Habakkuk’s Burden is Increased
Habakkuk 1:5-11 “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. They are dreaded and fearsome; their justice and dignity go forth from themselves. Their horses are swifter than leopards, more fierce than the evening wolves; their horsemen press proudly on. Their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swift to devour. They all come for violence, all their faces forward. They gather captives like sand. At kings, they scoff, and at rulers, they laugh. They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it. Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!”
Habakkuk has been overwhelmed by his awareness of the sin of God’s people. He has lamented to God about the situation. God’s response to Habakkuk is not relief. God does not alleviate Habakkuk’s concerns nor does He lift the burden from his shoulders, but rather, God is about to increase the burden by enlarging the vision. It’s almost as if God raises him up a little higher to see a bigger picture, but still not as high as he will later lift him in order to see the whole picture. What God is about to show him is an even greater and more overwhelming understanding. In fact, God tells him that he would not believe it if it were only spoken to him, he must see it to believe. Why? Because once again God is going to completely destroy the box that Habakkuk has put God in theologically. Habakkuk will even argue his beliefs with God in later verses.
But let’s first look at the increased burden that God requires Habakkuk to carry. Habakkuk has been overwhelmed by the sins of his people, but God now requires Habakkuk to look further out to the nations. “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” God is never satisfied with his people only caring about themselves. He will always demand that we enlarge our vision. A similar call was given by Jesus to his disciples in John 4:35 “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” At the time, they were only able to see and marvel that an entire Samaritan town was coming out to see Jesus. Even later, Jesus calls them to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19) The call was to realize that for the first time, all nations would hear the gospel. It was not just the Israelites that they were called to, but all nations. And yet, they did not begin to understand or realize the full extent of the vision of white fields. At his ascension, Jesus tells them to be witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and even to the uttermost parts of the earth, and still, they don’t understand. Philip goes to the Samaritans in Acts 8 fulfilling Jesus’ very statement to the disciples in John 4 and still they don’t seem to understand. Then Peter goes to the gentile Cornelius’ house and God pours out His Spirit but it still seems uncertain in their minds, what God is doing. In the dispersion of the church under persecution, some Christians end up in Antioch in Acts 13 and more gentiles are being saved, but it’s not until Acts 15 that a council is called and it seems then that they finally get it. God has a way of taking us step by step to the place where we can finally understand what He has been trying to tell us all along. Habakkuk is in the process of that same experience and God continues to help him understand that He is not sitting still while sin increases, but God is working all things together for a divine purpose.
Not only is God enlarging Habakkuk’s vision, understanding, and burden, but He is still increasing his awareness of violence. Violence has taken hold of his nation, but greater violence is about to be perpetrated on his nation. What they have sown is about to bring forth a harvest of devastation! The Chaldeans are coming to bring God’s judgment and will do it by committing unspeakable violence upon the nation. I would urge you to read even just the first couple of chapters of Lamentations at this point. The Lamentations are a picture of Jeremiah the prophet walking through the streets of Jerusalem after the invasion is complete. He, along with Habakkuk, had prophesied what was going to happen and in Lamentations, he walks through the streets lamenting what he sees and he is weeping and in Lamentations 2:11 Jeremiah is even puking because of the devastation he is witnessing. In 2:7 Jeremiah even says that God has “scorned his altar and disowned His sanctuary”. My question to us on this point of looking at the world, is, have we as the church, the sanctuary of God, the people who are called by His name, lifted our eyes in this day to see the sin of the world, the violence that dwells in the nations and not taken a look at our own condition? Is the Western church truly God’s Holy nation as Peter describes us? I Peter 2:9-12 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” Does this describe who we presently are as the church?!!! Maybe it’s time for us to take a good look at ourselves and remove the log from our own eyes, Luke 6:42.
What comes next is Habakkuk’s theological argument with God from verse 12 to the end of the chapter. Habakkuk 1:12-17 “Are you not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O LORD, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof. You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he? You make mankind like the fish of the sea, like crawling things that have no ruler. He brings all of them up with a hook; he drags them out with his net; he gathers them in his dragnet; so he rejoices and is glad. Therefore he sacrifices to his net and makes offerings to his dragnet; for by them he lives in luxury, and his food is rich. Is he then to keep on emptying his net and mercilessly killing nations forever?”
Habakkuk concedes that judgment is coming from the Lord and there are a couple of Habakkuk’s statements that will hold up under the weight of Truth, but for sure, Habakkuk is in crisis. The sense of argument reminds me so much of Peter arguing with Jesus, that I feel a need to point it out in order to perhaps add a dimension of perspective. Matthew 16:21-23 “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” In this context, Peter has previously received a revelation from the Father of who Jesus is. The contrast of Jesus then telling them that He will be killed is too difficult for Peter to comprehend, so he takes Jesus aside and attempts to place Jesus within the context of his theology. It had always been believed that the Messiah would come and that Israel would then become the head of the nations, but now Jesus is saying that Peter and the traditional theology of end times are completely wrong. Often, our understanding of the ways of God is challenged immediately after receiving the revelation of His person. Just when we think we finally have it figured out, the Lord in His mercy, shakes us to the very foundations of our faith to remind us that without Him we know nothing, we have nothing and we are nothing. He is everything, He is, all in all, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, The Almighty!
We’ll look further at these final verses of Habakkuk 1 in our next blog teaching, but I want to close with one final insight into this study. First, let me remind you that these studies are not a commentary on Habakkuk, but an expository. In other words, I am not attempting to provide in-depth research into these books that we are studying, but to point out some principles that I see as I look at these books. I am approaching these studies more as if I were preaching a sermon than teaching a lecture. I hope you are encouraged and may be better informed in your understanding.
My final thought is this, do you realize the blessing that comes with being disillusioned with your mistaken beliefs? To be disillusioned means, “to be disappointed because something or someone is not what you believed them to be”. To be disillusioned is, “to lose faith or confidence or trust in something or someone because they are not what you believed them to be”. Disillusioned literally means, to have an illusion removed. It is when reality and ideology collide. Oswald Chambers said, “Disillusionment means having no more misconceptions, false impressions, and false judgments in life; it means being free from deceptions. Refusing to be disillusioned is the cause of much of the suffering of human life.” The work of the Holy Spirit is to remove our illusions and to lead us into truth. To advance, to grow in our walk with the Lord is to embrace the work of the Holy Spirit to disillusion us and to set us free! Disillusion is not meant to lead us into despair or discouragement in our walk with Him, but to encourage us that He is still at work in our lives and will not allow us to remain in bondage.
Unfortunately, as we grow older or as we experience the uncertainty that often accompanies the work of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us into truth, we often harden our hearts and refuse to change. Sometimes the revelation of the depth of the deception we have been believing is just too hard to embrace. Sometimes we become unbelieving because of the continual disappointments. Much of the time, if we could allow ourselves to be honest with ourselves, we begin to so distrust ourselves that it reflects in our trust of Him. I have often heard others and have myself been caught saying, “How could I have been so dumb?”. I want to urge you to a realization that it is the loving-kindness of God at work in us when these times come our way. I also want to urge us to not lose faith but rather to increase our trust in Him. We’ll deal more with this later, but for now, I urge you, brothers and sisters, because God is merciful, to present yourselves as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, that is spiritual worship. Romans 12:1. I promise you that He will never leave you or forsake you, Hebrews 13:5