Why Then Do You Look 

On The Wicked?

an exposition of Habakkuk 1:11-2:1
Part 1of 3
Base on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, Mar-Aug 2014

Habakkuk lived and ministered in the southern kingdom of Judah towards the end of its history. His prophecy was probably written during the early reign of King Jehoiakim, sometime between 609-605 BC, and prior to the Babylonian invasion of the land.

The book may be divided into three parts. The first is from chapter 1 verses 1-11, where we have Habakkuk’s first complaint or lament and God’s response to him. Habakkuk lamented to God about the lawlessness in the land that went unpunished. God responded by saying that He was raising up the Chaldeans to judge Judah.

This leads to the second part of the book, from chapter 1 verse 12 to chapter 2 verse 20, where Habakkuk issues a second complaint to the LORD and the LORD again responds to him.

Habakkuk’s second lament was basically about how God could use a more wicked nation to punish a less wicked one. God responded by saying that the just shall live by faith and that all the wicked will be punished at the right time.

The third part of the book is the whole of chapter 3 where Habakkuk, having been humbled by God, praises Him and confesses his faith and trust in Him.

We have already looked at the first part of the book, which contains the first round of dialogue between the prophet and God. In this article, we’ll begin to look at the second part, which contains the second exchange between the prophet and God.

The land of Judah was filled with violence and wickedness during this time. The law of God had been paralyzed and the wicked, who formed the majority in the land, were seeking to impose their will on the righteous. Life was becoming unbearable for them.

Habakkuk complained to the LORD about what was going on and the LORD responded to him. He did not dispute the analysis of the prophet concerning the moral and spiritual corruption of the land. He did, however, warn Habakkuk that what He was about to say would be so stunning and amazing that those who heard it would find it exceedingly hard to believe.

He then went on to unveil and identify His instrument of judgment upon Judah, namely, the Chaldeans or Babylonians, and to describe them in greater detail.

The Babylonians were bitter, hasty, fearsome, dreaded, proud, autonomous, swift, agile, hungry, and violent. They despised and mocked their enemies and easily overcame them. They were essentially their own god. And they were coming.

How would Habakkuk respond to this revelation from God? This is what we want to consider now. I’ve divided the text into three parts. First, the prophet describes God (1:12-13a). Second, the prophet questions God (1:13b-17). And third, the prophet waits for God’s answer (2:1).

We’ll look at the first part in this article.

The Prophet Describes God 
(vv. 12-13a)

Verse 12a, “Art thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One?”

The first question we need to ask is, what is Habakkuk doing here? Why does he suddenly bring up and talk about the character and attributes of God? What do the attributes of God have to do with what God has just said about the Chaldeans coming to destroy Judah?

Well, remember that Habakkuk was utterly stunned and amazed and even dumbfounded by what the LORD had just said He was doing and was going to do. Habakkuk’s head was, as it were, spinning. He was staggering and about to lose his balance and fall over. God’s recent revelation was too much for his brain and his senses to handle at that moment. 

Habakkuk needed to find some stability and some solid foundation to plant his feet upon. He needed to hang on to something that was fixed and sure and certain in life in order to keep himself from falling over. And what is more certain and sure in this universe than the character and the attributes of God? 

Here’s a lesson for us, isn’t it? When we run into difficult and perplexing problems in life and we are at a loss about what to do or how to handle them, then let us first lay hold upon what we know for certain. It is only when we are first anchored on a firm and stable platform that we can move forward to deal with the difficulties before and around us.  

Habakkuk sought to establish a solid base, even the very character of God, before trying to understand what God had said He was doing. In other words, He first reminded himself of who God is before seeking to make a connection between that and what God was doing.

Now this basic approach to life’s problems is correct and commendable. We too should seek to do the same in our own lives.

The problem, however, with Habakkuk was that he didn’t quite make the connection correctly. What God had said He was going to do didn’t quite seem to fit with his own conception and understanding of God. But we will talk more about that later. 

Meanwhile, let’s consider what Habakkuk said about God, and indeed what he said to God. Remember that this was a dialogue between himself and God.

First, he spoke to God about His everlasting character. God is eternal. He has no beginning and no ending. He is not affected by the vicissitudes or changes in circumstances that take place in time. “Art thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God…?”

The thought of God’s eternity or everlasting character gives stability in the midst of all the seeming chaos around us.

Furthermore, not only is God eternal in all His attributes, but His plans and decrees and purposes are likewise eternal. As one writer puts it, “History provided the framework in which the Sovereign Lord would bring to pass his everlasting intentions.” God’s plans and intentions do not change with time. Instead, God executes His decrees in time exactly as He had planned them.

But notice also how Habakkuk addresses God in verse 12. He is not just the God of all mankind in general, but He is the LORD or Yahweh, the covenant God of His people – the One who will always remain faithful to His covenant. And He is my God, mine Holy One, says the prophet.

It is not enough to know that God is sovereign and eternal. If we are to derive any comfort from His attributes, we must know Him as our own personal God and Lord.

Then besides the attribute of eternity, Habakkuk also appeals to the holiness of God. God is Habakkuk’s Holy One. The word ‘holy’ means set apart and different. God is not only set apart from all sin and evil, but He is also set apart from all of creation. He alone is the infinite, eternal and unchangeable One. He alone is all-knowing, all-presence, and all-powerful.

Habakkuk goes on to say in verse 12, “we shall not die.” It is on the basis that the everlasting and Holy God is our Covenant LORD that we can say with confidence – we shall not die. We who belong to the seed of the woman will not perish. The godly line will persist and not be destroyed.  

The prophet then goes on to say in the second part of verse 12, “O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.”

Here, Habakkuk is acknowledging that the LORD, the mighty God has ordained and established the Babylonians as an instrument of His judgment and correction, just as He had said in the earlier verses. He is sovereign over all the nations and thus He is able to do that. So Habakkuk indirectly alludes to two other attributes of God here, namely, His justice and His sovereignty.

The phrase translated “O mighty God” is just one word – Rock, which brings us back to the earlier point I was making, namely, that Habakkuk was seeking stability and permanence in midst of great uncertainty, and so he appeals to God as His rock.  

Finally, in the first part of verse 13, he says, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity…” Here, the prophet speaks of God’s attribute of moral purity or His righteousness and His utter hatred of sin.

Now obviously, Habakkuk is not saying that God closes His eyes to evil and does not in any way look on iniquity or perverseness. God’s omniscience extends to all the affairs of creation including evil and iniquity. In fact, God has to look at evil if He is to be the righteous judge of all men. (See Proverbs 15:3)

Rather, he is speaking of God’s look of approval and delight and pleasure. God never looks on evil and iniquity in such a way. He never looks to condone or approve of evil for evil is the very contradiction of His pure and holy character.   

He can only look upon evil with anger and hatred. And that is why when His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, took upon Himself the sins of all His people in all ages, God the Father had to turn His face away from Him.

And that hiding of His countenance or face from His Son on the cross was symbolized by those three hours of pitch darkness from noon till 3pm.

And so in this first part of our text, the prophet describes God by talking, either directly or indirectly, about His eternity, His unchangeability, His faithfulness to the covenant, His Holiness, His justice, His sovereignty, and His moral purity.

He is sure that God is all of these things and more. And he is correct. Habakkuk has good theology. The problem, however, is that he does not fully appreciate all the implications of these attributes of God, particularly as they relate to His dealings with the nations..

Linus Chua

[…to be continued]