The word of the LORD which came to Zephaniah son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah (Zephaniah 1:1).

Normally people in the ancient world identified themselves by their name and by the name of their father. Zephaniah is unusual in that he goes back four generations. Why is this? Because his great, great grandfather was King Hezekiah.


This same verse gives us the date of writing. It was in the days of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah (Zephaniah 1:1). Josiah was the king who led the Israelites back to the worship of the Lord. It was during his reign that a copy of the Scriptures were found in the temple and taken to the king. He called for fasting and prayer and national repentance.

Zephaniah came on the scene only slightly before Jeremiah. While Jeremiah prophesied over a space of many years, the book of Zephaniah is only three chapters. They both speak of the judgment that is soon to befall Jerusalem.

Zephaniah foretells the destruction of Nineveh. That event took place in 612 B.C. This means that event had not yet taken place at the writing of this book.


The book of Zephaniah is chiastic in style. The centerpoint of the book is the call to repentance that takes place in Zephaniah 2:1-3.

Coming judgment on Jerusalem (1:1-6)

Coming judgment of leaders and wealthy (1:7-13)

God's judgment against the nation (1:14-18).

Call to repentance (2:1-3).

God's judgment against the nations (2:4-15).

Coming judgment of leaders (3:1-7)

Coming restoration of Jerusalem (3:8-20)



"I will completely remove all things
From the face of the earth," declares the LORD.
I will remove man and beast;
I will remove the birds of the sky
And the fish of the sea,
And the ruins along with the wicked;
And I will cut off man from the face of the earth," declares the LORD.
So I will stretch out My hand against Judah
And against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
And I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place,
And the names of the idolatrous priests along with the priests. (Zephaniah 1:2-4)

From the very beginning Zephaniah says that judgment is coming against the land. He tells us that the Lord is going to remove all things from the face of the earth. In poetic fashion, he then lists those things upon the face of the earth that shall be removed. His list calls to mind a reverse listing of that which was described in the six days of creation.

The problem is that, even with the reforms of Josiah, there continued to be a remnant of Baal (1:4) as well as idolatrous priests (1:4).



Gather yourselves together, yes, gather,
O nation without shame,
Before the decree takes effect--
The day passes like the chaff--
Before the burning anger of the LORD comes upon you,
Before the day of the LORD's anger comes upon you.
Seek the LORD,
All you humble of the earth
Who have carried out His ordinances;
Seek righteousness, seek humility.
Perhaps you will be hidden
In the day of the LORD's anger. (Zephaniah 2:1-3)

Notice the title that is used for the nation of Judah. She is called the "nation without shame." This is the language of non-repentance. It is a description of those who are still in their sin and who are proud of it.

This is the pivotal and central point in the book. It is the "so what?" of the passage. It is a call to repentance. It is expressed in the three commands of verse 3:



"Therefore, wait for Me," declares the LORD,
"For the day when I rise up to the prey.
Indeed, My decision is to gather nations,
To assemble kingdoms,
To pour out on them My indignation,
All My burning anger;
For all the earth will be devoured
By the fire of My zeal.
"For then I will give to the peoples purified lips,
That all of them may call on the name of the LORD,
To serve Him shoulder to shoulder.
"From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My worshipers,
My dispersed ones,
Will bring My offerings. (Zephaniah 3:8-10)

The restoration is seen, not only in terms of God's burning anger, but also a time when people are given "purified lips" that they may call upon the name of the Lord.

Where do we see this fulfilled in Scripture? I believe that we see this fulfilled in Acts 2.

In verses 11 and 12, we see the results of God's saving work in the lives of His people:

In that day you will feel no shame
Because of all your deeds
By which you have rebelled against Me;
For then I will remove from your midst
Your proud, exulting ones,
And you will never again be haughty
On My holy mountain.
But I will leave among you
A humble and lowly people,
And they will take refuge in the name of the LORD. (Zephaniah 3:11-12)

In verse 1 of this chapter, Judah was described as a people without shame and that was a bad thing. But here we see a picture of God's redeemed people and they are also without shame. But this time it is for a different reason. They are without shame because their sin has been removed. This is not shameless pride. Rather it is the absence of shame of one who has the Lord as his refuge.






