Running With A Vision In Mind

Title: Running With A Vision In Mind

Bible Book: Habakkuk 2 : 2

Author: David E. Owen

Subject: Vision; Christian Living



In introducing this prophetic, Old Testament book of Habakkuk, Harold Wilmington mentioned the…

The Background Of The Book Of Habakkuk

Israel’s northern kingdom had fallen to Assyria in 722 B.C., leaving only the tiny southern kingdom of Judah in the Promised Land. In 612, Assyria was itself conquered by Babylon, the new masters of the ancient Near East. Now, Babylon was threatening to invade Judah. Even worse, the reforms of the good King Josiah, begun in 621, were losing their influence, and Judah’s spiritual condition was at an all-time low (see 1:2-4). Into this situation came Habakkuk, recording for his people what God taught him about his coming judgment of both Judah and Babylon, his sovereignty over human affairs, and his loving faithfulness toward his own.

The Author Of The Book Of Habakkuk

Habakkuk (1:1) was apparently a Levite with experience in the music ministry of the Temple (3:1, 19).

The Date Of The Book Of Habakkuk

The prominence of Babylon in Habakkuk indicates a post- 612 B.C. date, but Babylon apparently had not yet invaded Judah, placing the book before 605. Though no kings are mentioned, the nation’s sad spiritual condition suggests a date near the end of Josiah’s reign, perhaps after the wicked Jehoiakim replaced him in 609 (see 2 Chronicles 36:8; Jeremiah 22:18-19).

The Recipients Of The Book Of Habakkuk

Habakkuk probably focused his ministry on the “just” among Judeans (2:4) rather than on the wicked (1:2-4), upon whom he wished only swift judgment.

The Purpose Of The Book Of Habakkuk

To announce that

The sinful in Judah will be punished

Though Babylon will be God’s instrument for punishing Judah, it too will be punished in due time

God will preserve Judah’s faithful remnant (2:4)

To help Habakkuk himself (as well as his readers) be patient with God’s sovereign working in history


Habakkuk is the only OT book consisting entirely of a dialogue between God and a human individual. (Parts of Jonah, Job, and a few other books feature such dialogues.) All other prophetic books consist mainly of records of the prophets’ preaching.

Habakkuk and Jeremiah were the last prophets to the southern kingdom before the Babylonian captivity — thus Habakkuk’s 11th-hour explanations as to why God was using the Babylonians and whether or not a remnant would survive.

Warren Wiersbe said that…

Habakkuk was a contemporary of Nahum, Zephaniah, and Jeremiah, during the reigns of Josiah (640 B.C. - 609 B.C.) and Jehoiakim (609-598). Assyria was off the scene; Babylon (“the Chaldeans”) was in power. Nebuchadnezzar had defeated Egypt in 605 and was about to attack Judah. Jeremiah had announced that Babylon would invade Judah, destroy Jerusalem and the temple, and send the nation into exile. This happened in 606-586.

Habakkuk’s little book indicates that he knew the Scriptures well, was a competent theologian, and had great faith in God. Because of the psalm in chapter 3, some scholars think he may have been a priest who led worship in the temple. If so, then like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, he was a priest called to be a prophet — a more difficult ministry.

His name means “to embrace” or “to wrestle,” and in his book, he does both. He wrestles with God concerning the problem of how a holy God could use a wicked nation like Babylon to chasten the people of Judah, and then by faith, he embraces God and clings to His promises. Habakkuk also wrestles with the spiritual decline of the nation and why God wasn’t doing something about it. Habakkuk wanted to see the people revived (3:2), but God wasn’t answering his prayers.

The prophet’s statement “The just shall live by his faith” (2:4) is quoted three times in the New Testament (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38). The emphasis in Romans is on the just, in Galatians on how they should live, and in Hebrews on faith. It takes three books to explain and apply this one verse!

