Habakkuk asks the Lord one of the most fundamental questions of faith: How long will you let your people suffer? The Lord answers, but not the way Habakkuk expects.
The first lesson of the book of Habakkuk is we may never know why bad things happen. God’s plan may not look anything at all like our plan. But His promises still stand and He is still in control. We can trust Him no matter what.
Habakkuk was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah probably during the reign of the evil King Jehoaikim. The nation is spiraling downward into evil and rebellion. The king is oppressing his people and the nation is a vassal state of the Babylonians. Habakuk’s world is in tremendous geo-political turmoil and life seems to be going from bad to worse. Into that setting Habakkuk seeks the Lord, asking how long will this go on? When will You rescue Your people?
Habakkuk’s First Complaint
1The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw. 2O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? 3Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. 4So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted. – Habakkuk 1:1-4 ESV
- The first 2 verses set the stage for the book. The prophet complains to God about the injustice and evil of Jehoiakim’s rule.
- Under the last king (Josiah), the nation experienced something of “renaissance” of sorts.
- The current king (Jehoakim) is turning the nation back to chaos, corruption and idolatry.
- Habakkuk asks, why do you make me see this? Why are you putting us through this kind of iniquity and wickedness? How is this a good thing?
The Lord’s Answer
5“Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. 6For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. 7They are dreaded and fearsome; their justice and dignity go forth from themselves. 8Their horses are swifter than leopards, more fierce than the evening wolves; their horsemen press proudly on. Their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swift to devour. 9They all come for violence, all their faces forward. They gather captives like sand. 10At kings they scoff, and at rulers they laugh. They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it. 11Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!” – Habakkuk 1:5-11
- The Lord’s answer contains good news and bad news.
- The good news: God assures Habakkuk that He is acting, in control and is about to do something.
- The bad news: The Chaldeans are coming to execute judgment against the evil king of Judah.
- Habakkuk is stunned. The cure seems worse than the disease!
Habakkuk Second Complaint
12Are you not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O LORD, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof. 13You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he? 14You make mankind like the fish of the sea, like crawling things that have no ruler. 15He brings all of them up with a hook; he drags them out with his net; he gathers them in his dragnet; so he rejoices and is glad. 16Therefore he sacrifices to his net and makes offerings to his dragnet; for by them he lives in luxury, and his food is rich. 17Is he then to keep on emptying his net and mercilessly killing nations forever? – Habakkuk 1:12-17
- Habakkuk responds with questions that show his confusion.
- He doesn’t understand why God would use THESE people to bring judgment on HIS people.
- Essentially he’s asking: why let evil and tragedy overtake your people?
- Yet Habakkuk affirms his trust in God.
I will take my stand at my watch post 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
- From Habakkuk’s point of view a better answer would be something like I’m replacing the evil king with a new king who will be as good as King David. This new king will turn the people back to God.
- But God’s plan was different: this truly horrible military force is going to come and destroy everything in its path.
- In the face of what could only be a gut-wrenching answer, Habakkuk responds I’ll stand on the rampart, watch and wait for you.
- We may never know why.
- God’s plan may not look anything at all like our plan.
- Yet, God is still in control and His promises still stand. We can trust Him no matter what.
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