On the Rampart
(Habakkuk Chapters 1-3)
“I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected.” – Habakkuk 2:1
Habakkuk is an Old Testament Minor Prophet, but he is no ordinary prophet. Habakkuk is known as “The People's Prophet.” While most prophets intermediate oracles, or words from the Lord, to His people, Habakkuk seems to take the people’s concerns, and his own concerns, to God. This prophet is full of the questions that we all seem to have deep within us, but we hesitate, or dare even, to ask. In our sufferings and in this fallen world filled with sin, injustice, pride, corruption, and falsehoods of all kinds, we have the “Why?” and the “What?” questions. “Why is this happening to us? Why is God allowing this? What is God doing? What good, if any, can come of this?”
Habakkuk was a prophet as well as a watchman responsible for warning the people of coming danger and judgment. If he failed at his job as watchman, he would be guilty and would have the people’s blood on his hands. The watchman was also responsible for announcing the morning, the dawn of a new day, and the returning of the people to the land. This position held a high responsibility, and exposure and vulnerability to danger. From the ramparts, the defensive walls, the watchman would be the first to see the danger coming and would be the first to be in danger’s path. In Habakkuk’s case, he was watching for the coming judgment and he recognized that he himself deserved what was coming Israel’s way. He was well aware of what was on the horizon at the dawning of a new day, The Judgment Day of the Lord.
This “Day of Judgment” would not be the last word; however, because God had promised Habakkuk that he would do an unbelievable work. God said to Habakkuk in chapter one verse five, “Look among the nations and watch—Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.” God was promising judgment. We know this from the verses that follow, but there was going to be more to come, so much more. Habakkuk assumed that God was being unjust for allowing a pagan nation to judge a “more righteous” nation, Israel, but God would ultimately judge both nations. All people would be judged, and no sin would go unaccounted for or un-atoned for.
As Habakkuk looks at the sins of his people, the sins of the pagan nations, and God’s coming judgment, he dares to ask the hard questions. He dares to seek God out. He bravely goes for the answers and risks what he may find. In Habakkuk 2:1, Habakkuk stands at his watch on the rampart, waits, and watches for what God may say to him about all his inquiries. He wonders what he may say to God in response to what he may hear when he is corrected. When he is corrected? At the first glance at Habakkuk 2:1, we may miss this, but he does say, “When I am corrected.” It looks as if Habakkuk is taking responsibility for the coming judgment that God is sending, or at least he is taking responsibility for his part in it. It is at the judgment of the Israelite people by the Babylonians that Habakkuk begins questioning God, and now he waits for God’s response and owns what may be coming his way as well.
God assured Habakkuk that no sin would be overlooked, not the sins from the pagan Babylonians who would judge Israel, not Israel’s sins, and not even Habakkuk’s own sins. God promised that he would judge. Habakkuk pleaded with God in Habakkuk chapter three verse two: “O Lord, I have 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.”
God did extend His mercy in the midst of His wrath and judgment. His mercy would indeed come in the person of His own Son Jesus Christ who would ultimately take on the wrath and judgment, which we all deserve because of our sin. God took our judgment in our place. If we are willing and able to see what God has done, we will indeed “be utterly astounded!” God has exercised His wrath and judgment, and in His mercy, God has taken it in our stead; setting us free from our sin; setting us free from ourselves; and setting us free from hiding behind our “defensive walls.”
Having received such forgiveness and freedom, we are able to say with Habakkuk from on top of the rampart, "Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills (Habakkuk 3:18-19).”
Elwell, Walter A. ; Comfort, Philip Wesley: Tyndale Bible Dictionary. Wheaton, Ill. : Tyndale House Publishers, 2001 (Tyndale Reference Library), S. 1296
Jamieson, Robert ; Fausset, A. R. ; Fausset, A. R. ; Brown, David ; Brown, David: A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, S. Hab 2:2
The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Hab 2:1
Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 1:1512