We hit yet another minor prophet here. Habakkuk probably prophesied during the time of Jeremiah, and this book was probably written sometime during the reign of king Jehoiakim the son of Josiah. Jehoiakim came to power (so to speak) when his brother Jehoahaz was dethroned by Egypt after a mere three months on the throne, and Egypt made Jehoiakim their puppet king.
And during his reign, Habakkuk was appalled at all the evil he saw going on in Judah. Once again, the people of Judah had fallen into idolatry, and evil and injustice were rampant. And so Habakkuk cried out to God saying,
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. (1:2-4)
Does this at all sound familiar to you? The things Habakkuk saw in his day, we see in ours. Violence. Injustice. A legal system that at times seems paralyzed. Justice that is perverted. And like so many people today, Habakkuk cried out to God, “Why? Why do you allow this? Why don’t you do something?”
How did God answer? He told Habakkuk that judgment was coming to Judah through the Babylonians. Up until that time, Egypt and Assyria had been the main powers in the world. But now Babylon was going to take their place of power, and through them, God would punish not only Judah, but the other nations for their sins. (1:5-11)
At that point, Habakkuk said, “Wait a minute. The Babylonians are even worse than we are. And you’re going to use them to punish us? How can you allow them to swallow up those who are more righteous than they are?” (1:12-13)
God basically answered Habakkuk, “Yes, even though they are more evil than Judah, I will use them to punish Judah as well as the other nations. But don’t worry about it, they will get theirs. Their day of judgment is coming too, and they will eventually be overthrown (chapter 2).
But in the midst of all this, he tells Habakkuk and us something very important. He says, “These Babylonians are all puffed up. They think they’re so great because of their power and might. As a result, they put their faith solely in themselves. But Habakkuk, the righteous person will live by his faith.” (2:4)
It is the one verse that the apostle Paul quoted time and again. That Martin Luther made as the cornerstone of the Protestant reformation. And it was one of the main messages God was telling Habakkuk in the midst of a world of evil.
“Trust me. I am good. I am just. And I will make all things right.”
God told Habakkuk,
Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. (2:2-3)
And after proclaiming judgment on Babylon, told Habakkuk,
The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him. (2:20)
In other words, “Habakkuk, I am in control. It may not seem that way now. But I am. And all the earth will bow to me and my will. So Habakkuk, trust me.”
How does Habakkuk respond? He responds with praise and prayer.
Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. (3:2)
That’s how we should respond as we look at all the evil in this world. Praise him. Remember his goodness. Remember what he’s done. And then pray for revival in this fallen world, that God’s mercy might fall on us once again.
And as you do so, continue to walk in faith, trusting him. Habakkuk closes by saying,
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. (17-19)
Lord, this world is full of evil. I see it every day. But Lord, help me to trust in you despite all the evil that is there. To believe that you are in control. To believe that one day justice will come. Lord remember mercy on those who have fallen. Let me be your agent of mercy. And may I walk each day trusting you. In Jesus name, amen.