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Habakkuk Overview

Questioning God is tricky business. On the one hand, we know that many of the questions people have for the Lord are actually veiled demands that the Creator justify His ways to His creatures. This type of questioning is usually disingenuous, coming from people who have already decided that there is no acceptable answer. Such questioning is also arrogant, making the response of faith contingent upon whether or not the questioner finds the answer satisfactory. Paul’s opponent who questions God’s righteousness in election is one who questions the Lord sinfully (Rom. 9:19–24).

On the other hand, it is possible to ask questions of the Lord in a manner that is not sinful. The psalmists and Habakkuk exemplify this manner of questioning the Lord. (Still, let us be careful when asking questions of God, for we can easily fall into questioning Him sinfully.) They ask their question, “How long, O LORD?” (Pss. 35:17; 94:3; Hab. 1:2), in faith. They know His righteous judgment is coming because they trust His holy character, but they are curious as to why His wrath is, from their viewpoint, delayed.

Habakkuk received a most unexpected answer to his question. Indeed, God had not been blind to King Jehoiakim’s evil and the ways in which the wicked Judahites mistreated their righteous countrymen. He would raise up the Chaldeans, who would fiercely and rapidly invade Judah (Hab. 1:5–11). The fact that Habakkuk foresaw this and it came to pass when Babylon conquered Judah confirms the divine origin of the prophet’s vision. The Chaldeans had to defeat the Egyptians to become the region’s leading power. From a human perspective, this looked impossible in Habakkuk’s lifetime.

God’s answer was more perplexing than His apparent delay. Habakkuk accepted that the Lord had chosen the Chaldeans to judge His people and affirmed that Judah’s holy remnant would not die (v. 12). Yet in the prophet’s view, the cure was worse than the disease. Babylon was brutal and persecuted righteous Judahites alongside the wicked (v. 13). Just as the fisherman brings in a full catch of fish with his net, the Chaldeans would capture all the nations (vv. 14–17). Habakkuk could not understand how this was possible, for He knew that God never tolerates evil (v. 13). How, asked Habakkuk, could the holy Lord use such a wicked instrument to judge His own?


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