Book of Habakkuk Chapter
One Commentary by
Audio Sermon 1/30/11 – Habakkuk 1
The Chaldeans Are Coming!
Not much is known of this writer, “Habakkuk.” His name is derived from the verb “habaq,” which meant “to embrace.” His name is best translated “One who embraces” or “clings.” He identifies himself as a “prophet” in Habakkuk 3:1, which may indicate that he was one of many professional prophets in the little nation of Judah. He ends the book: “To the Chief Musician, with my stringed instruments,” suggesting that he was connected with the temple worship in Jerusalem. In his time, Babylon had become a world empire and the book was likely written during the early part of Jehoiakim’s reign, which was from 609-597 BC. Jehoiakim was a godless king who led Judah down the road to destruction. In 612 BC, Babylon destroyed the Assyrian capital of Ninevah. Nebuchadnezzar came to power in 605 BC and was to deport ten thousand of Jerusalem’s leaders to Babylon. This book was prior to the Babylonian invasion and was probably written in 607 BC, about six hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ.
“The oracle which Habakkuk the prophet saw” as recorded in Verse One is a prophecy, a “burden;” something that deeply troubled him and was beyond his ability to change it. And so He went to God and told Him about it. Are you troubled? Tell the Lord, for He will listen and He will respond, either in words as it was for Habakkuk, or in the resulting circumstances of your life.
Habakkuk was deeply concerned about the sinful acts that surrounded him in Jerusalem and his cares are spelled out in Verses 2-4: “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear? I cry out to You, 'Violence!' Yet You do not save. Why do You make me see iniquity, and cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; strife exists and contention arises. Therefore the law is ignored and justice is never upheld for the wicked surround the righteous; therefore justice comes out perverted.”
It is probable that the writer had been crying out to the Lord for a long, long time. Justice was being perverted. When a case went to court the decision was not made on the basis of the law or for the protection of the weak, it was based on who paid the highest bribe. Habakkuk had personally seen numerous examples of the “violence… iniquity… wickedness… destruction… contention…” and perverted justice that filled his city and nation. And he wished he had never seen or understood any of it. This was his nation! Worse, this was GOD’s nation and the place was so evil that nothing made any sense to him at all. We see this in our lives, don’t we? One of the most seemingly senseless events in our lives is the death of a loved one. They’re gone! It’s as though a part of me is gone! What can I do? We need to pray – we must go to the Lord!
And then in Verse 5, the Lord began to answer. He said, and you can almost hear the excitement as He shared with His prophet: “Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days - You would not believe if you were told.” At this point, everything changed for Habakkuk – God was answering his need. Now something would be done about His concerns! But then in Verse 6 came the surprise, for the Lord said, “… behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that fierce and impetuous people who march throughout the earth to seize dwelling places which are not theirs.” And the Lord continued in Verses 7-11 with a description of those fierce Babylonian warriors, often called Chaldeans:
“They are dreaded and feared; their justice and authority originate with themselves. Their horses are swifter than leopards and keener than wolves in the evening. Their horsemen come galloping, their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swooping down to devour. All of them come for violence. Their horde of faces moves forward. They collect captives like sand.” Habakkuk was shocked into silence as the Lord continued in Verses 10-11 - “They mock at kings and rulers are a laughing matter to them. They laugh at every fortress and heap up rubble to capture it. Then they will sweep through like the wind and pass on but they will be held guilty, they whose strength is their god.”
Amazing. You can almost FEEL Habakkuk’s stunned silence as he pondered these unexpected words from the Lord. He had thought that God might well respond, but not this way! His heart seemed caught in his throat. And then, when he was able, he spoke to the Lord once more:
In Verses 12-13, Habakkuk said, “Are You not from everlasting, O Lord, my God, my Holy One? We will not die. You, O Lord, have appointed them to judge; and You, O Rock, have established them to correct. Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You cannot look on wickedness with favor. Why do You look with favor on those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they?” When something in our lives just seems – WRONG! When events happen that are too disturbing for us to accept, we tend to question God. Doesn’t He live in heaven? Isn't He holy? Doesn’t He know what is needed? How could this happen to my nation, my people, my family, to me? Does He even exist? Does He care?
How could I lose my loved one? How could it be that the one who cheated and lied got the promotion and I was fired? I’ve tried to live a good life – why do I have cancer? It’s not possible but the doctor is saying that I have just a few weeks to live! “Why do You (seem to) look with favor on those who deal treacherously?” Why do the good seem to die young?
In Verse 14, Habakkuk continued to ask, “Why have You made men like the fish of the sea, like creeping things without a ruler over them?” Fish swim in what we call “schools” but it seems like no one is leading them. And then the net comes or the hook and many are taken away. As Habakkuk put it in Verse 15 - “The Chaldeans bring all of them up with a hook, drag them away with their net, and gather them together in their fishing net. Therefore (the Chaldeans) rejoice and are glad.”
And these Chaldeans, these Babylonians did and would happily do exactly what Habakkuk said – They would sweep over a nation like Judah and put hooks through their lips or noses, throw nets over the unwilling and drag the people away. Young men, young women, boys and girls, children like Daniel and his friends as we see in the Book of Daniel, were taken away and placed into harems or forced as slaves to literally be worked to death. “Why?” Habakkuk demanded.
The prophet was now clearly seeing God’s solution to the abject sin of his nation, Judah. It was to bring the armies of an even worse nation, Babylon, and ruin his people, his country. Habakkuk began to point out to the Lord something about the Babylonians that he thought God might have “overlooked” – This vestige of the nation Israel, Judah, was God’s chosen people! Yes they were sinners who had done terrible things, but the Babylonians were far worse!. As he continued in Verse 16, he shouted, “Therefore they offer a sacrifice to their net and burn incense to their fishing net; because through these things their catch is large, and their food is plentiful.”
They’re idolaters! They worship things like fishing nets, thinking that the things of this world are somehow “gods” that will deliver them. And he concluded this chapter by asking the Lord in Verse 17, “Will they therefore empty their net and continually slay nations without sparing?" The Babylonians obviously would continue capturing nations and enslaving people. They were evil. Doesn’t the Lord understand? And the answer is – yes, He does. He knows about the injustices in your family, in your nation, and even better than you know yourself – in you! He knows me. He knows us all. And if it seems, as it did for Habakkuk, that the cure is worse than the sickness, we must trust in Him, for He does indeed know what He is doing.
Lord, there is much I do not understand, but You do, and I place my trust in You. In Jesus Name. Amen.