As Chapter 2 commences, God again answers Habakkuk. The argumentative prophet is told that he must faithfully await the outworking of Divine justice. He had presumed to question God’s justice without full knowledge of His will and had drawn wrong conclusions in chapter 1:12-17. He had not believed what God was going to do (1:5-12) even “though it was told him”. If he could not understand God’s will, he must not doubt it, for faith is the basis of acceptance. It is fundamental that God does not change and therefore justice will at length prevail. So faith in God’s Name must prevail however difficult it may be to understand His ways.

2:1-4 The Perplexed And Argumentative Prophet Is Told That He Must Faithfully Await The Outworking Of Divine Justice. 2:1 I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch and see what he will say unto me and what I shall answer when I am reproved. (margin, “when I am ARGUED with) RSV “I will take my stand to watch and station myself on the tower and look forth to see what he will say to me and what I shall answer concerning my complaint.”

Habakkuk, like Jeremiah, was very concerned for the preservation of his people in view of the fearsome judgments proclaimed by God. He knew that he had questioned God’s justice, yet from his limited viewpoint he felt compelled to do so. He knew that a Divine rebuke would follow his complaint in chapter 1:12-17. Because of this impending answer he awaits and stations himself in ‘the tower’. He has fortified himself in his complaint and feels his argument is impregnable. Not only does he anxiously await the Spirit’s answer but in his confidence he prepares counter-arguments to bolster his stand! We can see how self-assured he was and how deeply he felt the plight of his people. “And what I shall answer when I am reproved” (AV margin “argued with”) – He expected a firm rebuff and as he watched he prepared his answer as if in a debate! He was not insincere or presumptuous but genuinely perplexed by the judgments to come and moved to question them. 2:2 And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it “And Yahweh answered” – The reply he was awaiting in his figurative watch-tower came (v1). “Write the vision and make it plain on tables” – That is, the vision of chapter 1:5-11. Habakkuk had tried to change God’s planned judgment of Judah, but here God confirms His intentions previously revealed. These words are a direct rebuff to the prophet – the terrible judgments on Judah WILL TAKE PLACE! There must be no doubting this. Their certainty is impressed on Habakkuk by God demanding of him that he should MAKE IT PLAIN ON TABLES.

“that he may run that readeth it” – Without a clear statement of the Truth to his contemporaries, they might be taken unawares. For this Habakkuk, as a watchman, would be responsible. His duty as a prophet was to warn the people of God’s will, and to turn them, if possible, from iniquity. If they did not respond, he would not be held accountable (cp Ezek 3:17). The lesson applies in these last perilous days, for, over our wicked generation hang the ominous clouds of Divine retribution (cp Paul’s attitude to preaching, Acts 18:6; 20:26-30).

The fearful violence of the impending Chaldean attack would make the righteous ‘run’ for refuge. “The name of Yahweh is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it and is safe” (Prov 18:10). Compare this warning with Christ’s in Luke 21:21.

2:3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry wait for it: because it will surely come, it will not tarry RSV “For still the vision awaits its time; it hastens to its end – it will not lie. If it seems slow wait for it, it will surely come, it will not delay.”

 “For the vision” – These words apply to:- 1. The Chaldean invasion in the prophet’s day (1:5-11). 2. The Roman invasion in AD70 – these words are quoted by Paul and applied to the destruction about to fall on those who clung to the Law and refused to live by faith (Heb 10:36-38). Note also that Hab 1:5 is cited by Paul in Acts 13:41 (See notes on v5). 3. The last and greatest application is to our day. This aspect of the vision is elaborated in chapter 3 when Eloah shall emerge from Sinai with all his saints and decimate the latter-day Babylonian and his hosts which will at this time have threatened the very existence of God’s people.

“for an appointed time” – The eye of faith perceives that history has been ordered and regulated by God and that He rules in the kingdom of men. History vindicates God, for what He has said, has come to pass. Those educated in the Word develop confidence in the statements relating to God’s future purpose. Paul makes this same point when dealing with faith in Hebrews 11:3, “In faith we perceive that the ages have been so thoroughly adjusted by God’s command, that not from things THEN manifest (i.e. at the time when prophecy was given) the things NOW seen have come to pass” (Diaglott). For examples of God’s adjustment of the ages, see Eph 1:10: Acts 1:7; Gal 3:23; 4:4; Rom 16:25-26; Luke 21:22, 24; Rom 11:25; Acts 3:19-21; 17:26-31.

It is notable that this statement in Heb 11:3 follows Paul’s quotation of Hab 2:3, 4.

“But at the end it shall speak, and not lie” – RSV “it hastens to the end – it will not lie”. This is a dramatic prediction of the inexorable outworking of the Divine will. The work of raising up the Chaldean had been initiated and would not fail. Nebuchadnezzar, the mighty king, had been ‘raised up’ with the required qualities and would play his part like a puppet in God’s hand. Once Yahweh’s will had been expressed it could not fail of fulfilment (Isa 13:6-11). The wheels of God’s purpose grind slowly but surely – He is never in a hurry and time is meaningless to Him (2 Pet 3:8; Psa 90:4), but not so to men! Men are bound by time as a cage, and so their view-points are very different. Thus the “Lord is not slack concerning his promise as some men (the faithless ones, v4) count slackness” (2 Pet 3:9). Time gives scope for the exercise of faith and patience, and so a stronger conviction is developed. Scripture constantly exhorts us to patient endurance to the end – the end of the vision (Matt10:22).

Cp James 5:7 “Be patient… unto the coming of the Lord” and Romans 5:3-5 “Tribulation worketh patience… experience, hope”. See also Heb 3:6; 6:12, 15; 10:36.

Lesson For Us

 We must not be deflected from our Hope – the Hope of Israel – by any trials we may encounter. If personal insults cause us to lose faith and affect our relationship with the Father, it is obvious that hurt pride means more to us than God and His salvation.

It is a relatively easy thing to intellectually grasp the first principles of the Truth, but to walk steadfastly to the end is difficult. It is the walk that counts. We shall not be judged by how much we know, but by “our works” – that is, our faithful response in time of trial (Luke 19:22; Matt 16:27; 7:20).

And while Babylon triumphed, Habakkuk saw that Israel and the nations were enclosed in its net, being subjected thereby to spoliation and great distress. He was desirous to know what all this would result in. He therefore besought Yahweh to reveal to him what the end would be. His petition was granted, and the consummation was represented to him in a vision, which is to speak “at the end”. He saw in that epoch, which is termed “the day of trouble”, a chief of nations, proud, covetous, rapacious, and impious, as Belshazzar; who will not confine himself to his own territories, but will enlarge his desire as the grave, and will be as death, which cannot be satisfied, but will gather to his throne all nations, and laden himself with all people as with thick clay. He saw this Power in vision execrated in its time as the spoiler of the nations, and the violator of the land of Israel, Jerusalem, and its inhabitants.