Previously, Habakkuk complained to God.
Now we see God’s response.
Hab 1:6 I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
to seize dwelling places not their own.
Somehow I don’t think this is exactly what Habakkuk had in mind.
This is part 3 of a series on – where are you God? If you haven’t read the first parts, you may want to check them out first.
See the link just below the title line.
When we left Habakkuk, he had just unleashed some frustration on God – like with all this bad stuff going on here, how come You aren’t taking care of us like You said You would? After what was apparently a long time, God finally says watch and be amazed at what I’m going to do.
This could be good – or bad. At least we learn one thing – God is alive and well. But what of this response?
Before we find out what God has to say in response to Habakkuk’s complaint – I want to point out something that was mentioned in the first part of this series. Just the fact that God answers – whether we like the answer or not – proves that He does exist. Saying that we don’t like the answer and then concluding that He therefore doesn’t exist should give us pause. If we’re thinking that – we may want to revisit our thinking. If there was an answer – good, bad or indifferent – it was still an answer. Accepting that it was an answer is the first step in the process of trying to understand that answer, especially if we didn’t like it.
One hard issue is when there appears to be no answer. Maybe the answer is “no”. That’s a tough one. We may try to convince ourselves that there actually was no answer, even in deep in our hearts somewhere we feel there really was. Sometimes it’s hard to be honest – even with ourselves. Worse yet is when the answer is “not yet” or “wait”. I’ve had that one. Waiting for decades. And it caused no small amount of anger directed at God. Eventually, I changed from anger to “what do you want me to learn”? After a while, it was “You’re gonna have to hit me on the head with a 2×4, because my head is pretty think and I’m just not getting it”. (Yes, I do pray like that.) Not too long after that I came to a similar conclusion to what Job realized in Job 42:1-3 –
Job 42:1 Then Job replied to the LORD:
Job 42:2 “I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.
Job 42:3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
My point – if God says “no” or “wait” or “not yet” – it’s a good idea to listen. Not that we’re going to. I think that’s something we have to learn for ourselves – some of us multiple times. I put it here as something for you (and me) to remember the next time we’re in a similar situation.
So – back to Habakkuk.
There are some who may fear that Habakkuk’s in big trouble for the way he talked to God. But that raises an interesting question. If we have thoughts in our minds, feelings in our hearts, but don’t say them – does that make it any better for us with God for not having actually spoken them? Consider this from Luke 5:17-26 –
Lk 5:17 One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
Lk 5:20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
Lk 5:21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Lk 5:22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . .” He said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
Yes – this is a parable about Jesus healing someone, which only God could do. And yes – that was the point of the parable, which has nothing to do with what’s in our hearts. But take a close look at 5:22 – “Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked…” Oops – guess He doesn’t have to have us actually say anything at all.
So – the next question – Does it even make any difference if we say what’s in our hearts or not? Since He already knows what we’re thinking – to say anything other than that would be nothing short of lying to God. Even saying nothing with the misguided belief that we can keep Him from knowing the truth – still lying. So ask yourself – is it better to tell Him what He already knows – or lie to Him when He knows right away that you’re lying? We used to do that to our parents when we were kids. Sometimes, we even got away with it. But not here – there’s no deceiving the One who knows all. So – may as well just be honest.
So now then, since God’s probably not mad at Habakkuk for what he said – let’s take a look at it. Maybe, since the problems were the same back then, the answer might apply to us too?
Hab 1:5 “ Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.
Now we know that God’s not only still around and listening – He’s going to do something.
And, whatever is going to happen, it will be soon, since it’s going to happen in Habakkuk’s days. Well – this is one thing we certainly don’t know today – when God’s going to intervene. We just don’t appear to have the privilege any more.
It’s also going to be amazing and unbelievable. Given that Habakkuk is a firm believer in God and His power, the response is going to be really major.
And finally we know it’s going to come out of left field. Habakkuk is complaining about all the troubles in his own land. And here’s God telling him to look outside of his own people for whatever this utterly amazing thing is that God’s going to do.
Obviously God’s going to bring someone from another region to come in and clean up all the evil that’s going on with God’s chosen people. Today, we vote for people that we think will clean up the mess our cities and states and country are in. There’s also the hope that someone will be able to clean up the world. (But that’s for another day to write about). Unfortunately, just like that doesn’t happen today – it didn’t happen then either. What’s going to happen is truly and utterly amazing and beyond belief. When reading the verses below – remember that this what God is going to do about His own people.
Hab 1:6 I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
to seize dwelling places not their own.
Hab 1:7 They are a feared and dreaded people;
they are a law to themselves
and promote their own honor.
Hab 1:8 Their horses are swifter than leopards,
fiercer than wolves at dusk.
Their cavalry gallops headlong;
their horsemen come from afar.
They fly like a vulture swooping to devour;
Hab 1:9 they all come bent on violence.
Their hordes advance like a desert wind
and gather prisoners like sand.
Hab 1:10 They deride kings
and scoff at rulers.
