Habakkuk 2:2-20 – Hoping in God When the Present Seems Hopeless







Have you ever had doubts? Have you ever doubted God? Does he really exist? Does he care what is going on in the world? Does he even know what is going on in the world? How could God allow the holocaust? Bosnia? Chechenya?


On an individual level – how come Christians get cancer? lose loved ones in tragic accidents?


Have you ever been in a discussion with a non-christian and they ask “How come a good God allows bad things to happen, esp. to good people?” And you are at a loss for words!!


Have you ever had doubts like this?? Then you are in good company? Habakkuk had the same doubts [As John showed us last week]. God had said that he was going to use the evil and brutal Chaldeans to bring judgement on the people of Judah. How could God used evil people to judge his choosen people? You see Habakkuk’s dilemma.


We also saw that Habakkuk in spite of his complaints against God, in spite of his doubts and lack of understanding still believed in God.


O Lord are you not from everlasting?

My God, my Holy one, we will not die.. [1v12]


READ – 2v1- shows us that Hab. is willing to leave the problem with God and await the divine response.


BUT is there an answer to these perplexing questions? What is God’s response to Habakkuk’s complaint?


The Lord’s answer comes in the passage before us. We do not know how much time elapsed between v1 & v2. However long it was it was worth the wait!!




God’s first instruction to Habakkuk is to write down the revelation that he has received on tablets of stone. It is the same word that is used in Exodus with reference to the 10 commandments. There is debate about what kind of material these tablets were made of and wear they were to be placed. Regardless of those issues that important fact was that the message was to be written is a way that was accessible to everyone.


The second instruction was that it was to be written clearly – not a reference to large letters but plainly so that everyone could understand the message.

Maybe there is a message here for the church of our day – maybe people in our society think the church is irrelavant because often it is just that. If the message of God is not in plain language but is couched in eccelsiastical jargon, how can the person in the street be expected to understand it.


The third instruction was that whoever reads it may run with it. Often this has been interpreted to mean that it should be written in large letters so that a runner, hurrying by, may be able to read the message at a glance and make sense of it.

But that is not the meaning – this revelation is not meant to be a billboard on the side of the road. Rather the person who reads the message may adopt it as a guide for living – ‘run’ being used in the biblical sense of ‘walk’ – ie. run through life according to this message.

The NIV translation of “so that a herald may run with it” could mean that a person you receives and understands the message may share it with others – may “run with it”.


This understanding is always implicit in the gospel – it is to be shared.


A further reason for writing down the revelation was so that it could be preserved until its fulfillment could be demonstrated historically.


READ v3.


This revelation would be fulfilled but in God’s good time. The realities of life sometimes cause us to forget God’s promise. That is why the written promises of God’s word are so impotant – remiders of God’s purposes. Aren’t you tempted sometimes, to wonder if God’s word will ever be fulfilled.

Why is God so slow in fulfilling his word? We get impatient but God is not impatient – He can wait 430 years to free his people from slavery in Egypt. He can wait 70 years to restore the exiles to Israel.

To the OT saints the promise of the Messiah seemed remote – that it would never come but “In the fullness of time God sent his Son….”


There are times when it seems that God is inactive – but don’t be fooled into thinking that God’s apparent inactivity means that he has forgotten. “It will certainly come and will not delay”.


Remember how God promised Abraham and Sarah a son and they have to wait 25 years – Did God fulfill his promise?? Of course!!


The immediate fulfillment of this verse was judgement on the Chaldeans and that judgemet came. BUT beyond the Chaldeans was an agent of judgement and salvation – Jesus the Messiah. And even beyond that to the second coming of Christ when the fullness of salvation and judgement will come into being.


Sometime we can look at situations in our world and say “If only God would intervene / do something / do anything?


Let us hear God word to Habakkuk.


Though it linger, WAIT for it,

it will certainly come and will not delay [v3b]


We need patience to possess the promises of God. “Wait” – Lit. to pant, long for.


