In this first division of the Book we have the prophet's statement of the problems which vexed his soul. The first was the apparent indifference of Jehovah both to his prayer and to the condition of prevailing evil. To this Jehovah replied that He was at work, but that the prophet would not believe if he were told. He then proceeded to declare explicitly that His method was that of raising the Chaldeans as a scourge against His people.
This answer of Jehovah, while strengthening the faith of the prophet, immediately created a new problem -that Jehovah should use such an instrument, for, notwithstanding all Israel's sin, she was more righteous than the Chaldeans.
The answer came immediately. The prophet was first commanded to write, and to make his writing plain for easy reading. The vision granted to him was stated in the words, "Behold, his soul is puffed up, it is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith." That is the central revelation of the prophecy. It is a contrast between the "puffed up" and the "just." The former is not upright, and therefore is condemned; the latter acts on faith, and therefore lives. The first is self-centered, and therefore doomed; the second is God-centered, and therefore permanent. This was the declaration of a great principle, which the prophet was left to work out in application to all the problems by which he was surrounded.
From this point the prophecy becomes a proclamation of the contrast, and therefore an affirmation of faith in spite of appearances.
The proclamations fall into two parts. The first is concerned with the "puffed up," the second concerns the righteous.
The "puffed up" are described as haughty, ambitious, conquering, against whom the prophet pronounces certain woes.
In considering these the progress is to be carefully noted. The first was against ambition, which was described. The judgment pronounced against it was a revolt of the oppressed, and retribution in kind. The second was against covetousness, that lust for possession at the expense of others. Judgment was to be the subjugated people rising against the oppressor, the stones and beams of the house testifying. The third was against violence, the infliction of cruel sufferings on the subjugated. Judgment was that the very cities so built should be destroyed. The fourth was against insolence, the brutal act of making a man drunk, and then making sport of him. Its judgment was to be retribution in kind. The fifth was against idolatry, the description of which was wholly satirical. Its judgment was declared to be unanswering gods.
The final statement of the prophet in this connection declared that he had found the solution, "The Lord is in His holy temple." The apparent strength of wickedness is false. Jehovah reigns.