By Joseph Ametepe
Habakkuk is the second of three books in the Old Testament that begins with the letter "H" (the others being Hosea and Haggai). The name "Habakkuk" means "embracer" or "wrestler." It signifies a person who embraces, or one who is embraced. If you would accept it, you can call Habakkuk "Mr. Embracer." Actually, at the end of the book of Habakkuk his name as "an embracer" becomes appropriate as Habakkuk clings to the Lord his God regardless of his circumstances. The book of Habakkuk is unique in that it includes no oracle addressed to God's chosen and covenant people. In fact, Habakkuk is the only minor prophet who never addressed the people directly. His book is largely a dialogue between the prophet and God. You see, God's prophets spoke for God to men. But Habakkuk reasoned earnestly with God about His dealings with men. Richard W. De Haan of "Our Daily Bread Ministries" shares this relevant insight about the prophet: "He was not a self-centered person concerned only with the comfort and safety of himself and his family. As a true patriot, he was deeply distressed by the moral and spiritual conditions about him. He loved his nation, and knew it was moving ever closer to the precipice of destruction by continuing to break the laws of God. Therefore two anguished questions burst forth from his lips. How long? and Why? " Also, noted Bible Expositor James Montgomery Boice shares this though provoking insight about the book of Habakkuk: "Habakkuk is profound because it raises deep questions about the workings of God in history-why God does what He does, why He does it in the way He does, and why He sometimes does nothing. It is also profound because of the answers God gives. God says that although the righteous may not understand everything He is doing in history, they nevertheless should live by faith in Him (Hab. 2:4). This statement is so important that it is picked up and quoted three times in the New Testament twice by Paul (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11) and once by the author of Hebrews (Heb. 10:38)."
Clearly, these two quotations show how relevant the message of Habakkuk is for our times. Just as the prophet Habakkuk demonstrated true patriotism by crying out in anguish to God about the moral and spiritual conditions of his nation, so also believers today must show true patriotism by earnestly seeking God's face for spiritual restoration of their nations. You see, true patriotism is not merely about waving our national flags, donning the colors of national flags, and showing great emotion during the singing of our national anthems. It is far more than that. It is to be deeply concerned about the spiritual and moral conditions of our nation, calling upon God to rid the land of moral corruption and spiritual degeneration. Also, the message of Habakkuk is applicable in our day because God's believing people today often ask the questions found in Habakkuk: Why does evil seem to go unpunished for so long? Why does God sometimes reprove the less evil by sending an even greater evil? God's people will benefit a great deal by learning from God's responses to Habakkuk's tough questions.
The prominent doctrines taught in Habakkuk include: the person of God, the people of God, the purity of God, perversion of justice, the power of God, the plan of God, the punishment of God, the promise of God, the praise of God, and prayer. Although Habakkuk is considered a minor prophet, yet his book contains several major spiritual lessons for God's believing people today. It is therefore our prayer that the Holy Spirit will enable us to pay closer attention to its timeless principles and precepts for our own spiritual growth and good. And that, in doing so in dependence on the Holy Spirit, He will change and conform us more into the blessed image of our Lord Jesus Christ in such a time as this. May God richly bless you as you listen to the verse by verse exposition of the profound and practical prophetic book of Habakkuk!
Habakkuk's prophecy was received during the time in history when Assyria was beginning to weaken, and soon Babylon would become the dominant world power. The map below illustrates that.