After preaching about God’s abiding presence amid life’s adversities, a pastor was confronted by a woman who tearfully asked: “Pastor, where was God on the day when my only son died?” Reading a deep sorrow on her face the pastor was silent for a moment and then replied: “God was in the same place where He was on the day His only Son died to save us from the eternal death.”
A Perplexed Prophet
Habakkuk is unique among prophets because he does not speak for God to the people but rather he speaks to God about the people. The prophet begins his struggle to understand God’s purposes with a cry of bewilderment: “How long, O Lord?” In the Bible, this question is typical of a lament (Ps. 13:1, Jer. 12:4). It implies a situation of crisis from which the speaker seeks deliverance.
The crisis about which Habakkuk calls for help is the violence that permeated his society. The original Hebrew word for “violence” is hamas, and it is used six times in Habakkuk’s book. The term implies acts of injury, both physical and moral, inflicted on others (Gen. 6:11).
Being a prophet, Habakkuk knows well how much God loves justice and hates oppression; so, he wants to know why God allows injustice to continue. All around he notices violence and law- breaking, and it seems that the wicked triumph over the righteous. Justice is being perverted by the powerful as it was in the time of Amos (Amos 2:6–8) and as it so often is today.
God’s answer reveals His future plans. The Lord will use the army of Babylon to punish the people. This announcement surprises the prophet. He did not anticipate that God would use such a ruthless army to discipline Judah. In verse 8 the Babylonian cavalry are compared to a leopard, wolf, and eagle—three predators whose speed and power bring violent death to their prey.
Babylon’s ruthless arrogance acknowledges no accountability, seeks no repentance, offers no reparations. It violates the most fundamental order of created life. God had said that Babylon’s army will be used as a “rod of My [God’s] anger” (Isa. 10:5, NKJV). The punishment will take place during Habakkuk’s lifetime (Hab. 1:5). This whole situation raises even more difficult questions about divine justice.
How can we learn to trust in God’s goodness and justice when the world seems so full of evil and injustice? What is our only recourse?
Living by Faith
In Habakkuk 1:12–17, God’s answer to Habakkuk’s questions poses an even more vexing question: can a righteous God use the wicked to punish those who are more righteous than they? Habakkuk’s question in verse 17 has to do with divine justice.
Habakkuk was puzzled, not only by the degeneration of his own people but also by the certainty that his country would be judged by another nation, one worse than his own. The prophet was well aware of Judah’s sins, but by any standards, his people, particularly the righteous among them, were not as wicked as the pagan Babylonians.
You can’t run from your calling. All are called to serve the King of kings. Only you know, in your heart what the still small voice of the Lord has called you for. Few will serve, in life, with selflessness. And their reward and position on his kingdom will be great.
Most will serve at the judgment in death. As an example of the reward of seeing and setting yourself up as a Lord, ruler and extortionist for their own glory and comfort they will be mercifully exterminated. Small is their rewards in life and quickly forgotten is their glory.
And the remainder will be left as reward of their captors to serve them and make known the character of God and Jesus to those Lucifer as set up as king and given earthly reward for doing his will of sin.
Such is and was history. It should be a warning.