I regularly neglect the minor prophets. Not intentionally, of course; I just don’t seem to get around to reading those books. But in preparing a radio program, I was studying Habakkuk again and was struck by the timeliness of the message.
Habakkuk was living at a time when society seemed to be going downhill. Everywhere he looked, there was corruption and injustice. He had prayed to God many times, yet God didn’t seem to be listening. He expresses his frustration:
“How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:2–4)
Been there? I have. I look at the world, see the wrongs, and wonder if God is even listening. He is. It’s just that his answer may not be what we want to hear. It wasn’t for Habakkuk.
“I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own.” (Habakkuk 1:6)
The Babylonians? God is going to use godless people to correct injustice? God is going to bring about good through bad people? Doesn’t seem like the right answer. Habakkuk didn’t think so.
“O LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, we will not die. O LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgment; O Rock, you have ordained them to punish. Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?” (Habakkuk 1:12–13)
The prophet says, “God, you are wise nad holy… and you’re making a huge mistake!” He just can’t believe that the Lord would use such awful people to punish God’s people. But God goes on to explain that the Babylonians will in turn be punished. In the last chapter, Habakkuk praises God, asks God to do great things in the world today as he did in the past, then finishes with these beautiful words:
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:17–19)
So here are some things to remember:
- When you ask God to fix this world, he may do it in a way you didn’t expect. Depending on your politics, it may be “that president” that did/does the things that will eventually bring about justice. Even if he does/did it by doing things that are unjust.
- God is still at work today, as he has been in the past.
- Life for faithful believers won’t always be rosy. But we are to trust, praise, and rejoice in the Lord… even if the economy fails and injustice is all around.
I think Habakkuk has a lot to say to us in 2017.