Some of the most amazing and sobering words in the Bible are found in the minor Old Testament prophet Habakkuk 2:20, “But the LORD is in His Holy Temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him” (ESV). Context is king when it comes to studying the Bible and especially important when one grabs only one verse and expands upon it.
What led up to the words of the prophet about God being in His Holy Temple and that all the earth should keep silent? Do those words offer any wisdom for us today to listen to and heed?
The setting for this very important book in the Old Testament is just before the mighty Babylon overran the nation of Israel or the southern part of the nation called Judah. Habakkuk is seeing the approaching Babylonians and is questioning God as to how He can let an evil nation overrun the one nation that He called His own.
In the prophet’s first complaint, he calls out to God and wonders why He is not answering. It seemed that only evil would prevail and God was not doing anything, or so he thought. God responded to the prayer of Habakkuk by telling him that He was sending a great and terrifying nation who cannot be stopped to exile the nation Judah.
God’s response did not satisfy the prophet as to why all this was happening. So he complained again, but this time telling God of His own character and that it seemed contrary to His own character that He would allow this to happen. But at the end of his second complaint he said, “I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint” (Habakkuk 2:1, ESV).
God then answered with words that put the prophet at ease, or possibly unease, with “wait for it” or what I promised many years before will take place. It will take time and My promises will be evident in time. Humility and faith are the two keys in being one who trusts in what God has promised in the past and that it will come to fruition.
The verses adjacent to the amazing and sobering words at the beginning of this article consist of warnings to the nation that will overrun God’s promised nation. These are warnings of dire consequences for those who desire to take the place of God and rule the world for themselves with evil intentions and apart from God. The warnings are clear: this plundering nation might have the upper hand, but only for a short time because “The LORD is in His Holy Temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him.”
We are told through these inspired words that God is in control, He is sovereign, over all things that take place to Israel and over all the earth. The Psalmist in 115:3 writes the same truth in different terms, “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases” (ESV).
Jerry Bridges clearly tells us what this means. “God does whatever He pleases. This is the essence of God’s sovereignty: His absolute independence to do as He pleases and His absolute control over the actions of all His creatures. No creature, person, or empire can either thwart His will or act outside the bounds of it” (31 Days Toward Trusting God, Jerry Bridges, NavPress, 2013, p. 31).
All of what has happened, is and will happen, are in God’s plan and under His perfect, peaceful control. Everything that God has promised His children ultimately will come to fruition. We must not fear but humbly trust Him to make all things work out well.
It is easy in this season to become worked up about the future of our nation and the church at large. But God is STILL in His Holy Temple and to make all things right we must keep silence before Him. It begins with the Church of God humbly presenting herself before Him and walking by faith of what He has promised the nation of Israel and the Church.
Allow God to work these amazing and sobering words into your own spirit and then live out what He says to your heart. He will never speak that which is contrary to who He is or His Scripture. Take heart in these days, turn to God and He promises to turn to you.