They laugh at all fortified cities;
they build earthen ramps and capture them.
Hab 1:11 Then they sweep past like the wind and go on—
guilty men, whose own strength is their god.”
Somehow I don’t think this is exactly what Habakkuk had in mind. Today, the question would be something like “How could this happen?!?” Well, let’s see what really did happen.
God agrees with Habakkuk. There’s nothing in His response to indicate anything otherwise.
Apparently God isn’t mad at Habakkuk either, since there’s nothing directed at him for what he said. Small consolation to Habakkuk, considering what’s about to happen. But still, it shows us that He can take it when we have legitimate concerns that we bring to Him.
Maybe things are even worse than what Habakkuk thought. He was expecting someone or something to come along and clean up the acts of the Israelites. Not a total wipe out of them.
No doubt the people didn’t expect anything like this was coming either. But, should it really have been such a surprise? Let’s check it out.
Remember this from Exodus?
Ex 16:1 The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. 2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’S hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”
Ex 16:4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”
Ex 16:6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” 8 Moses also said, “You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD.”
Ex 16:9 Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.’ ”
Ex 16:10 While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the LORD appearing in the cloud.
Ex 16:11 The LORD said to Moses, 12 “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.’ ”
Ex 16:13 That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.
Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. 16 This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’ ”
Ex 16:17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed.
Ex 16:19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”
Ex 16:20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.
Ex 16:21 Each morning everyone gathered as much as he needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. 22 On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much—two omers for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. 23 He said to them, “This is what the LORD commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’ ”
Ex 16:24 So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. 25 “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a Sabbath to the LORD. You will not find any of it on the ground today. 26 Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.”
Ex 16:27 Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none.
Grumbling, grumbling and more grumbling.
Let’s keep in mind here – the Israelites are out in the desert because God has just rescued them from the oppressive slavery they were under at the hands of the Egyptians. Years before that, the first Israelite in Egypt – Joseph – (through God) had saved the Egyptians from a horrible drought and subsequent seven year famine. But then the people turned away from God – and as punishment were allowed to be enslaved by the Egyptian Pharaoh, who had no idea what Joseph had done all those years before.
Anyway – God is saving them from this evil Pharaoh. Now they’re complaining that they had better food when they were in Egypt. The fact that they were slaves and were complaining about how miserable their life was before – that’s all gone. Now that life is better in one regard – now they complain about the lack of food. So God gives them bread – manna from Heaven. Given the Sabbath day was Holy and no work was to be done – they had the rules to make sure they had what they needed. No more – but no less either – always just enough. But they couldn’t do that right either.
Gee. Sounds familiar is some ways, doesn’t it. How often do we do the same types of things?
And God’s response?
Then the LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” So the people rested on the seventh day.
Not too bad – this time. It’s a gentle reminder. We’ve all had them. But do we always listen. For some, maybe, do we ever listen?
But later on, in Numbers:
Nu 14:1 That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! 3 Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
Nu 14:5 Then Moses and Aaron fell face down in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. 6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
Nu 14:10 But the whole assembly talked about stoning them.
Still more grumbling.
This time, the people were upset about reports back from a group that had gone to explore the land that God was giving to them. Why? Even though God said He was going to give it to them (not that they had to take it on their own – but God would be there with them. But some of them were still afraid. So they ended up making huge exaggerations about what they found, saying the people there were so big that compared to those people, the explorers were like the size of grasshoppers. So now the people think they’re going to die and want to go back to Egypt. Again.
They didn’t learn anything. Again, I ask, would we be any different?
And God’s response this time?
Then the glory of the LORD appeared at the Tent of Meeting to all the Israelites. The LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.”
Looks like the people are in big trouble now. BTW – for those that don’t know the whole journey, you may have noticed that we went from Exodus 15 to Numbers 14. That’s a lot that got left out. And guess what? There was plenty of grumbling in between as well. It’s not like this is only the second time.
Another question – if you were Moses, what would you think at this point? Maybe something like “Finally, I’m going to be rid of these people! They want to kill me, But now God’s going to take care of me and I’ll be rewarded for doing what He wanted.”
Well – let’s see what happened.
Nu 14:13 Moses said to the LORD, “Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them. 14 And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, O LORD, are with these people and that you, O LORD, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. 15 If you put these people to death all at one time, the nations who have heard this report about you will say, 16 ‘The LORD was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath; so he slaughtered them in the desert.’
Nu 14:17 “Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared: 18 ‘The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.’ 19 In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”
Seriously? In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now. Moses is asking forgiveness for these people who were trying to kill him? Who does he think he is – Jesus? I say this because here, Moses exhibits the same characteristics that Jesus did. You may remember, just before Jesus died on the cross, He said (of the people who were responsible for His crucifixion) Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. But Jesus was God. Moses is just a person. This is amazing. Could you do it? Would I have done it, is another good question.
Here’s another question. God’s not real happy with these people either at this point. Will He forgive them as Moses requested?
