Habakkuk: You’re going to do . . . what?!?
Thomas D. Kock
“You’re going to do . . . what?!?” Perhaps we expect that surprised question from the parents of a teenagers who announce their latest “plans.” But we wouldn’t expect it to come from a prophet addressing God, would we? Yet Habakkuk directed that sort of question to God himself.
God has a plan
Here’s how it happened. Habakkuk was discouraged. He saw evil; he failed to see good. He laments: “Therefore, the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (1:4).
And, to Habakkuk, it seemed as if God was doing nothing about it! (cf. 1:2,3).
Oh, but God had a plan! He tells Habakkuk, “I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own. They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor. . . . They fly like an eagle swooping to devour; they all come intent on violence (1:6-9).
At that point Habakkuk basically says, “You’re going to do . . . what?!?” This “solution” sounded worse than the problem! Destruction and judgment would come.
God responds to Habakkuk, “But the righteous will live by his faith” (2:4 NIV84). To Habakkuk, all looked disjointed, random, even crazy! To God, the plan was crystal clear. And then God adds, “The Babylonians will be punished eventually too.”
In short, God is saying, “Trust me, Habakkuk; I’ve got this.” He will bring judgment, but salvation was the best part of his plan.
God’s plan assures our salvation
In Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11,12, God quotes Habakkuk 2:4 to emphatically make the point that salvation is his work and his work alone. So “the righteous will live by his faith.” Or to put it colloquially, as God said to Habakkuk, so God says to us: “Trust me; I’ve got this.”
Perhaps we’re tempted to say, “You’re going to do . . . what?!? You’re going to do all the work of salvation?” After all, as we look at our own lives we see the same problems Habakkuk did: violence, injustice, strife, and wickedness. When we hear God will send judgment, we understand that we are guilty and deserve judgment. We can’t understand how we could possibly hope to stand “right” in God’s sight, since we’ve failed so much! But God will do what we cannot do. He will save us.
Why would he want to do that?!?
God’s answer? “Trust me; I’ve got this.” The salvation plan may not make human sense, but it makes perfect sense to God.
So Habakkuk was assured! He may not totally understand the plan, but he was assured that God did. He, therefore, concluded his book with a psalm, including these moving verses: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (3:17,18).
“Trust me,” God says. “I’ve got this.” That’s true, no matter what.
Contributing editor Thomas Kock, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, is a member at Atonement, Milwaukee.
This is the eighth article in a 12-part series on minor prophets
Date: Not long before 605 B.C. (c. 610? 620?)
Unique feature: Two of the three chapters are a dialogue between one human and God.
Key verse: 2:4 “The righteous will live by his faith.”
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Author: Thomas Kock
Volume 105, Number 9
Issue: September 2018
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