Habakkuk calls out to God regarding the wrongdoing of his own people. Why is God putting up with them?!? The answer is that God has a plan, and sometimes it’s to work through people who are against us to draw us to himself, and that’s tough teaching…
1 The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.
2 How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
4 Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.
5 “Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.
6 I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
to seize dwellings not their own.
7 They are a feared and dreaded people;
they are a law to themselves
and promote their own honor.
8 Their horses are swifter than leopards,
fiercer than wolves at dusk.
Their cavalry gallops headlong;
their horsemen come from afar.
They fly like an eagle swooping to devour;
9 they all come intent on violence.
Their hordes advance like a desert wind
and gather prisoners like sand.
10 They mock kings
and scoff at rulers.
They laugh at all fortified cities;
by building earthen ramps they capture them.
11 Then they sweep past like the wind and go on—
guilty people, whose own strength is their god.”
It’s a bit difficult to see entirely what is going on here in Habakkuk 1, yet if we look closely we can see that the prophet, Habakkuk calls out to God regarding the injustices and wrongdoing he sees around him. God is tolerating sin, the law in paralyzed, and the wicked are hemming in the righteous. No one but Israel is under the law. This is Habakkuk lamenting the sin of his own people. He knows they are violating the holiness of God, and he is calling on God to deal with them.
God’s answer starts in verse 5, and we know from other Old Testament studies that Babylon was used definitively by God in the discipline of Israel. The overthrowing of their land, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the exile to Babylon were ample consequence, yet Habakkuk hasn’t seen the hand of the Lord move. Habakkuk can’t understand the delay: even though he is the man of God, the Lord’s forbearance of Israel’s wickedness is difficult for him.
Aren’t we like that? The people of God, more than any other, should understand the character of God the best. We should have the best understanding of God’s holiness and justice and mercy. We wrestle in our own minds about how God allows terrible sinners to sin and ‘good’ people to be hurt. We are not immune to the struggle we see in brother Habakkuk. We share these thoughts about people in the church and in the world.
What we often forget is that we are not far off the people we judge. We may have more in common with the terrible sinners around us. We have been granted the mercy and grace of God and the Spirit has helped us turn from our own ways toward the ways of God. We continue to struggle and sometimes fall back, though, to the place of waywardness.
We want the justice of God for others, but do we want the same measure of it applied to us?
God’s answer to Habakkuk will not be very satisfying to him, as we will see in the coming days. God has determined that he will raise up Babylon, which is a nation that doesn’t recognize or worship God, to deal with the sin of God’s own people. Just to help us understand this, it’s like God using our enemies who oppose our faith to humble us and teach us a lesson. Woah… why would he do that? That doesn’t sound very God-like…
Our response to our circumstances should be carefully thought through. We assume God wouldn’t want to see us under the oppression or attack of our ‘enemies’ in the world, yet we see that God absolutely unequivocally worked this way in Habakkuk’s time. By the way, he allowed the same oppression in Jesus’ time through the Romans, who ruled over Israel in the first century.
I think the realization in this for me is to stay humble and rather than cry out to God in frustration and appeal for him to correct the wrong of my situation, seek God’s purpose, face, and mercy within my circumstance.
Don’t assume you are right, but rather ask God (Psalm 139:24), is there any wicked way within me? Perhaps God would like to draw us closer to him and away from ourselves and he is getting our attention through the Babylonians around us.
Speak to us God, so that we can seek and please only you…