In the past several weeks I have been preaching from the 12 Minor Prophets. They are found at the end of the Old Testament. They are called “Minor” not because Hosea’s or Amos’ prophetic ministries are less important than Jeremiah’s or Isaiah’s ministries. They are called “Minor” because their messages are shorter than the message of prophets like Ezekiel.
In this series, I have preached from books I have never preached before in over 20 years of pastoral ministry. These books include Zephaniah, Habakkuk and Nahum. I have to say that I have never been more blessed personally, in preparing a series of messages, than this one on the Minor Prophets.
Habakkuk And The Gospel
One of the reasons for this is that in each one of these Minor Prophets, the Gospel shines ever so brightly. For example, in the Book of Habakkuk, the prophet is crying out to Yahweh God in prayer because of the violence and injustice he sees among God’s people in Judah. To Habakkuk, it seems like the Lord is doing nothing about it. How are the descendants of Abraham going to shine with the glory of God’s character and ways, when they are practicing covenant unfaithfulness to their covenant Lord?
It seems like Habakkuk is crying out to Yahweh God and saying discipline us………purify us so that we can reflect your holiness in our relationships with one another. Instead, Habakkuk continues to see only violence and injustice as the Mosaic Law is paralyzed in its effect among God’s people (Hab. 1:2-4).
The Lord finally answers his faithful prophet in Hab. !:5-11. He tells Habakkuk that He will do something that Habakkuk is not going to believe: the Lord is going to raise up the ruthless Babylonians and they are going to sweep through many nations, including Judah.
Habakkuk is now more perplexed than ever. Why is Yahweh God going to raise up a more unrighteous people than Judah to discipline them for their unrighteousness (Hab.1:12,13). The Babylonians military might is their god and they capture people like they are fish (Hab. 1:14-17). Habakkuk says that they sacrifice to their fish nets (i.e. their military might), because by dependence on it, they live in luxury. They defy the true God , by treating their military prowess as their god.
Habakkuk doesn’t understand all this. Why O Lord are you going to use the Babylonians like this? They are going to be even more deluded about their invincibility when they will be allowed to defeat many nations, including Judah. And how is God going to fulfill His promise to Abraham to bless all the nations of the world through his descendants (Genesis 12:1-3)? Babylon is going to destroy Jerusalem and its Temple. And the lamp of God’s promise to King David: to always have descendant from his family as king (2Samuel 7:8-16) , is going to be snuffed out by King Nebuchadnezzar.
To Habakkuk’s great credit, he goes to the Lord in Hab. 2:1 and waits for an answer. And the LORD faithfully does answer in the rest of chapter 2 of Habakkuk. In the LORD’s answer, we have the well-known truth of Hab. 2:4b: “the righteous shall live by faith.”
The Lord seems to be saying to Habakkuk: ” It doesn’t seem to the natural mind that my purposes to bless the whole world through Abraham’s descendants is going to happen when I let Babylon invade Judah and destroy Jerusalem. But trust me Habakkuk, I will yet bring salvation to the world through the seed of Abraham.”
And as we know, that is what our faithful covenant LORD did in fact do. He brought the Jews back from exile in Babylon some 70 years later, and through a rebuilt Jerusalem and restored remnant, He brought the Jewish Messiah, Jesus, into the world to be the Savior of all peoples.
Habakkuk In The New Testament
No wonder the Apostle Paul writes what he does in Romans 1:16,17:
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Note where the last phrase of Romans 1:17 comes from. It is a direct quote from Hab. 2:4b. Habakkuk had to totally rely by faith on God for His saving purposes to be accomplished for Judah. In Romans 1:16 & 17, Paul proclaims that everyone in the world, who wants to experience the salvation of God and become righteous in relationship with God, needs to totally trust God and His provision. And His provision is the crucified and risen Son of God.
Habakkuk 2:4 was not only used by Paul to declare the Gospel, it also became the rallying cry of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. We are celebrating the 500-year anniversary in 2017 of this great movement of God. Martin Luther was a Catholic monk who was tormented by a guilty conscience. No matter how many religious works he did, he still sensed guilt and alienation with a holy God.
After many struggles, the Ho;y Spirit revealed to Luther the truth of Romans 1:17, quoting Hab. 2:4, “The righteous shall live by faith”. The LORD opened Luther’s eyes to understand that salvation is a gift by God that is received by faith. The sinner receives forgiveness and a reconciled relationship with God, as we fully trust and rest in God’s provision of His crucified and risen Son, Jesus.
As I have preached through the Minor Prophets, I have come across many golden truths of the gospel like Hab.2;4. The Gospel of Jesus even shines in the dark hallways of Habakkuk and Zephaniah as God’s people are about to experience devastation and death through Babylonian exile. God resurrected them, just like He resurrected His Son on the third day from the grave.
Whatever your situation is, it is not hopeless. Entrust yourself to the LORD. He is worthy to be trusted. Even in death, His purposes in our lives will be fulfilled. “The just shall live by faith.”
QOTD: Are you trusting the LORD in every situation in your life, including your very soul?