Have you ever looked at the world around you and wondered what was going on? More than that, have you ever wondered how God could possibly allow some things to happen? I would dare say that over the last couple years every single one of us have had thoughts like these. If you have then you are certainly not alone. The prophet Habakkuk was in a very similar place in his day.
The Minor Prophets are known for their unique features, and Habakkuk is certainly no exception. The book is laid out in a question and answer format. The prophet looks at the troubling world around him, asks a question, and God responds. The book ends with a song of hope from the prophet himself. As with the other books in the Minor Prophets, we know very little about the author himself.
Habakkuk begins his book by questioning how God can allow the blatant ignoring of the law to continue in Judah. The nation was filled with strife and contention, and the oppression of the poor. Judah should have known better, and yet they continued in their disobedience and rebellion. The prophet couldn’t understand how God could just allow this to continue happening.
We have all been there, right? We see the strong take advantage of the weak and wonder why God doesn’t do something. God is a righteous and holy God, and so we expect him to intervene every time something happens that we think is horrible. We see the perversion of justice and it angers us like it did the prophet Habakkuk, and it should anger us.
God’s response is completely unexpected. He says that he is sending the Babylonians as instruments of justice against the land of Judah. We must understand that God has his form of justice, and we have ours. He is the Judge of the world, and he will determine when and how judgment comes, and we simply have to accept it. We don’t see things as he does, and we don’t understand everything that he does. Justice will be upheld, but it will always be when he sees fit.
But God’s response confuses the prophet even further. How can God use a wicked nation like Babylon to judge a more righteous nation like Judah? Judah certainly wasn’t perfect, but it was not as evil as Babylon. This did not seem fair or right to the prophet, and he lets God know it. You really have to respect the boldness of the prophet here, but God stays patient with him because he doesn’t have the wrong attitude. Habakkuk is genuinely confused.
God responds by saying that he sees the pride of Babylon and that they will be judged as well. There is nothing that escapes his notice. Yes, he will use a more evil nation than Judah to judge them, but he will also judge that evil nation. God does not let any wickedness go unpunished. It may seem as if he does for a time, but in the end justice is always served. The Christian lives by the principle that in the end God will set the whole world right, and bring all of evil into judgment.
And this leads us to perhaps the most famous passage in the Old Testament. “The just shall live by his faith.” It is quoted three times in the New Testament in different contexts and for different purposes. However, here it is meant to be a comfort to the prophet. Simply put, all pride and evil will be judged, but whoever lives his life in faithfulness to God will be justified in the end. This should be a good enough response for any of us. We hold on to the hope that God will reward our faithfulness to him.
The prophet ends his book with a song declaring God as the Great Warrior who judges the earth, which is similar to how Nahum began his book. This reality inspires hope within him that everything will be alright in the end. “Though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.” What a perfect ending to a book that began with such confusion.
One of the main lessons we can take from the book of Habakkuk is that it is ok to question God, to a certain degree. Habakkuk heard from God because he approached him with the right attitude. He was genuinely confused about what was going on in his world, and he wanted clarity from God. The Lord will always respond to someone who comes to him in honesty and sincerity.
More than anything else, the book of Habakkuk teaches us to trust in God and his plan for the world around us. We may not always understand everything that God is doing, but the just still lives by faith. The most important principle in the life of a Christian is trust and reliance upon God. Without trust, there can be no Christian walk. Habakkuk teaches us that even when we can’t see God’s hand, we can trust his heart.