HABAKKUK 1:1 – 3:19 and REVELATION 17:7–18
The prophet Habakkuk ministered during the reigns of King Manasseh and King Josiah of Judah. The periods of his prophesy would be in the range of about 20 years (650-630 BC). His name means to “embrace”. His focus is upon Judah seeing that Samaria (Israel) had fallen about 80 years earlier. A brief outline is given below:
1) The evidence of lawlessness (1:1-4)
2) The rise of Babylon in judgement (1:5-17)
3) Prophet waits for God to Speak (2:1-4)
4) The Song of Woes (2:5-20)
5) Judgement upon the nations (3:1-16)
6) Song of the Redeemed (3:17-19)
Habakkuk begins by speaking of the lawlessness that was in the land. It makes sense when you consider that he began his prophetic ministry in the latter years of King Manasseh’s reign. He was the wickedest of all the kings who ruled in Judah. In the midst of Manasseh’s wicked rule there was yet a remnant of those who still feared God. This group along with prophets like Zephaniah and Habakkuk help to pave the way for the future revival under King Josiah. God’s heart is to ultimately purify His people. This is oftentimes achieved by allowing heathen nations that are enemies of Israel to be used as God’s instrument of purging and dealing. The Lord today is looking to prepare a bride (The church) for His Son.
The book begins with the prophet’s cry and lament for the lawlessness that was in the land. Judah was at its lowest point under King Manasseh. They had already witnessed the destruction of Assyria to Israel and had come to know God’s deliverance from the Assyrians under King Hezekiah. The slide towards lawlessness had now gained steam and there seemed to be no means of eluding its grip. The reason for this deplorable condition was due to the slackness of the law and lack of true justice (vs 4). It is once again clear how everything stems back to the failure in keeping God’s law. When the law of God is dismissed or diminished it allows for the wicked to prey and impose upon the righteous. There will be a notable change in legislative law which makes allowance for rebellion and sin. This is what Habakkuk was being confronted with at this time. The remedy that God will now prepare will be a new nation that will emerge and take center stage. The day of the Assyrian reign of terror was coming to an end as the Chaldeans (Babylonians) began to emerge. This nation will arise and become God’s instrument of judgement upon sinful Judah. The prophet then goes on to give a brief description of their coming captors. They will be cruel and swift in their execution of judgement. The Babylonians have not yet arisen as a nation. The people of Judah were acquainted with the Assyrians but the Chaldeans will be far worse. They will not only besiege Judah but several other nations as well (vs 9). They will fear no man, nation or army (vs 10). The prophet then seems to fast forward through the period of dominance of the Babylonians as they give glory to themselves for their prowess. There were periods in Babylon’s dominion where they saw God as giving them the right to rule which of course was true. The pride and arrogance of the Chaldeans came to ripeness under Belshazzar at the time they fell before the Medes and Persians (Daniel 5) (vs 11).
The prophet speaks of the everlasting characteristics of God (vs 12). This is seen in how Babylon was raised for a season to judge Israel. The Lord then raised the Medes and Persians to destroy Babylon at an appointed time. In the last days Babylon will arise again. This includes the false religious system that Babylon represents in Revelation 17 as well as the city state of Babylon that is seen in Revelation 18. Babylon will again come against Israel in the last days only to be destroyed at the time of the 2nd Coming. The everlasting purposes of God are seen through the prophetic ministry of Habakkuk and others. The Babylonians were used of God to both punish Judah for their sins as well as purge them (those that heard and responded) so that they might become vessels of honor. The Babylonians went to great lengths to search out those who ran and hid from the terror that came forth (vs 14-15). As mentioned earlier they attributed their prowess unto themselves as opposed to seeing it coming from God. It is a picture of the pride that will fill the man of sin in the last days as he leads the armies of Babylon and others to the place of Armageddon.
