3:16 – The Rest of the Story – The Human Condition 2: Habakkuk

A Bible Study exploring all the 3:16s in the Bible as they illuminate

  • the Human Condition (Current location of study)
  • God’s Revelation of His Plan
  • God’s Fulfillment of His Plan
  • Our Response

I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us. Habakkuk 3:16

Last week we found King Solomon lamenting the fact that evil is prevalent throughout the entire world. We also looked at the consistent assertion in Scripture that there is no person who is righteous or without sin (Jesus was the lone exception). This leaves us with a pretty bleak picture of the human condition. God also consistently declares that sin must not be found in His presence and must be punished.

Fast forward from the Israel of Solomon’s day to the Israel of Habakkuk’s day, roughly 200 years later. During that time the nation was split into two parts (Judah in the south and Israel in the north). There were times of war and cooperation between the two. Judah maintained its central government in Jerusalem with heirs of David sitting on the throne. Israel (consisting of ten of the tribes) made its governmental and religious seat in Samaria with various kings. Scripture comments on all the kings and how they led the Israelites, identifying them as either doing “what was right in the Lord’s eyes” or not. Interestingly, Judah had 8 of 19 kings which were associated with “doing right” while Israel only had 1 (Jehu) of 18 kings who was identified as “doing right”. All the others were identified by Scripture as doing “what was evil in the Lord’s eyes”. The evil included such things as worshipping other gods, idol worship, human sacrifice, enslavement of fellow countrymen, ignoring of sacrificial and ceremonial requirements, using unauthorized modes and places of worship of God, corruption, deception, murder, etc. It is significant to note that Israel’s downfall sooner than Judah’s directly correlates to the prevalence of “wicked” kings.

Also during this time God began sending and utilizing the prophets to the two nations in an effort to bring about repentance and a return to obedience. The consistent message was to either repent and turn from their wicked ways, or suffer increasingly severe punishment for their disobedience, ultimately ending in complete rejection and exile from the land God had promised them. God would use the attacks from other nations as modes of discipline to try to drive the Israelites to repentance and reliance on Him. The nation of Israel was eventually overrun and conquered by Assyria, which removed many of the inhabitants to exile and replaced them with inhabitants sent from other peoples and lands. Judah would be conquered about 150 years later.

It is between these two “conquerings” that we find the prophet Habbakuk. He recognizes that Israel was conquered as a result of their increased sin and disobedience and also recognized that that type of discipline is what is deserved by all who reject God’s ways. However, he was also torn between acknowledging Israel’s (and Judah’s) sin and questioning God’s goodness in using what Habbakuk deemed as more evil empires to discipline God’s covenant people. It’s a classic take on the old “How could a good God let bad things happen” question. Habbakuk’s book is written as a dialogue between him and God, and then finishes with a prayer.

Habakkuk begins by asking God how long he must wait before God answers his prayer for help (Habakkuk 1:1). This is in reference to the Assyrians who conquered Israel and are now threatening to overthrow Judah. God’s answer? “I am raising up the Chaldeans (Babylonians). (Hab. 1:6)” Well, that wasn’t the answer Habakkuk wanted to hear. So he offered a second complaint – “Why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he? (Hab. 1:13)” God’s next response is nearly all of Habakkuk 2. God promises that the Chaldeans, once they have come and disciplined Judah, will receive punishment for their own sins. God tells Habakkuk to be patient – judgment will eventually come.

Habakkuk then ends with Chapter 3 as a prayer, acknowledging God’s sovereignty and plan. And this brings us to the 3:16 reference.

I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us. Habakkuk 3:16

Habakkuk understands that God will bring about judgment, first as discipline on his own people, and then ultimately destruction of those who do not honor Him. Habakkuk says that he hears and trembles, much as a child trembles as he faces discipline from a parent or teacher. And yet he acknowledges that he will quietly wait for the future when God will make all things right by bringing judgment on sin.

This is the attitude we must have. We endure discipline in our own lives and trust God for the future. Paul, in his discourse about rightly observing the Lord’s Supper, states, “But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world (1 Corinthians 11:32).” An account will be given by all people someday as two groups: those who stand before God as His children, and the rest who are not. Jesus described one aspect of this great separation at the time of His return, in Matthew 24:30-31:

“Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other”.

Revelation 20:11-15 describes the eternal fate of these two groups.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

That brings me to the end of this post. The human condition is that we are all sinners and will answer to God someday. Next week we’ll look at the 3:16 from Nahum as we continue to unpack the human condition.

4 thoughts on “3:16 – The Rest of the Story – The Human Condition 2: Habakkuk

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