J. Sidlow Baxter, writing of Habakkuk, said…

Unlike the other prophets, he does not address either his own countrymen or a foreign people: His speech is to God alone. Again, unlike the other prophets, he is not concerned so much with delivering a message as with solving a problem - a problem which vexed his own sensitive soul relating to Jehovah’s government of the nations.

… The focus of Habakkuk’s problem and prophecy is Babylon. Of the enemies which afflicted the covenant people long ago, three were outstanding - the Edomites, the Assyrians, and the Chaldeans, or Babylonians. It was given to three of the Hebrew prophets specially to pronounce the doom of these three powers. The prophecy of Obadiah sealed the fate of Edom. The prophecy of Nahum tolled the knell over Assyria. The prophecy of Habakkuk dug the grave of Babylon.

This prophecy of Habakkuk puts into words a struggle and triumph of faith which took place in the soul of the prophet himself. It begins with a sob, and ends with a song; and it is in the process from the one to the other that the little book discloses the heart of its meaning to us.

There can be no mistaking the author’s own arrangement of what he writes. There are three parts, corresponding to the three chapters of the book in our English version.

The first part (Habakkuk 1) begins: “The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.”

The second part (Habakkuk 2) begins: - “The Lord answered me and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it; for the vision is yet for an appointed time...”

The third part (3) begins: “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, upon Shigionoth” (i.e. set to a triumphal strain).

So then, in these three parts we have

1. A Burden (Ch. 1)

2. A Vision (Ch. 2)

3. A Prayer (Ch. 3)

Wiersbe said that in the three chapters of Habakkuk, we find…

I. The Prophet Wondering And Worrying (Chapter 1)

II. The Prophet Watching And Waiting (Chapter 2)

III. The Prophet Worshiping And Witnessing (Chapter 3)

Wiersbe said that chapter 2…

Reports an experience Habakkuk had that is similar to one recorded by Asaph the psalmist in Psalms 73. Like Habakkuk, Asaph was bewildered at the providential working of God in this world: he was disturbed because the wicked seemed to be prospering while the righteous were suffering. Like Habakkuk, he reasoned with God, and then, like Habakkuk, he gave God the opportunity to reply. … When God did speak to His servant (Habakkuk), He gave him three responsibilities to fulfill…

1. Write God’s Vision (Habakkuk 2:1-3)

2. Trust God’s Word (Habakkuk 2:4-5)

3. Declare God’s Judgment (Habakkuk 2:6-20)

As Habakkuk waited for God’s reply in chapter 2, he said in verse 2…

the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it (Habakkuk 2:2)

The thing that has drawn me to this section of scripture today is the mention of “running” here in verse 2. I am interested in Running The Race this year. And when God told Habakkuk to write the vision and the revelation that He was about to give him, God wanted Habakkuk to write it down for the benefit of those who would run.

Adam Clarke explained the words of verse 2 saying…

[Write the vision] Carefully take down all that I shall say.

[Make it plain upon tables] Write it in a full, plain, legible hand.

[That he may run that readeth it.] That he who attentively peruses it may speed to save his life from the eruption of the Chaldeans, by which so many shall be cut off.

As we read of Habakkuk’s Burden, and his Vision, and his Prayer (even though we are separated from Habakkuk by 2,600 years and 6 or 7,000 miles)…

I. We Can Relate To Habakkuk

A. Here Is A Man Who Was Wondering About The Adversity

(Habakkuk 1:1–17)

Ray Stedman wrote…

The prophet Habakkuk is a prophet for our times. He lived in times very much like our own, and he struggled with one of the central questions of our age: Why does God allow bad things to happen? Habakkuk lived in a time of great national corruption when crime, hatred, and division were on the rise, when evil and immorality were flaunted openly, when ethical standards and family values were breaking down. The prophet looked out across the land and expressed his horror at what he saw in the opening lines of his book in Habakkuk 1:2-4.

Habakkuk says that he cries out to God, “Violence!” and hears no answer. Here is the great problem of unanswered prayer. Here is a man who is disturbed about his nation. He sees everything going wrong. The people are living in wickedness. Civil unrest, rioting, violence, injustice, and oppression permeate the land. When issues of injustice are brought before the courts, the courts themselves are corrupt.

