Why Lord?
God Questions: An Exposition of Habakkuk

Gary Combs ·
February 11, 2024 · exposition · Habakkuk 1:12-2:5 · Notes


What do you do when you’ve prayed to God and you don’t like the answer you’ve received? What do we do when God’s answer doesn’t seem to be “yes,” but “wait,” or even more difficult, “no?” That’s Habakkuk. He doesn’t like God’s answer. It doesn’t fit his understanding of God and the world. So now, he has more questions for God.

He even lifts up his “why” questions. “Why Lord? Why would you let this happen?” And “why” questions are the hardest of all. In the book of Habakkuk, when the prophet struggled with why a holy God would allow an evil nation like Babylon to prevail over Judah, the Lord called Habakkuk to trust that His plans would be better in the end. We can trust that God’s plans for us will be better in the end.


Below is an automated transcript of this message

Good morning, church! We’re in part two of our series. We’re going verse by verse through the book of Habakkuk. We’ve entitled this series, “God Questions.” Certainly, that’s what this book is about. Habakkuk the prophet is asking some hard questions from God.

This little book is referred to as one of the twelve minor prophets. When we describe it as one of the minor prophets, we’re not talking about its significance; we are talking about its size. It’s a small book. Put this chart up so I can give you an idea of how the Old Testament in the Bible organizes the prophets, it begins with the major prophets and then it has the minor prophets. Again, it is not based on their significance, but the size. Habakkuk only has three chapters, so it’s among the minor prophets. It’s not like they were part of a “farm team” and didn’t make it to the “big leagues .” It is just a smaller book. Habakkuk was a contemporary of the prophets, Nahum and Zephaniah; he was writing during that same time period and he was also writing during the same time period as Jeremiah.

If you go to the next slide, we’ve got a timeline here. Habakkuk was written sometime between 609 and 598 BC. He began to write, we believe, right after the death of King Josiah, who was king of Judah and sometime after that, before the Babylonians attacked Judah. This is the time period that Habakkuk is writing. As I said, he’s a contemporary of Zephaniah. of Nahum and then, also, of Jeremiah. That’s who Habakkuk is. I don’t know much more about him except that he’s a prophet and God has given him an oracle that we read in verse one, which could also be translated as a burden. God has given this man, Habakkuk, a burden and he is sharing it with us today. It’s a book that’s just as relevant today as it was when it was first written. It’s a little book, only three chapters, but it asks really big questions. These questions are about God and about how we struggle with God’s plan for our lives.

Last week, we studied the first eleven verses and we talked about how Habakkuk was really asking, ‘How long Lord? How long do I have to keep crying before You answer? I want to hear from You.’ Then, at the conclusion of those eleven verses, we see that God answered. But, it’s not what Habakkuk was hoping for. Now, as we continue in chapter one and go into chapter two, we see Habakkuk cry out to the Lord again, except now, he’s more like saying, ‘Ok, God, you answered, but I don’t like Your answer.’

So, we titled this message, “Why, Lord?” Have you ever asked a “why” question of God? Why did this happen to me? Why am I going through this? Have you ever asked those kinds of questions?

That’s what Habakkuk is doing. He’s heard from the Lord now and it’s not the answer he was looking for. What do you do when you’ve prayed to God and you don’t like the answer? You prayed for your marriage, but it ended in divorce. God, I thought you said in your word, You hate divorce. Why did You let this happen to me? You prayed for a promotion at work and another employee got the job. Why Lord, why? You prayed for healing, but you’ve been to the doctor and he says the chemo is not working. Why Lord? Why am I going through this? You prayed for children and God hasn’t given you children. Why Lord? You said children are a blessing. You had a child and you lost the child. Why Lord? Where are You, Lord? Why do bad things happen to God’s people?

These are the kind of questions Habakkuk is bringing us face to face with. This is real stuff. These are God questions that he’s struggling with.

Maybe you’ve been praying for a lost friend. Lord, just help me to share the gospel, the good news with this person. But, instead of them growing closer to the Lord, they’ve rejected Him further and now they’ve even broken their relationship with you. Why Lord, why? sWhat do you do when you pray and it seems like God’s not giving you the answer that you’re asking for. How do you keep going?

In Habakkuk, what we have here is three chapters that in literary terms, we would call a lament. A lament, in the world’s eyes, to write something out, to sing something out, to speak it out or to cry out. For the believer, it’s to cry out while still keeping the faith.