You need to perserve so that when you have done the will of God,

You will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while:

He who is coming will come and will not delay. {Heb.10v35-37]


  1. 3 does not mean that these predicted event will come soon – in our scale of things – but rather they will come exactly when God intends them to come . THey will not miss God’s schedule – they will not be delayed a moment beyond the appointed time.




READ v.4-5


These verses descibe two classes of people in the world:

– The pround and arrogant who contius ti live in their boastful ways.

– the just who live by faith.


The “puffed -up” are characterised by pride and arrogance and presumption. They are addicted to their appitites – they never rest – they are never satisfied. Their desires are insatiable. They always want more and more – never content with what they have.

This was the accusation against the Chaldeans – [v5] he gathers to himself


ILLUS.: It was Karl Marx who said of capitalism that by its very nature it could never rest content – it will always seek new markets all over the world to satisfy its insatiable desire for ever greater profits.


Wasn’t he right – when we see large company profit marginals going up and up – the top bosses getting larger and larger salaries. YET the worker’s wages are kept down – many are made redundant – foreign workers paid minimal wages. All in the name of profit. To satisfy the shareholders most of whom probably could manage fine without the money.


There is a warning here for those whose lives are controlled by greed, like death greed is never satisfied – it is self-destructive. While the text does say what will happen to such people and nations the implication is clear.

The just shall live — the unjust, proud, arrogant and greed will die.


The other group of people are those who live by faith – the just!!

We can’t think of this verse without our minds going back to Abraham. {Gen.15v6}

Abraham believed God and he credited it to him as righteousness


As Paul is at pains to point out in Romans and Galatians [as well as the writer to the Hebrews] Justification before God is by faith. Those who have been justified by God are the one’s who live by faith.

Our justification and our salvation are by grace – because of Christ’s saving work for us on the cross and in his resurrection.

If our salvation depended on our faith we would be tempted to doubt. The quality of our faith is often uncertain and our motives imperfect. But our salvation does not depend on our faith as much as on the grace of God – our faith is simply the means by which we receive God’s free gift.


Faith is also the continuing perserverance in faith as a foundation for the righteous life. We are to have faith in God and also to be faithful in how we live out our life for God.


The message of Habakkuk’s vision boils down to this: In “the end” the destinies of the wicked and the righteous will be evident. One will perish and the other will live.

This may not be apparent now BUT it will certainly come. There are many things that we don’t understand but a life of faithfulness is to be the response to life’s many unanswered questions.




V6-19 are really an expansion of what has already been said about the wicked. God has pronounced that the wicked are doomed. Evil has an inherent capacity to self-destruct. The vices of the wick carry within them their own just reward.


If you live by the sword you die by the sword.


In the histroical context of Habakkuk the Chaldeans – this proud, greedy and brutal people will themselves experience that same treatment as they have meted out to other nations and people.


How often throughout history has the aggressive nation ultimately suffered the same fate that it had meted out.


ILLUS.: The Assyrians conquerored by the Babylonians – Babylonians by the Medo-Persians, Medo-Persians by the Greeks, the Greeks by the Romans, the Romans by the Barbarians ..


Now follows a series of five “woes” pronounced against the wicked.


  1. The first woe against those of insatiable greed. [v6-8]


These verses descibe those who will by whatever means take what does not belong to them. They will extort and steal.

Those nations and individuals who exploit others for there own greedy desires must be warned that they themselves will become victims. [v7]

Those they have plundered will rise up and plunder them.


ILLUS.: What happened in France during the revolution. Those who had been exploited by the ruling classes revolted and reeked vengence.


V8 illustrates well the biblical principle that what people sow that will also reap.

The wicked might get away with their wickedness for a long time and they might think that nothing will ever happen to them BUT retribution can and does rise suddenly and unexpectedly.


God’s hand of justice will make returns to people according to their works – and not just on judgement day – but often in this present life also.


