteed by the Lord’s faithfulness to Himself and to His revelation (3:17–19).

Dr. Czeslaw Bassara ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ;

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