The condition of the land and promise of judgement upon Judah has been addressed in chapter one. Habakkuk now awaits for God to speak. This is an important chapter due to its message for the church of the last days. In the midst of great busyness we can make assumptions as to what God is saying. The fast pace of life keeps us from getting away into a quiet and solitary voice that enables us to hear the Word of the Lord. The year 1983 was a significant one in my life for many reasons. It was a year of transition for me and there were many unknowns concerning the future. It did afford me some time I did not have before and I learned to use it wisely in seeking after the Lord. There is a place called the Asbury Woods located just outside Erie Pa. In the fall of 1983 I had opportunity to spend many days in the solitary refuge of the woods. I sought God and was desperate in needing to hear that still small voice. It is now 34 years later and I can only rejoice as to how the Lord spoke and later brought to pass many of the things he spoke during that critical season. In the challenging days to come we need to learn to make time for God and find similar places of refuge. We cannot solely live by assumptions; by methods that may have worked in the past. We need a fresh Word, fresh revelation from God that will give perspective and strength to that which God is saying. The Lord is faithful in speaking to those who incline their ear to hear His voice. We all need our respective Asbury Woods type moment.
“Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” (Jer 29:13)
In verses 2-4 we have an essential leadership principle presented to us. The Lord would give the vision but it required the prophet to make it plain and clear before the people. There is a twofold process to be observed in these verses. First, we must make sure we have a vision that is given to us by God. This requires an intimate walk with God that allows for Him to entrust us with revelation and insight concerning what He is speaking and looking to do. Secondly, once we have the vision it must be communicated effectively. This is not so simple. In order to be effective in conveying a vision or a message it first must be in a person. A person must become the message; having the ability to express the burden and vision that God has placed upon a person’s heart. There are many who know about the vision of Zion but have no ability to communicate it in a way that impacts lives. It’s often due to not having the vision birthed afresh within them. It also can be due to not implementing the costs of the vison (Psa 15-24). To put it simply; we must be the message before we can communicate it. One of the best examples in scripture where this is seen is in the ministry of Nehemiah. He carried the Lord’s burden as seen in Neh 1:4-6. He knew and felt God’s heart for restoration in Jerusalem. After gaining favor with the king (Neh 2:4) he proceeded to Jerusalem to begin the process of restoring. In order to accomplish this impossible task he would need help; a lot of help. He communicates that which God had put in his heart to some men and the result was that they joined him in what he looked to do. He communicated effectively that which God had put in this heart and he had no problem having men sign on in this effort. The vision must be birthed from God, not assumed and it is has to be a vision and message that is producing a work within. At the proper time it can be communicated in such a way that will enable a gathering of like-minded workers. The 12 who walked closely with Jesus heard and responded to what Jesus was saying. “Lord, you alone have the Words of eternal life”. Jesus was communicating a difficult vision but in doing so found men who would faithfully serve Him.
The description of the judgements to come upon Babylon are now given in verses 5-20. They have an insatiable appetite that never finds satisfaction. It is a reminder of the horseleech spoken of in Proverbs 30 that has an appetite that never has enough (Pro 30:15). The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy concerning godliness that is reflected in contentment. Solomon wrote of the blessing that a poor man has in having food, drink and a family that he can live and celebrate with. Such a man is very rich because he has contentment and is satisfied even though he may lack of the world’s substance. The Babylonians were a people who could not get enough which is seen right up to the very last day as a ruling empire (Daniel 5). The antichrist will be such a man and we see in today’s world how the way is being paved towards that day. The prophet Habakkuk is already alluding to the downfall of the soon to come empire of the Babylonians in verse 7. It will be the Medes and Persians that will overtake them in one night. In verse 8 they will be destroyed in much the same way they ravaged other nations. Isaiah even gives the name of Cyrus who will be used of God for this purpose. Isaiah was given the name while the Assyrians were in power which is about 150 years before Cyrus was even born.
The Babylonians were a covetous people and they did not hold back from taking things from others for the purpose of building up their own kingdom. When a person or nation covets something of others it often leads to violence. It will drive a person to any lengths to obtain their objective and it can be found during periods of lawlessness. In verses 11-12 we see the level of violence and death that surrounded the Babylonians. They were a bloodthirsty people and they committed atrocities that brought severe retribution from God. This is why it later became a habitation of owls and wild beasts.
There is an interesting interlude in the midst of these heavy judgment upon Babylon that has meaning for the church of the last days. In verse 14 it speaks of the earth being filled with the glory of the Lord. It is a verse that Moses declared in Numbers 14:21 concerning the glory that will be seen in the earth. It is also a parallel to what Isaiah declared in Isa 60 where there is great glory during a time of gross darkness. There will be a time of a great harvest that will come into the church as characterized by the parable of the Great Net from Math 13. We also see the glory of the Lord that will draw many into the kingdom as spoken by Haggai (Hag 2:7-9).