We all know how to cry. We’re born with that language, aren’t we? We’re all born with the ability to cry. But for the Christian, a lament is not just crying within or crying without; it’s crying upward to God and saying, ‘God, I still believe. I don’t understand, but I still trust You.

The key verse for this book is found in Habakkuk 2:4 (ESV) “… but the righteous shall live by his faith.” It’s the most quoted verse from the book. In the New Testament, Paul especially quotes this verse several times. So, while Habakkuk is asking difficult questions, complaining to the Lord and crying out his complaints, he never stops believing. This is Christian lament and we can learn something from this.

I think that the world disdains this two-dimensional “cardboard Christianity” that pretends as if everything’s coming up roses, when in fact, we’re living in the same sinful world as they are.I think it’s more conducive to people following the Lord . It’s more real and authentic when we’re real with people and say, ‘Yes, I’m going through something and I don’t understand it, but I still believe.’

That’s what Habakkuk is doing in the book of Habakkuk, when the prophet struggled with why a holy God would allow an evil nation like Babylon to prevail over Judah. The Lord called Habakkuk to trust that His plans were better. To trust that His plans were superior to His own plans.

We can trust that God’s plans will be better for us. As we look at the text today, we can see how we can trust three reasons, three ways that we can trust that God’s plans are better than our plans. Let’s look at the text. You’ll notice, as it was last week, it begins with Habakkuk speaking to the Lord in verse 12 and following in chapter one. He’s really replying to what God told him last week as we were reading what He told him earlier in chapter one. OK, you’ve complained to Me about how Judah , your people are acting unjustly and they are acting out of violence. I’m going to send the Babylonians to judge you. As I told you last week,I don’t think Habakkuk’s going to like that answer. He’s answering what God said in the previous verses and then we’ll see in chapter two that God replies now to Habakkuk’s new lament. It’s the same kind of pattern – Habakkuk speaks, then the Lord speaks.

Habakkuk 1:12-2:5 (ESV) 12 Are you not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof. 13 You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he? 14 You make mankind likethe the fish of the sea, like crawling things that have no ruler. 15 He brings all of them up with a hook; he drags them out with his net; he gathers them in his dragnet; so he rejoices and is glad. 16 Therefore he sacrifices to his net and makes offerings to his dragnet; for by them he lives in luxury, and his food is rich. 17 Is he then to keep on emptying his net and mercilessly killing nations forever? 2:1 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. 2 And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. 3 For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. 4 “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteousshall live by his faith. 5 “Moreover, wine is a traitor, an arrogant man who is never at rest. His greed is as wide as Sheol; like death he has never enough. He gathers for himself all nations and collects as his own all peoples.” This is God’s word. Amen.


1. Write it plainly.

We’re looking for three ways on how to trust that God’s plans are better than our plans. The first way that we see that the Lord gives Habakkuk, He says, in Habakkuk 2:2, “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.” You might not like it, you might not understand it, but engrave it; write it plainly.

It’s in the Hebrew imperative. In fact, there are two imperatives in a row in the Hebrew: “write” and “make it plain.” In other words, “make it plain” is literally to “engrave it deeply so there’s no mistaking it.” God says to make it plain on tablets.

We did some research this week about what that might look like. We don’t think it was stone tablets like the ten commandments were on. This is centuries after Moses. There was a process of technological advance that people used during the time of Habakkuk that really lasted for centuries. (Picture on screen) Archaeologists have found dozens and hundreds even of these; they would build boxwood tablets and fill them with beeswax. It’s kind of like an ancient “etch a sketch;” they would take a sharp stylus and write in it. They would have to press in deeply, so that the engraving was deep enough to read. This is a small one that we’ve got pictured here that might have been something the secretary would carry or ascribe and then close it and wrap it with some kind leather string or something like that. It would be preserved then as long as it was kept out of the heat in a cool place, it would last for centuries. This was probably what Habakkuk was being instructed to do. He was supposed to make it plain so that people could see it. It was probably supposed to be put on much bigger tablets, probably at the temple where everybody would visit and see it; kind of like putting a billboard up on I-95. If you’re driving by at 70mph or whatever speed you like to go, you can still read it.

