The Old Testament book of the prophet Habakkuk isn’t one that often gets preached. That doesn’t mean, though, that it won’t “preach.” This is evidenced by the fact that it is quoted multiple times in the New Testament.
The apostle Paul particularly loved the book. He closed his sermon at Antioch in Pisidia by quoting Habakkuk 1:5 (Acts 13:41), and he quoted Habakkuk 2:4 in both Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11. The verse is also quoted in Hebrews 10:38, if Paul was the writer of Hebrews. These three verses each give us the famous line: “The just shall live by faith.” That line, of course, changed the entire ministry of a Catholic monk named Martin Luther, and in so doing gave birth to the Protestant Reformation.
Commentator William MacDonald describes Habakkuk as “the doubting Thomas of the OT” because of the prophet’s frequent complaints to God about His seeming indifference to the violence, iniquity, and injustice that characterized Habakkuk’s homeland of Judah. Consider the following quotes from Habakkuk:
- “O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ and You will not save.” (1:2)
- “Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; there is strife, and contention arises.” (1:3)
- “Therefore the law is powerless, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore perverse judgment proceeds.” (1:4)
If Habakkuk wanted to get God’s attention with his complaints, it worked. Unfortunately for Habakkuk, it didn’t work the way he wanted it to work. God responded to the prophet’s complaints by explaining that He was raising up the nation of Chaldea (Babylon) to conquer Judah (Habakkuk 1:5-11). Ironically, that explanation prompted a new round of complaints from Habakkuk as the prophet couldn’t believe that God would let a people even more wicked than those of Judah conquer them (Habakkuk 1:12-17). Poor God, He just couldn’t win with Habakkuk.
To answer Habakkuk’s second round of complaining, God assured him that there would come a day when the Babylonians themselves would be brought down by judgment because of their many sins (2:2-20). That assurance was followed by Habakkuk offering a prayer of faith concerning the omnipotence and military might of God (3:1-16). Habakkuk closed his prayer by affirming that he would rejoice in the Lord even in the bleakest times that would be brought about by the Babylonian invasion (3:17-18), and that his trust in the Lord would surely be rewarded as God would renew his strength (3:19).
And so what lessons can we learn from the book of Habakkuk? Allow me to offer ten as I close out this post. Feel free to apply these any way that fits regarding your life.
- From an earthly standpoint, the wicked do sometimes triumph over the godly.
- God hears the cries of the godly when the wicked rule and justice is perverted,
- God doesn’t always send His judgment in the way in which we want Him to send it.
- You should be careful what you ask God to do because you might not like how He does it.
- God has no qualms about using the wicked to chastise His people.
- Even as God uses the wicked in His service, He has plans to judge them.
- God’s plans are oftentimes incredibly far reaching.
- Only a God as mighty and as omnipotent as God can let things get so ungodly upon the earth and yet remain unthreatened and completely in charge.
- The godly should rejoice in the Lord — simply because of Him being who He is — even when times are difficult.
- God will strengthen the godly and exalt them in due time.