There is a warning given concerning being a stumbling block to others. It is worse when it is intentional for the purpose of neutralizing a person or gaining their favor. The enemy plots against the righteous by seeking out areas within a righteous man that can be exploited (Psa 64:1-7). There is a truth to the common phrase “misery loves company” and we need to do whatever we can to not fall into this trap. I well recall in my early years as a believer how I was slowly led back into my old pre-salvation way of life. I had friends that kept trying to lure me back into doing some of the things we used to do. In the end it was my decision and I was responsible for my actions. The spirit of drunkenness does remove from a man the way of reason and common sense. It eats away at God’s hedge of protection that protects and covers a man and a nation.
The final verse in this chapter is very similar to the scene in heaven that John sees in the Book of Revelation. There was a time when there was silence in heaven for a stated period of about a half an hour. It was an interlude which served as a precursor for the severity of judgements that were about to be released from the throne of God in heaven. It is a time when the iniquity and sin has become ripe. There was a severe outpouring of God’s wrath upon the Babylonians when they fell to the Medes and Persians but the greater fulfilment will be in the last days when Babylon the great falls at the time of the 2nd coming.
This final chapter will deal with the judgements of God upon other nations. It begins with a prayer and cry from the prophet for a reviving to take place in the midst of these years. This was a prayer that was answered at the time of Josiah’s revival. This revival took place about 40 years before the final destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC (2 Chron 35:18). I somehow feel that Josiah’s revival serves as a pattern for what will be seen in the last days. The sentence of a future captivity had been pronounced for Judah and the revival under King Josiah was not going to change that. Can you see how a revival can give that sense of reprieve from judgement? There were many who misread the purpose of this move of God. It was God’s gift to help prepare Judah for that which was coming. I personally feel that the last day revival will be similarly poised. A mighty revival and move of God always precedes judgement. How a church and a people respond and facilitate such a revival will make all the difference. There can be the danger of misinterpreting revival as God’s sanction on the condition of the land and that future judgements will not take place. This was the atmosphere that Jeremiah had to contend with. There is a strong sense of this scene being reenacted as we approach the last days.
The prophet sees a picture of the glory of God coming from Teman which was an Edom city known for its wisdom. It is a picture of God’s glory that brings judgment in some areas while blessing and favor upon others. In verse 4 there is a picture of the functioning of the Holy Spirit as seen through the “horns’ that came out of His hand. A picture of the 2nd coming is given in verses 5-7. The land of Cushan and Midian are territories in modern day Saudi Arabia signifying God’s wrath on these places. The picture of the 2nd coming becomes even clearer as the awesome judgements come forth upon the nations opposing Israel at that time (vs 8-13). It will be a time when sin is at its ripeness. The shed blood of the martyrs will also be addressed by the Lord at this time. The 2nd coming will be a picture of absolute contrasts. You have the Holy and Mighty one coming against the man of sin who has brought iniquity to its fullness. It will be a time of great deliverance and healing for many while the beginning of an eternal torment for the others. One of the primary fruits of this last great battle is that the sins of Israel will be purged and reconciliation will be made. There is the warning from this account that we can link to King Josiah. His life and the revival that was birthed under his reign ceased when he took on a battle that God did not ordain for him. There is the danger in becoming overly focused on the enemy at the expense of teaching the Truth. We do not want to short-circuit any work that God is doing by making presumptions. King Josiah was warned by a heathen king to not to get involved in the war but he did not give heed. Do we have the ability to make that distinction today or will we presume the will of God at these key junctures. How we answer the above question will make all the difference.
Though the majority of Habakkuk’s message dealt with the severe judgements to come it does end on a note of triumph. In verse 17 there is the depicting of a horrible famine in the land. It is another one of those dual application verses that speaks to both the days of Habakkuk in addition to the last days. The key to triumphing in these conditions is given in verse 18. The ability to rejoice at all times is not only beneficial for the believer but it helps to destroy the power of the enemy. The Lord Himself is one who delights in rejoicing. He sings in the midst of His people emanating great power and authority. The church and congregations of the last days are going to be called upon to trample over the strongholds of the enemy. The Lord as the Son of man has triumphed over Satan when he died upon the Cross. We are now being given that privilege and a key in order to do so is to learn how to rejoice at all times (Psa 149:5-9). Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice (Phil 4:14).