Nu 14:20 The LORD replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. 21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, 22 not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. 24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. 25 Since the Amalekites and Canaanites are living in the valleys, turn back tomorrow and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea.”
Nu 14:26 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: 27 “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. 28 So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the LORD, I will do to you the very things I heard you say: 29 In this desert your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. 30 Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. 31 As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. 32 But you—your bodies will fall in this desert. 33 Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the desert. 34 For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.’ 35 I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this desert; here they will die.”
Looks like the answer is “yes, but”. God said he forgave them, but with a nevertheless after it. Not the word you’d really want to hear at that point.
Oops! Guess it didn’t work out this time. They pushed God too far – got something that was likely utterly amazing and totally unbelievable.
But even back then, was it really so unbelievable? Maybe you remember this? They certainly should have.
Ge 6:9 This is the account of Noah.
Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.
Ge 6:11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. 15 This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. 16 Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within 18 inches of the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. 17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. 19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. 21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”
Ge 6:22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him.
And the flood did come. And every living person and creature died, except those on the ark.
Even back in Genesis, people pushed God too far, and He responded.
In Exodus, people pushed God too far and He responded.
In Habakkuk’s time. people pushed God too far, and it appears that He will respond again. (BTW – there were other ties as well – with similar responses from God.) And no doubt all of these came as a shock to many of the people at the time these things happened. I suspect it’s not what people have in mind today either.
But maybe you say – this is all Old Testament stuff. It doesn’t apply any more. Jesus changed all that. Really?
Mt 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
This isn’t sounding so good.
Yes – Jesus taught grace and forgiveness. But He also taught that at some point, thee would be an end to the grace and forgiveness. At some point, we have to make a choice. A choice to either accept God’s offer of grace and forgiveness – or to turn it down. That point comes either when we pass from this earth or when God says “it’s over” – whichever comes first. The thing is, we don’t know when either of those things is going to happen. Better to choose right now if you haven’t already. But if not now, then the sooner the better.
Or maybe you’re thinking it isn’t really going to be this way?
Maybe He didn’t really mean it?
Maybe it doesn’t really mean what it sounds like.
Surely Jesus doesn’t mean that God will continue to deal with evil people the same way as in the Old Testament?
Let’s see what the New Testament says about that.
Ac 13:38 “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses. 40 Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you:
Ac 13:41 “ ‘Look, you scoffers,
wonder and perish,
for I am going to do something in your days
that you would never believe,
even if someone told you.’ ”
Oops. That kind of sounds familiar.
More bad news if you’re hoping that this kind of thing won’t happen any more. This is none other than Paul – Roman, Jew (Pharisee even) and finally Christian – a person uniquely qualified to understand the full impact of all this in terms of both the Old and New Testament Words. And he’s quoting Habakkuk to warn the Jews of his day not to end up the same as the Israelites of Habakkuk’s day.
So maybe you’re not Jewish. I’m not. So maybe it doesn’t apply to us? Nice try. Because this is what happens next in Acts:
Ac 13:42 As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. 43 When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.
Ac 13:44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.
Ac 13:46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us:
“ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth. ’”
Ac 13:48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
Ac 13:49 The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Paul goes to the Gentiles, because God has now offered His gift to them. To us. Does that gift come with some expectations? I think we all know the answer to that question.
For the Christian readers, we should all know what those expectations are. If not – I urge you to find out.
For the non-Christian readers – this may be a point of concern, fear, even rejection of the offer. Some of what you may have heard isn’t necessarily true. Some people (and some faiths) put in “requirements” that are beyond what Jesus actually taught. Interestingly enough, some others teach a way that is so watered down that I’m not sure Jesus would even recognize it, let alone accept it. The thing is though – for someone sincerely seeking Jesus – you’ll see that after you’ve found Him, things that look like impossible pre-requisites to having God love you, are actually things that you want to do just because you realize how much He loves you. If that’s where you are right now – please keep reading. And explore some more. Reach out to Him. to sort of steal a line from God in Habakkuk 1:5 – Look for Him, and prepare to be amazed (but in a good way).
We know what happened with Noah, the ark, and the flood.
We read what was going to happen to the ones who kept grumbling in the desert.
We know there are a whole lot of people doing evil things in Habakkuk’s time. We just read what God had to say about that.
We also know there’s a whole lot of evil in the world today – and not just by people who don’t believe in God. Just like Habakkuk’s time, and in Moses’ time, and in Noah’s time. What’s going to happen to them? To us?
Things are looking pretty grim for the people back then. But not to worry – there’s more. Habakkuk isn’t done just yet. He has a second complaint following God’s initial answer. Will he be any more successful than Moses?
Well – that’s enough for today. Guess there’s going to be a part 3. God willing.
A final word of encouragement for the non-Christian readers at this point, to help you with your search for Jesus –
Titus 2:11 For the grace of God hath appeared bringing salvation to all men. (KJV)
John 10:10 I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (NIV)
Rev 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (NIV)
Someone’s at your door.