21 May, 2024

August 13 | Where Is the Justice?

by | 7 August, 2023 | 0 comments

Unit: Minor Prophets (Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk)
Theme: Justice Will Come
Lesson Text: Habakkuk 1:12-17; 2:1-20
Supplemental Text: Psalm 7:10-17; Matthew 12:18-21
Aim: Though some seem to escape justice, rest assured their wicked deeds betray them even now.

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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the study by Mark Scott, the Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions by Michael C. Mack): LOOKOUT_August13_2023.

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By Mark Scott

A silly outline for Habakkuk’s oracle might look like this:  

1. Hello (Habakkuk 1:1-4)? 

2. No Way (1:5-11)! 

3. Say What (1:12–2:1)? 

4. Chill (2:2-20).  

5. Whoa, Dude (3:1-19)!  

Habakkuk allows us into his prayer closet. First the prophet says, “Hello! God, are you paying attention?” God replies, “No way! Yes, I am paying attention, and I am going to do something about it by using Babylon.” Habakkuk says, “What? You’re going to punish Judah by using a nation worse than Judah?” God says, “Chill. Babylon will get theirs.” Finally, the prophet says, “Whoa, I didn’t see that coming. God you are awesome!”  

Habakkuk and Jeremiah were contemporaries. As such, Habakkuk was trying to get Judah ready for Babylonian captivity, which ultimately occurred in 586 BC. God’s people were steeped in idolatry, immorality, greed, and violence. God revealed to Habakkuk that he was going to bring justice to Judah but that he was going to do so via the nation of Babylon. This confused Habakkuk, for he struggled with God’s sense of justice. 

God’s Got This
Habakkuk 1:12-17 

Habakkuk had a problem with the seeming inactivity of God in ignoring Judah’s evil (1:1-4). He must have wondered, “Is God asleep?” But when God revealed his plan to punish Judah via the wicked nation of Babylon, Habakkuk suddenly had a problem with the activity of God (1:5-11). God had to remind the prophet that the Lord’s justice was in place, and he was in total control.  

Habakkuk was aware that a holy God could not look on evil or stand in the presence of sin. God is eternal and cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Habakkuk’s sense of justice begged the question, “How could God use Babylon to punish Judah since Babylon was so evil?” Scripture used the word wicked (given to misery or mischief) to describe that nation. Babylon worshipped the fish gods. Archaeologists have found carvings, drawings, and mosaics of such. Notice the fishing vocabulary in the text (fish, sea, sea creatures, hooks, net, and dragnet). Like a net full of fish that is dumped out, Babylon was dumping out its destruction on the nations of the world. Habakkuk needed assurance that God would do something about it. But none of Babylon’s wickedness had escaped the watchful eye of God—as Habakkuk 2 shows.  

Babylon Will Get What For
Habakkuk 2:1-20 

To help Habakkuk with his “justice dilemma,” God informed the prophet of the evils of Babylon. The time eventually would come when God would punish Babylon for their wickedness. God wanted to be very clear about the revelation of Babylon’s destruction. They would “get theirs.” This message of judgment would be made public (made plain on tablets). Even a runner (herald) would be able to read it as he ran. Babylon would be puffed up with unholy desires (i.e., desires that are not upright). But God’s people (the righteous), in contrast, will live by his faithfulness. This significant text later is used by Paul in Romans 1:17. 

The bulk of Habakkuk 2 concerns the sins of Babylon. A careful reading of it shows that the Babylonians broke almost all the Ten Commandments. Specific sins reappear in a rhythm. For instance, stealing and materialism are mentioned in verses 6 and 9. Bloodshed (murder or violence) is mentioned in verses 5, 8, 12, and 17. Drunkenness is mentioned in verses 5, 15, and 16. Idolatry is mentioned in verses 18 and 19 and implied in other verses. There are at least five “woes” to Babylon and their leaders (in vv. 6, 9, 12, 15, and 19). Things do not look good for them.  

God’s retribution against Babylon will set the record straight in terms of justice. The creditors (the people who charge interest) will rise up against Babylon. They will make them tremble (quiver or quake). They will become prey for other nations. Said more bluntly, “Because you have plundered many nations, the people who are left will plunder you.” The violence Babylon inflicted upon others will be returned in kind (v. 17). Babylon’s worthless idols cannot save them, for those idols cannot speak, come to life, or give guidance. 

In contrast to Babylon’s punishment, God’s people must live by faith (v. 4), fill the earth with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord (v. 14), and have a respectful silence before the Lord in his temple (v. 20). God responded to Habakkuk’s complaints about justice. God’s answers differed from what Habakkuk expected. Habakkuk’s perspective of justice had to change. But in the end, he could say, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Habakkuk 3:18).  

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