Habakkuk had witnessed the reformation under the leadership of Josiah, who was the last good King of Judah. Egypt and Babylon, though, were fighting for supremacy. As Habakkuk witnessed the mighty upheavals and tragic consequences of such struggles, he was greatly confused.
The time of this book’s writing was around the time, most likely, of the fall of Nineveh and before the actual victory of Babylon. Tyranny and strife continued to abound with lawlessness. There was strife and contention, and even oppression for righteous people. Some people lived with open sin, some worshipped idols, while others oppressed the poor and defenseless. It was a day of sin, strife, and imminent invasion, as greater disasters were coming for God’s People in Jerusalem.
Habakkuk along with Paul delighted in proclaiming “the just shall live by faith.” Paul is the one that quotes Habakkuk at least twice or thrice – to which, we see this compared: Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; and Hebrews 10:37. Paul quoted from the Prophet to the unbelieving Jews at Antioch, as we see in Acts 13:41.
This book is arranged in the form of a dramatic dialogue between the Prophet and Yahweh. Following this is a series of “woes” against the cruel Chaldeans and a beautiful poem expressing confidence (or faith) in the God of his Salvation. Two-thirds (most) of this unique book is a conversation between God and the Prophet. As he resolves his confusion, God’s peace fills him up and he pours out his whole being in a stirring hymn of praise, prayer, and confidence. He has a passionate protest as he speaks with God – probably one that comes from a heart of desire for what’s best for His People.
The first answer from God to Habakkuk is found in 1:5-11. God replies here that he is preparing the Babylonians to punish Judah. The Judeans don’t know, because they would probably not believe Him anyway. They would fail to believe a wicked nation would be used to punish them. Following that, we see a description of the Babylonians that shows their ruthlessness – who do as they wish with no regard to law, justice, or anything else.
An important decision is noted in 2:1. Habakkuk watches and waits for an answer from God. This is an exercise in patience, I believe, as he has to be patient with God.
God’s replies again in 2:2-4. The answer is that the greed, pride, and violence of the Babylonians will be the means of their downfall, to which, some time may pass before the judgment comes upon them, but it will definitely come. We see, though, that the just shall live by faith.
Habakkuk speaks concerning the moral problem and boldly challenges God to defend His actions in 1:13. He doesn’t see why such a wicked nation is used to punish a nation more righteous than it. Habakkuk may be blaming God or challenging Him that He has the same moral standards as the Babylonians.
Habakkuk’s consecration compares to that of “Job” and is seen in 3:16-19. The prophet here shudders as he thinks of such a judgment that has been conjured up. He hopes that he can trust in the justice and mercy of God, so he decides that fields and flock may be destroyed – however, he will stay faithful unto God. He has decided to rest in the knowledge and wisdom of God – who is of infinite power and knows what’s He’s doing! Trusting in God then would mean the answer to questions, doubts, among other complaints that he had before.
Habakkuk was very passionate about his preaching and had very fervent prayers. Judah showed no sign of improvement, and all around him, the Prophet sees violence, lawlessness, injustice, and other evils. He knows God is holy and just, so he asks God how long will He allow this wickedness to go unpunished. He couldn’t believe the iniquity of the land, and hoped God would do something!
If God is holy, as Habakkuk determines, then how can he use Babylon to punish Judah, when the Babylonians are far more wicked than the Judeans? He believes that God is unnecessarily siding with Babylon, and beholding evil – rather than deal with the Babylonians as well for their sin is equal to or greater than the Judeans (among others).
Habakkuk’s prayer was in 3:1-19. Habakkuk describes the appearance of God in His work of judging the nations and saving His People. He then recalls the mighty works that God’s done for His People, and prays that God will act on their behalf again. However, he knows that when God’s anger is troubled over sinners, Israel’s enemies aren’t the only ones who will suffer – for God’s People are also sinners, and therefore, the Prophet prays for God’s mercy in dealings with them. He pictures God’s judgment in so many vivid ways, and then he shudders of the judgment of the people. His hopes and trusts in the justice and mercy of God. Fields and flocks might be destroyed, but Habakkuk promises to remain faithful to God. He rests in God’s knowledge and wisdom, to which, the trust is the answer to his questions, doubts, and other complains that he had.
It reveals that Habakkuk must trust in God that He knows what He is doing, and that he will joy in his own Salvation. He trusts in the God of infinite wisdom and knowledge, and His Will is perfect. Deep trust is given for God, and therefore, he feels that trusting in God is the answer to the questions, doubts, and complaints.