Biblical Principles for Christian Maturity

John H. Stoll, Th.M., Ph.D

Copyright 1996, John H. Stoll

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Chapter 23 - A Prophet's Message for Today Habakkuk

This relatively small and insignificant book, written six centuries before the coming of Christ, is probably as up to date as today's newspaper, and with far greater significance; it has come from the hand of God through His Prophet Habakkuk.

Habakkuk prophesied to the country of Judah during the reign of a Godly king, Josiah, but the prophecy would be fulfilled after his departure. The prophecy is "Parabolic" in substance, that is, though it had immediate consequences for Judah, the main thrust of the message is for us today. The essence of Habakkuk's message in Chapter 2 reads like the pages of our daily newspaper, with the authority of God's Word behind the prophecy. Therefore, it is important for every Christian to see what God has to say to us today, through His messenger, Habakkuk.

I. The Prophet's Double Problem (1:2-17). In chapter one the Prophet cried out to God concerning his double problem: "The law is slack, and justice never prevails" (v.4). As we reflect upon the world today, we are able to concur with Habakkuk, and as God's children we ask God, as did the Prophet, Lord what are you going to do about it?

Habakkuk saw the violence and the wickedness in his day, as do we today, and it seemed to him that "Right was on the scaffold, and wrong was on the throne". Just as he was aggravated at conditions in his day, so we are concerned for the spiritual and moral declension we see in today's world. Therefore, the situations then and now are similar. This is why the book of Habakkuk is so pertinent to our understanding of God's dealings with mankind. As God worked a mighty work back then, so God will intervene in the kingdom of mankind, to work His will. Though we do not know God's timing, we can trust and be assured that His program will prevail. It did then, it will now and in the future.This is the message of the Prophet for us today.

God answered Habakkuk's plea in chapter 1:5-11. God's answer to Habakkuk's complaint was, "For I will work a work in your days, which you will not believe, though it be told you" (v.5). In his day God allowed the Chaldeans to overrun Judah, and punish the nation for their wickedness. In our world today we wonder how long God can allow wickedness to prosper until He says, "Enough", and bring catastrophe to mankind because of the present spiritual darkness that encompasses the world. The wheels of God's justice may grind slowly, but they grind surely. God was most gracious and lenient with Israel and Judah over hundreds of years, but He finally brought judgment.

II. God's Divine Principles (2:1-20).The heart of the message of Habakkuk is in chapter 2, which is also the most pertinent for us today, as every aspect of the principles in the chapter pertain to our world today.

As Habakkuk remonstrated with God, he said, "I will watch to see what He will say unto me, and what He shall answer concerning my complaint" (2:1). The Lord answered him with five Woes of Judgment. Note that these woes are very much present with the world of today.

1) "Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion" (2:6). This is unholy ambition, yet this is what runs the world today. People take advantage of others, through any means, in order to gain advantage for themselves. As God looks down on the kingdom of mankind, and sees the wickedness, He hates all of it, so that through the prophet He pronounced a woe upon sinful people.

2) "Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high, to escape the clutches of ruin" (2:9). This is simply covetousness, which is one of the ten commandments. Today, the desire to obtain what someone else has by fair means or foul, because of covetousness, is the order of the day. Then those people want to flee from the degradation they have caused because of the foulness of the result.

3) "Woe to him that builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime" (2:12). Even the world today is appalled at the crime and bloodshed on the streets of our cities and towns. When the "Law is slacked and judgment doth never go forth", we see the results: there is oppression and violence that takes over. The sin of the human heart knows no boundaries. Yet unregenerate mankind knows not how to stop the situation, because it denies Jesus Christ as Lord and master.

4) "Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so he can gaze on their naked bodies" (2:15). Here is immorality that comes from drink and a lack of moral or ethical teaching and behavior. These behaviors are commonplace today, as they were back then, and God will bring people today into judgment as He did then. God's standards of morals are no different today than they were in the Prophet's day.

5) "Woe to him who says to the wood, 'Come to life!' or to lifeless stone, 'Wake up!' (2:19). Here is a judgment pronounced upon idolatry. Though we may not have idols of wood or stone, as they did back there, we have them today in different form. Anything that comes first in a person's life is that one's idol. For the Christian, if something is greater in priority than God in one's life, then that becomes his god. God wants first place in a persons life; anything less than that is idolatry.

Interspersed within these five woes upon the world, God provides three eternal principles that His people can trust even in the midst of the wickedness seen today.

1) God's way of righteousness (2:4), "The just shall live by his faith". This phrase is the foundation for three New Testament epistles: Romans 1:17 - which emphasizes Justification by faith; Galatians 3:11 - which emphasizes how we should live; and Hebrews 10:38 - which is the great book of faith. What God gave the Prophet Habakkuk in his day, as to how he should respond to the wickedness he saw, is the same exercise of faith that we can live by in the world of wickedness today. The Christian can truly live through faith in the faithfulness of God.

2) God's eternal glory (2:14), "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea". Today, mankind is trying to eliminate God from every aspect of life, individually or nationally. But, someday God will bring everything in life, including all mankind, under the judgment seat of Christ (I Cor. 4:5). Then, as King over all the earth, His glory (i.e. His moral attributes) will fill the universe throughout eternity, just like the waters cover the sea. We can count on it (I Thess. 5:24).

3) God's eternal sovereignty (2:20), "But the LORD is in His holy temple, let all the earth be silent before Him". When the sovereignty of God is exercised over all the earth, then and only then, will we have sanctity of life, and serenity in the world. Today, the world is in chaos and turmoil, seeking peace without righteousness. The only way we can have true peace is when we have righteousness, and then there will be peace (Isa.32:17).

III. Habakkuk's Delightful Poem (3:1-19). As a result of God's overwhelming the Prophet with God's eternal principles, so that Habakkuk stood in awe of God's majesty and power, the Prophet writes a most delightful poem in this chapter. The heart of the poem reflects upon the majesty of God in judgment.

IV. The Two Principles of Life. In conclusion, consider well the two principles of life as seen in chapter 2:4 and 2:5. In 2:5 we see the "puffed up" man. He is self centered and conditioned by the circumstances of life. He shall pass. Whereas, in 2:4 we see the "Just" man. He is God centered and conditioned. He shall live. For the Christian the problems of today must be submitted to God in Faith. It is the only way to go in today's world.

Over a hundred years ago there was a French scientist who projected that someday mankind would unlock the key to the atom. He noted than when he did, God would take His great ring of keys off its hook in heaven, come down into the world of mankind and say, "Gentlemen, it is closing time". In the fall of 1942, at the height of World War II, a group of world renown scientists gathered in Chicago, where they succeeded in unlocking the key to the atom. It became known as the "Manhattan Project", and eventuated in the atom bomb that was dropped upon Japan. Over a half a century has passed since then, and it seems as if we can hear God rattling His keys in heaven, about to come in judgment on the world, and say, "Gentlemen, its closing time".

My faith has found a resting place, not in device nor creed
I trust the ever living one, His wounds for me shall plead
I need no other argument, I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me.

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