Lessons from Habakkuk: Part 2 (Habakkuk 1:12-2:1)

As I wrote in part one of this study, I have developed a serious love for the Old Testament book of Habakkuk. Since it has been my experience that most people (even Christians) have never heard of, nor read, this book, I have unofficially labeled it as “the best book of the Bible you have never heard of.” In the first post of this series we studied verses 1-11 and read of Habakkuk’s complaints to God concerning the sins committed by his fellow Jews. In a tone that is remarkably similar to that of Christians today, Habakkuk asked God why there is no justice in the world. God responded by telling Habakkuk he would be amazed by God’s plan for judgment where the nation of Judea was concerned. Just as He has used the Assyrians to judge Israel, God had raised up the army of Babylon to levy judgment upon the people of Judea. In light of this revelation, Habakkuk has further complaints.

Habakkuk’s Second Complaint

12 O LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, we will not die. O LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgment; O Rock, you have ordained them to punish. 13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? (Habakkuk 1:12-13)

Now that Habakkuk is aware of what’s in store for his people, he has serious reservations concerning God’s plan. Habakkuk is stunned that God would use a people as evil as the Babylonians to execute His will. In Habakkuk’s mind, this only serves to complicate the issue as, once again, the wicked are prevailing. As stunning as it seems, God’s revelation to Habakkuk reveals two things concerning the methods He is willing to use to advance His will: First, in God’s sovereign authority over the entire world He is not above using wicked people to advance His will. Secondly, God will use people whether they realize it or not. Certainly, the Babylonians had no clue they were serving the will of the one true God as they advance against Judea. It has been my experience that God still works in this fashion today. As a believer who came to Christ at the age of thirty, I can look back to my days before Christ and recognize the moments when God was working in my life even though I didn’t know it at the time. How amazing it is to serve a God who will “ordain” people to serve Him; even if they fail to recognize and admit it – or even object to it.

Habakkuk then continues his plea to God:

14 You have made men like fish in the sea,  like sea creatures that have no ruler. 15 The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks, he catches them in his net, he gathers them up in his dragnet; and so he rejoices and is glad. 16 Therefore he sacrifices to his net and burns incense to his dragnet, for by his net he lives in luxury and enjoys the choicest food. 17 Is he to keep on emptying his net, destroying nations without mercy? (Habakkuk 1:14-17)

Habakkuk’s plea with God strikes at the very nature of mankind. Within this complaint, there is a veiled accusation; Habakkuk asserts that God has made men like fish in the sea; running about with no direction and at the mercy of the wicked. Habakkuk then astutely observes that the wicked exercise their power over the weak without mercy to the point that they eventually begin to worship their own power and military strength. It is a plot that has been played out throughout history. Wicked rulers accumulate military might for the sole purpose of unleashing it upon the weak.

The last verse in this passage (verse 17) is especially poignant. In his Commentary of the Whole Bible, Matthew Henry writes, “The prophet, in the close, humbly expresses his hope that God will not suffer these destroyers of mankind always to go on and prosper thus, and expostulates with God concerning it?”

Henry continues to compare Habakkuk 1:17 with Psalms 74:22, “Arise, O God, plead thine own cause: remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily.”

What Habakkuk does next is a lesson for all of us:

1 I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. (Habakkuk 2:1)

Habakkuk removes himself from others and waits in solitude for God’s answer to his plea. Consider the imagery in this verse. “Standing watch” and “stationing himself on the ramparts” elicits images of the night watchmen diligently looking out for the ensuing army. In Judea, ramparts were mounds of earth outside the city walls where watchmen would stand guard as the first line of defense against invasion. In this verse, Habakkuk is intentionally placing himself in a quiet, solitary place in order to hear from God. Despite his complaints and pleas, Habakkuk is expressing incredible faith in his God. He has asked a question and he expects an answer. The prophets actions in this passage are not unlike the Messiah’s who frequently sought out solitude to pray and communicate with the Heavenly Father:

12One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. (Luke 6:12)

In addition, Christ advised that the rest of us follow suit:

5“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. (Matthew 5:7)

There are so many distractions in today’s world that compete with God’s voice for our attention; music, television, computers, cell phones. If we truly expect to hear from God, we must model Habakkuk’s behavior and seek solitude and quiet.

Principles for our Christian Lives from Habakkuk 1:12-2:1


  • We should recognize God’s will cannot be resisted: God uses many methods to execute His will; He is not above manipulating the wicked and the ignorant. The Lord is in control!
  • When seeking God’s Word, we should intentionally seek solitude and quiet: As believers who are save by Christ, we should be confident that God wants to communicate with us. This communication will often necessitate that we seek solitude and quiet our minds in the confident hope that God will speak to us.

In the next lesson, we will study God’s response to Habakkuk’s plea.

Related Post: Lessons from Habakkuk: Part 1 (Habakkuk 1:1-11)

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