Habakkuk had to engrave it deeply “…so he may run who reads it.” Habakkuk probably hung it up in front of his house and I guarantee you that people didn’t like it. They probably thought, What? I thought you were on our side and here you are telling us that the Babylonians are coming and they’re going to overthrow us. That is the way God’s going to judge our sin , by sending people more sinful than us as His instrument of justice? Habakkuk probably thought, Don’t shoot me. I’m just telling you what the Lord said. He said that not only did I have to tell you, but I had to “broadcast” it. I had to put it on tablets for you to read.

Wow. Sometimes it’s tough being a preacher. It’s not enough that you have to know some stuff the Lord told you, but then you have to tell the people and they aren’t going to like it. You have to broadcast it. You have to write it plainly. The thing is, he doesn’t like it either. Look at how he talks to the Lord in verse 12. He says, “Are you not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One?” Basically, his question of the Lord includes all of these character traits of the Lord. This is what he believes. This is what Habakkuk believes about the Lord. He has not stopped believing that the Lord is from everlasting. He’s from the beginning of time. He is the founder of all things.

Then, he calls him LORD, which translates the Hebrew word, “Yahweh,” which is the covenantal name of God that God revealed to Moses at the burning bush. Moses said, ‘We’ve been calling you the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. What’s Your name?” God says to him, “I am that I am,” which in Hebrew is “Yahweh” or “Jehovah.” The way that the English translations help us with that, is they capitalize all four letters so that we know this is the covenantal name of God . You’re the God that loves us and has revealed Your name to us. You’re holy. You’re my God. You’re my Elohim.

Verse 12 “We shall not die. O Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment,” Who’s “them?” It is the Babylonians and God has ordained them, established them to reprove these people. These are not fun questions Habakkuk is asking God. Why do You let bad things happen to Your people? Why would You allow evil to overthrow good like this? I was complaining, but now I take it back. I can’t believe that You’re doing this, God.

Verse 13, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” God, Your eyes are too pure to even look at evil; You can’t even look at wrong, so how are You able to look at these traitors, these Babylonians? Why are You going to be silent while the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he? You’re going to send these wicked Babylonians in and we’re having trouble. I told You that, but we’re more righteous than they are.

This is in the Bible. Habakkuk is asking real questions. Why do bad things happen to good people? I’m struggling with this, God, but I know that You’re holy. I know that You love us. I know that You’re everlasting. I know that You’re my rock. So, he still believes all of that stuff, but, he’s asking his questions and that’s ok. It is better to ask the Lord than it is to ask someone else or to just hold it inside until you get bitter and angry. It is better just to cry out to the Lord, because that’s what lament is.

One third of the psalms are laments where you just go, ‘Lord, why did You let this happen? I know You’re good, but these plans You have made don’t seem good. Verse 14 says, “You make mankind like the fish of the sea, like crawling things that have no ruler.” That’s who we are; there are just so many of us and no one seems to be taking charge.

In these first few verses, Habakkuk was talking about God, but then he switches, in verse 15 to refer to “he.” Anytime you hit these pronouns, you have to run down who he is talking about here. He’s talking about Babylon. The “He” is Babylon; it’s kind of the personification of Babylon or maybe another way of looking at it is Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon.

Even more spiritually deep, you might look at it like this. He’s talking about the evil one, who is the enemy of God’s people. You could put Satan in the “He” right here –why does God allow ‘Satan’ to exist? Why would you allow this Babylonian whore to come and test us like this?’ He brings all of them up with a hook. He’s using this metaphor; the Babylonians come through like fishermen, hooking nations. The Babylonians are hooking them. Then he changes it from hooking to a net; now, he’s netting them up. He rejoices over this. He’s just coming through, sweeping up the nations and the people.

In verse 16, he sacrifices to his net. He makes offerings to his dragnet. Look at who these Babylonians are. They don’t even believe in You, God. In fact, whenever they win a battle, instead of sacrificing to You, they sacrifice to their nets or they sacrifice to the gods that they think gave them the power to overthrow nations. They don’t even believe in You. Why would you use them?

Habakkuk has another question, kind of like last week, where it’s a “how long” question. Verse 17, “Is he then to keep on emptying his net and mercilessly killing nations forever?” ‘Are you going to let Babylon reign? How long is that going to last?’ Can you hear Habakkuk asking his hard questions of God? He didn’t like God’s answer to his first questions. He’s crying out, but he still believes. He still believes in a holy God, a loving God. He’s crying out.

