Posts Tagged 'Old Testament'

Panic Podcast: The Story of the Old Testament, Part 2

Good morning, and happy day-after-Thanksgiving. If things go according to the “new normal,” in a week the media will be trying to scare us to death over another spike in Covid-19 cases because none of us listened to Dr Fauci.  Personally, I’m more than a little skeptical about anything I hear from the mainstream media and I am definitely bored with anything the diminutive doctor has to say.  This isn’t a political rant, merely the musings of a free thinker who just wants to be left alone.  I’m in good company, though.  Paul wrote essentially the same thing as a primary reason to pray for the governing authorities:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.   (1 Timothy 2:1-3 | NIVUK)

Pray for “kings and all those in authority” so hopefully they’ll leave you alone.  That’s not what governments are wont to do these days, that’s why it takes prayer!

On today’s podcast, I talk about the building of a nation, namely, the Hebrew nation, in our series, “The Story of the Old Testament.”



SAUL: The Lost Man

Saul rips Samuel's robe

1 Samuel 15

Last time we looked at Saul, we discovered that he was, in his heart, a disobedient man.  He disobeyed the plain word of the Lord given to him through the prophet Samuel.  In chapter 13 we learned the high price he paid for his disobedience:  he would be denied a dynasty.  Nevertheless, Saul was still Israel’s king and God was not eager to withdraw His favor from His king.  Such is the Lord’s “lingering grace,” which gives the stubborn a little more time for repentance.  Saul would be given one more chance to show himself faithful to God.  Sadly, with chapter 15 Saul’s decline would be complete and irreversible; he was denied his dynasty in chapter 13, and now he will be denied his kingship.

Let’s consider—

1.  Saul’s clear mission, verse 3

Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.

Samuel was sent with a message from the Lord to King Saul.  God’s patience had finally run out for the wicked, warlike Amalekites and He would choose Saul as His instrument to completely destroy them, as prophesied as far back as Exodus 17:8—16.

The Lord’s order to Saul was to not spare anything or anybody.  The Hebrew phrase (charam cherem) is somewhat complex but literally means “to put under the ban.”  It is usually used of people and objects that have been set aside as God’s personal property, either to be used of Him or destroyed by Him in an act of judgment.   It is a powerful phrase which to our modern sensibilities is difficult to fathom.  It is a concept that could be used to describe radical surgery performed by a skilled surgeon to prevent the spread of a malignant cancer.

This was no ordinary war; Israel was expressly commanded to take no booty, and all living creatures were to be killed.  This was to be a complete judgment of God upon an evil, godless race of people who were a blight on planet earth and a threat to the continued existence of God’s chosen people.  What a solemn responsibility Saul had been entrusted with!  God, as the sovereign owner of all He has created, may choose animate or inanimate objects to execute His will over His creation.  Sometimes, God had used earthquakes and storms to benefit His people or to judge them.  This time He will use Saul to deal with the Amalekites.

Neither personal feelings nor human reason should stand in the way of fulfilling God’s will and purpose.  When God tells us to do something, we must obey to the letter His command, not embellishing it with our ideas and reasoning.  If God should tell us to walk on the water, we need to be prepared to do just that.   If God should tell us to sell all we have and give the proceeds to the poor, we must obey that command, no matter how strange it may seem to us.  To not obey the word of God is to show Him the highest form of contempt.

2.  Saul’s disobedience, verse 9

But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

The express command of God was to spare nothing, but Saul spared a lot.  He allowed his feelings and his eyes to determine his action and his level of obedience.  Saul allowed his natural instincts as a shepherd, and as a dealer in cattle, to overrule the direct command of God, which no doubt made no sense to Him all; he spared the very best, but destroyed the weak and useless.

How easy it is to give God the things we don’t want and to keep the best for ourselves.  God was not at all pleased that Saul partly obeyed; do you suppose God will accept our partial obedience?  Do you suppose God will accept the weak and the useless from us, even as we keep the best for our own purposes?  To partially obey is to disobey and whenever self-interest is allowed a place in our service to God, we are faithless and open to His rebuke.

3.  Saul’s lame excuses (more of the same), verses 13, 15 20, 21

When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD’s instructions.”

Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”

“But I did obey the LORD,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king.  The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal.”

This singular event was Saul’s final probation; he had been warned many times before and repeatedly came up short.  It is quite possible that verse 11 is about the saddest verse in all of Scripture—

“I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the LORD all that night.

