The prophet Habakkuk lived at one of the crucial turning points in all world history. God was moving the balance of power among the world’s empires and setting stage for events in the end time. Are we seeing this happen now as today’s nations realign on the world stage? Habakkuk’s message is a crucial key for God’s elect today.
[Darris McNeely] Well, good evening, everyone. Welcome to our bi-weekly Wednesday night Bible study here at the United Church of God Home Office. Glad to have all of you here with us in the room. Those of you that are watching online, we welcome you to the Bible study tonight. And, for those of you that will be viewing this at a later time, hello, glad you are watching this series on the minor prophets. We’ve come to a point where we are now about to go into the book of Habakkuk, and I’ve covered two other prophets myself, Gary and Steve have done others.
We’ve done… I did Nahum and Jonah, took you through Nineveh and took you through the period with the Assyrians, and then tonight we will get into the message of the book of Habakkuk. So, before we do that, why don’t we ask God’s blessing on the evening. I’ll just let you remain in your seats. If you will bow your heads, I’ll ask God’s blessing, guidance on the study then.
Our Father in heaven, we bow before You. We come very grateful for this evening and the good weather we’re having here in Cincinnati and are grateful, Father, for the opportunity to have a Bible study, to gather here with friends and family. We ask Your blessing upon this study. Guide our hearing, our understanding in every way, Father, that this study could be something that is beneficial to all who hear it not only now, but later as well, helping us to understand the prophets, the minor prophets, but also their relevance to our world, to our time, to our lives now today, which, there is a great deal for us to understand. So, we commit to Your hands our study this evening. We’re grateful for this opportunity. We pray for Your blessing upon it, and we commit it in Christ’s holy name, Amen.
We have come to a point where a bit of a sequence from where at least I’ve left off and been covering the Bible studies. As I said, we kind of dealt with the Assyrian Empire, with Jonah and with the book of Nahum and the prophecy of Jonah having to go to the city of Nineveh, and then Nahum prophesying about the demise of the entire Assyrian Empire.
Now, Habakkuk is another prophet distinct from the… of course, all the other 11 minor prophets, but at least he’s distinct from Jonah and Nahum, but there’s a bit of a connection because the timing of Habakkuk’s prophecy is at about the same time of the fall of the city of Nineveh and the collapse of the Assyrian Empire in the age that we are dealing with right now, which is a very critical period of world history and the biblical story as we have it here with the prophets.
I don’t like to give out too many dates, but the year for the fall of the city of Nineveh and the collapse of Assyria was 612 B.C.. And, it’s about that time, probably a few years before 612 that we have the timing of the prophecy here tonight that we’re going to talk about with Habakkuk and this particular prophet.
Habakkuk is a member of the nation of Judah, and it is Judah that we are dealing with as he is a prophet that rises up at that time in the last years of the life of the nation of Judah. It’s very likely that Habakkuk is a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah, what is called by scholars a major prophet. Habakkuk and the others are minor prophets, and sometimes we put those labels on the prophets and I think we do them a bit of a disservice, major and minor.
There’s really nothing minor about any of the prophets, but Habakkuk is a contemporary of Jeremiah who prophesied in the time of the last kings in the last years of the nation of Judah, likely from the time of Josiah, the good righteous King Josiah, forward to the last king of Judah and the fall of Judah at the hands of the Babylonian Empire. In fact, Habakkuk deals with the condition of Judah, and this now rise of this new power on the block called Babylon. Assyria is moved out of the picture and Babylon comes on the scene.
To understand this, we should at least look at a map here that shows us the extent of the Babylonian Empire here in the blue on this map, that during this period at time, in the late 7th century B.C., the late 600s, into the early 6th century B.C.. You see the date here, 605 to 536 B.C., during this period of time.
What you’re looking at is a map of Judah and within the larger Babylonian Empire. If you look at the map you can see Egypt down on your lower left in the dark blue, Nile River running out into the Mediterranean, and all of that big swath up through the Arabian Peninsula up into the area, the Babylonian Empire, and then curving back toward the west represents the Babylonian Empire at its height, that now comes on, supplants Assyria, all of Egypt, and asserts itself against the tiny nation of Judah. And so, a little bit of background is going to be very useful for us here as we consider this.
We are in this time period that some historians call an Axial Period of history, and we’ve spelled out Axial up here, so my English is a little bit not quite as plain perhaps as the printing of it up here. But, by the term “Axial,” we are talking about a period that is kind of like an axis upon which things are moving, turning, or changing, and you have this axis that runs through this period of history denoting a time of transition and a time of change on this axis. Now here’s… what exactly is happening? Let’s understand this. And, this is a bit of history, but it’s history with a biblical perspective and view to understand what is taking place here.
