When Habakkuk cries out to the Lord over injustice and violence that rages among the people of God, God answers with a mix of hope and terror. Habakkuk opens his complaint to God by asking, “Why is there so much injustice and violence?” When he cries out to God about the violence that is present in the land, God seems to be silent and does not come to save. He asks The Lord why sin and iniquity are so prevalent. Why can Habakkuk not live in ignorance of these things!? Why must HE see it? Further, he wonders why the legal system that is supposed to protect and provide for the lame and the broken is so corrupt. “Justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous, so justice goes forth perverted” (1:4).
The similarities between the cries of Habakkuk and many of our own cries in this moment of history is remarkable. We wonder why we see so much evil in the world. We wonder why people are murdered and God seems to say nothing. We wonder at the apparent inability of our legal system to accomplish justice. We ask, “how long!?” How long until our Lord rends the sky and makes it right?
God provides a partial answer to Habakkuk in 1:5-11.
First Habakkuk is urged to look further than his own circumstances to see where the Lord is moving. Habakkuk can see the people who live around him. The Lord says, “Look among the nations and see; wonder and be astounded” (v.5). Habakkuk is called to look further away. Strive for a perspective that is further down the road. A perspective that not only cries out to God but actually takes the time and effort to see where He is working and what He is bringing about. In essence, the call on Habakkuk is to strive to gain a greater perspective. A perspective that sees beyond the immediate circumstance and trusts in the Lord’s response.
Second, God states that He is bringing the Chaldeans (or Babylonians) to come and be His tool for justice against the wicked of Israel and Judah. In describing them God says they “come for violence” (v.9) and that “their justice and dignity (otherwise known as “law”) go forth from themselves” (v.7). In other words – To answer Habakkuk’s complaint against violence and lawlessness, the Lord is going to send violence and lawlessness upon them. Mankind reaps the reward of his own sin. Again, it is difficult not to see the parallels in our western society at this moment.
Finally, God assures Habakkuk that the punishment will be swift. “Then they sweep by like the wind and go on…” (v.11). God is well aware that the Babylonians are wicked. He is aware of the injustice that lands on the earth. Indeed, He feels injustice at a deeper level than any of His creation possibly could for a few reasons. First, He created the world and knows what it is SUPPOSED to be like. He knows exactly why it is wrong for brother to kill brother and He hears the blood of the slain cry out from the ground! Second, He is perfectly holy. There is no wrong or injustice with God. As a result, even our slight indiscretions are major offenses in the economy of God’s law. Third, it is His law that is violated! Every dismissal or corruption of the law is a rejection of Him and His character. Yet, God is merciful. The judgment will be swift and He will keep the Babylonians in check as He identifies them as “guilty men” (v.11).
Habakkuk, slightly shocked at God’s response, levels a second complaint.
Habakkuk begins with Hope. “We shall not die” (v.12). In this declaration, Habakkuk is asserting that His life is found in God, the eternal from whom Habakkuk derives his own holiness. When we face a wave of death, we must be reminded that our God is eternal and there is no death for those who rest in Him! So Habakkuk declares life because God is eternal and God is the one who establishes justice. Such peace is attainable for you as well! Trust in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as your savior and you will be saved from the punishment of sin.
Then Habakkuk raises his difficult question. He asks how a pure and holy God could stand to watch wickedness reign among His people unanswered. (Spoiler for those who don’t read the Bible… He doesn’t leave it unanswered.) Moreover, how could God, who is perfect, use such an unholy and imperfect tool to judge unholiness and imperfection? Why is the punishment for sin accomplished by a party of greater wickedness?
Seriously, why do the wicked prosper!? This is a question that resonates on so many levels for us. One cannot help but see our world and ask why God has not obliterated us from the planet. Why do the wicked prosper is a popular question… until we recognize that we are the same as the wicked. Romans 3 states very plainly that all mankind is wicked and NO ONE does what is right. No. One. Is. Righteous. “By the works of the law, no man will be justified” (Romans 3:20). We need something other than the law to save us. If we rely on the law, we will be in Habakkuk’s place crying out as the law is perverted and distorted until the terrifying judgment of God comes down upon us all. Yet, if we recognize our own sinfulness and cry out for mercy, we can be saved from the wrath of God. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith” (Romans 3:23-25). It is here, in this recognition of our need, that our plea becomes, “Lord forgive me. How can I help in rescuing others as You have rescued me?”
Habakkuk’s complaint ends in obedience. God calls him to broaden his view and see what God is doing in the world. So Habakkuk climbs the wall and stands sentry on the tower, awaiting the response from God. Striving to see beyond his immediate circumstance, he looks to the hills and waits on the Lord for an answer. Likewise, we must obey. If we are to call out to God over the injustice in our society, we must be willing to obey His commands. If we wish to see the answer, then we cannot overlook and forget about our minor infractions, decrying the injustice done elsewhere. Habakkuk waits for the Lord to answer, and so must we. Our eyes must see beyond our circumstances and be prepared to hear the Lord answer us.
So like Habakkuk, in this time of great wickedness, let us be reminded:
- To look beyond our immediate circumstances to God’s coming mercies.
- Of the life we have in Jesus Christ
- That God is sovereign over even the wicked in this life
- It is our commission to stand and watch for our Lord to return while we proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ!