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Sunday, July 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Habakkuk 2

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-20

Shall we turn at this time to the book of Habakkuk.

Very little is known concerning the personal background of Habakkuk. Very little, nothing is known. We don't know really anything about his background. There are indications from the book itself that he was of a priestly family, perhaps one of the priests in Israel. He addresses the last chapter, which is a psalm, he addresses it to, "the chief singer on my stringed instrument." And that was usually the place of the priests who were, many of them, God had called them for the purpose of providing music in the temple. So Habakkuk could've been just one of the temple priests.

The time of his prophecy is not declared, as so often at the beginning of a prophecy the prophet will declare, "Who prophesied during the reigns of Josiah, and Jehoiakim," and so forth. He doesn't tell us the time of his prophesies. But, again, from the prophecy itself, from the book itself, we realize that there is a great spiritual declension and the impending invasion of Babylon. Many put the prophecy during the reign of Josiah, however, during the reign of Josiah there was more or less a spiritual revival in Judah. After the evil, wicked reign of Manasseh, Josiah came along and instituted many spiritual reforms. The discovery again of the law of God, the instituting again of the Passover festivals, and there was a great spiritual revival under Josiah.

In chapter 1, Habakkuk is complaining against the tremendous spiritual declension, and thus, probably towards the end of the reign of Josiah, and then, of course, the reign of Jehoiachin and Jehoiakim. It is in the final period of the national deterioration prior to falling to Babylon. And, of course, Habakkuk is prophesying of Babylon's coming invasion and being used as a rod of God to punish God's people.

So he begins,

The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see ( Habakkuk 1:1 ).

It begins with a cry unto the Lord. Now Habakkuk had a very beautiful and close relationship with God. The word Habakkuk means embracer, and Habakkuk embraced the Lord and was embraced by the Lord. So he begins with a prayer unto the Lord.

O LORD, how long shall I cry, and you will not hear! even cry out unto you of the violence, and you do not save! Why do you show me iniquity, and cause me to behold these grievances? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are those that raise up strife and contention. Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment never goes forth: for the wicked encompass the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceeds ( Habakkuk 1:2-4 ).

So the complaint against God because of the deteriorating conditions of the country, the land. It seems as though the stem of evil, or the tide of evil, is not being stemmed by God. "Lord, how long will I cry to You of these things that are taking place, and You don't answer, You don't hear, You don't respond? God, there's such a horrible deterioration in the land. There is such moral corruption. There's such an overwhelming tide of evil, and the whole nation is just going down so rapidly. God, You don't seem to be doing anything about it. We pray; we cry unto You, but it seems like evil is prevailing, and that the evil persons are prevailing. As the result, righteous judgment no longer proceeds."

The effect of the moral declension of the nation is reflected in the judicial system. So that the law is slacked and judgment does not go forth. I think of things that are going on in our own area here. I am deeply concerned for the judicial system. Last year this young man John Hinkley attempted to assassinate the President, and we're all aware of the incidents that took place on that fateful day. A couple of weeks later, in Italy a young man attempted to assassinate the Pope. Now he has already had his day in court and was tried, and is now serving his sentence. Hinkley hasn't even come up for trial yet. Now there's something wrong with the judicial system that it's so cumbersome, that here he is not even yet up for trial, and over in Italy those who kidnapped Dozier just recently are already in court being tried.

I was reading where this big drug bust in Newport Beach recently where a million dollars worth of cocaine was recovered from a house up in Spy Glass Hill. Though they found the cocaine there and everything else, they did not have a proper reason to search them. Therefore, they've been dismissed and are now scott free, out buying more drugs, and back into their trade.

Something's wrong with the judicial system that releases known criminals who have even confessed their crimes, but just because of a failure to inform them of their rights before their confession, they're allowed to go free. Or because they were accomplices together in the murder, and though they admitted, both of them, to being involved, each one said the other one did it. And because they can't testify against each other in such a case, they let them both go free. Such was the case of the two young men who murdered my friend Ray Boatright. There's something wrong. The law is slack; judgment does not go forth. That is a mark of a declining moral state, a weakness of a nation. When a body gets so sick that it can no longer purge itself of its poisons, that body will soon die. When we've become so weak in our judicial system that we cannot purge our society of the poison within the society, you can be sure that that society hasn't long to live.