If I go to… if we go back forward to the next slide, we can see Judah here in the very, very tiny part down along the Mediterranean. That’s all that is left of the nation of Israel founded under Joshua after the Exodus, a nation that had a very special relationship with God, based upon the Twelve Tribes of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, a nation that God put there for a very special purpose at this very special time.
What you should understand is that… a phrase I like to use, God is a God of history. He controls the nations. He controls their rise and fall. We talked about that when we were talking about Assyria, and that same God controlled when He put His own nation, Israel there in that area of the Middle East at that particular time, after they had left Egypt, if you remember the plagues of Egypt, brought Egypt down essentially off of the world stage. Their time of being an empire, as they were, declined because of the death of the firstborn and the plagues. There was a great destruction brought upon Egypt at that time.
And, in the subsequent generations, God established His people, Israel as a buffer in this area, but right in the midst of a lot of other nations, the Medes, the Assyrians, the Egyptians down here, those that… the Chaldeans that would be eventually the Babylonian Empire, but those peoples had not yet come fully on board, or if they had, such as with Assyria, they were held at bay. They were kept from completely dominating the region, as they later did, for one reason. That was that God had His own nation, Israel there which, at its height during the time of David and King Solomon, actually stretched from the River of Egypt, the Nile area, from that area, all the way up into the area of Mesopotamia.
And, there was a control that you read about in Kings and Chronicles, under David and Solomon that actually reached up that far. And, what it did was to serve as a kind of a finger in the dike of history and nations that were, in a sense, hovering these other Gentile nations that had not yet coalesced into large dominant powers because it wasn’t their time.
God controls history. He was working out something among His people, Israel. But, you know the story of Israel. They did not remain faithful to the covenant. They eventually divided into two separate nations, nation of Israel to the north, 10 tribes, the nation of Judah to the south. The northern nation, because of their sins and idolatry, were eventually taken captive now by the Assyrian power that had grown large because the power of Israel had waned and had been diminished, and its role in world affairs was coming to a conclusion.
And, Israel disappeared leaving only the nation of Judah, and the story that we have through the kings of Judah, up until the time where we are right now with Habakkuk, they’ve had good kings, bad kings, a lot of bad kings such as Manasseh, King Amon, and others that weakened the city or the state of Judah, and they are now, in the time of Habakkuk, in their last years.
And, what is rising now is this Babylonian force and power on the world scene, and they’re going to supplant Assyria that God has used and had used to even be His rod. Isaiah 10 says that Assyria was His rod, meaning what He used to smash and punish His own people, Israel. They’re gone. Now, Babylon comes on the scene and yet Judah remains. And, that’s where we come to the story of Habakkuk, and what he sees about his own people and the plight of the nation, as we open the book of Habakkuk to the first chapter and begin to understand.
One final point before we move on here, we looked at the map here, we’re looking at the ancient world of Judah there, and Babylon, but if we transition to the modern world, you will see that the modern nations that are on the map today, right there, of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, state of Israel, Lebanon, that is occupying the same region as Babylon, and that’s important to understand and to remember because of the prophecy of Habakkuk, and a duality that we should understand as one of the fundamental principles of Bible prophecy. The prophecy is dual. There’s a former and a later… one fulfillment-type and then an anti-type fulfillment, a former and then a latter fulfillment of Bible prophecy in so many different ways. This is one of the fundamental facts about Bible prophecy.
What we will read about in Habakkuk today is regarding the nation of Judah in the 6th century, what Habakkuk saw, but remember that we are dealing with the same God, with the modern descendants of Abraham in a different setting in a modern world, and we are also dealing with nations and peoples from the same region, and even in today’s world, expanded beyond that because of the nature of prophecy, what has developed prophetically and from a historical perspective that we find described in other prophecies in the Bible. But, it’s important to keep in mind of what we are dealing with at least in the region where we find Habakkuk uttering his prophecies as he looks at what is developing.
Now, one other point that I want to bring up. This next picture is going to show something to us that is very familiar, and that is the image of Daniel 2, and the dream that Nebuchadnezzar had and Daniel, the prophet interprets. I think we’re all familiar with this. Keep in mind that Daniel likely… well, Daniel is a contemporary of Habakkuk, Daniel’s a younger man. But, Daniel will be taken captive when the Babylonians invade Judah, Jerusalem, and they take a first wave of Jewish people to Babylon. The Babylonians do this, and in the story of Daniel, we come to where we read the interpretation that Daniel gave to a dream of Nebuchadnezzar in which he revealed that Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold in this image, and there were other elements of a chest of silver, a torso of brass, legs of iron, and feet with iron — mixed with iron and clay.