The Hebrew for “grieved” is nacham, meaning “to sigh,” “to be sorry,” “to rue.”   It does not mean that God somehow changed His mind about Saul, as some have suggested.  God does not “learn” about us nor does God have to “adjust” His thinking toward us.   God interacts with human beings all the time and His reactions to what we do show that God is absolutely coherent in his thoughts and He is never caught off guard.  That is, we can predict how He will react with certainty if we act in a dishonoring manner or if we act in way that pleases Him.  The difference between God and human beings is that when we act we often have no idea what the unintended consequences of that action will be.  However, God does.  Our actions never catch Him off guard, and so He never has to change His mind about us.

Walter Kaiser:

God can and does change in His actions and emotions towards men so as not to be fickle, mutable, and variable in His nature and purpose.

God was broken hearted that Saul disobeyed, and Samuel’s reaction was a mirror reflection of how God was grieving.

When the prophet finally met up with Saul after Saul had erected a monument of his victory, the excuses came flowing out of Saul like wet cement.  Like the crowing of the rooster when Peter denied his Lord, so the bleating of the sheep mocked the Word of the Lord to Saul.  To make matters worse, Saul insisted that he had been obedient. Once again, he thought that partial obedience would be good enough for God.

It is pitiful when we, like Saul, justify our sins of disobedience when confronted.  But how many of us are masters of self-deception?  How many of us have actually convinced ourselves that partial obedience is good enough?   How many believers have deluded themselves into thinking they are “right with God” because He hasn’t sent a plague on them or struck them dead?   Galatians 6:7 is a frightening verse—

Do not be deceived:  God cannot be mocked.

You will reap what you sow; if you continually sow seeds of disobedience, you will reap what Saul is about to reap.  God is predictable in how He deals with disobedient sinners.  And God knows your heart, like He knew Saul’s.  We can’t delude Him.

If Saul had only obeyed, how different things would have been.  But most of us are about as reliable as Saul was.  Complete obedience is so hard.  Some Christians think complete obedience is impossible.  Is it really impossible?  Not according to this verse—

For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.  (2 Chronicles 16:9)

That is all God wants from any of His children:  a full commitment.

4.  Saul’s “confession,” verse 24

Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the LORD’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.

The more Saul spoke, the more his heart was revealed.  He was right to confess that he sinned; he had been caught.  But then the secret came out:  He feared the people, and the fear of man did him in.

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.  (Proverbs 29:25)

How many believers never accomplish anything for God because they fear what man will think?

  • I’m afraid to witness to my friend because I don’t want lose his friendship.
  • I don’t go to church because it might make my wife mad.
  • We don’t say grace in restaurants because it’s embarrassing.

We, who think things like this, need to pay heed to what the Lord said to the prophet—

“I, even I, am he who comforts you.
Who are you that you fear mortal men,
the sons of men, who are but grass.”  (Isaiah 51:12)

The child of God is clothed in the armor of God, but so-called Christians with no backbones are cowards.

The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?  (Psalm 118:6)

5.  Saul’s final rejection, verse 26

But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you as king over Israel!”

According to Luke 9:26, to reject God’s Word is to be rejected of God—

If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Saul’s so-called confession and so-called repentance was too little to late.  Verse 27 shows the violence in Saul’s heart—

As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore.

The arrogance of the man!  The tearing of the robe dramatically illustrated the loss of the kingdom.  But God’s ever-faithful prophet had the last word—

Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you.   (verse 28)

Of course, that neighbor was David.  Just as “obedience is better than sacrifice” so David was better than Saul.  How ironic that Saul “was better” and “without equal” when God first called him?  Saul’s downfall was his doing; he was his own worst enemy.

Verse 29 says more about Saul’s character than it does about God’s—

He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.”

Everything good about God was nowhere to be found in Saul.

It is possible to be a Christian, full of the Holy Spirit, yet not live the kind of life that glorifies God and brings honor to His Name.  It is possible to be a Christian but live in disobedience to the revealed Word of God.  But be warned:  such believers live in danger of becoming lost at any moment; shipwrecked on an island of sinful isolation from the body of Christ, a stumbling block to the rest of us and an offense to God.  Someone once wrote:

There is line by us unseen,
That crosses every path;
The hidden boundary between
God’s patience and His wrath.

How close are you living to that line?

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

Studies in Daniel and Revelation

The Rapture of the Church

With Revelation 4, the scene shifts from Patmos, the island of John’s exile, to Heaven.