The book contains no historical narrative. Because of this, we know virtually nothing of Joel or his readers.

Date of Joel's Prophecy

Before the Babylonian Captivity

After the Babylonian Captivity

  • Though Jerusalem is mentioned several times, there is no hint of it having been previously destroyed and rebuilt.
  • The mention of the "northern army" seems to point to Assyria and/or Babylon as a present threat (2:20).
  • There are several references to the Temple (1:14).
  • He speaks of Israel having been scattered among the nations (3:2).
  • He makes reference to the inhabitants of Judah having been sold to the "sons of Javin" - Greeks (3:6).
  • Edom is described as having done "violence to the sons of Judah" (3:19).
  • No mention is made of any kings. Priests and elders are seen as the leaders of the nation (2:16-17). No mention is made of any kings. Priests and elders are seen as the leaders of the nation (2:16-17).
  • Several other observations can be made regarding this book.

    The truth is that we do not know when the book of Joel is written. The Bible is not specific to tell us when it was written and that means it is not really important for us to know the date of writing.

    Joel doesn't say anything about God reaching out to the Gentiles. You can read about God's program toward the Gentiles in some of the other prophetical books, but not in Joel. He is speaking to those who are family.








    Lord's Army

    Call to Repentance

    Lord's Spirit











    As can be seen from this chart, the centerpoint of Joel's book it the call to repentance.

    Book Begins: Mourning over Present Desolation


    Book Ends: Rejoicing over Future Deliverance



    The word of the LORD that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel. (Joel 1:1).

    This verse tells us virtually everything that we know about Joel. It isn't much. We don't know who Joel was and we don't know who Pethuel was. His name means "Jehovah God" and he was a prophet of God.



    C.S. Lewis described pain as God's megaphone. That is true on the personal level and sometimes it is also true on the national level.

    The story of the Old Testament is a story of the people of God falling away and then being judged for their sins and then coming back in repentance. It happened again and again in a repeating cycle.

    If you are a parent, then you understand this process. We went through it when we were raising our daughter. She would be warned of the consequences of disobedience. Then she would disobey. And then would come "the Day of the Father."

    The church experiences the same thing. God warns and sends His prophets and eventually He says, "Enough is enough."

    Judah went through her period of prosperity where stocks were up and everything was prosperous and when pride built up to new levels. And then God took a little bug and demonstrated His power.

    Hear this, O elders,
    And listen, all inhabitants of the land.
    Has anything like this happened in your days
    Or in your fathers' days?
    Tell your sons about it,
    And let your sons tell their sons,
    And their sons the next generation.
    What the gnawing locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten;
    And what the swarming locust has left, the creeping locust has eaten;
    And what the creeping locust has left, the stripping locust has eaten. (Joel 1:2-4)

    The event that began Joel's prophecy was a plague of locust. That doesn't mean too much to us today, but in that day this sort of thing could be devastating. It was an agricultural economy and a locust invasion meant that everyone who starve.

    If you do not read this chapter through the eyes of faith, then you will only see bugs. But if you look to see what is really happening here, you will learn that these locusts are really the army of God. They are to be a lesson to future generations.

    I did not live through the Great Depression. But my grandmother and my wife's grandparents did and they told me what it was like. Joel tells people to do the same thing. They are to ask whether there has ever been a time as bad as this.

    The field is ruined,
    The land mourns,
    For the grain is ruined,
    The new wine dries up,
    Fresh oil fails. (Joel 1:10)

    In describing the plight of the people, Joel breaks into alliteration of the same type that we saw in the book of Hosea.

    The field fails,
    The land loses,
    The grain is gone,
    The wine withers,
    Fresh oil fails.

    This is the chant of a funeral dirge. It brings the same picture of the successive waves of plagues that we saw at the outset of this prophecy.



    "Yet even now," declares the LORD,
    "Return to Me with all your heart,
    And with fasting, weeping, and mourning;
    And rend your heart and not your garments." (Joel 2:12-13).

    The rending of ones garments was the culturally accepted method of demonstrating deep emotional grief. As such, it was an appropriate method of showing repentance. But the problem was that the people had made these sort of outward signs without any real repentance on the inside.

    Blow a trumpet in Zion,
    Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly (Joel 2:15).

