What does it say?
We don’t know much about Habakkuk or his contemporaries Nahum and Zephaniah. From the context of his prophecy he is writing not long before the deportation to Babylon (seventh century BC), and he would be ministering in Judah. Jeremiah would be another contemporary.
Habakkuk 1 is the prophet’s frank complaint to God. He can’t understand how a good God that hates evil could use the Babylonians as his instrument. He rests his case in Habakkuk 2:1 and God responds by giving him a vision and telling him to write it plainly on clay tablets. God’s answer to the dilemma is capsulized in Habakkuk 2:4. This verse is quoted in Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38. In essence, God is saying that he is using the Babylonians only for the need of the moment and that in the end it is the person of faith that will live. Habakkuk 2:14 is a glorious glimpse of the future to come. The chapter concludes with an absolute statement of God’s sovereignty (2:20).
Chapter three is a prayer of Habakkuk written in the form of a psalm that exudes great praise. Habakkuk learns to rest in the security of God’s salvation, knowing that no matter what happens, he can rejoice in the Lord of his salvation.
What does it mean?
Habakkuk struggles with the same problem as Job and author of Psalm 73 – why do the wicked prosper? Why doesn’t God do something to judge them now? How could he use one sinner to judge another, especially when it seems that the most wicked sinner is the one God uses to execute the judgment?
Salient lessons from Habakkuk include: 1) the sovereignty of God (2:20); 2) the need to trust God’s word (3:2); 2) the purpose of prayer (3:20; and the joy and security of salvation (3:17-19).
How will I respond?
When can I remember being tempted to be envious of an evil person that seems to be more successful, prosperous and happy than me? How would I answer myself, or someone else struggling with this issue based on what I see here in Habakkuk?