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The book of Habakkuk is unique in that it is a dialogue between the prophet Habakkuk and God, consisting of only three chapters.
Habakkuk prophesied about the time of the fall of the city of Nineveh in 612 B.C. and the collapse of the Assyrian Empire. This was a critical period in world history, which some historians refer to as an Axial Period, denoting a time of transition and change for many nations.
Israel had been at its height during the time of David and King Solomon, extending from the Nile area in Egypt to Mesopotamia. As a result of their sins, the nation was eventually divided into two, with the 10 tribes of Israel to the north and the nation of Judah to the south. Eventually the ten tribes, because of their continued sins and idolatry, were taken captive by the Assyrians who were the dominant power in the region at that time.
Habakkuk was likely contemporary with the prophet Jeremiah, who also prophesied shortly before God allowed Judah to be conquered by the Bablylonians. The prophet Daniel was also a contemporary, but when Habakkuk was prophesying he was a younger man, who would later be taken captive by the Babylonians. In Babylon he interpreted the famous dream of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2). This prophecy outlines the flow of world history from the time of Daniel and Babylon, to the return of Christ portrayed by the 10 toes of the image which are struck by a rock cut without hands, representing the Kingdom of God and return of Christ.
Although the book of Habakkuk describes the sin and degeneration of Judah in the 6th century, it is also important to understand that, similar to many other biblical prophecies, the prophecy of Habakkuk has a duality that also applies to our present day. In Habakkuk 1:3-4 he asks God "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…."
Habakkuk is also describing our world today, making God’s answer in verse 5 also very relevant: "Look among the nations and watch — be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe…” Just as the power of Babylon came to the fore with its religion, politics, economic and military structure we are going through a major shift of power among the nations in the world today.
God told Habakkuk because of Judah’s unrepented sins it would decline, and eventually the Babylonians would conquer them and take its inhabitants captive. "Indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, a bitter and hasty nation which marches through the breadth of the earth, to possess dwelling places that are not theirs” (verse 6). When we understand the duality principle of prophecy and study the other prophecies applying to our modern nations today, we can see this message also applies, in principle, to the 21st century,
America and its allies are still the dominant influence in the world, but their influence is diminishing, and the world is changing. The European Union is growing in influence, Russia is asserting itself and China is seeking to expand its influence in Asia and challenging the American role in the Pacific regions. The modern descendants of ancient Israel (See our free booklet The United States And Britain In Bible Prophecy) have had their important role to play in the world but now, as prophesied, their influence is declining. It will soon be a different world, as it was beginning to be a different world in the time of Habakkuk.
Chapter three of Habakkuk is what is called a psalm,and the prophet tells God in verse 2, "O Lord, I've heard Your speech and was afraid; O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy." In other words Habakkuk had resigned himself to what's going to happen to Judah, and that his beloved country was going to fade at the hand of God's judgment.
Habakkuk describes God in chapter 3, verse 3 as a God of judgment, marching through the earth. As the age of America, and the English speaking peoples, comes to its close, those who are faithful to God are admonished, as they were when Habakkuk prophesied, that “The just shall live by His faith” (Chapter 2:4). In other words, although others live unrighteously, we have a responsibility to obey God and resist the unrighteous pressures of the world in which we live.