"The wicked compass about the righteous." It would seem that the humanistic, liberal concepts are being embraced by the majority of the people. That those who would dare to stand up for morality and righteousness and pure living are considered as archaic, Victorian, and all of the other names that they call it.

So the prophet Habakkuk sees all these things. He cries out unto the Lord, but it seems like God isn't doing anything about it. It seems like things are just getting worse, there's no change. It seems like their nation is just sliding down more rapidly all the time. So he is distraught. He says, "Lord, I'd just as soon You not show me anything else."

I've really gotten to that place almost myself. Someone came up this morning and said they now have X-rated radio in several of the major cities of the United States. Some radio stations have gone to what they call X-rated programming, in which they use all kinds of filthy language and get into all kinds of filthy type of diatribe and stories and everything else. It says that they are such a tremendous success and have such a large listening audience among the young people, that it's about the greatest success story that's come in radio for a long time, X-rated radio.

I said, "Lord, please don't let me know anything else. I can't take it. Lord, this whole corrupt system seems to be getting worse all the time, and You're not doing anything about it."

"Lord, I cried unto You," he said. "How long shall I cry and You don't seem to hear me?" So the Lord responded to Habakkuk, verse Habakkuk 2:5 , and He said,

Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I will work a work in your days, which you will not believe, though it be told you ( Habakkuk 1:5 ).

Now the prophet was saying, "God, please don't show me anything else, because the whole thing is deteriorating so rapidly, and You're doing nothing about it." God in essence responded, "I am doing something. I am working. I'm doing a work in your day, and if it were told to you, you wouldn't believe it." The prophet more or less said, "Try me." And so the Lord went on. He said,

For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwelling places that are not theirs. They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves. Their horses are swifter than leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves: and their horsemen shall spread themselves, and their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly as the eagle that hasteth to eat. They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand. And they shall scoff at the kings, and the princes shall be a scorn unto them: they shall deride every stronghold; for they shall heap dust, and take it. Then shall his mind change, and he shall pass over, and offend, imputing this his power unto his god ( Habakkuk 1:6-11 ).

So the Lord said, "I am working, and what I am doing is I am gathering together the Babylonian nations, the Chaldeans, and they are going to come with their swift army. They are going to move through the breadth of this land and conquer it, and destroy the houses of these people."

So he predicts the impending invasion and victory of Babylon over Judah. But then he says when they have conquered, then they are gonna make a mistake, and they are going to attribute the fact that they had been able to conquer Judah to their god being superior to the God of Israel.

Now when God revealed His plan to Habakkuk to use the evil nation of Babylon as an instrument to bring defeat to God's people, to destroy their land, it was true, Habakkuk couldn't believe it. As God said, "I am working, but if it were told to you, you wouldn't believe it." Habakkuk answers God. In his answer to God, he again expresses his not understanding the ways of God. He said,

Are you not from everlasting ( Habakkuk 1:12 ),

Have you not always existed?

O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ( Habakkuk 1:12 )

That is, as a nation surely we will not die.

O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou has established them for correction. But Lord, you are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and you cannot look on iniquity ( Habakkuk 1:12-13 ):

Very interesting verses. God is of purer eyes than to behold evil. That is, to behold in the sense of approval. "You cannot look upon iniquity with approval."

We are coming this week, of course, to the remembrance of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. As this Sunday throughout Christendom, they were celebrating Palm Sunday, the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Fulfillment of the promise of God through Daniel and through Zechariah of the coming Messiah. "Behold thy King cometh unto thee," Zechariah declared. "But He is lowly sitting on a colt, foal of an ass" ( Zechariah 9:9 ). But even as Daniel said, "When the Messiah comes, He'll be cut off" ( Daniel 9:26 ).

So this is the week right after His triumphant entry, and His being rejected officially by the religious leaders, and their conspiracy to put Him to death. We will be remembering again the death of Jesus Christ. And in remembering the death of Jesus Christ, we remember the agony in the Garden of Eden, as He prayed three times to the Father concerning the cup that He was to drink. Sweating as it were, great drops of blood falling to the ground. As He agonized before the Father concerning the cross, "Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Nevertheless if it cannot pass from Me except I drink it, Thy will be done" ( Matthew 26:39 ). As we remember the prayer of Christ, and as we look at the cross, and we hear the cry from the cross, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" then we understand the prayer of the Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane. Isaiah in prophesying concerning the death of Jesus Christ that, "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him. By His stripes we are healed. For all we like sheep have gone astray. We turned every one of us to our own ways, but the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquities of us all" ( Isaiah 53:5-6 ). When Jesus was there on the cross suffering in your place, taking the judgment that was due you for your sins, as the iniquities of the world were laid upon Him, the history of man, all of the evil, vile acts committed by man in his history were at that point placed upon Jesus Christ.

