The little Old Testament book of Habakkuk is one of the most remarkable books in all of Scripture, as it contains an extended dialogue between the prophet and God (Habakkuk 1-2). The prophet Habakkuk stood in Jerusalem around 600 BC and pondered the state of his nation, Judah, and was dumbfounded. Evil thrived out in the complete open, but the covenant and faithful God of Israel remained strangely silent. Habakkuk cried out “Where are you God? How long are you going to allow this mess to continue?” (Hab 1:1-3). The content of this book is very relevant in our day as many have questioned God’s silence in the midst of all that is happening in the world today, especially with the coronavirus pandemic creating much heartache in the world. We must learn the valuable lessons Habakkuk learned if we are to have hope in this world.
Two Great Dilemmas
An Apathetic God: As the dialogue progressed between the prophet and God, two major dilemmas were formed in the prophet’s mind. In the first chapter, Habakkuk expresses his confusion, namely with the character of God. He had a strict horizontal perspective and it caused him to look around and worry. Overcome with the situation, he asks God “how long,” and “why?” The prophet was upset because it seemed that God didn’t see or hear what was going on. Destruction and violence were rampant. Justice was perverted. What made matters worse is that it seemed like God was indifferent to it all! All of us can relate to Habakkuk’s questioning. Difficulties in our lives often cause us to ask the same questions.
An Unrighteous God: The second dilemma was formed in the heart of the prophet only after God answered Habakkuk. God told Habakkuk that He had seen and heard, and had already begun to work by raising up the evil Chaldeans to bring judgment upon the evil of Judah (1:12-13). This astonished Habakkuk, and he began to question God about His decision, “Why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” What bothered Habakkuk was that a “holy” and “pure” God seemed not to punish the wicked and godless Chaldeans, and instead chose to use them to judge the lesser wicked Judeans. This seemed inconsistent to the nature and character of God. Habakkuk was nearly accusing God of treason to His own character and His covenant promises to His people.
God’s Answer & Our Hope
Habakkuk waited on the Lord after making his complaint against him (2:1). God’s answer may not have been what the prophet wanted to hear, but profound lessons were learned. God’s answers to Habakkuk are the basis for our hope (2:1-20). First, God revealed His sovereignty over all things including evil. While God is not the author of evil and is outside of evil, He still uses evil to accomplish His mysterious purposes. At the same time however, no evil will escape the righteous judgment of God. Second, God’s mysterious purposes and plans are much bigger than our personal problems. We have to consider that God is working in the world. While He is concerned about us as individuals, He also is orchestrating history for His own glory and purpose. Third, in the end God will triumph. God tells Habakkuk, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (2:14).
All of these lessons are profound for us today in our particular context. When it seems like the whole world is in chaos, evil is triumphing and the coronavirus is out of control, let not your heart be troubled. “The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him” (2:20). There is nothing outside the control of God. Because of these great truths, worry is futile and anxiety is irrational. We don’t have to live hopeless lives!
Live by Faith: In the midst of the conversation with the prophet, the Lord tells us exactly how we are to live. The key to the entire book of Habakkuk is found in 2:4 where the Lord says, “Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him, but the righteous will live by his faith.” The one who is righteous will live by trusting in God. This is the very essence of Christianity. Our relationship with God begins, continues and is sustained by faith in Him (Heb 11:6).
Be Real: Faith and prayer do not necessarily eliminate emotions. After hearing all that God said, Habakkuk said that his body trembled, lips quivered, rottenness entered into his bones, and his legs trembled as he waited for God to unfold His plan (3:16). The prophet had terror and trust mixed together. It’s important to be honest with God about how we feel.
Rejoice & Hope in the Lord: In the end, Habakkuk rejoiced and hoped in God. In spite of the circumstances of life, the prophet’s faith was manifested through worship and praise to God. Even though everything around him was unraveling, he said, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength” (3:18-19).
No one would have ever dreamed a year ago that the world would be in the state that it is in today. Where is God in all of this? He is not silent, nor indifferent. Our God is working in the world. Those who are righteous will live by faith in Him and will worship Him in the midst of devastation. He alone is our only hope in this world who sent Jesus to be the Savior of the world.