    This is a call, not only for personal repentance, but also for national repentance. God comes in a mighty way when the congregation of His people turn to Him. Jesus said that. He said that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven (Matthew 18:19).



    And it will come about after this (2:28).

    I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind (2:28).

    Your sons and daughters will prophesy (2:28).

    Your old men will dream dreams (2:28).

    Your young men will see visions (2:28).

    And even on the male and female servants (2:29).

    I will pour out My Spirit (2:29).

    In those days (2:29).

    The passage continues following the close of the chiasm:

    And I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth,
    Blood, fire, and columns of smoke.
    The sun will be turned into darkness,
    And the moon into blood,
    Before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. (Joel 2:30-31)

    Peter quoted this passage on the day of Pentecost. He concluded that what was taking place in his day was that which Joel had promised.

    Peter identifies what is happening with a prophecy from the book of Joel. It is a prophecy of the Day of the Lord. Peter quotes this prophecy. Notice the elements of the prophecy.

    How are we to understand this prophecy? How much of this was fulfilled in Peter's day? I want to suggest that ALL of it was fulfilled in Peter's day.



    The point of these prophecies is that they were given as signs. They would take place before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come (2:20). What is the "Day of the Lord?" The phrase is used throughout the Old Testament to describe a day of JUDGMENT.

    Wail ye; for the day of the Lord is near;
    It will come as destruction from the Almighty. (Isaiah 13:6).
    Behold, the day of the Lord is coming,
    Cruel, with fury and burning anger,
    To make the land a desolation;
    And He will exterminate its sinners from it. (Isaiah 13:9).

    Alas for the day!
    For the day of the Lord is near,
    And it will come as destruction from the Almighty. (Joel 1:15).

    The Day of the Lord is not always in the future. Jeremiah, the writer of the book of Lamentations, describes the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. as being a fulfillment of the Day of the Lord.

    Thou didst call as in the day of an appointed feast
    My terrors on every side;
    And there was no one who escaped or survived
    In the day of the Lord's anger.
    Those whom I bore and reared,
    My enemy annihilated them. (Lamentations 2:22).

    Does the fact that the Day of the Lord was fulfilled in 586 B.C. mean that there are no other fulfillments? No, it does not. Peter saw a fulfillment in his day. And he elsewhere described another fulfillment which is still to come.

    But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10).

    The Day of the Lord is that time when God's hand enters history in judgment. It came in Peter's day. And it will come again in the future.



    For behold, in those days and at that time,
    When I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,
    I will gather all the nations,
    And bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat.
    Then I will enter into judgment with them there
    On behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel,
    Whom they have scattered among the nations;
    And they have divided up My land. (Joel 3:1-2)

    Joel looks forward to a time of the judgment of the nations. It is a time when Judah and Jerusalem are restored and when the Gentile nations are gathered for judgment.

    The reference to the Valley of Jehoshaphat hails back to an event from Judah's past history. The story is found in 2 Chronicles 20. It tells of an invasion of an alliance of all of the enemies of Judah.

    Now it came about after this that the sons of Moab and the sons of Ammon, together with some of the Meunites, came to make war against Jehoshaphat. 2 Then some came and reported to Jehoshaphat, saying, "A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, out of Aram and behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar (that is Engedi)." (2 Chronicles 20:1-2).

    Jehoshaphat did that which Joel was instructing the people to do. He called for a national time of fasting and prayer.

    As they were praying, the Lord sent His Spirit upon one of the leaders with a prophesy. They were to march out toward the enemy, but it would be the Lord who would fight the battle.

    Trusting in the word of the Lord, Jehoshaphat marches out, placing in his front ranks neither infantry or archers, but rather the temple musicians and singers. They come to the place of the battle and they find that it has begun without them.

    For the sons of Ammon and Moab rose up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir destroying them completely, and when they had finished with the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another. 24 When Judah came to the lookout of the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude; and behold, they were corpses lying on the ground, and no one had escaped. (2 Chronicles 20:23-24).

    The alliance had fallen apart and those who came to fight against Judah had fallen to fighting amongst themselves. As a result, the enemies of Judah literally destroyed themselves and when Jehoshaphat and his army came upon the scene, it was to look out upon a valley full of corpses.