The angel that was presenting this vision to John is now going to unveil the identity of both the woman and the beast. The beast has on his head 7 heads and 10 horns. The angel begins with giving some clues regarding the beast. John was shown a beast who “was” meaning that he had once lived. The description goes on to say that the beast “is not” meaning that he is no longer alive during the days of John. Finally, this beast will again arise and lead many into perdition. This means he is a man who once lived before John, was dead at the time of John and will arise to come on the scene at this climatic juncture in time. The antichrist has to be a man who once lived before the Apostle John. The question we now ask is whether he can be identified? He will ascend out of the bottomless pit as a false Christ while the true Christ descends from heaven. He will be recognizable to those whose hearts are in alignment with God. Let us not forget the example of Judas at the time of the last supper. He was the one whom Satan was able to enter into and no one but the Lord could discern him. It was the Apostle John who received the revelation of who the betrayer would be. It is the Apostle John now being given the Revelation of a much bigger picture. This man will rise from the dead which in turn will captivate the world. He will be able to garner a large gathering of people unto himself.
The angel now turns John’s attention towards the woman in verse 9. The 7 heads that are atop the head of the beasts are 7 mountains or hills that this woman sits upon. The city built upon 7 hills has always been rendered as being Rome. It was Rome that was still in power at the time of John. This city of Rome has been likened to “drinking the blood” of the saints and martyrs. This is a futuristic statement that John is relating seeing that this city and the church that is supported by Rome will be involved in many significant massacres. There will be a renewing of such atrocities in this particular woman or church as the days to this age closes. I feel it is safe to say that the pope will figure prominently as well.
In verses 10-11 there is the mention of 7 kings, 5 of which have already fallen before the days of John. The beast will come forth from one of the 7 heads that are represented but in reality will actually be the 8th. How do we substantiate this? We also know that the antichrist will have to be from one of the 5 kingdoms that proceeded Rome. The beast is described as having feet like a bear which would speak of Persia when looking at Daniel 7. He is also likened to a lion which would speak of Babylon as well as a body that would speak of Greece. The point of this is to say that these 7 heads represent nations that have adversely affected Israel through the time of their existence. These nations would be Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and the 10 kings which represent the resurrected Roman Empire. The Beast (antichrist) will be the 8th king or the 11th horn when taking into account Daniel 7:8, 11, 20, and 21.
In verse 12 there are 10 horns which are explained as being 10 kings who do not have any kingdom as yet but will receive power with the Beast. These 10 kings are identified further through Daniel 7:23-24. The Beast comes after these 10 kings are in place. They will later seek to make war with the Lamb but they will not be able to prevail against Him. This is the picture of the Lord’s return at the time of the 2nd coming. There is a further description given of these saints as being those who are called, chosen and faithful. This is an important portion of the verse because it denotes three levels of Christian development. One of the best examples in being able to break down these three levels of spiritual growth is to examine the 3 stages of Moses life. Moses lived to be 120 years old and his life can be broken down into 3 (40) year segments. His first 40 years was in Egypt and it was there where he sensed his burden and call to be the deliverer on behalf of Israel (Heb 11:25). He asserted leadership in the slaying of the Egyptian who was fighting a Jew. He was rejected by the people he felt called to deliver while being on the hit list of Pharaoh and Egypt. This introduced him to the land of Midian which we can characterize as his “chosen” years. This 40 year period was a training and proving time for Moses. He was in obscurity, being hidden for a day when God would lift him up into the fullness of ministry. When he met the Lord at the burning bush he entered the “faithful” stage of his walk. The last 40 years saw him as God’s faithful witness and leader. He received the Law from God while seeking to teach it and live by it. Remember, many are called but only few are chosen (Math 22:14). It then narrows further down to those who are actually faithful. May God help for us to be among them.
In verse 15 the attention is again brought back to the whore. It is clear that this church has had great influence. This mystery Babylon has touched every area of the world and is not only responsible for many deaths but for sending countless multitudes to hell. In verse 16 this mystery Babylon is going to meet its end. It will be the beast with the 10 kings that will lead a siege against Rome. These 10 nations are emerging in our world today through various means of terrorism. The antichrist will have ability to martial these forces and bring them to Rome to do their work of destruction. It is God allowing for this to happen for all the blood that has been shed from the beginning of time. If one were to do some historical research one would be able to trace Nimrod to modern day Rome. In other words the Church of Rome can be traced back to Genesis 10. The mystery woman of Revelation 17 is clearly identified in the last verse. That great city has to be none other than Rome.