And, the understanding that we have of this prophecy and a repetition of it in chapter seven of Daniel, is that this represents a flow of world history from the time of Daniel and Babylon, all the way to the end of the age and the return of Christ represented by the 10 toes of the image which, in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, is struck by a rock that is cut without hands, representing the Kingdom of God and return of Christ, and destroys that image when it strikes it on its feet where the 10 toes are.
That’s a rough summary and overview, but essentially it’s this, Daniel is given a vision to give to Nebuchadnezzar of the flow of world history from their day that begins with Babylon, not Assyria and not Egypt, but begins with Babylon and continues through Greece, through Rome, through Persia, through Greece, through Rome, and the revivals of the Roman Empire into the modern world today.
That’s our prophetic scenario and story that we understand from the book of Daniel, the book of Revelation, but it relates to the timing of Habakkuk and what we are going to read here because this is again, the Axial Period of world history where Habakkuk is living at a time of great change among the nations with Babylon’s rise and the demise of Assyria, and what we will read will be God’s clues as to what is taking place.
But, it’s interesting in a study of history, there was, a number of years ago, a book written called The Origin and the Goal of History by a historian named Karl Jaspers. And, in it, he is the one who came up with this idea of this Axial Period of history, and what he does is describe this period that is covered by Jeremiah, Habakkuk and Daniel, the fall of Assyria and the rise of Babylon. As he puts it, “It is a unique, perhaps the most interesting period of all of world history because, at that day, it is a close of an old world and the beginning of a new world.”
Now, it’s hard to imagine today, as we look back over 2,600 years, that that would be described as the dawning of a new age, but it really is. And, Jaspers goes on to show, and make the point, and I think he has a valid point, but he’s writing from an agnostic historical point of view without God in the picture, and yet in some of his writing, he says, “This is the most unique period. It’s almost as if there is a hand of a god involved.” To try to explain it, but he can’t explain it beyond that because he doesn’t know what the Bible shows.
What he says, what Jaspers says is happening during this very period of time we’re talking about, and he expands it to add a few 100 years on either side of it to include what happens not only in Babylon but in Greece, with the Athenian flowering of Greek culture, and then Roman culture to which, if you remember your studies in Western civilization, all of Western civilization studies have their roots in Greece, Ancient Greece, and Rome.
If you understand the Bible right, and what Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s image is showing, the real roots go back to Babylon. They begin there. And, when you put that together with what Revelation says about one final appearance who was called “Mystery, Babylon the Great,” you understand then the connection from the ancient Babylon to the modern Babylon, and what this period of time then is showing, it is a time that sets the stage for all of world history down into our own day, until the appearance of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. And, it begins right here at the timing of Habakkuk and what is happening here. Deeper study can bring this out to know what it means, but that goes beyond where we are today.
But, when we look at Habakkuk, we have to keep that in mind because Habakkuk is actually having a dialogue and a conversation with God at a time, but he looks around his nation and he says, “God, what is going on?” So, let’s open our Bibles and let’s go to Habakkuk 1, and let’s begin in verse 1 and read what we are told here in the story of this dialogue. Now, what you should understand here is Habakkuk has only three chapters, and it’s a unique book in that it is a dialogue between the prophet Habakkuk and God.
I’ve been using Habakkuk in our Beyond Today live appearances. And, since I’m the opening presentation in that, I’ve chosen to anchor the presentation, the prophetic part of it in Habakkuk, and we go through the first few verses of Habakkuk that set the stage for our presentation “America: The Time Is Now” and so, I’ve grown quite used to Habakkuk and familiar with it, someone quipped to me and said, “Well, Darris owns Habakkuk,” because of my…17 times now, I’ve gone through the first five verses of Habakkuk in the Beyond Today live appearance.
So, I can admit at least I feel comfortable with it. I wouldn’t say that I own it, but if anybody else wants to preach on it, they owe me a royalty. No, I’m just kidding. But, it is a fascinating book and one that I’ve grown quite comfortable with. It is a dialogue, and that’s unique. Habakkuk does something different. He takes the condition of the people to God and Judah is in a very, very bad condition.
Let’s read what he says about it here, beginning in verse one. “The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw. O, Lord,” so, he’s talking right to God, “how long shall I cry and You not hear? Even cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ and You’ll not save?” He looked around in the streets of Jerusalem and he saw a great deal of anger and a great deal of violence.
He goes on in verse three, “Why do You…” he’s speaking to God, “show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; there is strife, and contention arises.” Strife and contention. Plundering and violence. Keep in mind if we draw the analogy… not the analogy, but the duality of prophecy into our day and we look at America for parallels to what Habakkuk is seeing, we might be able to see our own headlines and our Fox News stories in these verses in Habakkuk, violence in the streets.
Let’s go on. He says, “Therefore the law is powerless, and justice never goes forth.” Do you hear any cries today for justice, social justice, political, economic justice for many different quarters? He goes on, “For the wicked surround the righteous.” Have you ever felt surrounded by lawless people, people who don’t fear God, people who don’t believe in God? Habakkuk said that’s what he felt even in the nation of Judah, “I’m surrounded by wicked people.” “Therefore” he says, “perverse judgment proceeds.”
And so, when we look at our world today, these first four verses of Habakkuk give us a mirror of our own society where we have problems governing, where we have lack of justice in many different ways, and perverse judgment proceeding forth. And, this is the scene that Habakkuk sees as he looks around today to God.
Now, this marks the first opening dialogue of Habakkuk speaking to God. We go to verse 5, we find God’s answer. God says back then to the prophet, “Look among the nations and watch — be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.” Verse 5 here is a key verse to the entire book and to help us understand that what is taking place in Judah in the late 7th century B.C. has some very important lessons for us today.
God says to the prophet, “Look among the nations.” What nations? Babylon, Assyria which has just fallen, Egypt. Keep in mind Judah, in this period, has been a vassal of Egypt for a period of time, for a brief period of time, and they’re now moved out of the picture. There is a turmoil going on, a shifting of power among the nations at this time, and God says, “I’m doing it. Look among the nations, Habakkuk. I’m doing something that would astound you.”
This is that Axial Period of history where the power of Babylon is now coming to the fore with its religion, its politics, its economic structure, its military structure, which is going to begin to influence this entire image of Gentile nations that will move to Persia, to Greece, and to Rome. Remember, Daniel says to Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, “You are the head of gold”, which means that, “You’re the finest, but you’re also what directs the body.” And, that’s very important to understand prophetically as we look at the history of the time, and what is taking place here with Habakkuk is a major shift among the nations.
For those of us that pay attention to what’s going on in the world today, we are going through a major shift today of power among the nations in the world. America is still the most single biggest power in the world, but its influence has changed. It is not yet declined to the point of impotency, but it has, through the last eight years of its leadership, moved in its relevancy to a near point of irrelevancy in some areas. Witness the Middle East, specifically Syria where civil war has raged for six years, and hundreds of thousands of people have died, been displaced, mass movements of people out of Syria and other parts of the Middle East, a turnover there, Iran wanting to develop a nuclear weapon, Russia pushing against Europe and asserting itself far above its own weight and power.
The world’s changing, China moving in Asia with a naval fleet, with land acquisitions, and with power moves that are beginning to challenge the American role even in Asia and the Pacific, and so, we have a matter of change taking place there. On the world scene today, America is still great. I read an article that will be in the next issue of the Beyond Today magazine essentially that says that America is great. It’s not a matter of making America great again. We’re still great, but our influence has changed.
And America will remain great as long as God wants it to happen, and it’s useful for his purpose. Just like Judah and Israel had its role and its purpose in the ancient world, the modern descendants of Abraham and Israel have had their important role to play in the modern world. And, when that changes according to God’s purpose, and plan, and timing, it will be a different world just as it was beginning to be a different world in the time of Habakkuk.
So, keep that in mind here as we go. God says, “You wouldn’t believe what’s happening,” and today we find it hard to believe even what is taking place today. But here’s what God says, as he goes on beginning in verse 6, He says, “Indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, a bitter and hasty nation which marches through the breadth of the earth, to possess dwelling places that are not theirs.”
I’ll see if that helps a little bit. Thank you. So he says, “I’m raising up the Chaldeans,” which is the Babylonian Empire. Now they’re off to the East, and they are a very vicious, powerful nation, kind of like the Assyrians. Let’s go on.
He says, “They are terrible, dreadful; their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves. Their horses also are swifter than leopards, and more fierce than evening wolves. Their chargers charge ahead; their calvary comes from afar; they fly as the eagle that hastens to eat. They all come for violence; their faces are set like the east wind. And they gather captives like sand.” The Babylonians like to go in, move in, conquer people, and then uproot everyone and cart them back to their own lands and other places, which is exactly what they did with the Jews in the land of Judah.
It goes on. “They scoff at kings and princes are scorned by them. They deride every stronghold, for they heap up earthen mounds and seize it. Then his mind changes, and he transgresses; he commits offense, ascribing this power to his god.” This is God’s description of the Babylonians. And what he’s saying to Habakkuk is, “Look, I’ve got an answer but it’s not what you expect. My answer is I’m going to bring the Chaldeans in.” Let’s kind of call them ISIS of the day. “I’m going to let them rattle your cage.” And eventually they will take Judah captive. God’s telling Habakkuk that that is the answer. “I don’t have a solution for your people’s sins. If they can’t repent, then their time has passed, and they will decline and they will disappear,” which is what happened.
God said, “I’ll do a work that you will not believe,” and so He brought this about. The Babylonian Empire swallowed up the small nation of Judah and took captive the Jews to where they came to Babylon and they came even to the waters of Babylon, and like captives, they sat down and they wept, which is what this picture shows here: the Jewish captives weeping by the waters of Babylon. We’ve all sung that hymn from the Psalms. This is what happened to Judah, and God used them to do that.
Now, Habakkuk can’t believe that this is happening. Babylon is a very powerful city, and what we know about what Babylon looked like with its walls, with its large buildings, it was quite palatial. It was a very strong and powerful country. The Euphrates River flowed by it and its walls seemed to make it impregnable. The dominant gate and feature of the walls was this Ishtar gate which this artist depiction shows, and their armies were quite powerful, quite strong, quite adept. They overwhelmed Judah. It was really no match, and they were the strongest military power at the time. They were not righteous, they were a very, very difficult people, and Habakkuk cannot believe that God is going to do this.
In verse 12 of first chapter, Habakkuk picks up his second response to God and he says, “Are You not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One?” You’re the eternal God. We cry out to You for help. “We shall not die,” he says. “We’re Your people, we’re the covenant people.” “Remember Mount Sinai,” that he’s thinking? Remember the tablets of stone, the covenant, special relationship; one nation under God, E pluribus unum , in God we trust?” That’s what he saying. That’s what we say today. “O Lord,” he says, “You have appointed them for judgment; O Rock, You mark them for correction.” He can’t believe the God he serves will use a violent, sinful people like the Babylonians to punish Judah, and he describes here what they are like.
In verse 13, he says to God, “You’re of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he?” He can’t equate the idea of a sovereign, righteous, benevolent, merciful God to one who would allow a people like the Babylonians to come and to deal with His own people like this.
He says, “Why do You make men like fish of the sea, like creeping things that have no ruler over them?” Verse 15, “They take up all of them with a hook, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their dragnet. Therefore they rejoice and are glad.” This is Habakkuk’s description of how the Babylonians operate. They put out a dragnet, they gather everyone up, kind of just move ‘em, disrupt their native lives, and the Babylonians rejoice at what they do, they are glad.
It goes on in verse 16. “Therefore they sacrifice to their net, they burn incense to their dragnet because by them their share is sumptuous and their food plentiful.” This is how they operate, and they upset all the other nations and all the other peoples as a result. “Shall they therefore empty their net,” verse 17, “and continue to slay nations without pity?” That’s his question.
And, he brings it down then to verse 1 of chapter 2 because it moves on there, he’s still talking to God. He’s made his case and he says to God in chapter 2 verse 1, “I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, what I will answer when I’m corrected.” He’s made a second speech, and he’s made his case, and he’s saying, “All right, I’m going to go over here and I’m just going to sit down, or maybe I should go over here and sit down, okay? I’m going to sit on the wall and I’m going to watch.”
Now, what Habakkuk is doing is using a very well-known imagery that we would remember from the book of Ezekiel, that of a watchman. He said, “I’m going to sit on the wall, I’m going to watch what will take place.” And that’s exactly what he began to do. Now, just a quick rehearsal of the role of a watchman.
God set Ezekiel another prophet as watchmen to stand on the walls, and a watchman would do that in the ancient world. A watchman was set on the walls of the city. They were also set on towers that were erected out in fields. This idea of a watchman is very interesting in the ancient world. Here’s a picture of a watchtower. And, in this case, it’s out in the fields, and during the time when the crops would be growing, a watchman, a person would be in that watchtower keeping watch over the fields so that animals or poachers didn’t come in and steal what was growing — especially at harvest time.
And so, the idea of a watchman figures even in the fields, and they would also stand on the walls of a city to see if enemies’ troops would be coming or some other problem. They would even watch for the weather and sound… if there was clouds gathering off to the east, they would sound an alarm too, “Hey, batten down. Fold up everything, there’s a big storm coming.” That’s what a watcher did. He discerned this time. And, as Christ would say, in Luke 12, He said, “You can discern the times, you can look at the sky and see it’s going to rain, but you can’t discern the times in front of you.” He was using the same imagery of a watchman from Ezekiel in here in Habakkuk in the idea of a person being able to be vigilant and to watch what is going on.
We’ve used this in the Church today in our role to sound a warning, to also be discerning of the time in which we live, to be able to see the world that we live in and to understand it, to be a watchman, to sound a warning of repentance in our work as a church, but also to sound a warning even among ourselves, to be vigilant, to be alert, to understand the times in which we live, which is what the study of prophecy can help us to do.
Well, back in then, in Habakkuk 2:2 Habakkuk 2:2And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain on tables, that he may run that reads it.
American King James Version×, God makes another statement to him, and this is God’s second dialogue. He says, “The Lord answered me and said: ‘Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision,’” he says, “is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” Or delay.
Now, verse 2 and 3 here gives us a very interesting marker. The prophet had to, in a sense, wait, and he’s now kind of in his watching role. And there’s going to be a period of time, even in his own lifetime. But again, remember the duality principle of prophecy, that this teaches us something about our own time as we look at the message of the prophets and see an application for our time, the 21st century, and here it says “the vision is for an appointed time.”
We’re living in an appointed time right now, at the time of the end even, but it is an appointed time in terms of God’s timing of prophecy and world history. And, what God has said will happen among the nations will happen. We have to wait, we have to be vigilant, we must stay on guard.
And, that moves us into the next thought in verse 4, chapter 2. Here’s what God says, “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him.” The wicked, the violent, the proud, those whose pride blind them from believing God, believing in God, or serving God. “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but,” God says, “The just shall live by His faith.”
The just shall live by His faith. That is the individual who fears God, like Habakkuk, like anyone who reads the Bible seeking understanding, living by every word of God, the Church, the elect, the just, those who’ve been justified through a relationship with Jesus Christ, forgiveness of sin, made just before God through faith, through baptism. The just shall live by His faith. No matter how everybody else is living, the next door neighbor, the person down the street, the person in the next cubicle. What we see on the screens and the way the world is going, no matter what is happening there, God says, “The just shall live by His faith.”
In other words, though others are unrighteous, the just will be faithful. We have a responsibility to obey God. Habakkuk did regardless of what was going on around him, you and I do today regardless of the conditions of our world, the spirit of this age, and, believe me, there’s a lot going on. I don’t have to go through the list of that tonight. This is an interesting phrase. You’ve heard it before. The apostle Paul really liked this phrase, “The just shall live by His faith,” because he uses it four times… I’m sorry, three times in the New Testament.
Let’s look at it. Romans 1:17 Romans 1:17For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
American King James Version×, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written,” and he was referring to Habakkuk 2:4 Habakkuk 2:4Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.
American King James Version×, “The just shall live by faith.” The just shall live by faith. And so Paul inserts it here in the first chapter of Romans in the point that he is making. You find it again in Galatians 3:11 Galatians 3:11But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
American King James Version×, Paul writing again, “But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for ‘the just shall live by faith.’”
Again, lifting out Hebrews 2:4 Hebrews 2:4God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
American King James Version×, Paul applies it to what he is describing not only in Romans 1 but also now in Galatians in a very technical, theological letter which Galatians is. Romans 1 is a very… he’s indicting the entire Roman world and he’s going to build toward… talk about justification and faith, but he puts it in there at the beginning of the letter of Romans, and he applies what Habakkuk said, 500 years before his time, to his setting in the 1st century A.D.
Now, notice in Hebrews 10:37 Hebrews 10:37For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.
American King James Version×. It says here, “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry.” The context of Hebrews 10 is very interesting to look at. It is a setting here of remaining in fellowship, enduring, holding fast to truth, and Paul brings his case down and he says, “Yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry.”
In other words, remember what God said to Habakkuk? “Write this for a vision, for the time it will not wait.” Paul brings it in here now and he uses that thought in his passage here in Hebrews 10 where he’s encouraging people late in the 1st century, and the same encouragement is for us, “Hang on, God’s plan is being worked out. Christ will return. He who is coming will not tarry.” Then he says in verse 38, “The just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” Very interesting the way Paul brings it in here in Hebrews in the same context where he’s talking about hanging on. “Don’t grow weary in well doing,” which is essentially what God said to Habakkuk.
If you look at what Christ said in Luke 18:8 Luke 18:8I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?
American King James Version×, though it’s not the same quote from Habakkuk 2:4 Habakkuk 2:4Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.
American King James Version×, the thought is carried here in what Jesus says where He said, “I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.” Christ says, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” People living by their faith, the just living by His faith, will He find it?
Christ projects the same thought into our end time world at His coming. Keep in mind, we are to discern our times, we are to look and understand the times in which we live, and where we are in the flow of history and prophecy, and God moving in history, which is exactly what the book of Habakkuk is showing us. We go back to Habakkuk 2:20 Habakkuk 2:20But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.
American King James Version×. It concludes here in chapter 2, “The Lord is in His temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.” The Lord is in His temple.
Now, second chapter of Habakkuk describes a whole series of woes, and I’m not going to have the time to go through those. But, he describes what just Babylon would do and has done not only in Habakkuk’s time, but that whole system that Babylon spawned of a Persian Empire, a Greek empire, and later, a Roman Empire. And, as we understand in the story the narrative of prophecy, that Roman Empire never really ended. It’s been revived multiple times in modern history and resides in the story of Europe. And, what these verses that I haven’t uncovered, but you can look at here in Hebrews or in Habakkuk 2 are saying, he’s describing the rapacious, pillaging, plundering nature of Babylon and what Babylon spawned.
A few years ago I read a book about the modern history of Europe, and we have our understanding of this prophetic story that Babylon, through Persia, Greece, and then Rome — and that the blood of all that body has spread into the modern story of Europe. And, it’s in Europe that we look for the roots of that Babylonian system to eventually emerge in the time of the end to create this last revival of a Roman system called Babylon as Revelation describes.
If you look at the modern history of Europe, and today, if you’ve been watching the news, you know that the United Kingdom invoked Article 50 of the Treaty of Rome which signified their official intent to withdraw now, began a two-year process to withdraw from the European Union. So, that made the headlines today. So, the clock is ticking. There’s no turning back on that decision. Britain is removing itself from this European Union that has grown quite large. There are currently 28 nations, there will be 27.
Story of Europe is fascinating, not only from a historical but certainly as we overlay the prophetic understanding that these scriptures and others give us. The book I was reading basically took a 500-year history of Europe from about 1500 A.D., at the time when Columbus sailed the ocean blue, you know that was 1492, and the European expansion and discovery of not only the new world but all the world; the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Dutch, the French, the British, all eventually spread out of this region of Europe around the world.
The New World, America was discovered. Latin, Central… South America was colonized… raped. Africa was carved up into colonies. Asia, India, through a period of time. And, what the book made as a point, which I found to be fascinating, it said that in that 500-year period, from about 1500… or 1400 to the end of the 20th century, our time period. Europe grew, it expanded around the world and sucked in the wealth of all these nations into Europe.
You know the story of the conquistadors in Central and South America. They came, they conquered, they took the gold and silver, put it on ships, sailed it back to Spain, to Portugal. When you go to Europe and you go to Madrid, and you go to Vienna, you go to Paris, you go to Prague, you go to these capitals of Europe and you see these vast palaces, artwork, gold, statues, and everything that is what we go to Europe to see. That was built on the back of the rest of the world as all of these nations set up the system that essentially sucked in the wealth of the world.
The book that I was reading was making the point that during that 500-year period, a conservative estimate is that more than a 100 million people died to feed and to build Europe, and the Europe we just love to go see. If we go to the Feast in France, or in Germany, or in Italy, and we do our grand tours… we still love to do grand tours today, and I’ve done them, too, and I’m not knocking them, but it’s a wonder to behold. Understand that that is describing the system of Babylon from the second chapter of Habakkuk that raped, and pillaged, and plundered its world and the ancient world, and that system continued on in these successive empires and even into the modern world. And what we see and marvel at is described in the book of Revelation as a system that trades in the bodies and souls of men, and Habakkuk was living through that period and seeing the beginning of it. This is what God is telling him here.
So, when we look at the headlines of our world today and the EU rattling and coming apart in this and that, and having these problems, Great Britain extricating itself from it, we should understand that in the context of passages here in the book of Habakkuk.
Well, let’s move quickly. We’ve got to finish the rest of this here in just a few minutes. Chapter three of Habakkuk is what is called a psalm, a song. It is from the prophet’s lips. He says in verse 2, “O Lord, I’ve heard Your speech and was afraid; O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.” He has resigned himself to what’s going to happen to his country Judah.
He connects here back to chapter 1 and verse 5 where God said, “Look among the nations and watch — be astounded! That I’m going to work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told to you.” And, he says here in 3 verse 2, “Revive your work in the midst of the years.” So he’s waiting and he’s watching, but he doesn’t know that that waiting and watching is going to be a millennia. And what chapter 3, verse 2 really is doing is pointing to our time today.
And, when we look at chapter 3 and verse 3, Habakkuk moves into a very interesting description of God. Look at verse 3. He says, “God came from Teman,” Now, this is a region to the south of Israel in the area of Edam in Moab, modern Jordan today, the area of Petra, coming out of the south up toward Jerusalem. And, he says, “God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran, Selah.” Mount Paran is another name for Sinai. “His Glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of His praise.” This is a big God. This is a all-powerful God who moves through history.
