Habakkuk’s ministry was during the last days of Judah before the Babylonian invasion. Habakkuk is struggling with understanding the plans of the Lord so he takes his concerns to God – “O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ And You will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; there is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore perverse judgment proceeds.”
Habakkuk can’t understand why God is allowing all of this wickedness to occur. So the Lord responds – “For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, a bitter and nasty nation” to bring judgement against Judah. But Habakkuk questions how the Lord can use people more wicked than Judah to judge Judah. The Chaldeans lived in the southern part of Babylon and were known for their cruelty. Habakkuk asks, “Shall they therefore empty their net, and continue to slay nations without pity?”
The Lord assures Habakkuk that He will judge the wicked in His perfect timing. The proud who walk in their own evil ways will be destroyed, “But the just shall live by faith.” The Lord is reminding Habakkuk not to worry about what he sees but to trust the Lord and walk by faith; because the Lord always acts on behalf of those who trust Him and wait on Him (Isaiah 64:4). So Habakkuk submits to the Lord in prayer. He remembers God’s goodness, His sovereignty over the world, and His protection for His people. Therefore, Habakkuk says, “I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
God also sends Zephaniah, a descendant of King Hezekiah, with a message for Judah during the days of King Josiah. Under the reign of King Josiah’s father, Amon, and his grandfather, Manasseh, the nation of Judah became corrupt and full of idolatry. Zephaniah’s message was one of judgment against Judah for turning their backs on the Lord and turning to the worship of false gods. The Lord says, “I will cut off every trace of Baal from this place, the names of the idolatrous priests with the pagan priests—Those who worship the host of heaven on the housetops; those who worship and swear oaths by the Lord, but who also swear by Milcom; those who have turned back from following the Lord, and have not sought the Lord, nor inquired of Him.” And this is exactly what King Josiah is doing. King Josiah is ridding the land of Judah of idolatry and leading the people to the worship of the Lord.
Zephaniah says judgment is coming against the royalty and the merchants. Judgment is also coming against the complacent and no one will be able to hide from the Lord’s judgment – “And it shall come to pass at that time that I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and punish the men who are settled in complacency, who say in their heart, ‘The Lord will not do good, nor will He do evil.’”
At the end of the Story, Jesus will also have a word for the complacent or lukewarm – “‘I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth…Therefore be zealous and repent’“ (Revelation 3:15-19).
A lukewarm person is so entangled in worldliness that you can’t distinguish them as a Christ follower. They do not spend their time seeking to know the Lord; nor do they have a real burden for lost people to come to know Jesus as their Savior. A lukewarm person goes about their life afraid to speak truth from the Word of God in order to avoid offending anyone. They simply perform the religious motions on Sundays and back to their worldly cares and concerns the rest of the week.
As Charles Spurgeon says, “Religion cannot long be lukewarm; it will either die out or it will kindle and set you all on fire.“ A person on fire for the Lord can live in a world full of chaos and evil but still have peace knowing that what the Lord said to Habakkuk is true. He will serve judgment to the wicked in His perfect timing and He will save those who have faith in Him. However, in order to be on fire for the Lord you have to know Him. In order to know Him, you have to spend time with Him through prayer and reading His Word. So keep reading!
(Habakkuk 1:1-3:19, Zephaniah 1:1-2:7)