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Habakkuk (4): Chapter 1 continued

J Riddle, Cheshunt

His confusion about the ways of God (1.13-2.1)

Having stated what he knew about God, Habakkuk now sets out his problem. We must notice three things here.

i) He addresses the problem to God (vv.13-17). What was the problem? Just this: How can God, who hates sin, actually use wicked people to accomplish His aims, without even remonstrating with them? So, in view of known facts about God, Habakkuk asks, "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?".

In vv.13-15 he tells God about the iniquity of the Chaldeans, and in vv.16-17 he tells God about the idolatry of the Chaldeans. The Chaldean is described as a fisherman. (Note v.14 JND: "And thou makest men as the fishes of the sea".) "They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag." What escapes the hook, gets caught in the net, and what escapes the trawl net, gets caught in the drag-net (compare Amos 4.2). Again, notice three things.

a) The Chaldeans sacrifice to their net: "Therefore they sacrifice unto their net" (v.16) - see v.11: "his power is become his god" (JND).

b) The Chaldeans live off their victims: "by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous" (v.16).

c) The Chaldeans seem set for unending conquest: "Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to slay the nations?" (v.17). This is not unknown in modern times. We have only to think of "ethnic cleansing", and refugees herded from place to place etc. Like Habakkuk, how can we make sense of it all?

So Habakkuk asks God about it. We must note his frankness here. He tells God exactly what is in his heart. There is nothing wrong in asking "Why?" when we do not understand. We must notice, however, that Habakkuk does not speak to God with bitterness and resentment. He is convinced of God’s sovereignty and unfailing faithfulness. But as he doesn’t understand what is happening, he would like an explanation. Jeremiah was similar. "Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper?" (Jer 12.1).

ii) He waits for an answer from God (2.1). He expects an answer, and takes the position of a watchman. He looks away from the problem, and looks to God. Hence the New Testament injunction: "Continue (persevere) in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving" (Col 4.2).

iii) He expects to be reproved by God (2.1). "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." Habakkuk knew that he was wrong, but he wanted to find out where he was wrong! He expected to be shown his mistake, and to have his arguments corrected.

To be continued.

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