The book of Habakkuk is not often preached upon in evangelical churches today. This, I believe, has lead to a lack of familiarity with the contents of that book, which is a shame. Sometimes Old Testament books can seem intimidating so people avoid studying them on their own. I would like to encourage every Christian to delve into all these books, but I will highlight Habakkuk specifically. In order to provide a quick intro to the book I thought I’d post some of my incomplete sermon notes. I hope they’re helpful. I focused on the '5 W's'.
What? Generally: He is questioning God’s inaction against a sinful Judah. He is not sinning because his complaint actually assumes God’s righteousness. Since God is righteous, why is He allowing Judah to go on without judgment?
Specifically: What are Habakkuk’s complaints?
A. The complaints: vv. 2-3a
B. Expanding on the complaints: vv. 3b-4
The Lord is unresponsive: v. 2-3 “…how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.” Habakkuk had been praying long and hard for deliverance from an unjust society. Violence was running unchecked through the streets and God was doing nothing. Habakkuk was tormented in his soul because of the sin of his society. Are we tormented when we see society’s sin? Do we take it seriously?
The torment was made all the more severe by the fact that Habakkuk knew That God is holy. He knew God’s righteous standard and the judgment violation of it would bring (Deut. 28:15-68), but such judgment was nowhere to be seen.
Even in the courts of law there was no respite from cruelty. In v. 4 Habakkuk cries, “So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.” The authorities who should have been executing judgment against evil twisted it for their own purposes. The wicked used the law as a weapon against the righteous. Of course, Habakkuk wasn’t ready for God’s response.
When? Probably during the reign of Jehoiakim, not long before the Babylonian captivity. Jehoiakim was the second son of the godly king Josiah. Josiah’s first son, Jehoahaz, had been deposed and taken to Egypt by Pharoah Neco (2 Chron. 36:1-4). Jeremiah was also active as a prophet during this time. (2 Chron. 35:25)
Why? Habakkuk is questioning God because he is astounded that God hasn’t judged the sinful nation yet. He knows the promises of judgment for unfaithfulness (Deut. 28:15-68), but he sees nothing of happening. This confuses him, as it would confuse me. It is hard to remember that God’s timing is perfect when sin surrounds you as it did Habakkuk. Yet Habakkuk remained faithful to God and ultimately trusted His providence. Even though he knew judgment was coming he ends his book with a psalm of joy in the Lord (3:17-19).