The foundations of society were crumbling. The economic system was collapsing and the law selectively enforced. The religious leaders were more interested in financial gain than cultivating holiness. Evil was prevalent and righteousness suppressed. Sound familiar? This was the state of Israel during Habakkuk’s time, and he had had enough.
From the beginning of the book that bears his name, we are told the nature of Habakkuk’s prophecy, and it isn’t good. “The oracle which Habakkuk the prophet saw…” was a message of judgment just like the ones given to Isaiah and Nahum. (Is. 13:1, Nahum 1:1). Despite the warnings, God’s people continued to ignore His word and His law.
It wasn’t a prophecy that was easy to hear and even harder to deliver. The judgment of unrighteousness cannot come quickly enough for Habakkuk. “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, And You will not hear? I cry out to You, “Violence!” Yet You do not save (Hab.1:2). Listen to David, “O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; And by night, but I have no rest” (Psalm 22:2). Jeremiah puts it perfectly, “Why are You like a man dismayed, Like a mighty man who cannot save? Yet You are in our midst, O Lord, And we are called by Your name; Do not forsake us!”(14:9).
Habakkuk’s complaint continues. “Why do You make me see iniquity, And cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; Strife exists and contention arises” (1:3). King David says, “Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases to be, for the faithful disappear from among the sons of men. They speak falsehood to one another; with flattering lips and with a double heart they speak” (Psalm 12:1-2). Human nature hadn’t changed during King Solomon’s reign when he said, “Then I looked again at all the acts of oppression which were being done under the sun. And behold I saw the tears of the oppressed and that they had no one to comfort them; and on the side of their oppressors was power, but they had no one to comfort them”(Ecclesiastes 4:1).
The prophet is not finished. It gets worse. “Therefore the law is ignored. And justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore justice comes out perverted.” (1:4). Habakkuk knows that when evil is not dealt with, chaos ensues and society is ripped apart at the seams because the law is not obeyed. Corruption reigned from the top down. As Isaiah says, “Your rulers are rebels And companions of thieves; Everyone loves a bribe And chases after rewards. They do not defend the orphan, Nor does the widow’s plea come before them” (1:23). As King Solomon says, “So there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9c).
How many of us identify with the prophet’s position today? Watching evil increase and feeling helpless to stop it is infuriating, particularly when there appears to be no governing authority. If you’ve ever cried out to the Lord about a serious situation, you are not alone. And when God seems silent in the midst of it, the fear and pain are worse. Where is He? If He hates evil, why does He allow it to continue? The consequences of sin are devastating. It is even more grievous when the righteous suffer because of the things the ungodly do.
But God doesn’t remain silent. He does answer Habakkuk’s cry. He always hears the cry of His own, and He always answers them. God does everything in His time, according to His plan, and for our good. God is consistent with His character, His purposes, and His word. He will not be mocked forever.
To Be Continued….
All Scripture references are taken from the New American Standard Version.