Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Sep 4 2019 - Habakkuk 2:2-20 – The Lord's answer

Habakkuk is distressed because the land he loves and views as God's gift to his people is being overrun and destroyed by the Babylonian army. He cried out to God in prayer, but the Lord responded that he has sent this fearsome army to invade the land. Habakkuk is astonished that God, who is holy and cannot abide evil, should tolerate the violent behaviour of these people (1:13).

In today's passage, the Lord assures Habakkuk that evil will not have the last word. If the Lord has sent the Babylonians as an act of judgment because of the unfaithfulness of his people, he will certainly judge the Babylonians in turn for their violence and wickedness:

Because you have plundered many nations,
    the peoples who are left will plunder you.
For you have shed human blood;
    you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them. (2:8)

Their confidence in their idol-gods will count for nothing. They are lifeless and unable to come to the aid of those who trust in them (vv. 18-19).

Habakkuk should be assured that "The Lord is in his holy [heavenly] temple" (v.20). Jerusalem may fall to the Babylonians and the temple built by Solomon may be reduced to rubble, but the Living God is still reigning and working out his own purposes through all the twists and turns of human history. It may sometimes seem to us that the world is completely out of control, but that is not the case as verse 14 of this chapter asserts – a verse which finds expression in the hymn: 

God is working his purpose out,
as year succeeds to year:
God is working his purpose out,
and the time is drawing near:
nearer and nearer draws the time,
the time that shall surely be,
when the earth shall be filled
with the glory of God,
as the waters cover the sea.

The Sovereign Lord tells Habakkuk to write what has been revealed to him in language that all can understand. He calls on his people to trust him in the midst of these troubled times – the righteous person is to live by faith (v.4). At the same time, God calls on the warring world to be silent before him (v. 20, compare Psalm 46:8-10).

How do we view the chaotic times in which we live, times when evil seems often to have the upper hand? It is right that we should be distressed by the evil we see in the world around us and want to do something about it, but we should not forget that if these things distress us, they anger the Lord far more. Our righteous indignation is but a pale and muddied reflection of the holy anger of the living God against the sin and selfishness of those whom he created to image him. We need to learn to trust God who works out his own purposes even through human evil – as he did with the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We need to look with longing and hope to the day when that same Jesus shall return in glory and put the world to rights – the day when "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."

Father God, teach me to trust you and to live by faith that fixes its sight on the Lord Jesus rather than being overwhelmed by all that is wrong with our world. Help me to live in faithful obedience to you so that your righteous character may begin to be seen in me. Help us to be the means through which something of that world to come – a world marked by righteousness and peace – pours into this present world.

Peter Misselbrook