Habakkuk was a prophet who saw, but for a time did not understand. His nation was plagued by the threat of an oppressive people. He identified with the perplexity of his fellow citizens. Could a God of righteousness and might allow this to continue?
But as he considered the wickedness of the adversary, he had to recognize that his own people were guilty of much of the same. His “woes” were very telling:
Woe to the haughty.
Woe to the thief and the usurper.
Woe to the one who covets to enlarge his house by unjust gain.
Woe to the spiller of blood.
Woe to iniquitous leaders.
Woe to the winebibber who also causes his neighbour to stumble.
Woe to the idolator.
The prophet’s trust in Almighty God could still have him proclaim, “the Lord is in his holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before him.” The third chapter of this short book in very powerful imagery promises a coming move of judgment and reward. The prophet could only tremble and trust:
16When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops.
17Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
18Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
19The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.
I noted two comments by George Adam Smith (the Expositors’ Bible series) of particular impact:
“Every advance in assurance of God or in appreciation of his character develops new perplexities in face of the facts of experience, and faith becomes her own most cruel troubler.”
“…arrogance and tyranny cannot from the nature of them last, and that if the righteous be only patient he will survive them.”