As Habakkuk witnessed the growing pains of the people in his society and the increased prosperity of the wicked at the expense of truth and justice, he complains to God, who answers him. However, God’s response went beyond the prophet’s national problems. The Lord proceeds to show him how He will deal with evil in general and eventually put a complete stop to it.
This is when the Lord gives Habakkuk a powerful vision of the future judgments against evil. And there, the prophet not only learns that acts of lawlessness were not to be left unpunished, but he was so taken by the vision when he sees another aspect of evil, the core of rebellion; that sin and evil are first and foremost against God.
And here is where we begin to see the true heart of a prophet. This is where he turns and unexpectedly says in vss.12-13a, Art You not from everlasting, Jehovah my God, My Holy One? We shall not die. You are of purer eyes than to behold evil and cannot look on wickedness.
See how the prophet spoke of Him as Jehovah my God, my Holy One. This is an outburst of love and deep respect for the Lord. After all, Habakkuk was most likely a priest at the Temple, and he understood God’s holiness in all the very complicated rituals he needed to observe. He saw how it was almost impossible for anyone to enter the Holy of Holies where His presence was, except for the High Priest and only once a year and under difficult conditions. And here in the vision, he saw the defiance, the laughter of those creatures, men and fallen angels, challenging the God of Israel.
But Habakkuk is not the only one to show such deep love and respect for God. Many more have had that same realization and reaction when God’s holiness was challenged. We can see it in young David’s life, when he stood up against death itself because he was so hurt for God.
When the armies of the Philistines produced the giant Goliath, the one who instilled fear in all the people of Israel, David confronted the situation by asking, “For who is this impure Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God”? 1Sam.17:26
The word taunt, haraph in Hebrew, means to treat with contempt, to scorn, to count as little worth for this is what sin and evil do. They belittle the truth. This was David’s way to say: how can you taunt my Holy One, my Lord and God. This is a verse we ought to memorize, for no enemy can prevail against us when the Lord of Hosts is on our side.
And so, the size and the arrogance of this insignificant giant Goliath, did not phase David who with just one smooth stone, put him down for good. This is just like that small stone that destroyed the big statue which represented the world kingdoms in Daniel 2. By the way, Goliath came out of the same territory where Hamas is today. What is striking is that it seems that the size of the territory has not changed since then.
Habakkuk’s reaction can also be compared to one of the psalms of David.
See psalm 139 where David speaks so highly of God and then at the end, he suddenly takes a new direction in his adoration. He wrote these surprising words: O that You would slay the wicked, O God; Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed. For they speak against You wickedly, And Your enemies take Your name in vain. Why do we see this sudden change in this psalm? David was so wounded for God’s holiness that he prayed that these insults and affronts against our God, would stop. These of course had reached a point of no return in their wickedness and therefore David’s prayer was not to uplift them, but to recognize their evil and his own inability to do anything about it. He just wants to be separated from them. These were enemies of another sort; these were the ones who grieved God deeply and needed judgement to be brought against them.
Have you ever resolved the dichotomy between the imminent coming of the Lord and the long time He is taking in coming? This verse will help you. See vs. 3 again: For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay.
One thing we can say is that the Spirit really understands our impatience and our frustrations. Notice these many words: there are 7 affirmations being made. His coming is so sure that it has been appointed. It is moving towards a goal: the Hebrew word here is moed, like the appointed times of the feasts of Israel. So, every prophecy has an appointed time, and it has a goal. And yet it tarries, but wait for it, it will not delay. Furthermore, be sure that it will not fail. It will certainly come.
Some have seen a contradiction here; it says it will not delay, and it also says it tarries.
But what it says is that it may come today, or tomorrow or in 25 or 50 years; that is the nature of prophecy. The idea is to learn to wait and grow a strong longing for it. Afterall, we will all meet the Lord; this is our great assurance. So, the more time in front of us the more time to prepare for this reunion.
In fact, this is what the word hasten conveys in the Hebrew. The word pouah means to breath or to blow but this word also means to long for, as in Psalm 12:5 where the LORD answers a question concerning the delay during the tribulation and tells us here that He too longs to meet us physically. He says: “Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy, Now I will arise,” says the LORD; “I will set him in the safety for which he longs.” That is what the LORD does. He will put hope into our hearts so we may long in faith for this great moment of reunion with Him.
And this longing is also emphasized by another word used here. The words wait for it. This word also means to long as in Isaiah 30:18a where we read, Therefore the LORD longs חָכָה to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.
And so, this is how we ought to wait for His word to come to pass; with a great longing, knowing that the prophecy is sure, it will come and it will not delay.