The Gospel in Habbakuk

This article is part of the Christ in All of Scripture series.

Where Is the Lord?

Like the book of Job, this book presents important gospel truths for people who encounter difficulties that seem incomprehensible. Like many of us today, the prophet Habakkuk asked God two fundamental questions amid God’s apparent absence and the world’s growing animosity toward God’s people: (1) Where are you? (2) Why are you doing this? As this man of God observed the chaos of idolatry and immorality that was consuming those who ought to know better, he cried out in two complaints, beseeching God to act with justice against evildoers and to provide mercy for those who were faithful to God.

At the cross, Jesus secures the mercy of forgiveness to all who trust in his substitutionary work.

God responds to both of these complaints in ways that shock and surprise the prophet. First, God declares he will use an enemy nation (Babylon) to bring justice to the evildoers in Judah. Second, God will reveal to Israel his unsearchable wisdom and providence by judging not just Judah but all his enemies. This message finally instills in the prophet a deepened, resilient faith amid perplexing bewilderment.

Gospel Shining Forth

The gospel shines forth in these themes of justice, mercy, wisdom, and providential provision. Whereas God seemed absent and inactive amid Habakkuk’s doubt and distress, this book fits within the context of the Bible’s larger story that, in the fullness of time, God himself, through the person and work of Jesus Christ, would come in the flesh to bring justice and mercy for all (Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39, 46; 1 Pet. 1:10–12). At the cross, Jesus receives justice for our sins of idolatry and immorality. Moreover, at the cross, Jesus secures the mercy of forgiveness to all who trust in his substitutionary work. Thus it is on the cross at Calvary that justice and mercy meet.

ESV Gospel Transformation® Study Bible

The ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible features 375,000+ words of gospel-centered study notes, book introductions, and articles that explain passage-by-passage how God’s redemptive purposes culminate in the gospel and apply to the lives of believers today.

This gospel shines forth in Habakkuk, as the prophet recounts God’s faithful deliverance of Israel during the wilderness wanderings and calls God’s people to renewed faith in his provision. As Israel experienced deliverance from Egypt and establishment in the Promised Land, so also Christ’s followers today experience a much greater deliverance, a deliverance toward which every earthly Old Testament deliverance pointed—deliverance from sin, with the promise of a heavenly home. The New Testament proclaims the good news that in God’s wise and purposeful providence, God himself has come in Jesus Christ to deliver his people from the bondage of sin through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son.

The gospel response that the prophet finally realized and that every generation must discover afresh is this: the righteous live by faith (Hab. 2:4). Habakkuk helps get us there.

This article is adapted from the ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible. Browse other articles in this series via the links below.

Old Testament

GenesisExodusLeviticusNumbersDeuteronomyJoshuaJudgesRuth1–2 Samuel1–2 Kings1–2 ChroniclesEzraNehemiahEstherJobPsalmsProverbsEcclesiastesSong of SolomonIsaiahJeremiahLamentationsEzekielDanielHoseaJoelAmosObadiahJonahMicahNahumHabbakukZephaniahHaggaiZechariahMalachi

New Testament

MatthewMarkLukeJohnActsRomans1 Corinthians2 CorinthiansGalatians EphesiansPhilippiansColossians1 Thessalonians2 Thessalonians1 Timothy2 TimothyTitusPhilemonHebrewsJames1 Peter2 Peter1–3 JohnJudeRevelation

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