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” (4:1)

The phrase “after this” refers to John’s vision of Christ in the midst of the seven candlesticks, that is, after “Church Age.” We are living in the Church Age today, sometimes referred to as the “Age of Grace.” This present age began with the birth of the Church on the Day of Pentecost and will continue until the Church is removed by way of the rapture. The doctrine of the rapture of Church refers to the catching away of all true believers in Christ to meet Him in the air. This amazing event is clearly taught in the following Scriptures:

  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13—17;
  • 1 Corinthians 15:23, 51—58;
  • Philippians 3:20—21;
  • John 14:1—3;
  • Luke 21:34—36;
  • Colossians 3:4

What John experienced when Jesus said to him, “Come up here” is a type or foreshadow of the Rapture of the Church. It must have been similar to what the apostle Paul experienced in 2 Corinthians 12:2—4. In Paul’s case, however, he was told not to tell anybody what he saw and heard, while John was told write down everything he was shown in a letter to the seven churches.

1. Ties up lose ends of Scripture

Chapter 4 of Revelation is essential because it serves to tie up some troublesome lose ends of Scripture. In Matthew 16:13-28, we read Christ’s “foundational statement” concerning the Church:

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:17—18)

A few verses after that, Jesus told His disciples this:

I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. (Matthew 16:28)

This interesting verse finds its fulfillment in John’s being caught up to heaven, raptured, and in a vision, seeing before his death what he would have witnessed and experienced if he had lived to see Jesus return. In other words, John was allowed to live, until, in vision, he saw the return of the Lord.

2. Rapture vs. The Second Coming

The Rapture of the Church is referred to as “the coming of the Lord” but never is it referred to, nor should it ever be referred to, as “the Second Coming of Christ.” At the Rapture, Christ will not appear visibly to people on the Earth but rather He comes in the air, above the Earth, to “catch up” the dead and living saints, who will rise together to meet the Lord in the air.

The Rapture is strictly a New Testament doctrine and was revealed first to Paul in a special revelation in 1 Corinthians 15:51—58. The doctrine of the Second Coming is not only a New Testament doctrine, but one of the chief messages of the Old Testament prophets. Those prophets never saw the Church (and therefore never saw the Rapture, which concerns the Church), but they did see the coming of the Messiah.

The Rapture and the Second Coming will be separated by at least seven years. After the Rapture and during the Tribulation, the saints will be in Heaven with God, not merely hanging around in the air. The saints will return with Christ to reign as kings and priests with Him (Jude 14; Revelation 19:14; Zechariah 14:5). Christ first comes for His saints, then He returns to the Earth with His saints. The Rapture happens first, the Second Coming after the Rapture, separated by the Tribulation.

3. Purpose of the Rapture

In its simplest terms, the purpose of the Rapture is to collect the righteous dead and to remove them, along with the living saints of God, out of the world before the Tribulation begins. There must be a “rapture” in order to fulfill what Jesus said in Luke 21:36a—

Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen.

The phrase “all that is to happen” refers to all the things Jesus taught in Matthew 24 and 25; Luke 21:1—19, 25—28.

This Rapture will occur before the Tribulation begins, and will be the first in a series of raptures that will take place throughout this seven-year period. There will be the following “smaller” raptures:

  • The rapture of the male child in the middle of the Tribulation, Rev. 7:1—3; 12:5; 14:1—5
  • The rapture of the Tribulation saints, Rev. 6:9—11- 7:9—17; 15:2—4; 20:4—6.
  • The rapture of the two witnesses at the end of the Tribulation, Rev. 11:3—11.

Daniel 7: Four Beasts and a Little Horn

Daniel 1—6 covers the history of the prophet in Babylon, including his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams and Belshazzar’s vision. Beginning with chapter 7, we read of Daniel’s visions, which concern world events from his day to the Second Coming of Christ to the final state. These visions are all interpreted by God to Daniel so there can be no doubt as to what they mean.

Chronologically, chapter 7 belongs between chapters 4 and 5. It is possible that chapters 1—6 and chapters 7—12 are grouped together thematically; the first six chapters cover Daniel’s history, and the last six chapters cover Daniel’s visions.

Chapter 7 covers essentially the same ground as chapter 2, taking in the “times of the Gentiles,” beginning with Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon and ending with the overthrow of man’s dominion of the Earth by Christ at His return and the founding of His eternal kingdom. There is a difference between chapters 2 and 7, however, and it is that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream covers the times of the Gentiles from man’s perspective but in Daniel’s visions we have the same material covered from God’s perspective. This becomes apparent when in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream he is pictured regally, as a head of gold topping a massive statue, whereas in chapter 7 the Gentile nations are viewed as wild, ravenous beasts.