  1. The second “woe” is against those who build their domain by exploiting others. [v9-11]


The second flows out of the first. When one has gained all these possessions then there is a need to protect it. So they develop a fortress mentality. Like a bird he builds a high nest to protect –

BUT God has pronounce judgement on those who illegally amass wealth.


Remember Acan [in Joshua] who stole from the city of Jericho when God had specifically said not to. It was the destruction of his whole household and clan.


Habakkuk is in many ways echoing the proverbs of Israel:


He troubles his house who is greedy for gain,

but he who despises gifts shall live [Prov.15v27]


They ambush there own blood.

they lurk in hiding for their own lives,

So are the ways of all who are greedy for gain [Prov.1v18-19]


This kind of living is opposite to the principles of God’s kingdom: “He who loves his life will loose it BUT he who loses his life for my sake will find it”


  1. The third woe is against those who try to create society by violence and tryanny [v.12-14]


Habakkuk has in mind military conquest and political assassination. Maybe he mean human sacrifice which was common — certainly forced labour is indicated in v13.


The city is often prtrayed in scripture as man’s final attempt to subdue the earth.

Cain built the first city. Nimrod was a city-builder and an exploiter of people. Babel was the pinnacle of man’s effort to get along without God.

The Society that tries to get along without God is doomed to self-destruction. When society prides itself on it own achievemnets and pats itself on the back for achieveing its own humanistic goals – usually by means of violence against other human being   — it is these very things that are fuel for the fire of its own destruction   READ V13


Such communities stand in opposition to God’s Kingdom and will ultimately fail – unless they repent and turn to God – God’s kingdom will prevail and his glory will cover the earth as the water cover the sea.


  1. The fourth woe is aginst those who treat other inhumanely [v15-17]


When material things and power selfish ideals become more important than people then the inevitible outcome is the degrading treatment of others.


Their is the exploitation of others – getting them drunk – purely for immoral purposes. To gaze on their nakedness – to be involved in all kinds of immoral practices. Drunkeness and immorality often go hand in hand!!


When the rich and powerful bully and exploit other God is angry and his judgement will come.


The cup of the Lord’s right hand is coming round to you,

and disgrace will cover your glory. [v16b]


The cup of the Lord is a symbol of God’s wrath. And your turn will come even though for a time you think you have got away with it. The Downfall of the Babylonians {Chaldeans } is proof that God’s wrath did fall on them.


When Jesus in the garden Prayed the the cup be taken away – it was this cup of God’s wrath against the shameful sin of mankinf that he was referring to. The outpouring of God’s judgement was on his own son. The Son of God suffered in the sinner’s place, drinking the cup of God’s fury.


  1. The fifth woe is against those who are guilty of idolatry. [18-19]


This woe depicts the absurdity of idolatry!! Habakkuk’s description of theidols underscores the folly of worshipping them. They are limited by the very limitation of the people who made them. They might be adorned with silver or gold and look pretty BUT the are lifeless and consequently useless!!


This is the root of all the preceeding problems – when people look to the creature rather than the creator then he is guilty of this foolishness. When there is an insatiable desire for things rather than for God himself then OR when the priority of things is set over the maker of things then he/she is guilty of idolatry!!


  1. BUT GOD ….. [v20]


READ v20


Habakkuk began his dialogue with God in an effort to understand the ways of a holy God with a sinful people. Now he stands in the presence of God – the holy temple – there is a revent awe. He may not have fully graped the full implications of God’s answer to his query. BUT he knows that God is the LORD – that his judgement is true and sure and that it will surely come IN GOD”S TIME.


He also knows of God’s infinite mercy in granting life to ALL who will trust in him and in the provisions he has made for the sinner.


Life is full of struggles and it has many unanswered questions – I don;t know what your particular struggle is right now but I know that God’s promises are sure and in his time he will fulfill every one of them.


The wicked will be punished BUT the JUST shall live by faith!!!

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