Some Thoughts on Habakkuk

The righteous shall live by faith.

For most Bible students, that sentence may be the only thing that comes to mind about the book of Habakkuk. This is understandable given its multiple uses in the New Testament (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38). We who hold to the doctrine of sola fide cherish this great truth, and for good reason.

But is that the only thing worth cherishing in the book of Habakkuk? In the words of Paul, me genoito . . . By no means! The great truths of Habakkuk come to life as one discovers the message of the entire book.

The book opens with the question of how long the Lord would allow his servant to cry for help and yet receive no salvation. The Lord quickly interrupts the prophet’s lament and heightens the situation with this declaration:

Look among the nations, and see;
wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
that you would not believe if told.
(Habakkuk 1:5)

What is this “work” that God is going to do? In the immediate context, the “work” is God raising up the Chaldeans, a violent and impetuous nation, to carry out judgment upon His disobedient people. This understanding seems clear from the first half of the book.

However, this is not the end of the story, for we see another instance of the Lord’s “work” in Habakkuk 3. There the prophet prays that the Lord would revive His “work” and make it known “in the midst of the years.” The work called for in the prayer of chapter 3 is none other than an act of “mercy” (3:2) and a renewal of God’s work of “salvation” (3:13). In fact, Habakkuk takes joy in the God of his salvation (3:18). The “work” that God was doing was more than an act of “wrath” (3:2); it was an act of “salvation.” Thus, we see the purpose of the book: The righteous person will live by faith, patiently awaiting God’s work of salvation.

As for us who live on this side of the cross, Paul agrees. In Acts 13:41, Paul clearly understood Habakkuk’s message. The “work” that God was doing was none other than the salvation that was to be found in God’s “anointed” (a term mentioned in Hab 3:13). The events surrounding the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, were the fulfillment of the book of Habakkuk.

Habakkuk had cried for God to rescue him from a people of violence, from the consequences of God’s judgment, and had committed to trust the God of his salvation. We have the privilege of enjoying the fulfillment of Habakkuk’s prayer. The salvation that Habakkuk was patiently waiting for is ultimately found in none other than the Son of David, through whom men are forgiven, through whom men are made righteous. Habakkuk was willing to wait patiently in faith for God to complete His work. Are we?


Author: Randy McKinion

Besides being a husband and father, I teach at Cedarville University in Cedarville, OH.

9 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Habakkuk”

  1. Thanks, Randy. I like what you say, BUT I really battle with your continued use of “men”. This isn’t about political correctness: it’s about grace and reality. “Men” just doesn’t do as a synonymn for “humanity” any more! It’s an archaism. It’s offensive, and also it ignores the biblical distinction that Hebrew makes between “a man” and “humanity”. I’m just not used to finding exclusive language in a biblical context anymore and I have to say that it bothers me to the point of obscuring everything else. Which is a shame, because you’re writing good stuf …

  2. wol,

    I apologize to you for that one sentence where I used “men” twice. I guess we who are on this side of the ocean (specifically those of us in the South where this is still commonly used) still struggle with this “archaic” tendency. I hope it doesn’t keep you from reading other things I write.


  3. I just read your post at Expository Thoughts on the Servant Song in Isaiah after rereading this post. If I am understanding you correctly, the astonishment at the work of God mentioned in Habakkuk 1 is for in the same context as the astonishment mentioned in Isaiah 52:14, i.e., the salvation work of Christ. I do understand that the Hebrew words as well as the contexts are not identical but is there any textual reason to connect the two together? I am beginning this Sunday a three week series on Habakkuk and trust that I do it well but find the task a bit overwhelming :)

  4. Robert,

    I think the passages are connected in that they are discussing the salvation found in the Messiah. Habakkuk speaks of the salvation that Yhwh will bring, which is presented in very theophanic language in chapter 3. The Servant song of Isaiah speaks of salvation through the suffering of the Servant followed by his exaltation. In Habakkuk, the wonder is by the faithful one who patiently waits for this salvation to come. In Isaiah, the wonder (specifically in 52:13-15) is by the nations/peoples who marvel that the path to exaltation is through suffering. If anything, I think they work together to present a more complete picture of the work of the Messiah/Servant.

    Thanks for reading,

  5. Your welcome. I usually post my Sunday morning sermons on my website Saturday evenings (editing as I post). Certainly during the next three sermons, if you were to look critically at my series through Habakkuk, I would appreciate it but don’t feel obligated. I know we are all very busy.


  6. Thanks Randy!

    I have been meditating on the book for a while in preparation for my sermon on 27th July 2008. Your work on God’s “work” as salvation and not only as His act of wrath has helped to reinforce my understaning of the book.

    I wish to get your website for more of your exegetical work (on other books too).

    Nagaland, India

  7. I think someone who ignores the message of God due to modern gender issues and then pitches a fit when someone is trying to get that word out into the worldbecause of linguistic issues is less concerned with the holy and far too concerned with the secular.

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