Then, Habakkuk says something that kind of surprises me. In chapter two , verse one, “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.” The “I” is Habakkuk. The “he” is speaking of God. Now, when I first read that, when I was first studying this, I thought, ‘Well, Habakkuk thinks a lot of himself, doesn’t he?’ Habakkuk has asked God his questions. Now, he’s going to take his spot here and see what God does about his complaints and he will reserve judgment until God responds. He is going to climb up in the guard tower when God brings the Babylonians in, but he doesn’t believe that God is going to do this because He is a holy God. That’s the way I first read it; can you see how I got it that way? That seems like the way it reads.

But then, I started studying about Habakkuk. He’s a prophet and in the tradition of the prophets, they often refer to themselves as “watchmen.” Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel did it; they called themselves watchmen, like they were men that were supposed to stand at the gates and the guard towers at night and when they saw the enemy coming, they would warn the city. I think that’s what’s actually happening.

Here is my first thought; I wasn’t giving Habakkuk enough credit. I think what Habakkuk said is, ‘I’ve asked my questions, Lord, and I’m going to go back to my job. I’m going to go back to being your prophet. I’m going to watch and wait before I say anything else. I’m going to lean in and listen. Lord, I’m going to go and be your prophet.’

What helped me remember this, was how God spoke to the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel chapter three. He says, Ezekiel 3:17 (ESV) “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give themthem warning from me.” I think what’s happening here is Habakkuk issaying, ‘Ok, Lord, I’m going to go back. The people aren’t going to like this and I don’t much care for the answer either, but I’m going to reserve judgment. I’m going to wait and see what You say.’

What does God say? He says, ‘Go write it down and engrave it on your heart. Proclaim it; put it out on tablets so that maybe some of the other people will engrave it on their hearts. too. Maybe they’ll run with it; they’ll get it. They’ll choose My plans over their plans.’

God told the prophet Isaiah, this is God speaking in Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV) 8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” He says, ‘You might not understand it now, but just go and write it down.’

I had people talking to me after the first service, thanking me for the sermon and thanking me for being real. The truth is, I really didn’t want to preach this book. I’ve set myself on a course, as I’ve been at this for 32 years of preaching the whole Bible, taking and checking it off. I’ve never preached Habakkuk. As I began to study it a couple of months ago, I remembered why I’ve never preached Habakkuk. It’s going to make people upset; it’s going to make people cry. It’s going to pull the scab off of an old wound. Everything I thought it would do, it’s been doing and people have been thanking me. I am going ahead and getting up in the watchtower and calling it out because it’s God’s word, in spite of our hurts and in spite of our difficult questions. In spite of our “why Lord?” we still believe. It helps to be reminded of that, doesn’t it? Let the Lord’s words sink in deeply as you think about this command that He gave to Habakkuk to write it plainly.

Maybe if you’re going through something today, a practical help might be to journal out what you’re going through. I’m not saying you need to journal every day, but some of you are good at that. I’ve got a journal that I’ve opened from time to time that I have had ever since I was a teenager. When I’ve gone through a hard time, I’ll open it up again and I’ll write my questions. ‘God, why? Can You tell me what, how to or where to put this in the way I think about You and me?’ Some of the questions that I wrote back when I was a teenager are kind of silly when I go back and look at them now. ’Really ? You were worried about that?’ But at the time, it was a big deal and God answered over time. Sometimes just writing it out helps. Don’t bottle it up, write it out plainly. Talk to the Lord about it. Lament. Lament yourself to praise Lord. You give and take away, but blessed be the name of the Lord.

Do you believe in God? What sort of God do you believe in? Habakkuk has questions, but he declares the sort of God he believes in and asks all of these questions, but You’re holy. You’re everlasting. You’re a rock. But, I’m still trying to figure out what You’re doing right now. God. I’m going to watch.


2. Wait for it patiently.

This is the third imperative that we find in Hebrew – it’s to wait for it. Wait for it patiently. We saw in verse two, for Habakkuk to write the vision and make it plain on tablets that whoever reads it may run with it. The one idea is that you get it into you so deep that you can run with it. You know, you “run life.” That’s one reading that is often the preferred reading by many. Another way is, even if you run by it on the interstate and see it on a billboard, it’s so engraved that you’ll get it. That’s another way you might read it.

In verse three it says, “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” Wait on this thing that the Lord told Habakkuk. “…awaits its appointed time;” God has circled a date on the calendar when He’s going to allow the Babylonians to come; they haven’t come yet. God is going to allow them to overthrow Judah. That hasn’t happened yet, but it’s coming. There’s even an appointed date out there where God is going to call it off with the Babylonians because He knows who they are and He knows that He can’t allow them to rule over Judah. But, He’s going to allow it for a season in order to purify Judah, in order to sanctify Judah because He cares more for their character than He does their comfort.

Often, the only way to make us more like Jesus is to put us outside our comfort zone, where things are hard, where we can really listen and we really get focused. We learn to wait. He says that it will be at an appointed time. He has circled it on His calendar. Verse 3, “…it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” What He is telling Habakkuk will happen because He will make it happen. “…wait for it;” there’s the imperative. There it is. God’s job is to make it happen; Habakkuk’s job is to wait for it. Keep believing; wait for it. Wait for it. It will surely come. It will not delay. It might feel like it delays your schedule, but it’ll be at the perfect timing of His schedule. Exactly His schedule . Wait for it. This is not passive waiting; this is active waiting.

I want to draw out some understanding here that you might miss– in verse three it says,“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end…” This introduces something more than just what’s happening between Judah and Babylon. “… to the end…” Is God really talking about more than just what’s happening here? Is He telling us something even more prophetic?

As we begin to study this in the original Hebrew, “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” All of those are in what we would call the “neuter voice” – it’s neither masculine nor feminine, but in the original Hebrew, it’s in the masculine singular. Now, if you’ve studied languages, if you’ve studied French or Spanish, you recognize that often nouns have a masculine or feminine gender and then the pronoun has to agree with it. You understand if you’ve taken a foreign language that it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s masculine or feminine. It’s just the way the words work in that language. That’s how Hebrew is; that’s how Greek is. English is different. But, what if the English translations, it is not a he unless God meant for it to be a he? I started chasing that, because things like that bother me, because I believe in God’s word literally.

I looked at the New King James version of this same verse , how it translates the same verse: Habakkuk 2:3 (NKJV) “For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry.” How do visions speak? It’s because that’s actually the literal Hebrew. Then, I wondered if I looked at several commentaries. But then I thought, I wondered in the New Testament (because the best commentary on the Old Testament is the New Testament) if one of the apostles translates an Old Testament verse a certain way, then I’m going to believe what the Holy Spirit told him. Guess what I found? I found that the apostle who wrote the book of Hebrews translated this same verse like this: Hebrews 10:37 (NKJV) “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.” He is quoting Habbakuk. He went back to the masculine singular. He said that He is coming. I think what we have in this prophecy is what we often have in an Old Testament prophecy that the prophecy has an immediate fulfillment in their day –Babylon will overthrow Judah, but then Babylon will be overthrown as well. That’s the immediate ongoing. There’s an immediate ongoing and then there’s an ultimate fulfillment at the end of time.

That points to the person of Jesus . That points to when Jesus comes again in the book of Revelation and He overthrows the world system called Babylon. He overcomes the world government, the world economy, the world religion, even called Babylon. Perhaps what God gave Habakkuk was richer than Habakkuk even realized because he doesn’t know all this. This would have been a mystery to him, but God is saying, “wait for it, it’s coming.”

How about that? I really like that. ‘It may seem slow, but in the end, when I wrap all this up, it will all make sense and you’ll understand everything by and by. It’ll all be good.’ In the meantime, cry out. Ask your questions. Don’t internalize them and get angry and bitter. Pour them out. Trust in the appointed time. He is not lying. It’s all coming together.

God is basically telling Habakkuk to do what he told David. David wrote it out in Psalm 37:7 (NIV) 7 “Be still before the Lordand wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. 8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.” Whenever you see that it looks like evil is triumphing, instead of getting angry and worried, be still before the Lord. Cry out. Wait patiently for Him because He is going to handle it at His appointed time, not ours. His plans are better than my plans.

