If you keep up with Jumpstart, you know that I am a big fan of the Bible Project videos on YouTube. They do a great job of framing the overall structure and story of a book. So, as we once again step into a new book, check out this video introduction on Habakkuk (it’s a little less than 7 minutes).
What is the problem that Habakkuk cries out to God about in chapter 1? Essentially, wickedness, violence, and a perversion of justice exists in Israel and God is silent. It seems, however, that when Habakkuk lodges his complaint, he may or may not be expecting an answer. When God does answer, starting in verse 5, it is an understatement to say, it’s not what Habakkuk expected!
Despite Habakkuk’s charge, God is aware of the depth of Israel’s sin and he is currently raising up the nation of Babylon (Chaldeans) to bring judgement. Babylon was an ancient war-machine and they were particularly brutal to their enemies.
As God pronounces his plan for retributive justice, Habakkuk must then pick his jaw up off the floor where it lies flabbergasted. Habakkuk challenged God’s character in verses 1–4, especially verse 2, but it turned out he had no idea what he was asking. Like anybody who has overstepped with their boss, Habakkuk starts back pedaling asking, “Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they?” (13)
Wait a minute Habakkuk, didn’t you just call Israel wicked, violent, destructive, yadda-yadda-yadda, and then you accuse God of not doing anything about it? Now you’re saying that Israel is, in fact, righteous? So, you want God to judge sin, but you don’t want anybody to get hurt?
The book of Habakkuk is super rich and deals with some really big ideas that I will try to distill down in a couple hundred words. First, Habakkuk answers the questions of “bad things happening to good people.” He illustrates in verse 13 that the idea of “good” is very relative when he speaks of Israel’s wickedness and then their comparative righteousness as it relates to the Babylonians. We see that “good” isn’t really good, it may just be “good” from our perspective. Also, God illustrates that wickedness will always face judgement. However, we know from the rest of the Bible, that it isn’t time for God’s final judgement because sin had not yet been paid for by Christ and all people would have been sentenced to an eternity in Hell. Therefore, God could not bring final judgement Himself and had to use providential means (i.e. another nation).
Second, although I give Habakkuk a hard time, he is right. Israel was bad, but no where near as bad as the Babylonians, so his question is valid, “How can God grant favor toward wicked people to accomplish his purposes and still remain just?” What we’ll see later in the book is that God has no intention of letting the Babylonians off scot-free. Their’s will be an even worse fate of judgement, but God essentially says it is within his power and prerogative to do as he pleases to accomplish his purposes.
There are two lessons for today, first, be careful what you wish for! Often, we pray for things while failing to understand how God is at work. Second, never forget that God is good. Life is hard and it is easy to fall into the temptation that God doesn’t care. He does! He cares enough that he sent his Son to pay for sin so that when the final judgement does come, we do not need to be afraid. Without Christ a fate far worse than the Babylonians awaits, but with Christ, even when the wicked invade there is hope eternal.
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate