Lessons from Habakkuk, Part 2 (Habakkuk 1:6 – 2:1)

In my previous blog we looked at the first five verses of Habakkuk. I was blessed by God’s response to Habakkuk’s burden – He urged Habakkuk to listen and watch closely because He was about to do amazing things. That’s just the kind of God we serve!

After the Lord urges Habakkuk to listen, He goes on to tell Habakkuk His plans. Habakkuk responds in faith…for all of one and a half verses (12 and 13a)! He then continues crying out about the evil around him and the Lord’s apparent delay in responding. Aren’t we so often like that? We so want to believe God, but our eyes quickly fall from heaven to earth and all we see is the sin around us. Lord, help us keep our eyes on you. Habakkuk concludes his second round of complaining to God in chapter two verse one:

I will climb up into my watchtower now and wait to see what the LORD will say to me and how he will answer my complaint.
Habakkuk 2:1 (NLT)

I’ll be honest with you – I don’t know how to interpret this verse. His attitude could have been that of a rebellious child who is going to pout in the corner because he hasn’t gotten his way, or it could be that of the faithful believer who is sitting and waiting upon God. It would be discernable in the inflection of the words, but I’m not sure from the words alone. It sounds like the former, but the latter seems more in character with the prophet.

I checked four different commentaries and they all agree that it is the latter – Habakkuk is pulling himself away to sincerely hear from God. Matthew Henry had such a wonderful commentary on this passage that I would like to share a long portion of it. The language is a big dated, but the message is timeless:

The prophet humbly gives his attendance upon God: “I will stand upon my watch, as a sentinel on the walls of a besieged city, or on the borders of an invaded country, that is very solicitous to gain intelligence. I will look up, will look round, will look within, and watch to see what he will say unto me, will listen attentively to the words of his mouth and carefully observe the steps of his providence, that I may not lose the least hint of instruction or direction. I will watch to see what he will say in me” (so it may be read), “what the Spirit of prophecy in me will dictate to me, by way of answer to my complaints.”

Even in a ordinary way, God not only speaks to us by his word, but speaks in us by our own consciences, whispering to us, This is the way, walk in it; and we must attend to the voice of God in both. The prophet’s standing upon his tower, or high place, intimates his prudence, in making use of the helps and means he had within his reach to know the mind of God, and to be instructed concerning it. Those that expect to hear from God must withdraw from the world, and get above it, must raise their attention, fix their thought, study the scriptures, consult experiences and the experienced, continue instant in prayer, and thus set themselves upon the tower.

His standing upon his watch intimates his patience, his constancy and resolution; he will wait the time, and weather the point, as a watchman does, but he will have an answer; he will know what God will say to him, not only for his own satisfaction, but to enable him as a prophet to give satisfaction to others, and answer their exceptions, when he is reproved or argued with. Herein the prophet is an example to us.

1. When we are tossed and perplexed with doubts concerning the methods of Providence, are tempted to think that it is fate, or fortune, and not a wise God, that governs the world, or that the church is abandoned, and God’s covenant with his people cancelled and laid aside, then we must take pains to furnish ourselves with considerations proper to clear this matter; we must stand upon our watch against the temptation, that it may not get ground upon us, must set ourselves upon the tower, to see if we can discover that which will silence the temptation and solve the objected difficulties, must do as the psalmist, consider the days of old and make a diligent search (Psalm 77:6), must go into the sanctuary of God, and there labour to understand the end of these things (Psalm 73:17); we must not give way to our doubts, but struggle to make the best of our way out of them.

2. When we have been at prayer, pouring out our complaints and requests before God, we must carefully observe what answers God gives by his word, his Spirit, and his providences, to our humble representations; when David says, I will direct my prayer unto thee, as an arrow to the mark, he adds, I will look up, will look after my prayer, as a man does after the arrow he has shot, Psalm 5:3. We must hear what God the Lord will speak, Psalm 85:8.

3. When we go to read and hear the word of God, and so to consult the lively oracles, we must set ourselves to observe what God will thereby say unto us, to suit our case, what word of conviction, caution, counsel, and comfort, he will bring to our souls, that we may receive it, and submit to the power of it, and may consider what we shall answer, what returns we shall make to the word of God, when we are reproved by it.

4. When we are attacked by such as quarrel with God and his providence as the prophet here seems to have been—beset, besieged, as in a tower, by hosts of objectors—we should consider how to answer them, fetch our instructions from God, hear what he says to us for our satisfaction, and have that ready to say to others, when we are reproved, to satisfy them, as a reason of the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15), and beg of God a mouth and wisdom, and that it may be given us in that same hour what we shall speak.
(Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Old Testament)

So many things to learn from one little verse! Thank you, Matthew Henry for your time-tested wisdom!

What do I take away from such a lengthy analysis? The need to set myself “above” and “apart” from the mess and wait to hear God. So often life rushes past and I have some challenges that I need God’s wisdom on, but I try to hear Him in the midst of the rushing. Lord, help me to remember to pull away.

I hope you’re enjoying Habakkuk! There’s more good stuff to come. In the meantime, be blessed, my friends.

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