Verse 4, “His brightness was like the light; He had rays flashing from His hand,” I love this phrase, “and there His power was hidden. Before Him went pestilence, and fever followed at His feet.” Wow! Folks, this is the battle from Middle-earth. Only a few people know what I’m talking about. This is a description out of The Lord of The Rings , except, I think, Tolkien read Habakkuk and got his inspiration from Habakkuk. You know, lightning flashing out of His hands. I mean, you know, Darth Vader did that, I believe, in Star Wars .
Fever at His feet? Before Him goes pestilence? This is a God of judgment. This is a God marching through the earth. This is what Habakkuk is describing.
And then in verse 6, “He stood and measured the earth; He looked and He startled the nations.” God can shake up the nations with just a look. My kids knew that I… my kids would act and move with just a look from my expression as a father. Some of you are laughing, you did the same thing. They would… with my kids, it became “the look.” They got the look. Well, parents do that sometimes. Teachers do that, too, sometimes.
“He looked and He startled the nations. And the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills bowed. His ways are everlasting.” This is a description of God moving among the nations, and here in verse 6, it seems like God stands and pauses for a moment. Now, with God, a moment is quite a long time. A moment can be multiple decades by God’s timing.
As He measures the earth… this is kind of reminiscent thought of Revelation 11 where the prophet is told to take a… John is told to take a measuring stick and measure the temple. He measures the earth. He’s judging, He’s weighing, He’s watching, He’s deciding. He looks and He startles the nations. His ways are everlasting. I wonder at times that I apply this to today, if we may not be at a point in history, prophecy where God stands among the nations and, as He’s shaking the nations and startling them, He’s taking their measure for a moment as well.
As the age of America, the English speaking peoples, come to their close, and we might stand and look around at our peoples and say, “Violence, and anger, and people are… I’m surrounded by wicked people. God, can You make America great again?” or “How long will we be great?” And, God’s judgment is moving to a point where He’s saying, “You know, it’s about over. I’ve been very patient,” and events may be moving closer than we think, to a time when God will move the nations to a new power structure, in our own world where America will not be the top nation.
It hasn’t happened yet, and when it does, it will be by God’s design and God’s choosing. America is great, and America will remain great as long as God wants it to remain great. But there is coming a day when God will remove His hand of blessing and America will not be great, and it will be a different world when that happens. It will be a different world.
The prophet goes on to describe his time and his age by all that he shows here. In verse 12, he says, “You marched through the land in indignation; You trampled the nations in anger. You went forth for the salvation of Your people, for salvation with Your Anointed. You struck the head from the house of the wicked, by laying bare from foundation to neck. Selah.”
And then he concludes, verse 16. “When I heard, my body trembled; my lips quivered at the voice; rottenness entered my bones; and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble.” Habakkuk has to just accept it. He has had this vision and he sees that God is going to move in a way that he never would have expected. And, it’s dawning on him that his beloved country is going to fade at the hand of God’s judgment in the day of trouble. And he has to accept that as God’s righteous judgment even as he uses a very unrighteous nation, the Babylonians, to do this.
He says, “When he comes up to the people, he will invade them with his troops. And though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food.” Habakkuk is describing a time when that blessing will be removed. “When the fig tree will not blossom,” which means there will be no fruit, “and there’s no fruit on the vines, and the olive will fail,” the olive trees will fail, which would be a disastrous time of economic distress and famine. “Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls — yet,” he says, “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet. He will make me walk on my high hills. To the Chief Musician with my stringed instruments.”
Take a look at that map again. Habakkuk was living in the time of the nations changing. And, we look at that modern map today and we see that the modern nations that occupied the area of Babylon, they are in a state of turmoil as well. And, with the proper understanding of prophecy, we recognize that the same region, and even expanded to include the world and nations that are beyond the confines of the Middle East, but this area of ancient Babylon and Israel will yet play a very key role in prophecy, and world events that are dying in our day and the age ahead.
And we should be like Habakkuk and listen to his message, sigh and cry for our own people, but at the end of the day, we have a faith to live by. And, if we hold true to that, then we will be holding true to the modern message of Habakkuk, a man that God allowed to see history. And if we can see history as he saw it, then we can understand where we are, properly discerning our time, being alert and being aware.
Well, that’s the story of Habakkuk, the prophecy of Habakkuk. We will have a break for the Holy Days. This will be the last one before Passover and the Holy Days. We will announce the next Bible study soon after the conclusion of the Holy Days, and we will then have two more, I believe, yet by Steve Myers and Gary Petty to finish out the minor prophets. So, thanks for coming tonight, watching online. Be safe as you travel home, and we will see you next time.