Commentary by Walter Albritton


July 15, 2007


God Expects Us to Offer Hope and Help to the Oppressed


Habakkuk 2:1-20; 2 Kings 23:35-37


Key Verse: The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. – Habakkuk 2:14


One of the 12 minor prophets, Habakkuk was evidently a contemporary of the prophets Jeremiah and Zephaniah. Little is known about the man except that he served God by prophesying between 612 BC and 586 BC.

The years of his ministry are known because he wrote that God would use the Babylonians as his instrument to punish the people of Judah. And Babylon did not become a powerful nation until 612 BC when the Babylonians conquered Nineveh. A few years later Babylon invaded Judah, and then destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC, fulfilling Habakkuk’s prophecy by taking many of the Judahites into captivity.

We do know from his writing that Habakkuk was a praying man. He talked to God and God talked to him. He asked God questions as most of us do when perplexed by life’s circumstances. The more the prophet prayed, the more he realized that his people, God’s people, were living in sinful rebellion against God. He asked why God did not punish his people for their sins.

God answered by assuring Habakkuk that he would punish the people. He would punish them by allowing the Babylonians to conquer Judah. This confused Habakkuk. The Babylonians were worse sinners than the Judahites. Why would God use an evil nation to punish another nation that was not as evil?

God explained that later he would allow another nation to punish Babylon for its sins. And Babylon was indeed overthrown in 538 BC by the Persians, freeing the Judahites to return home.

We may treasure the short Book of Habakkuk for three important reasons: 1) The prophet reminds us that God expects his people to offer hope and help to the oppressed; 2) He is the one to whom God revealed the life-changing truth that “the righteous live by their faith”; and 3) He gives us one of the most beautiful statements of trust in God found in the Bible: 3:17-18. Let us examine these three reasons.

First, the oppressed, like the poor, are always with us. In every age powerful people victimize the weak and helpless. We should realize that God is displeased when anyone is oppressed, and he expects his people to do something about it whenever they can. What can we do? We can offer the oppressed help, hope, and healing.

The oppressed are not all off in some foreign land; they are often near us. When we want to offer help, it is usually best to start with one person or one family. If we look closely we can always find someone who needs an advocate, or someone suffering to whom we could offer compassion and encouragement.

Second, the influence of Habakkuk is amazing. He inspired the Apostle Paul to understand the role of faith in receiving the righteousness of God. Read again Romans 1:17 and give thanks for Habakkuk. Centuries later it was the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther whose eyes were opened by the Holy Spirit as he pondered the phrase “the just shall live by faith.” God uses many ordinary people to reveal the truth that sets people free! And he is able to use us in our day.

Third, in all literature there are few more beautiful affirmations of faith in God than Habakkuk’s magnificent words:

Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. (3:17-18)

Would to God we might trust God with faith like that of our brother Habakkuk! Let us give thanks for his teaching and his rare example of faith in God. And having received the righteousness of God by faith, let us find ways to offer help and hope to our oppressed brothers and sisters both near and far.

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