Last week I was able to attend a Sabbath School class and was amazed at the interesting points brought out in the lesson that I had not gleaned on my own. So I hope each of my readers will also find interesting truths, either through their own study, or through the Sabbath School class at your local church. This blog series is just to provide a summary of the quarterly lessons, with some of the points I thought worthy of thought. I know we have busy lives these days, so whether your Bible study time is small or large, maybe I can provide something to make it a little richer.

Some may wonder why we are skipping over Nahum, the book which follows Micah. As far as I see at this point (we may be making mention of it in a later lesson–I haven’t checked), it appears that Nahum preaches a message similar to Jonah’s about Ninevah. The point Nahum ultimately makes to us is that even though God did withhold his punishment for the city, their doom still occurred later when the Assyrians were overtaken.

The last few weeks we have studied Amos (a pleading prophet), Jonah (a reluctant prophet), and last week, Micah (an agonizing prophet). This week Habakkuk is labeled the perplexed prophet. Like Job, he questions God about his suffering, and God does provide Him with some answers. How encouraging this is to us, as our most natural thing to do after a crisis is to question God’s wisdom and love. The answers do come, sometimes through the messages given by these minor prophets. We can benefit from their experiences.

Memory Text: “‘For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.'” Habakkuk 2:14 NASB

This verse and one similar, found a few verses later (v. 20), remind us that God will have the final say when it comes to justice and mercy. At some point victory will be obvious, and all the universe will rejoice that evil is no longer with us.

“But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.” Habakkuk 2:20 (Choir members might recognize this as a call to worship, #687 in our hymnals.)

Sunday: Perplexed Prophet (chapter 1)

The lesson tells us that Habakkuk is unique from other minor prophets we have been studying in that he did not speak for God to the people, but rather spoke to God about the people. He has a deep struggle with God’s purposes in punishing His children. He wants to know “How long, O Lord?”, a cry for understanding that most of us have given, when struck with a calamity of any kind.

This prophet uses the word hamas six times in his writing. The Hebrew word, meaning¬†“violence”, refers to physical and moral acts of injury upon others that Habakkuk saw all around him by this time in Judah’s history. (We even recognize the word Hamas as the name of a Palestinian terrorist group, operating in the Middle East today.) Habakkuk was witnessing all this destruction and couldn’t help but wonder why such wickedness was allowed to permeate the land. (The word hamas also was used for the kind of violence evident on the earth at the time of the flood. See Genesis 6:11.)

God is using a very ruthless way to discipline His people and Habakkuk wants to know why. In verse 8 the Babylonian cavalry is compared to a leopard, wolf, and eagle–all speedy and powerful predators. This attack is by a people who “acknowledges no accountability, seeks no repentance, offers no reparations.” ~the Lesson Quarterly And we know it is happening in Habakkuk’s lifetime. God’s first answer to him reveals “…for I will work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you.” Habakkuk 1:5 KJV In other words, in our vernacular, “You have to see it to believe it”.

Monday: Living by Faith

After Habakkuk’s original complaint of “How long?”, God answers with the means He uses to reverse the wickedness. He allows the Chaldeans (Babylonians) to overcome the land. But this answer (ch. 1, v. 5-11) only brings more questions from Habakkuk (v. 12-17). He is puzzled by the fact that his nation has become so wicked, but also that God would use a nation, much more wicked than Israel and Judah, to bring punishment to them, God’s chosen.

This is probably a reasonable line of questioning. Let’s say you’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness. After asking how long our suffering will be and wondering why did it happen to me, we are most likely to ask why is it happening to a good, albeit imperfect, person like me. We’re certainly not as bad as some other people out there in the world. We hear it often in some form of the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

God finally brings hope to Habakkuk and all Christians, even to this day, in chapter 2, verses 2-4. Read these important verses carefully. They express the heart of the gospel: that we are not saved by our works, but by faith. And there was still a faithful remnant in Habakkuk’s time, who would cling to these promises.

[“And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it (or, so a herald may run with it). For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.” KJV]

Martin Luther and many of the early Protestants recognized in these last few words the beginning of a new understanding of justification by faith. We see it repeated many times in the New Testament: Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38. Herein lies the true way for our salvation.

Thought Questions: What’s the difference in having faith and living by faith? Can we have works without faith? Can we have faith without works? We hear of faith that leads to salvation. How does it do that? Do our works ever lead to salvation? Why or why not?

Tuesday: For the Earth Shall Be Filled (chapter 2)

After God answers Habakkuk with the need for personal, saving faith to make it through those hard times, God agrees with the wickedness factor of Babylon and lists their misdeeds quite pointedly. Habakkuk must have seen the similarity though of Judah’s transgressions.¬† And do we not see these kind of actions and behaviors in these last days too? Habakkuk 2:6-20 NIV:

v. 6–“Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion”

v. 9–“Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain”

v. 12–“Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime”

v. 15–“Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor”

v. 19–“Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!'”

The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, as they say. And there are forms of idolatry still evident in our times. People are worshiping money, addictions, their careers, education, and putting anything and everything above God. We must remember Galatians 6:7. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

The ultimate answer God gives to the prophet and to us is that God’s presence is with us and we can be confident in His judgment and unchanging character. “The patience of the saints” (Rev. 14:12) is their persistence in waiting for divine intervention.

As we wrestle with the same questions as Habakkuk, we can be strengthened a bit by passages such as Hebrews 11:1-13. Here God commends several Bible notables who were known for their faith in troubling times. There was Abel (who was murdered for obediently worshiping God), Enoch (who walked so close to God, he was translated without seeing death), Noah (who believed that God would destroy the earth with a flood), Abraham and Sarah (who were willing to follow God anywhere).

Wednesday: Remembering God’s Fame (chapter 3)

Habakkuk finally accepts God’s will by composing a song of thankful prayer to God (chapter 3). This hymn describes God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt, looking back to the Exodus event. But he also looks forward to the great judgment day. Even though we may feel like we’re in the middle of things, like Habakkuk was, we can rejoice that God has been leading all the way and He will continue to be with us to the end. As the lesson puts it, we should remember to “meditate on God’s past acts and to hope for the glorious future.”

Singing is a valuable tool uplift and encourage us along life’s way. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

Personal Thought Question: The older I get, the more I should be able to see God working in my life. In what specific experiences in my past have I seen or felt God’s presence? Did I feel Him more during the hard trials or the good times? Ideally, He should be recognized during both.

Thursday: God Is Our Strength

The final verses of chapter 3 indicate the complete turn around of Habakkuk’s attitude toward his discouraging plight in Judah. He goes from questioning to praising by saying in v. 17-19: ” Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither fruit be in the vines…Yet I will rejoice in the Lord I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength…”

He has learned, along with Paul, “in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Philippians 4:11 And Job who said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him…” Job 13:15

Habakkuk proves that we can question and doubt our God, without losing our faithful trust in Him to work things out in the end. No matter how hard our present circumstances, we can find joy and strength in the Lord.

“The time of waiting may seem long, the soul may be oppressed by discouraging circumstances, many in whom confidence has been placed may fall by the way; but with the prophet who endeavored to encourage Judah in a time of unparalleled apostasy, let us confidently declare, ‘The Lord is in His holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him.’ Habakkuk 2:20” Prophets and Kings, Ellen G. White, p. 387, 388

Next week, Zephaniah!