Habakkuk is greatly troubled because he is a man of God; he has taken these problems to God, and God does not answer. So in his bewilderment and pain, he cries out, “Lord, how long do I have to keep this up? When are you going to do something? When will change, revival, and healing take place?” I’m sure you’ve felt that way, too, as you have looked around at the many problems and injustices that wrack our society or as you struggle with your own unanswered prayers.

B. Here Is A Man Who Was Waiting For An Answer

(Habakkuk 2:1) I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.

The Pulpit Commentary says…

Habakkuk speaks with himself, and, mindful of his office, waits for the communication which he confidently ex-poets (Jeremiah 33:3). I will stand upon my watch (Isaiah 21:6, 8). As a watchman goes to a high place to see all around and discern what is coming, so the prophet places himself apart from men, perhaps in some secluded height, in readiness to hear the voice of God and seize the meaning of the coming event. Prophets are called “watchmen” (comp. Ezekiel 3:17; 33:2, 6; Micah 7:4).

John Phillips said…

Habakkuk was determined to wait upon God for some satisfactory explanation of his bewildering problems. He stood on his watchtower and said in effect, “I will wait and see.” He intended to keep a lookout, to keep his eyes open. He also intended to keep his ears open so that he would not miss the answer that he was confident would come.

When we are troubled, should we not all go to our upper rooms and high places to wait for a word from God?

Not only can we Relate to Habakkuk, but…

II. We Can Recognize The Heathen

It wasn’t just the wickedness of his own people that disturbed him; it was the impending threat of Babylon’s invasion and conquest of Judah that weighed heavily upon the heart of Habakkuk. He is shown that because of the wickedness within the borders of his homeland, there will come a wickedness from without.

A. We See The Prevalence Of The Worldly Wickedness

(Habakkuk 2:4–13, 15–17)

John Phillips pointed out…

1. The Wars of the Chaldeans (2:5)

With astonishing clarity Habakkuk put his finger on one of the weaknesses of the typical Babylonian: he was addicted to alcohol. True, war was his trade—even his passion. Indeed the prophet described him as a man “who enlargeth his desire as [Hades], and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations.” But wine was his downfall. We know from Daniel 5 that on the night of Babylon’s doom Belshazzar and his lords and ladies were in the midst of a carouse (party).

2. The Woes of the Chaldeans (2:6-20)

The Lord dealt with the crimes, covetousness, cruelty, carousing, and cults of the Chaldeans by pronouncing five woes upon them. The woes would be severe enough to satisfy even Habakkuk, who had been so perplexed with God’s choice of the Babylonians as His instruments to punish His people.

Harold Wilmington said…

The Chaldeans were drunk with wine and with power. They went on their military forays for the sheer thrill of it, “never satisfied,” gathering up “many nations and peoples” (2:5). Though they would be temporarily victorious over Judah and other nations, eventually they would fall, and their former victims would then ridicule them, as God illustrated with four “woes” (2:6, 9, 12, 15). Those they had oppressed would rise up against them (2:6-8). Their great cities, built by bloodshed, would not be enough to protect them (2:9-13), for God would ultimately triumph (2:14). They had made other nations “drunk” with their violence; now they would get a taste of their own drink (2:15-17).

B. We See The Perversion Of The Worldly Worship

(Habakkuk 2:18-19) What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? {19} Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it.

Adam Clarke wrote…

[Dumb idols? verse 18] “Dumb nothings.” This is exactly agreeable to Paul, 1 Corinthians 8:4, who says, “An idol is nothing in the world.” What do the idols worshipped by the Chaldeans, the Tyrians, and the Egyptians signify? They have not been able to save their worshippers.

[Woe unto him – verse 19] How foolish and contemptible to worship a thing formed by the hand of man out of wood, stone, gold, or silver! The meanest brute is superior to them all; it breathes and lives, but they have no breath in them.

