Habakkuk 1:5-The Lord Issues the Faithful Remnant of Judah Four Commands and the Reason for Them
Habakkuk 1:1 The following is the message which God revealed to Habakkuk the prophet: 1:2 How long, Lord, must I cry for help? But you do not listen! I call out to you, “Violence!” But you do not intervene! 1:3 Why do you force me to witness injustice? Why do you put up with wrongdoing? Destruction and violence confront me; conflict is present and one must endure strife. 1:4 For this reason the law lacks power, and justice is never carried out. Indeed, the wicked intimidate the innocent. For this reason justice is perverted. 1:5 “Look at the nations and pay attention! You will be shocked and amazed! For I will do something in your lifetime that you will not believe even though you are forewarned.” (NET)
Habakkuk 1:5 marks a transition in the book since it marks a transition from Habakkuk’s complaints to the Lord in Habakkuk 1:2-4 to the Lord’s response to these complaints in Habakkuk 1:5-11.
Habakkuk 1:5 is composed of four commands as well as a causal clause and a concessive clause.
Each of these four commands are addressed to the faithful remnant of the kingdom of Judah who lived at the end of the seventh century B.C. in 605 B.C.
They had remained faithful to the God of Israel by remaining obedient to the Mosaic Law since Habakkuk issues his first complaints to God in Habakkuk 1:2-4 regarding those in his nation who were not faithful to the Mosaic covenant.
The first command required that this faithful remnant in Judah look among the nations, which is a reference to all the Gentile nations located in the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian regions of the world who stand in contrast to the southern kingdom of Judah because they do not possess a covenant relationship with God as was the case with Judah.
In this command, the Lord is authoritatively directing Habakkuk and the faithful citizens of the kingdom of Judah to look among these Gentile nations.
The second command is emphatic in the sense that it is advancing upon and intensifying the first.
In this command, the Lord is authoritatively ordering or directing this faithful remnant to enter into the state of observing carefully the Gentile nations located in the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian regions of the world and remaining in that state.
Therefore, the advancement and the intensification is that the Lord does not want this remnant to simply look among the nations but also more importantly to carefully observe these Gentile nations located in the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian regions of the world and remaining in that state.
The third command and the fourth present the result of the first two.
The Lord in the third command is authoritatively directing or ordering each of the faithful citizens of the kingdom of Judah to cause themselves to enter into the state of being astonished as a result of obeying the Lord’s commands to look and carefully observe the Gentile nations located in the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian regions of the world.
In the fourth, the Lord is solemnly and authoritatively directing or ordering each of the faithful citizens of Judah to exist in the state of being astonished as a result of looking and carefully observing the Gentile nations located in the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian regions of the world.
The Lord wants them to be astonished in the sense that they are struck with sudden fear and with great wonder and surprise.
These four commands are followed by a causal clause, which records the Lord asserting that He was about to perform an act during the lifetime of this faithful remnant which each of them will never believe.
It presents the reason why the Lord wants each of the faithful citizens of Judah to look and carefully observed the Gentile nations so that they cause themselves to enter into the state of being astonished.
Lastly, attached to this causal clause is a concessive clause which asserts that the Lord told this faithful remnant in advance about this act He was about to perform during their lifetime.
It is expressing the idea that each of the faithful citizens of Judah would exist in the state of never believing the act of the Lord was about to perform during their lifetime “even though” or “despite the fact” that they were told in advance by the Lord through this prophecy communicated to them by the prophet Habakkuk.
Therefore, we can see here in Habakkuk 1:5 that the Lord, the God of Israel wants each member of this faithful remnant in Judah to not only look among the Gentile nations located in the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian regions of the world but also to carefully observe them.
The reason for this is that the Lord was about to perform an act among these nations which they would never believe even though He told them in advance through this prophecy He communicated to them through the prophet Habakkuk.
Habakkuk 1:6 reveals that one nation in particular would be the recipient of this act, namely Babylon.
Therefore, the Lord is directing this faithful remnant to take their eyes off the apostasy in their own nation for a moment in order to observe what was taking place politically, militarily and economically in another part of their world.
For among these nations, the Lord would address the apostasy in the kingdom of Judah and specifically, He would discipline the apostate individuals in Judah by sending the Babylonians to attack them, destroy their nation and temple and take them from their land.
This faithful remnant would never believe that God would use Babylon since they were a wicked, pagan nation who did not possess a covenant relationship with Him like Judah did.
Therefore, contrary to Habakkuk and this faithful remnant felt that the Lord appeared to be indifferent to the great apostasy in their nation, the Lord was in fact preparing the kingdom of Babylon to discipline the majority of the citizens of Judah for their apostasy.
Thus, long before Habakkuk issued his complaints recorded in Habakkuk 1:2-4 about the apostasy among his fellow citizens of the kingdom of Judah, the Lord was justifiably angry about this same thing.
To Habakkuk, and this faithful remnant in the nation, it appeared that the Lord was unconcerned about this situation, but in reality, His righteous indignation was about to be expressed in judgment against the southern kingdom as He makes clear in Habakkuk 1:5-11.
As we noted in our introduction and study of Habakkuk 1:1-4, the book of Habakkuk was written in 605 B.C. during the reign of Jehoiakim since Habakkuk 1:6 records the God of Israel informing the prophet Habakkuk that He was about to empower the Babylonians to be His instrument to judge the unfaithful in the kingdom of Judah.
Thus, the text says that this attack had not yet taken place and was imminent.
Consequently, the book of Habakkuk was must have been written just prior to the first of three Babylonian invasions led by Nebuchadnezzar which took place in 605 B.C.
Therefore, the book of Habakkuk was written during a period in which Babylon had just defeated Egypt at the battle of Carchemish.
With this great victory, Babylon became the number one super power of the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian regions of the world.
They struck fear in the hearts of every nation in these regions including the kingdom of Judah.
This same nation would be used by the God of Israel to discipline the unrepentant, apostate citizens of Judah.
However, Habakkuk 1:5-11 reveals that this did not sit well with Habakkuk and this faithful remnant since Babylon was a wicked, pagan, Gentile nation which did not possess a covenant relationship with God as did Judah.
The Lord is about to teach this faithful remnant that He uses wicked nations to discipline other wicked nations and those whom He uses, He disciplines as well after using them as His instruments to destroy another wicked nation.
This faithful remnant in Judah was about to be taught that God will use a wicked, pagan, Gentile nation like Babylon to discipline His covenant people when they are living in apostasy.
In other words, God’s covenant people in apostasy are no different than their wicked, pagan Gentile neighbors.
The implication is that God demands the practice of righteousness from all the nations of the earth and especially those who possess a covenant relationship with Him like Israel.
In fact, to whom much is given, much is required.
Israel received great revelation from the Lord in that they were recipients of the unconditional promises to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and they received the Law through Moses.
They received the tabernacle and temple worship and the Messiah would descend from one of the tribes of Israel, namely, Judah.
Therefore, Israel’s discipline would be more severe because of the great privileges, responsibilities and blessings they and no other nation on earth received from God but them.
Habakkuk and this faithful remnant in Judah should have known that God uses wicked pagan Gentile nations to discipline His covenant people since He employed the nation of Assyria as His instrument to discipline the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.
It appears that this faithful remnant in Judah felt that God would never use a pagan Gentile nation to discipline their nation because they possessed Solomon’s temple and Jerusalem, the city of David was its capital.
However, they soon found out that possessing Solomon’s temple and the city of Jerusalem as their center of worship and capital respectively did not stop God from destroying both.
Indeed, He would use the wicked, arrogant, Gentile Babylonians as His instrument to do so.