As Habakkuk said, "Thou canst not look upon iniquity." And in His bearing of your iniquities, He became separated from the Father. Thus the cry, "My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken Me?" But we realize that God in His plan to show you how much He loved you, forsook His Son when He took your iniquities, in order that He would not have to forsake you eternally. Oh, the mysteries and the depths of God's love that were revealed there on Calvary, as Jesus bore your sin, and my sin, and He suffered in our place, and took our judgment. We feel like taking the shoes off of our feet whenever we talk about the things of the cross, because truly we are standing there on holy ground. As we consider God's great love for fallen man, for you, for me.

In the Psalm that Jesus was actually quoting when He cried, "My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Psalm 22 , it goes on to say, "Why art Thou so far from the cry of my roaring? I cry in the day season, and Thou hearest not, and in the night, and Thou art silent. But," and in verse Habakkuk 2:3 he gives the reason for being forsaken, "but Thou art holy, O Thou who inhabits the praises of Thy people Israel."

Here the prophet speaks of the holiness of God, "Your eyes are so pure that You cannot behold evil. You cannot look upon iniquity, O Thou art holy, thou that inhabits the praises of Israel."

So the penalty and the result of sin, separation from God, was experienced by the Son, who knew no sin, but God made Him to be made sin for us, in order that we might be made the righteousness of God through Him. Oh, I'll tell you, how can a person reject such a fabulous offer that God gives to man? He takes our sin and gives us His righteousness. Oh, what a glorious thing to realize. He became what we are, that we might become what He is. So the declaration of the prophet concerning God: the purity of God, the holiness of God.

Now this brings up an interesting point, you see. Because so many times we find ourselves in that position of asking God to condone our iniquity or our sin. Paul said, "Don't you realize your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you? You're not your own, you've been bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body, and your spirit, which are His."

Don't you realize that if you are using your body for immoral purposes, and your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, you're actually asking God to condone, or to go along, and to partake in your iniquity? Yet, God is of pure eyes than He could behold evil; He cannot look upon iniquity. If God forsook His only begotten Son when the iniquities of the world were laid upon Him, it is sheer folly if you think that you can embrace God while doing evil. "If a man says he is in the light, and walks in darkness, he lies and does not the truth. Be not deceived." Many people are deceived into thinking that they can embrace God and embrace evil and iniquity at the same time. Not so. "Come ye apart from them saith the Lord, touch not the unclean thing, and I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters" ( 2 Corinthians 6:17-18 ). But God said, "Be ye holy, for I am holy."

Now the prophet has a problem. "Lord, You are of pure eyes to behold evil, You cannot look upon iniquity,"

how come, Lord, you're looking on those who deal treacherously [That is, the Babylonians], and you hold your tongue when the wicked devours the man that is more righteous than he? ( Habakkuk 1:13 )

What the prophet is basically saying is, "Hey, God, we are bad, I recognize that. But they are worse than we are. I don't understand, Lord, why You would use a nation that is even more corrupt than we are to judge us, or to bring judgment on us. I don't understand this." Speaking of the Babylonians, he said,

They make men as the fish of the sea, as creeping things, that have no ruler over them. They take up all of them with their hooks, and they catch them with their nets, and they gather them with their drag: and therefore they rejoice and are glad. Then they sacrifice unto their nets, and burn incense to their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous. Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to slay the nations? ( Habakkuk 1:14-17 )

"God, I don't understand why You would use the Babylonians. They're pagans; they are idolaters. They are like fishermen, who, after they have taken a great multitude of fish, they then offer sacrifices to their nets, burn incense to them and all, and they're worshiping the wrong god. They're not worshiping You. Why would You prosper them? Why would You allow them to have victory? Why would You allow them to have such great spoil?" In other words, "Why would You bless the ungodly and prosper the ungodly?" "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Habakkuk 2". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/habakkuk-2.html. 2014.
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