The second chapter of Habakkuk opens with the prophet waiting for information from the Lord about his plans for his people. So Habakkuk located himself in a place where the Lord could speak to him. This was a very wise decision because if we want to hear from God it is usually very difficult to do so in the middle of bustle and noise. The voice of God can be drowned out by the noise of other things. There are times when it is appropriate to be alone with God, but we have to take steps to ensure that nothing will interrupt the occasion.
There are two lessons for us from the way the prophet responds to the Lord’s word. First, when we have a similar problem as Habakkuk had, we can turn to his experience and see the answer that the Lord gave him, and it is quite a lengthy explanation. Yet it contains permanent principles that we can apply to our own troubling circumstances. That is one reason why such passages are recorded in the Bible. So if we have a problem understanding how the Lord can use sinful people like the Babylonians in working out his purpose we can turn to what God told Habakkuk when they were alone together.
The second lesson concerns how we should respond to the Lord’s providential dealings. Habakkuk expected the Lord to come in a theophany (a common Old Testament appearance of God humbling himself and temporarily taking on a form by which humans could speak to him in a personal manner), and indeed he appears in such a way in chapter three.
This expectation reveals that Habakkuk anticipated that the Lord would show his grace by stooping so low as to speak with him and explain what was happening. No matter how majestic the theophany might be in comparison to an earthly majesty, it was still an expression of the Lord humbling himself in order to appear in a form through which he and his servant could interact with one another.
Of course, we live in days when the Lord no longer has to use theophanies and other temporary means in order to communicate with his people. Because of the incarnation of Jesus we know that the Second Person of the Trinity has taken into union with himself a human nature and he and us can have communion by the Holy Spirit, and also through him we can have communion with the Father. Yet we should have the same degree of desire for communion with God through Jesus that Habakkuk had to meet with God in a temporary form.
Yet although it would be a gracious visit from God, at the same Habakkuk knows he will have to respond to what the Lord says to him. God will come to him as the Explainer, which is grace in action, but he will also come to deal as the Judge of Habakkuk because of the ferocity of his complaint. We are familiar that the Lord will come to us as the Searcher of hearts, and we should welcome his probing because it will be for our spiritual good.
Are we are willing to have God deal with us in both ways? I am sure we would all like God to explain to us what he is doing, but would we like him to give his assessment of what we have said or done? Whether we like it or not, he usually does both. He does not do so through a theophany anymore. Instead he speaks through his Word. In it we will discover both explanations and corrections. Both are blessings from heaven.