Albert Barnes said…

[That the maker of his work trusteth therein] This was the special folly of idolatry. The thing made must needs he inferior to its maker. It was one of the corruptions of idolatry that the maker of his own work should trust in what was wholly his own creation, what, not God, but himself created, what had nothing but what it had from himself. … The idol-maker is “the creator of his creature,” of his god whom he worships. Again the idol-maker makes “dumb idols” (literally, “dumb nothings”) in themselves nothings, and having no power out of themselves; and what is uttered in their name, are but lies. And what else are man’s idols of wealth, honor, fame, which he makes to himself, the creatures of his own hands or mind, their greatness existing chiefly in his own imagination before which he bows down himself, who is the image of God?

John Phillips said…

Graven images are made of dead wood and dumb stones, as Habakkuk so scornfully said. But behind them lurk evil spirits who divert the praise and prayers of the worshipers to Satan. The evil spirits also fasten themselves on the lives of those who bow before idols.

All of this “stuff,” these inanimate, iniquitous idols were distractions from the true and living God mentioned in verse 20. This is the perversion of worldly worship. It is consistent with those that Paul described in Romans 1:25…

(Romans 1:25) Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

Not only can we Relate to Habakkuk, and not only can we Recognize the Heathen, but…

III. We Can Run For Help

(Habakkuk 2:2)

(Habakkuk 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.

There are a few possibilities as to what is meant by the statement: “that he may run that readeth it.” The InterVarsity Press Bible Background Commentary on the Old Testament says that it refers to a…

Herald running with tablets. The idea of running with a message suggests its urgency or importance. What is unclear is whether the “one who reads the message” is a herald (with NIV) whose task is to run from location to location reading aloud his proclamation, or whether it refers to anyone who reads the message. In the former case the inscribed tablets would be entrusted to a professional. In the latter the inscription would be set up in a public place, and as individuals read it, they would run off to spread the news. Preference lies with the former, since the text here speaks of tablets. Publicly posted inscriptions would usually be on stelae (an inscribed stone slab). Professional messengers were a common fixture in royal courts such as those at ancient Mari and Babylon. They were needed as “runners” to carry their lord’s commands.

But according to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, the meaning of the word “run” is ‘to run for help.’ It could suggest that this vision was a warning to the just souls in the land that the Babylonians were coming to conquer, and they should therefore run away to save themselves. But perhaps the better perspective for us is that we can run to God for help. It is clear from reading chapter 3 and even the statements in chapter 2 that offer a glimmer of hope that Habakkuk found help for his troubled soul.

A. Notice The Persuasion That Helps Us

In contrast to the proud heart of the Babylonian, the righteous one is operating in faith toward God…

(Habakkuk 2:4) Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

In contrast to the widespread conquest of the Babylonians, Habakkuk said that there will come a time when the whole world is filled with a wisdom that acknowledges God…

(Habakkuk 2:14) For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

In contrast to the dead idols of the Babylonians, the living LORD is in His holy temple…

(Habakkuk 2:20) But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.

Habakkuk teaches us that instead of looking at the vain, dumb, pointless things of this world; we should be looking to Almighty God and trusting Him and worshipping Him.

B. Notice The Perspective That Helps Us

The entirety of chapter 3 shows us a Godward perspective, but verses 17 thru 19 is the climactic crescendo of Habakkuk’s song of joy that rises in sharp contrast to the sad dirge of previous passages.

(Habakkuk 3:17-19) Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: {18} Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. {19} The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.

The Pulpit Commentary says…

The Christian life is not all shadow. It has its sunny as well as its shady side. The good have their seasons of joy - seasons in which, believing, they can rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. … There is “the midnight of the soul,” when the vision of spiritual light and peace and joy tarries; and it is then their truest wisdom to trust and to wait, assured that in due time God will make them glad by lifting upon them “the light of his countenance.” … The great purpose of this is the deliverance of men from the (throws) of sin.


Like a child running to the father when they are threatened, we should run to God with haste.

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