Are you Not from Everlasting?
Habakkuk 1:12-2:1- Habakkuk’s Second Complaint
We have looked at Habakkuk and his first lament to God, how long will you let this injustice continue (Hab 1:1-4). God’s response is simple, I will deal with it suddenly and very soon (Hab 1:5). However, it was not in the way that Habakkuk thought he would handle it. God was raising up the unexpected nation of Chaldeans or the Babylonians. The Chaldeans were bitter, fierce, and impetuous (Hab 1:6). They will come through Judah like a tornado, sweeping the land, and continue in their path of destruction (Hab 1:11). God answered Habakkuk’s question simply. Habakkuk asked, God answered. However, Habakkuk has more questions and another lament. How can God, who is holy and just, be raising up a nation which is more wicked than Israel to bring judgment (Hab 1:13)? Will they mercilessly kill nations forever (Hab 1:17)? This week we will look at Habakkuk’s second lament to God. We will look at the complaint in three parts; Promises of the Everlasting Covenant, Pursuit of the enemy, and finally, the patience of the expectant prophet.
I. The promise of the Everlasting Covenant
Habakkuk’s second complaint begins the same way as his first, with a question. Habakkuk asks the rhetorical question, “Are you not from everlasting?” Habakkuk has rich respect and knowledge of God. His complaint is built upon a strong foundation of theology. He does not impart the wrong motives to God. His question is rooted in four of God’s attributes. God is 1) Eternal; 2) Holy; 3) Just and 4) Sovereign. Habakkuk is no novice in his catechism class. Habakkuk knows God’s character, and he states that God is eternal, with his first question and also the statement, ‘We shall not die.” Habakkuk sees that because God is eternal, and he has made a covenant with his people, then the covenant will last forever (2 Sam 7:13).
Secondly, Habakkuk rests his complaint in that God is Holy. Are you not… my Holy One? (vs. 12). “You who are of purer eyes…” (13a). Jonathan Edwards says, “He that sees the beauty of holiness, or true moral good, sees the greatest and most important thing in the world, which is the fullness of all things, without which all the world is empty, indeed, worse than nothing. Unless this is seen, nothing is seen that is worth the seeing, for there is no other true excellency or beauty.” Habakkuk asks God how a holy God can see this evil, for you cannot look at wrong. How can you let the wicked swallow up a man more righteous than the wicked? Habakkuk also does not denounce his faith because of this question, he still uses the powerful pronoun, my holy one. Martin Luther says the Christian religion is based on pronouns. George Swinnock says, “All our consolation indeed consists in this pronoun. He is my God. All the joys of the believer are hung on this one string. Break this and all is lost.”
Thirdly, Habakkuk’s complaint is rested in God’s justice. How can he ordain a bitter and fierce nation as a judgment or reproof? How can God remain silent? Justice requires the right action, but it seems that the wrong action is being taken. It does not look like it is an eye for an eye but an eye for both of your legs. The judgment does not seem to fit the crime. Injustice is surrounding Habakkuk (Hab 1:4). It seems that God’s response is to fight injustice with more injustice. When will it end (Hab 1:17)? Compared to Habakkuk’s first complaint, this is far worse than he had anticipated.
Fourthly, Habakkuk’s second complaint is rested upon the fact that God is sovereign. “You have established, and you have ordained them,” meaning the Chaldeans (vs. 12). God is sovereign, and this makes this complaint real, if God was not sovereign, then Habakkuk could mention that God’s hands were tied. However, because God is sovereign this makes this complaint necessary. Because God ordained and established the bitter, hasty nation, however, it’s because of God’s sovereignty that the prophet can have hope in the promise of the everlasting covenant. RC Sproul wrote, “If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled.”
Habakkuk’s complaint is rooted in the fact that he knows God and his attributes. Habakkuk is confused about how this is possible. His main question is, “If my eternal, holy, just, sovereign God has established an everlasting covenant, how can he ordain an evil, wicked, and bitter nation to judge Judah for their sins?”
II. The pursuit of the enemy
Habakkuk then explains his complaint with an illustration of a fish verses a fisherman. Judah/Israel is like the fish, and the Chaldeans are like the fishermen. What crawling or creeping animals have a ruler? The Crawling things could be reptiles (1 Kings 4:33) or even small fish in the sea (Ps 104:25). The purpose of this statement is that Babylon is compared to leopards, wolves, horsemen, and an eagle or vulture, but Israel is a gecko or small fish. Babylon will come and take the Israelites from Jerusalem as a fisherman hauls in a load from his net. Taking them in ones (hook), some (net), and many (dragnet). The Babylonians will rejoice when the Israelites are captured and killed like a fisherman when he gets a huge load. A fisherman’s job is to catch fish. He does not care how many nets or lines he breaks; he will always be trying to catch more fish. The Babylonians do not care how many cities they crush or armies they destroy; they will do so to conquer any group of people in their way. Habakkuk explains that by the fish, the fisherman lives in luxury, and his food is rich. The word’s luxury and rich literally mean fat. Never trust a skinny hunter or baker. The fisherman illustrates that he is an excellent fisherman because he catches and eats a lot of fish. Habakkuk finishes his second complaint with a similar question to how he started his first complaint. How long? Will the fisherman empty his net and then set sail again to catch another haul? Will Babylon continue to demolish anyone and anything in their way? Ultimately Habakkuk asks, will the injustice end?
III. The patience of the expectant prophet
Habakkuk finishes his complaint and sits down, expecting an answer. A watchtower is made for watching and waiting. God responded before and told Habakkuk to look and see (Hab 1:5). Habakkuk tells God he will look out and see what God will say to him. Again, Habakkuk is a mature believer who knows a lot about God. Some people, when confronted with complicated answers to prayers, throw their hands up in the air and explain that they can’t believe in a God that would allow evil, or something similar. Habakkuk knows God better than that. He knows that God is good, holy, just, and sovereign. He also knows that God can answer his tough question. God can always answer our questions because he knows more than us; this doesn’t mean we will always get a response. God does not need to look in the back of the book for the correct answers because he knows everything. Habakkuk asks a single question, and God answers his question. Habakkuk has more questions and is now waiting for an answer.
We have many tough questions, and God has given us the Bible to be able to answer all that we need to know about life and salvation. Samuel Rutherford says, “The way to overcome is by patience, forgiving and praying for your enemies, in doing which you heap coals upon their heads, and your Lord shall open the door to you in your troubles. Wait upon Him, as the night watch waits for the morning. He will not tarry. Go up to your watchtower, and do not come down, but by prayer, and faith, and hope, wait on. When the sea is full, it will ebb again; and as soon as the wicked has come to the top of their pride, and are waxed high and mighty, then is their change approaching. Those who believe do not make haste.”