    The name of Jehoshaphat took on a special significance that day, for it mean, "Yahweh who judges." This valley of judgment along the shores of the Dead Sea was renamed by the people of Judah, the Valley of Berachah because it became a place of "blessing" the Lord.

    That story became a meta-narrative and a paradigm for describing God's future work of judgment and protection for His people. He says, "I'm going to do it again. I will again arrange the affairs of men so as to cancel out the threats of nations and restore my Kingdom."




    Obadiah writes to the nation of Edom in the same way that Jonah and Nahum prophesied against Assyria.

    DATE: Written around the time of the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar (587/6 B.C.). Edom would be tempted to gloat over the defeat of Jerusalem and the plight of the Jews. This book is a warning against such gloating.




    Vision against Edom

    Warning against Edom

    Israel's Victory

    • Edom defeated despite her present strength and security (1-4)
    • Edom will be thoroughly plundered (5-7)
    • Edom will be cut off forever (8-10)

    Do not...

    • Gloat over your brother's day
    • Rejoice over the sons of Judah
    • Enter the gate of My people
    • Gloat over their calamity
    • Loot their wealth
    • Stand at the fork of the road to cut down their fugitives
    • Imprison their survivors
  • Day of the Lord coming against the nations (15-16)
  • Israel will retake their own land (17)
  • Victorious Israel will rule over the surrounding nations (18-21)
  • Like the book of Habakkuk, the book of Obadiah addresses the issue of divine justice. In this case, the focus is specifically upon the kingdom of Edom and their mistreatment of Judah during the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem.

    Here is the question: Why has God allowed Edom to prosper and to mock Judah with impunity? The answer is that God will indeed bring judgment upon Edom.

    "The arrogance of your heart has deceived you,
    You who live in the clefts of the rock,
    In the loftiness of your dwelling place,
    Who say in your heart, 'Who will bring me down to earth?'
    "Though you build high like the eagle,
    Though you set your nest among the stars,
    From there I will bring you down," declares the LORD. (Obadiah 1:3-4)

    This language calls to mind the ancient city of Petra. By the end of the 4th century B.C., Petra would become the capital of Edom. It characterized the words of this prophecy as a city "in the cleft of the rock."

    This prophecy was fulfilled quite literally in the days of the Maccabees and the Hasmonean kings. The tables were turned and Judah eventually conquered Edom. You can go today to the ancient capital city of Petra -- a great fortress built into solid rock. But you will be hard-pressed to find the Edomite.

    However, if you read this short book and see only the tiny kingdom of Edom, you miss the point of the book. It is that God will judge the nations. In this regard, Edom is seen as a mere representative of all of the nations. What is true of Edom is true of all nations. This is taught in verse 15 where we read: For the day of the LORD draws near on all the nations. As you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head.

    The purpose of this prophecy is not merely to chastise Edom. It is so that men will repent of their wrongdoing and return to the Lord. It is so that men repent and thereby stop this prophecy from coming to pass.

    Prophecy always has that purpose. It is not meant for you to use to draw a futuristic timeline. It is given for you to change your life.






    Habakkuk was a prophet with a problem. It was a problem faced by a lot of preachers in 21 century America. It was the problem of "business as usual."

    From a strictly naturalistic point of view, things were going well.

    But is all of this busy-ness and prosperity, the people had forgotten God. He just didn't fit into their busy schedules. And this spiritual forgetfulness led to other problems.

    "Business as usual" took on a seamier side. There was oppression and a cut-throat attitude at work. Lawyers were making a bundle by lining their pockets with legal loopholes. People were out to get what they could get while the getting was good. Justice was awarded to the one who had the deepest pockets.

    Habakkuk looked out at the nation of Judah and he saw all of this and it drove him to his knees. He set out to pray. The three chapters that make up the book of Habakkuk consist of his prayer diary.

    Habakkuk's prayer begins with a question: WHY DOES GOD ALLOW EVIL TO CONTINUE?




    Habakkuk's Problem

    Habakkuk's Praise

    Problem #1: Why does God allow wicked practices to continue in the land?

    Problem #2: Why will God use wicked people to punish others?