There is nothing new in this, however. Every nation glories in its achievements and builds statues and names buildings after its prominent leaders and engages in self-congratulatory ceremonies, like having holidays in honor of politicians or certain citizens. But these same nations, viewed from Heaven, are pictured quite differently. Psalm 49:12 paints the true image of man—

But man, despite his riches, does not endure;
he is like the beasts that perish.

1, The Four Beasts, 7:1—27

There is no mystery in what Daniel saw, as God tells the prophet plainly what he saw:

The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. (7:17)

We are not free to interpret God’s interpretation of these visions, nor are we free to change the literal to the symbolic or vice versa. We are to take chapter 7 at face value, adding nothing to it and taking nothing away from it. Daniel’s vision is recorded in Daniel 7:1—14 and the only interpretation is given in Daniel 7:15—28.

Before looking at each beast, here are all the symbols and what they mean:

  • Winds denote wars, strife, and judgments from God (Jer. 25:32—33; Rev. 7:1—3; cf. Rev. 8:7—13; Dan. 7:1—3).
  • Seas represent people (Rev. 17:15).
  • Beasts represent nations and rulers (Dan. 7:17; 8:20—23; Rev. 13:1—18; 17:8—18).
  • Heads also represent nations (Dan. 7:6; 8:20—23; Rev. 17:8—17).
  • Horns represent kings or rulers of empires or nations (Dan. 7:23—24; Rev. 17:12—17).

(a) The Lion, 7:4

The lion symbolizes Babylon, as did the head of gold on the statue of Daniel 2:38—46. It was fitting that Babylon was symbolized by both the king of beasts and the king of birds. The wings on the lion showed how fast Babylon conquered other nations (Hab. 1:6—8; Ezek. 17:1—24). These wings were plucked and the lion then stood and walked like a man, suggesting that at some point in its history Babylon lost its ambition and began to wallow in its self-sufficiency, Daniel 5.

(b) The Bear, 7:5

The bear-like creature symbolizes the Medes and Persians, as the silver did in the statue of chapter 2. It raised itself up on one side representing the greater military strength and influence of the Persians. The three ribs in its mouth represent the Median-Persian conquest of Babylon and Egypt. This empire is mentioned in Daniel 5:24—31; 6:1—28; 7:5, 17; 18:1—4, 20; 10:1—20; 11:1—2; Isaiah 13:17—22; 21:2; 2 Kings 17:6; 18:11; Esther 2:6.

(c) The Leopard, 7:6

Like the brass in the image of chapter 2, the leopard here represents Greece. It had four wings representing the swiftness of the conquests of Alexander. It also had four heads which represent the four divisions of the empire at Alexander’s death. This empire is mentioned in Daniel 2:32, 35, 39, 45; 7:6; 8:5—25; 10:20; 11:3—45; Zechariah 8:13.

(d) The Strange Beast, 7:7—8

This unusual beast symbolizes Rome, as the iron did in the statue of Daniel 2. It had great iron teeth and was strong, for it broke all the beasts to pieces. It had ten horns and later another little horn, making eleven horns all together. The beast itself represents the old Roman Empire.

(e) The Ten Horns, 7:8, 20, 24

These ten horns represent ten empires that will emerge from the territory of the Old Roman Empire in the last days and will be in existence at the Second Coming of Christ. These ten horns correspond to the ten toes of chapter 2 and the ten horns on the beast and dragon in Revelation 12:3; 13:1—4; 17:8—17.

(f) The Little Horn, 7:8, 20—27

Read carefully 7:24—

The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings.

This “little horn,” another king, will come to prominence some time in the future; he is the same as the “beast” of Revelation 13. This “little horn” is called different names by different people, but all are referring to the same person:

  • The Assyrian, Isaiah 10:5—6; 14:24—25; 30:27—33.
  • The Wicked, Isaiah 11:4.
  • King of Babylon, Isaiah 14:4.
  • Lucifer, Isaiah 14:2.
  • King of Tyre, Ezekiel 28:11—19
  • The Little Horn, Daniel 7:8; 8:9—12.
  • A Fierce Looking King, Daniel 8:23
  • The Prince That Shall Come, Daniel 9:26
  • The Willful King, Daniel 11:36
  • The Man of Sin, 2 Thessalonians 2:3—8
  • Son of Perdition, 2 Thessalonians 2:3—8
  • That Wicked, 2 Thessalonians 2:3—8
  • Antichrist, 1 John 2:18
  • The Beast, Revelation 13:1—8

It becomes evident that this little horn is, in fact, the Antichrist. He will be the supreme arbiter of Europe during the Tribulation. God will allow him to prosper and to persecute the faithful remnant of Israel and believers during the Tribulation, until the return of Christ with His saints to the Earth.

