Monday, March 19, 2012

Habakkuk 2:1-5 The Character of the Wicked and the Character of the Righteous Part I

In His Sermon on the Mount, our Lord Jesus Christ said “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.  That verse, as well as anything else that I can think of, encapsulates the mindset of someone who recognizes their need for the gospel.  In order to desire the righteousness of God through faith in Christ, a person has to recognize their spiritual bankruptcy.  They have to have come to the end of themselves and be willing to throw away all of their pride and self righteousness.  In lovingly and sovereignly answering Habakkuk’s 2nd complaint in chapter 1 (“God, how can you use the wicked Babylonians to punish your people?), God also teaches Habakkuk and us about the humility of righteous and the pride of the wicked. 

We should observe first of all where this is happening in Habakkuk’s conversation with God.  Habakkuk has questioned God’s apparent non-judgment of the wicked.  God counters that He will most certainly judge the wicked in Israel and that He will use the Babylonians to do it.  Habakkuk then does his best Gary Coleman impression (“What you talking about, Jehovah?”).  Now, Habakkuk, in spite of not having all the answers, comes to a place that we all have to face when God doesn’t make sense.  When the hurt, confusion, and pain are too much, you and I that worship God have to decide to trust God in the midst of and in spite of those circumstances.  Notice, in Habakkuk 2:1, that is exactly what the prophet does.  He says, basically, “I will stand and wait on God”.  Now, depending on the version of the Bible you read, the text either says:

(ESV)  I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.
(NKJV) I will stand my watch And set myself on the rampart, And watch to see what He will say to me, And what I will answer when I am corrected.

(NLT)  I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the LORD says and how he will answer my complaint.

Neo-Orthodoxy was neither "new" nor "orthodox".  Dicuss.
Reading the textual footnotes in my ESV and various commentaries and word studies on this verse leads me to this very definitive statement on this verse and the underlying Hebrew text—I have absolutely no idea what is different or why some translators translate it differently.  I know enough Greek to be dangerous, but my knowledge of Hebrew is limited to what I picked up from Mike Myers playing Linda Richman on Saturday Night Live’s “Coffee Talk” (“I’m getting verklempt.  Talk amongst yourselves.  I’ll give you a topic.”).  So, I think the simplest explanation here is the best—Habakkuk, in spite of his doubts and questions, chose to wait on God because he trusted Him.

Now, God chooses to answer Habakkuk’s complaint—not because He has to do so.  He is not obligated to explain Himself to us.  We are creatures.  He is the uncreated One.  But because God is so merciful, kind, and loving, He chose to answer Habakkuk with some very encouraging words and then to inspire him to record these words in Holy Scripture.  As we read to the end of the chapter, we see that God will in fact judge and punish the Babylonians who are going to be used as the instruments of judgment against Israel.  He begins here to lay out that truth for Habakkuk.  This truth, that God will judge sin, is a truth that should be “made plain” and we can be sure that “it will surely come—it will not delay”.  So, while we look at a world that routinely snubs its collective nose at God and finds new and more audacious ways to sin, we can know that we serve a God who will vindicate Himself and His righteousness someday.  We can praise Him and thank Him that He is just and will perfectly execute justice in His own time.  Like Habakkuk, we can be assured that “If it [God’s judgment] seems slow [we should patiently] wait for it.”

We will look next time as to how God is going to judge.  What is the criteria He will use to determine if someone is righteous or not?  I will go ahead and give you a spoiler waring—it is what it has always been:  faith.

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