    • Praise for the Person of God (3:1-3)
    • Praise for the Power of God (3:4-7)
    • Praise for the Purpose of God (3:8-16)
    • Praise because of Faith in God (3:17-19)

    God's Answer: I will eventually bring judgment (1:5-11)

    God's Answer: I will judge even those whom I use for judgment (2:2-20)



    1. God Balances His Books in His own Time.

    Habakkuk looks at the shape of the modern judicial system and he asks, "Lord, how long can it go on like this? Why do you allow such things to happen?"

    The oracle which Habakkuk the prophet saw.

    How long, O LORD, will I call for help, And You will not hear? I cry out to You, "Violence!" Yet You do not save. 3 Why do You make me see iniquity, And cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; Strife exists and contention arises. 4 Therefore the law is ignored And justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore justice comes out perverted. (Habakkuk 1:1-4).

    Why do bad things happen to relatively good people?


    Why do good things happen to bad people?

    I can empathize with Habakkuk. There are few things more frustrating than to see bad people "get away with it."

    I have a confession to make. I like to watch those old-time movies where the villain gets his come-uppance and where the hero wins the day and rides off into the sunset to live happily ever after. But life is not always like that. All too often, we see...

    Bad things happening to relatively good people.


    Good things happening to bad people.

    Habakkuk looks at it and asks, "Lord, how can you let this go on? When will you do something? Have you gone on an extended vacation? If you a good God, then why do you allow evil to continue?

    Why does God permit bad things and bad people to continue? I don't know all of the answers, but I DO know one very important answer as it relates to us. God permits bad things and bad people to continue for YOUR benefit.

    The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9).

    There are a lot of people who seem to think that God is overworked and underpaid and would like to stop all of the sin and evil in the world, but He is just not up to the task. Sure He has made promises and certainly He will get around to fulfilling them one of these days, but He has been around for a long time and He is slowing down.

    That isn't the case. The Lord is NOT slow about His promise. The reason that God's judgment has not fallen is because God is PATIENT. To whom is this patience directed? Look again at the verse. He is patient toward YOU.

    This patience is manifested by the fact that God's judgment seems to be on hold. In fact, it seems to be downright postponed. Some might even think that God is never going to get around to judging evil.

    But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10).

    God's judgment WILL come and it will come like a thief. You know how a thief comes. He comes unexpectedly. He doesn't call you up earlier in the evening and say, "Hello, I'm going to be robbing your house at 3:15 in the morning. Could you leave out some milk and cookies with all of your worldly valuables?"

    God's judgment will come unexpectedly and it will come completely, but in the interim it has not yet come because there is a period of patience.

    Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation (2 Peter 3:14-15a).

    Do you see verse 15? We are to regard the patience of the Lord as salvation. Here is the point. The reason that you are saved today is because the Lord was patient with sin and evil in the first century and in the second century and in every century up to the present. He is patiently waiting for all to come to repentance. And when all have come who are going to come, then judgment will come.

    In the meantime, evil seems to be getting the best of good. In the meantime, sin seems to go unpunished. And that is the source of Habakkuk's complaint. And so, the Lord gives an answer. But it is not the answer for which Habakkuk was looking. In verse 5 we see God's answer to Habakkuk's question:

    "Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days you would not believe if you were told." (Habakkuk 1:5).

    God has an answer to Habakkuk's prayer. But it was not the answer that the prophet thought was coming. I don't know what Habakkuk expected, but it wasn't this.

    What Habakkuk was not ready for was the promise that God gave. It was something completely unexpected. This brings us to our next principle…

    1. When God Balances His Books, He does it His own way.
    2. Has God ever done that to you? You cry out to Him that He would change your situation and you have it all worked out in your mind exactly what God could do to change that situation, but He ignores your pet solution and comes up with one that is completely different. That is what happens here.

      "For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans,

      That fierce and impetuous people

      Who march throughout the earth

      To seize dwelling places which are not theirs.

      They are dreaded and feared;

      Their justice and authority originate with themselves.

      Their horses are swifter than leopards

      And keener than wolves in the evening.

      Their horsemen come galloping,

      Their horsemen come from afar;

      They fly like an eagle swooping down to devour.

      All of them come for violence.

      Their horde of faces moves forward.

      They collect captives like sand. (Habakkuk 1:6-9).

