“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.” — Habakkuk 2:3
Waiting can be challenging. Early in our marriage, my husband and I went through a situation that required months of waiting. Since before we were married, we had discussed the possibility of someday adopting a child from Korea. One Sunday morning, my husband and I chatted with an older couple who had visited our church service. In the course of conversation, they mentioned that they had been operating an adoption center in Korea, but were closing it — they had just one three-year-old girl remaining for placement. Several couples had been interested in adopting this child, but they wanted to place her in a Christian home.
In the days that followed, my husband and I could not get that little girl out of our minds. Eventually, we felt God’s leading to investigate adopting her. However, we were not sure we could even locate the couple who had visited our church. Their name was common — in fact, the phone directory listed many individuals with the same first and last names as the husband. Amazingly, we were quickly able to locate the right couple. When we identified ourselves over the phone and explained the reason for our call, the woman choked up. With tears in her voice, she said that she and her husband had been praying ever since our meeting at church that we would feel led to adopt this little girl — even though nothing along that line had been discussed!
With that affirmation of God’s leading, my husband and I set out on our adoption journey. One by one, obstacles emerged — and disappeared. The Holt International Adoption Agency agreed to process the paperwork and assist with the required medical exams for our daughter-to-be. She was the last adoption they handled for children not in their care. The normal income requirements for adoptive parents were waived — a necessary accommodation since my husband was still a fulltime student. We “passed” the required home study evaluation and attended some pre-adoption classes. And finally, a family law attorney here in Portland agreed to handle our adoption process . . . for free!
Then, with the hurdles overcome, we waited, and waited some more.
During those seemingly endless months, at times it all felt like a dream. Would we really become parents to a little girl we had never seen, who lived thousands of miles away? Still, we felt assured that God was in control, and we knew we must keep our trust in Him while we waited.
In today’s text, Habakkuk was in a time of waiting. God had given him a revelation, but it was for the future. However, God reassured him with the words of our focus verse: “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.” The word translated tarry here means “be behind,” and the implication is that the fulfillment would arrive in God’s time. In essence, God was giving the prophet the same encouragement He gave us throughout our adoption journey: “Be patient! I will work out My plans in My perfect time.”
God does not always allow us to know how He is going to work. When what we think needs to happen does not happen immediately, we may be tempted to ask, “When, God, when?” Most of us need to grow in the area of trusting God instead of focusing on the “how” and “when” questions.
Are you waiting for God to work in some situation in your life today? Do not falter in your faith! Learn to live in confidence while God is working. Our daughter finally arrived, and we became a family of three. And in the process, my husband and I had a refresher course in understanding that when we entrust situations to God, we can have peace while we wait, knowing that His ways and timing are always best.
The final six verses of chapter 1 relate the prophet’s questioning of God’s purpose concerning Israel. This is followed in chapter 2 by a description of his watching in prayer and the subsequent woes addressed to the Chaldeans (Babylonians).
God had told Habakkuk He would judge His people through oppression by the heathen Chaldeans who had already been used of God to destroy the Assyrians and Egyptians. In verses 12-17 of chapter 1, Habakkuk asked how God, who is holy, could use such an evil nation as an instrument of judgment on His own people. Verse 14 indicates that the prophet was fearful as he realized the people of Judah would become like helpless fish being captured by a fisherman (Chaldea). The word angle in verse 15 is a hook, while the net and drag refer to a seine, a fishing net that hangs vertically in the water. The prophet reminded God of the ruthless character of the Chaldeans and asked if God would not intervene.
In chapter 2, Habakkuk waited like a watchman on the city wall to see how God would respond. It might seem from verse 1 that he was expecting to be “reproved.” However, that word in the original language meant “countered my argument.” God told him to write down the vision and make it known throughout the land. Public notices of that day typically were written on clay tablets in large characters and posted in the market places. The commandment to “run” in verse 2 has been interpreted to mean either that those who read the notice should flee from the attack of the Chaldeans, or that the prophet himself should hasten to spread the message throughout the land.
In verse 3, God assured Habakkuk that although judgment would be in the future, it would be fulfilled in God’s appointed time. He reminded Habakkuk that “the just shall live by his faith” — those who held steadfastly to God could depend upon His faithfulness. The word translated faith is the Hebrew emunah, which is derived from a verb meaning “to be firm.” This verse is one of the Old Testament statements most often quoted in the New Testament. Paul referred to it in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38. It became a cornerstone belief of Martin Luther, who was instrumental in the start of the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s.
In verses 6-19, God pronounced a series of five “woes.” Most Bible scholars feel these were directed against the Chaldeans, although the evils described will incur God’s judgment wherever they exist. In Bible prophecy, a “woe” is generally an indictment, a pronouncement of judgment, or a mournful lament. A modern paraphrase might be, “Oh! How horrible it will be!” The word “woe” occurs fifty times in the prophetical books of the Old Testament.
The woes described in Habakkuk 2:6-19 were as follows:
· Habakkuk 2:6-8 — Woe to the greedy.
· Habakkuk 2:9-11 — Woe to the covetous who exalt themselves.
· Habakkuk 2:12-14 — Woe to the violent.
· Habakkuk 2:15-17 — Woe to the shameless drunkard.
· Habakkuk 2:18-19 — Woe to the idolater.
The chapter ends with a call to worship in verse 20 — an affirmation of faith that also provides a fitting transition to the hymn for public worship recorded in chapter 3.
II. The dialogues
B. The second dialogue (1:12 — 2:20)
1. Habakkuk’s complaint of God’s activity (1:12-17)
a. How can a holy God use an evil instrument? (1:12-13)
b. How can God permit the righteous to fall to wicked? (1:14-15)
c. How can God condone such action? (1:16-17)
2. Habakkuk’s action (2:1)
3. Jehovah’s answer (2:2-19)
a. Record the vision (2:2)
b. Recognize God’s will (2:3)
c. Realize their wickedness (2:4-5)
d. Reasons for their judgment (2:6-19)
(1) Their greed (2:6-8)
(2) Their self-exaltation (2:9-11)
(3) Their violence (2:12-14)
(4) Their shamelessness (2:15-17)
(5) Their idolatry (2:18-19)
4. Jehovah’s position (2:20)
As Christians, we can trust that God is working in our lives, even when we do not understand His ways or know His timing.