A Faith to Live By

Habakkuk 2:1-4

Where it not for the apostle Paul, many Christians today would be blissfully unaware of this little book of prophecy.  In fact, it takes a great many folks in church forever to find it!  That is unfortunate because Habakkuk’s three-chapter book of prophecy is chock full of some of the most insightful and penetrating questions in all of literature (Carl Amerding).  Here are some of them:

  • Why don’t you do something?  Concerning God’s seemingly indifferent attitude toward the sin of His people.
  • Why are you going to use Babylon–a godless nation–to discipline your people, the people of Judah?  Asked of God when God informed the prophet that His chosen instrument to punish His people for their idolatry would be a nation of idolaters, the Babylonians.

If you have ever been baffled by the mysterious ways of God, then you’re in good company.  Habakkuk was in search of answers and the answer God gave him was, in some ways unexpected and, some might say, ambiguous:

[T]he righteous will live by his faith.  (verse 4b)

That is the verse that Paul made famous in his writings, quoting it both Romans and Galatians, and it is also referenced in Hebrews.  It’s also the verse that helped spark the Protestant Reformation.  So this small book, part of the Minor Prophets, is anything but minor, in fact, its influence has spanned the millennia.

1.  The man and his time

To help us understand verse four, it is helpful to understand the man who wrote it and the strange time in which he lived.  We know virtually nothing about the man, Habakkuk, except by way of his name.  “Habakkuk” has been associated with an Assyrian garden plan, and some scholars suggest that he was a Jewish captive living in Nineveh.  Others suggest that Habakkuk was actually a priest, like Jeremiah, his contemporary (James Gailey, Jr.).  As to its meaning, “Habakkuk” means “to embrace.”  Martin Luther comments:

Habakkuk signifies an embracer, or one who embraces another, takes him into his arms.  He embraces his people, and takes them into his arms, comforting them and holding them up, as one embraces a weeping child, to quiet it with assurance, that if God wills, it shall soon be better.

He was sensitive to the present condition and the future prospects of his people, whom he loved deeply.  Habakkuk was also in the mold of “Doubting Thomas,” as he is seen questioning God throughout, and God is seen answering him.

Like Nahum, Habakkuk seems to have contributed nothing of significance to the history of his people, except for this brief literary masterpiece that as influenced both is people and the Church for all time.

Habakkuk’s prophecy was written during the final, pitiful years of Judah’s decline, around 626-586 BC.  During this time, under the leadership of Josiah, Judah experienced its last period of both religious revival and material prosperity.  Also during this time, Nineveh fell, after having been given a century of grace by God (612 BC) and Babylon dominated all of Palestine, taking captive the residents of Jerusalem in 586 BC. when the city was leveled.  So, the prophet experienced it all during his lifetime, from peace and prosperity, to utter desperation and despair as he watched the mighty Babylonian forces approaching the beloved City of God.  It is likely that he did not survive the destruction of Jerusalem, although some scholars have suggested that he was, in fact, deported to Babylon, where he lived a short time.

Habakkuk, with his sensitive heart and keen intellect, was shown things by God that were disturbing, to say the least.

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.  (1:5)

2.  The occasion and purpose of his prophecy

Any prophecy is the result of a divine revelation given to a person, who in turns passes that divine revelation on to the people.  Such revelation and its ensuing proclamation are the results of the prophets burden of the conditions of the people themselves and of the nation as a whole.  Habakkuk, though, was slightly different than the rest of the prophets because rather than speak for God to the people, he spoke to God about the people, with God giving him divine messages.

We can learn a lot about the mindset of Habakkuk when we understand that he was moved to go to God for answers by his observances of people he referred to in these verses:

Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.

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?  (1:4; 13)

Just who were these evil, vile people?  It seems Habakkuk had in mind two groups of people:  foreign invaders, the Chaldeans or the Babylonians, as referenced in 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.

But there were also home-grown Judean oppressors, who were bleeding their citizens dry with outrageous lending practices and idolatry.

This intolerable situation; immanent invasion and destruction from without, and decadence from within, led Habakkuk to see astounding things.