      We read this passage and it comes as no surprise. After all, we have the perspective of history. We know all about Nebuchadnezzar's invasion of Judah.

      Why? Why would God allow such a thing? It was a judgment againt sin. This means it was no chance happening. God says to Habakkuk, "I am not merely allowing this to take place, I am the one raising up the Chaldeans (1:6).

      This is a picture of the sovereignty of God. He is in control, not only when good things happen, but when bad things happen, too.

      Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God (Romans 13:1).

      It is God who raises up presidents and potentates. He is the ultimate authority on planet earth. He is the only real superpower. And even when an evil nation like Babylon comes to power, we find that God is the One who has ordained that it should be.

      Is that bad? No, that is GOOD. It means that absolutely nothing can ever come into your life without having passed through a nail-scarred hand. It means that your prayers really do count because you are praying to the One who has complete control over all things.

      At the same time, a lot of people are uncomfortable with the teaching that God is in control of ALL things. They immediately think, "How could this be? How could God be in control when we see a Hitler or a Stalin or a Sadam Hussein?"

      If those questions come to your mind, you are in good company. Habakkuk had the same sort of questions. He asks the question: WHY DOES GOD USE EVIL PEOPLE?

      Are You not from everlasting, O LORD, my God, my Holy One? We will not die. You, O LORD, have appointed them to judge; and You, O Rock, have established them to correct.

      Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You can not look on wickedness with favor. Why do You look with favor on those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they? (Habakkuk 1:12-13).

      Habakkuk questions the actions of God. He doesn't deny them. He doesn't say, "God, you can't do that." After all, Habakkuk knows that God is God and that He can do however He pleases.

      God is Sovereign: Are You not from everlasting... You, O LORD, have appointed them to judge... You, O Rock...


      God is Just: Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You can not look on wickedness with favor

      Habakkuk looks at these two qualities of God, that He is completely Sovereign and that He is completely just and righteous and he scratches his head and he says, "I don't get it!"

      Here is the question: How can God use evil people to do His work? It is true, the people of Israel had turned away from God. But the Babylonians were even worse.

      The Chaldeans bring all of them up with a hook,

      Drag them away with their net,

      And gather them together in their fishing net.

      Therefore they rejoice and are glad.

      Therefore they offer a sacrifice to their net and burn incense to their fishing net;

      Because through these things their catch is large,

      And their food is plentiful. (Habakkuk 1:15-16).

      This imagery of a hook and a net was not completely symbolic. Some of it was quite literal. Archaeologists have uncovered wall paintings that depict the Babylonian conquerors shoving a literal hook through the lips of conquered people in order to lead them about like fish on a line.

      Habakkuk sums up his question in verse 17: Will they therefore empty their net and continually slay nations without sparing?

      Here is his question: You are a holy and a just God and you are going to use THESE people to accomplish your will?

      The answer to this question is introduced in chapter 2. It begins with a command for Habakkuk to make a permanent record of this answer.

      Then the LORD answered me and said, "Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run. (Habakkuk 2:2).

      The Lord is going to give Habakkuk an answer, and it is such an important answer that Habakkuk is told to take notes. These notes are not just for Habakkuk; they are to be preserved in writing for others to read, too.

      It is to be inscribed on TABLETS. This wasn't the usual method of writing. Tablets were expensive and labor-intensive. Much more commonplace was the medium of ostrica; broken pieces of pottery. Most of the archaeological finds from this period consist of such pottery. It would be used for day-to-day writing.

      But this message is so important that it is to be put onto tablets. It is to be written so that its message can be passed on.

      "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. (Habakkuk 2:3).

    3. God Balances His Books without Partiality.
    4. There are five woes proclaimed...


      Woe to him who increases what is not his

      This was the sin of the rich person who takes advantage of his neighbors by charging undue interest. We call such a person today "loan sharks," but the activity is no longer limited to mobsters and criminals.


      Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house, to put his nest on high

      This is related to the previous woe. It is feathering your own nest at the expense of others.


      Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed, And founds a town with violence!

      We are called to be people of peace. It is amazing how often we are ready to support military action against a country for which we do not particularly care.


      Woe to you who make your neighbors drink, Who mix in your venom even to make them drunk So as to look on their nakedness!

