In Habakkuk’s first prayer, he asks God why He doesn’t do something about the wickedness of Judah (1:2-4). God responds by telling the prophet that He will use the Babylonians to destroy Judah (vs. 5-7). God often utilizes ungodly people and nations as instruments of His will (Romans 9:14-24). Habakkuk prays a second time and questions God’s choice of the Babylonians since they were more wicked than Judah (1:12-17). It seemed that God was passing over Babylon’s sins in order to punish Judah. After his prayer, Habakkuk resigns himself to wait on an answer from God (2:1) which God then supplies. God says that in time He will also punish Babylon for their sins as well (2:8). God’s promise of judgment assures us that although God may delay judgment for a time, He will not allow sin to go unpunished forever.
Habakkuk is a unique prophet with an equally unique message. Rather than speaking to the people for God, Habakkuk speaks to God on behalf of the people. Habakkuk lived in a day when Judah was following her wicked rulers and living in rebellion against God. The king of Judah during Habakkuk’s ministry was most likely Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim is characterized as a bloody and wicked king consumed with the expansion of his own kingdom (Jeremiah 22:13-19). The apparent injustice of the day caused Habakkuk to struggle with questions of God’s holiness and sovereignty and Habakkuk comes to God for answers. This dialogue between the prophet and God makes up the majority of the book. Habakkuk is a good example of how we should wrestle with the hard questions where God is concerned.
God then gives Habakkuk three assurances to give him a divine perspective on the situation. First, God tells Habakkuk that “The just shall live by faith” (2:4). Even though we don’t always understand situations around us, we are called to have faith in God. Second, God tells Habakkuk that “the earth shall be filled with God’s glory” (vs. 14). Although wickedness is rampant in the world now, God promises a day to come when all wicked nations and individuals will be judged and the curse of sin is forever lifted (Romans 8:20-21). Third and finally, God reminds Habakkuk that “The Lord is in His holy temple” (vs. 20). Although wicked Jehoiakim may sit on the throne in Jerusalem, Yahweh our God sits on the throne in Heaven. God is not dead, but He is alive and sovereign over the affairs of men.
After receiving God’s answer, Habakkuk recognizes God as the righteous judge of the nations (3:2, 12-13) and ends with a song of praise to God (3:16-19). Although the news of God’s judgment was overwhelming and fearsome, Habakkuk could have peace because God would cause him to “rest in the day of trouble” (3:16). Habakkuk realizes that he may suffer as a result of God’s judgment but declares that he will rejoice in God no matter the circumstances that surround him (vs.17-18). Habakkuk ends his song with an assurance that God will provide grace to the righteous in difficult times (vs. 19). As the deer scales the heights of the mountains without slipping, God will cause Habakkuk to endure the difficulties that would come with the Babylonian overthrow of Judah.
It is normal for our faith to be challenged during adversity. Many times we struggle to reconcile our beliefs with our experiences. We should learn from Habakkuk that it is good for us to bring our questions and struggles to God in prayer and seek the answers that only He can give. We also need to learn to trust God’s sovereignty and submit to God’s plan even if it brings hardship to us. Only then can we find joy and strength to endure and overcome in the midst of difficulty.
This post was originally published in the Baptist & Reflector, January 8, 2013.