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  • Writer's pictureMyles Hester

Habakkuk’s Big Questions

There are certain questions in life that every person struggles with at some point in their life. Questions like, “Why am I here?”, “What is my purpose in life?”, or “Why is this happening to me?”, can cause us a lot of mental and emotional turmoil. 

There is a book of the Bible with a unique name that spends a few short but profound chapters asking God some vital questions:

O LORD, how long shall I cry for help,

  and you will not hear?

Or cry to you “Violence!”

  and you will not save?

Why do you make me see iniquity, 

   and why do you idly look at wrong?

Destruction and violence are before me; 

   strife and contention arise. (Habakkuk 1:2-3)

Some of the biggest questions we ask in life surround our attempts to understand evil in the world. If you are a believer, you have likely had a moment where in one way or another you cried “Violence!” to God (so to speak) and felt like there was no answer. Or, if you are not a believer, maybe some of the thoughts Habakkuk is expressing here are similar to your reasons for doubting God exists at all. Part of what I love about Habakkuk is that he asks those questions openly and directly to God, and God in His wisdom and might gives an incredible response through the rest of the book.

For background, Habakkuk was a prophet that spoke of the coming Babylonian captivity and the fact that in the process of enslaving Israel for seventy years, the Babylonians would destroy the city of Jerusalem. Certainly a violent period indeed. Over the course of the short book of Habakkuk though, Habakkuk was a full discourse with God about the violence he sees around him, and it is quite faith-affirming for him, and faith-affirming for us to be able to see this conversation between God and His prophet unfold.

The first part of God’s response comes immediately after Habakkuk’s first complaint and can be summed up in verse five of chapter one. God says, “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” This “work”, God goes on to say, is that He is raising up the Chaldeans (another name for the Babylonians) to judge the Israelites for their wickedness. See, part of Habakkuk’s initial frustration is that God’s people are acting evilly and seemingly getting away with it! This is another issue we can often relate to; as David, Job, and Jeremiah all say: “Why do the wicked prosper” (Psalm 37:1, Job 12:6, Jeremiah 12:1)? In response to this, God informs Habakkuk that the Babylonians are coming to judge God’s people and take them into captivity as a punishment for their evil. However, this is evidently not the answer Habakkuk was hoping for. 

He brings up a second complaint at the end of chapter one, asking God, “why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he (vs. 13)?” Once again, many people can relate to this type of complaint. But God continues to dialogue with Habakkuk on this issue. The entirety of Habakkuk 2 is in many ways, God’s discourse on His own sovereignty and justice in which He proclaims judgment on many different types of evil. He talks about drunkenness, corruption, debauchery, greed, and all kinds of other forms of wickedness in the world, all the while making it clear that He sees it, He hates it, and He will take care of it in His time. Finally, He reminds Habakkuk of His power over worthless idols, saying:

What profit is an idol

   when its maker has shaped it…?

Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake;

   to a silent stone, Arise!

Can this teach?

Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver,

   and there is no breath at all in it.

But the LORD is in his holy temple;

   let all the earth keep silent before him. (Habakkuk 2:18-20)

Here, God reminds Habakkuk that He is the Creator and Sustainer of all! People will worship all sorts of frivolous things—sex, money, ego, sports, accomplishments—but only God is the Self-sufficient “I Am.”

At the end of it all, Habakkuk gives his final statement on the matter:

O Lord, I have heard the report of you

   and your work, O LORD, do I fear…

In the midst of the years make it known;

   in wrath remember mercy…

I hear and my body trembles; 

   my lips quiver at the sound; 

rottenness enters my bones; 

   my legs tremble beneath me. 

Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble 

   to come upon people who invade us... 

Though the fig tree should not blossom, 

   nor fruit be on the vines, 

the produce of the olive fail 

   and the fields yield no food, 

the flock be cut off from the fold 

   and there be no herd in the stalls, 

yet I will rejoice in the Lord; 

   I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 

God, the Lord is my strength;

   he makes my feet like the deer’s; 

   he makes me tread on my high places”

Sometimes, we are just too limited to understand the ways God is working. Sometimes, we cannot understand. Just like Habakkuk, even if we are terrified, we must turn to God and talk to Him. He wants to hear our complaints, even if we will not be able to understand His response. Come what may, salvation will always belong to the LORD, and we can always rejoice in knowing that even in His wrath, He will remember mercy. 

May we always be able say when we are confused or suffering, “GOD, the Lord, is my strength…”

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1 Comment

Mar 22

Great post

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