      The Lord pronounces a woe upon the sin of sensuality. The world says, have a drink and forget all your troubles - the Lord says, "Eat, drink and remember."

      Notice the warning in verse 16 - there is coming a cup of judgment in the Lord's right hand that will come around to you.


      Woe to him who says to a piece of wood, "Awake!" To a mute stone, "Arise!"

      This last woe is to the one who commits idolatry - the sin of worshiping something other than God.

      You might be thinking, "I know better than that!" Do you? Do you ever put other things first in your life? That is idolatry.

      Now there is something that I want you to see in each of these woes. They are directed against the coming Babylonian Empire. God is saying, "I am going to judge the coming kingdom of Babylon because of these sins."

      But as you heard the listing of those sins, you might have been uncomfortably aware that our own nation is guilty of those very things. The people to whom Habakkuk wrote had the same reaction. He is writing to Jews - Israelites who are living in and around Jerusalem. He is writing to the chosen people. He is writing to God's people. And they are beginning to shift in their seats uncomfortably as they realize that they are also guilty of these same sins.

      God shows no partiality when He balances His books. He does not care if you are American or Chinese, black or white, Presbyterian, Baptist or Charismatic.

      For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17).

    5. God Ultimately Balanced His Books upon the Cross.

    "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.

    "Behold, as for the proud one,

    His soul is not right within him;

    But the righteous will live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:3-4).

    Look again at verse 4. Do you see what it is that is contrasted to faith? What it is that is the opposite of faith? The proud one! Pride is the opposite of faith. The just do not live because of the goodness of their works. They do not live because of their arrogant pride in thinking that they are worthy of God's acceptance. The just shall live by faith. The just shall live by confessing their inadequacy before a holy God and trusting in His Son for our salvation.


    The third chapter of Habakkuk is a song of praise about the wonders of a God who is so great that He moves in history, not only to balance the books in history, but to balance them on our behalf as He saves us from our sins and sets our feet upon firm ground.

    And that tells me about what is to be my reaction to this message. What do I do when I come to understand the salvation that God has wrought in a world filled with violence and suffering? I am to believe. And I am to be glad. And I am to sing. Theology is not to remain in the pages of our notebooks. It must sing! And so should we.

    The song presented in this chapter is a song of praise. God is pictured in thundering majesty as He comes to act in the affairs of men.

    God comes from Teman,

    And the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah.

    His splendor covers the heavens,

    And the earth is full of His praise.

    His radiance is like the sunlight;

    He has rays flashing from His hand,

    And there is the hiding of His power.

    Before Him goes pestilence,

    And plague comes after Him. (Habakkuk 3:3-5).

    The Almighty is pictured in the most graphic of terms. He is the conquering King who comes with power and radiance and majesty.

    Thou didst go forth for the salvation of Thy people,

    For the salvation of Thine anointed.

    Thou didst strike the head of the house of the evil

    To lay him open from thigh to neck. Selah. (Habakkuk 3:13).

    The picture of the raging Lord of the universe is a terrifying one until we realize that He is raging on our behalf.

    Though the fig tree should not blossom,

    And there be no fruit on the vines,

    Though the yield of the olive should fail,

    And the fields produce no food,

    Though the flock should be cut off from the fold,

    And there be no cattle in the stalls,

    Yet I will exult in the LORD,

    I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

    Habakkuk says, "I will continue to praise the Lord, even in those times when I don't see His obvious blessings in my life." We are quick to praise the Lord in the good times, but do we praise Him and pronounce His goodness just as adamantly in the difficult times?

    The Lord God is my strength,

    And He has made my feet like hinds' feet,

    And makes me walk on my high places.

    For the choir director, on my stringed instruments. (Habakkuk 3:19).

    The reference to a "hind" is merely old English for a deer. This is a quote from Psalm 18:34. It pictures a deer in a high place.

    The impact of this passage did not come home to me until a few years ago when I had opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon. I was gazing out at that vast expanse when I noted that on a ledge a portion of the way down that yawning precipice stood a deer. She had not fallen. She was not in trouble. She was secure and she had no problem traversing those dizzying heights.

    In those times when it looks as though we are going to fall, we can take comfort. It is God who has set us in place. He has directed our paths. Nothing can come our way yet through a nail-scarred hand.

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