In 1966, my father died at age 39. I was eight years old. We prayed for him to be healed. He died of cancer. I had a deep wound in my soul. I missed my father. I was the first born of four kids. When I was at the funeral home, I said, “Lord, You could still raise him,” because I had a little boy’s belief. I really believed that God could still raise him; Hecould raise him up in that casket. God didn’t. He didn’t . Now I had a choice. I was little, so I didn’t know how to work through it. I know that I went through anger and all kinds of steps that, at the time, I didn’t know how to label my emotions. I just had them. I came to a point where I was starving for a father. It could be my coach. It could have been a male teacher at school. It could have been my grandfather or my uncle; I’d follow them around like a puppy dog, just to have an older man invest in me. When I was a teenager, I came to a place of looking to God as my father and real healing came to me. I learned to stop looking at a man and looking to my God. He healed me; He gave me excess of healing, excess of comfort that not only had He taken away my father wound, but He had made me want to be a father. I had excess comfort in wanting to care for others. I know that my father is in heaven with the Lord. I’ll see him again some day, but on God’s appointed timing. In order for me to be the pastor that I am, part of what sanctifies me and makes me what I am was this deep loss. I can say that now. I can look back, but I could not have said it then.

Then, in 2001, my mother died. She was 66. I’ll be 66 in a few months. That puts it in perspective for me. While she was dying, I held her hand and cried out, “God, don’t you do this to me again.” I didn’t even know that was in me . If she could have gotten up, she would have crammed a bar of soap in my mouth like she had done before. I carried that memory of my mom passing away. I still had to preach (some of you were there back in those days) but I was preaching broken. I was preaching angry. God would allow me to still stand up. During the week, though, I was laying on my face and crying, “God, why did You do that to me? Why Lord? Wasn’t it enough that you took my Dad?”

Then in February of 2002, I took a case of bottled water, a legal pad, my Bible and a pen and checked myself into a motel down at the beach. The rates are better at that time of the year. I unplugged the TV so that I wouldn’t be distracted by anything. I said, “Lord, I’m staying here and I’m not going to eat until You speak to me and I’ve got two questions.” It turned into three questions and I’ll tell you about the third in a second. I had two questions: One was , “Can I quit being a pastor because I don’t belong up there right now. I’m too angry at You. I believe in You, but I just don’t like the way You’re treating me.” Question number two was, “If you won’t let me stop being a preacher, can I change churches? I planted this little church and I’m sick and tired of that portable setting up and tearing down every week. I’m beat up and I don’t want to be here. Can I move back to Virginia, where I grew up? Can you give me a church that already has a building? I am tired of setting up and tearing down.” Those were my two questions. For 24 hours, He didn’t say a word to me. I was praying. I was reading the Bible. I was walking out in the freezing cold on the beach because it’s February; the wind was blowing and it was cold. I was the only one out on the beach.

At and about 36 hours into it, He finally spoke to me. I was reading different parts of the Bible; I was in Zechariah and it got to the part where God was speaking to Zerubbabel. They had just returned from Babylonian captivity; they had started to build the temple, but the people lost heart and the foundation was just laying there. They’d not finished it. They’d lost heart. I said, “Huh?” It had been 10 years, and the foundation was just laying there. It just so happened that our church was 10 years old. We had laid a foundation, but I wanted to quit. God said to Zarubbabel, “You had laid the foundation and you will set the capstone.” I asked the Lord, “Oh, are You talking to me? That’s Zerubbabel; You’re not talking to me. Are You talking to me?” I’m not Zarubbabel; I’m Gary, but I knew that Zerubbabel was in my story. He was in my story 10 years later. The foundation hadn’t been laid and I wanted to quit. Then the Lord says, “Zarubbabel, when you pick up the plumb line (which is a way of saying when you get back to working on it again) the people will rejoice.” I said to the Lord, “OK, Lord, I’ll do it, but I am not happy. I have to tell You. I was wanting You to say that I can quit.”

Do you ever want to quit? I didn’t want to quit believing; I just wanted to be quiet for a little while, but He wouldn’t let me quit. So, here’s my third question; it was more personal than the other two. The third question was, “Can I stop fasting, because I have a terrible headache. I need some coffee. I have a caffeine headache.” So, I thought, I’ll keep reading in Zachariah and see if the Lord will give me the answer to that question. Several chapters later, God says to Zerubbabel, ‘Why do you keep fasting in your festivals? They don’t even please me. Who are you even doing it for?’ I said, “Yes, Lord.” God is good.

What are you going through? What are you struggling with? The Lord will speak to you. Sometimes you have to wait for it. Sometimes you have to wait for a while, but don’t stop believing. Be patient. His plans are better.


3. Believe it completely.

Here’s the final way that we can grow in this understanding is to believe it completely. We have a couple more verses here. In these final verses, the Lord is talking about Babylon, but He interjects some information for Habakkuk in the midst of it. He says, 4 “Behold, his soulis puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” God is talking about Babylon; Babylon is prideful. Babylon is not upright but Habakkuk, the righteous shall live by faith. Habakkuk, you’re right about Babylon, but you need to believe. You just need to believe, live by it, live even whenever you can’t figure it out. Keep believing because God’s time is not your time. Keep on believing.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NKJV) “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” You don’t see it yet. You don’t see it yet. It doesn’t look like it’s going to work out, but it does because Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Even those things that you thought hurt the worst, He uses for your sanctification.

Paul quotes this verse when he talks about the gospel, he quotes this verse from Habakkuk in Romans 1:16-17 (ESV) 16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it isthe power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” We live not by the law, not by rule keeping, but by faith in Jesus.

He goes on, in Habakkuk 2:5 – “Moreover, wine is a traitor, an arrogant man who is never at rest.” He is talking, again, about Babylon. Man is always wanting more; we never get just one sip of wine. You have to drink it to the bottom. He continues, “His greed is as wide as Sheol; like death he has never enough. He gathers for himself all nations and collects as his own all peoples.” The word, “Sheol” is the Hebrew word for “the place of the dead.” Babylon is like death; it never gets its fill. When the scripture says, “He gathers for himself all nations,” this is what he’s talking about with Babylon, but this is strange in the midst of this.

“Moreover, wine is a traitor” is a strange phrase unless you know Babylonian history because in 539 BC, less than a century, 70 years after Habakkuk’s prophecy and after Babylon has overthrown Judah, Belshazzar, the son of Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylon. They’d carried off the golden goblets and the silverware from the Jewish temple. They’re having a big party there in Babylon and Belshazzar, in his drunkenness and in his pride, looked at the wine in his cup and said, ‘You know what? Somebody go down there and get those golden cups from that temple.’ They were drinking and partying; they were having a big time. Then, a disembodied finger wrote on the wall there in that room, “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN.” Nobody could read it. He called all of his wise men in. Nobody could read it. I’m telling you what, Old Belshazzar got immediately sober. Then, his mother came in and said, ‘I know one that can read it. He used to translate and interpret visions for your father, Nebuchadnezzar. His name is Daniel and the spirit of God is inside of him .’ Daniel was sent to the king. He looked at the writing and he says, Daniel 5:26-28, 26 “Here is what these words mean: Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. 27 Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. 28 Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” Wine is a traitor right there.

Here’s Babylon. It came out of nowhere, swept across the fertile Crescent, overthrew the Assyrians, the Egyptians and the Jews. Now, 70 years later, they disappear from history, never to be rebuilt. God told Habakkuk not to worry; God has an appointed time for all of this. When the Jews came back out of 70 years of captivity, their Canaanite idolatry was broken. The synagogue system started. They had new problems but they’ve been sanctified from their old problems. Cyrus, the king of Persia that had overthrown Babylon, was allowed to rebuild their temple, which set up the whole possibility of this vision Who was to come, Who would speak named Jesus, Who would come into that rebuilt temple.

Can you see how God works? Write it down. Let it be deeply engraved in your heart. Believe God’s word more than you believe what you see on the news or what you hear around you. Then, wait for it. Keep believing because His plans are better than our plans.

Let’s pray. Lord I pray, first, for that one who’s never given their life to You. If that’s you, my friend, you’re here and you’ve been following your own plan. Would you admit that your plans aren’t working out and you need the Lord? Would you pray with me right now? ‘Dear Lord Jesus, I’m a sinner. I want Your plans for my life. I believe You died on the cross for me, that You were raised from the grave and that You live today. Come and live in me. Forgive me of my sin and adopt me into Your family. I want to be a child of God. I want to serve You as my Lord and Savior.’ If you’re praying that prayer of faith, believing, He will save you. Others are here and you’ve received the Lord, but you’re mad. You’re hurt. You’re asking “why?” and that’s ok. Give it to the Lord, though, and don’t stop believing. Lean in and pray, ‘Lord, help me, help me to get through this. Lord, I want to bless Your name even in the difficult times so that I grow more like Jesus. I trust You, Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.