3.  The setting for God’s answer

Before God answers the prophet in chapter 2, we need to be aware of Habakkuk’s two complaints and God’s two responses in chapter 1.

  • Complaint #1:  The coming of the Babylonians.  God is about to judge Judah for their wickedness by using a wicked, idolatrous nation.  This was a big pill for the prophet to swallow.
  • Complaint #2:  Why would God use the Babylonians, a people even more wicked than his own people, to punish those comparatively less wicked?

That brings us to 2:1,

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. (NIV)

I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.  (KJV)

I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will look forth to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer as to my reproof.  (Darby)

This is an interesting verse because it shows how the prophet’s mind worked.  He is not addressing God here, he’s talking to himself and the Hebrew is quite ambiguous.  Habakkuk, after pouring his heart out to God, withdraws to “the watchtower,” or “ramparts,” a very lonely and quiet place where he could look out observe both the city and land around it.  The simplest and most logical way to interpret this verse is that Habakkuk, who has just complained to God is now going to wait to see if God will answer his complaint or if God will “put him in his place” for complaining.  Dunning sees in this verse the arrogance of a man who would demand that God answer his complaint.

4.  God’s answer in a vision, verses 2-3; 16-17

Then the LORD replied:
“Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald may run with it.
For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
it will certainly come and will not delay.
You will be filled with shame instead of glory.
Now it is your turn! Drink and be exposed!
The cup from the LORD’s right hand is coming around to you,
and disgrace will cover your glory.
The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you,
and your destruction of animals will terrify you.
For you have shed man’s blood;
you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.

Those who have come against God’s people, whether the Babylonians or backslidden Jews, will not escape God’s justice; they will reap what they have sown.  The fulfillment of this vision, Habakkuk is told, will come at some point in his future.

There is are two great lessons here for believers.  First, God will not “bawl out” any believer with genuine questions.   It is true that too many questions weary God, but be assured God will let you know when to stop asking.  Second, God may answer your prayers immediately, but with an answer you least expected.  In Habakkuk’s case, God’s answer to his complaint would not be fully realized until the future.  Without the right heart, that could be a disappointing answer!

5.  The key, 2:4

See, he is puffed up;
his desires are not upright—
but the righteous will live by his faith.

This is one of the key verses in all of Scripture, and it the key to understanding the real message of Habakkuk.

First, there are two groups of people described in this one verse, and they serve to contrast each other.  The first group is “puffed up” and “his desires are not right.”  To whom does this apply?  The Babylonians?  The backslidden and wicked Jews?  Or both?  Since this verse is part of God’s answer to the prophet’s complaints about “the wicked” back in chapter one, God has in view both groups.  The Babylonians were a warlike people, driven by pride as their empire grew dramatically over a relatively short span of time.  They were prosperous, wealthy, strong, and led by Nebuchadnezzar, a young genius.

The backslidden Jews of Judah, who, in their own way were oppressing the citizens, would also find God’s justice in the very near future.

Both groups, those who snubbed their noses at God, would come to sure and certain end.

The second part of the verse concerns those who have faith.  The just, we are told, shall live by faith.  The word rendered “faith” is the Hebrew emunah, from a verb meaning “to stand firm.”  It is usually used in the Old Testament in the physical sense of “steadfastness” (Smith).   Another and perhaps more accurate way to translate emunah could be “faithfulness,” or “beliefs,” which is derived from the same root as emunah (Smith).

To help us understand the strength of the word emunah, there are two references that may enlighten us.

  • Exodus 17:12, where it describes the uplifted hands of Moses, which were “steady.”
  • 2 Kings 12:15, describing men who dealt “honestly” with people’s money.

In each of these cases, emunah is used to describe a steady, dependable action.  Because the New Testament applies this verse to the Christian faith, we know what God meant:  the just shall live obediently according to their faith in God’s Word.  Faith in God is far more than merely passively trusting in Him, it involves actively living out one’s life in a way that remains absolutely loyal to the teachings of the Bible regardless of the situation one is living in.

Cook makes a insightful observation:

In one short saying, the two general aspects of the prophet’s inquiry are dealt with; the pride and injustice of the invader are dealt with, and the just man is assured life, ie., preservation from evil and salvation on the condition that he hold steadfastly to the principle of faith.


The apostle Paul uses this verse twice in his teachings on the great doctrine of justification by faith.  Christians, then, who have been forgiven of their sins, set free from the bondage to that sin, now stand before God “just as though they had never sinned.”  If that is how we appear to God, that is how we must attempt to live our daily lives.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

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