Habakkuk is three chapters in the Old Testament (after Nahum) about God’s purpose, provision, and promise. The prophet’s faith is firm, but he is frustrated that God is doing nothing about Judah’s escalating crisis.
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you ‘Violence!’
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrongdoing
and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise. (Habakkuk 1:2-3)
He vents his frustrations because God is dormant while allowing him to see the “wrongdoing” of “destruction and violence”. The Judean people compromise the Torah and are contributors to this wrongdoing. Justice always loses, unable to be sustained. Even when justice surfaces, it comes out as a distorted version because it is outnumbered by the prevalence of the wicked in society.
So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous—
therefore judgement comes forth perverted. (Habakkuk 1:4)
The prophet feels utterly helpless and is asking, what’s up God?
God does not remain silent. He responds and reveals his purpose (v5-11). The assuring comfort here for Habakkuk and us as readers is God does not ignore the “what’s up” question, and he is actually at work, and all that is happening before the eyes of the prophet is God’s allowance. God is stirring the Babylonian empire, which will be “like the wind”, unstoppable and sweeping judgment across Judah. The same Babylonians who brought about the annihilation of the Assyrian empire in Nahum.
Habakkuk acknowledges and accepts the judgment but returns to what’s up God? This prophet recognises the heavy discipline imposed on Judah but questions God’s method. His what’s up is different here. He is no longer asking why God does nothing but why through the Babylonians?
Your eyes are too pure to behold evil,
and you cannot look on wrongdoing;
why do you look on the treacherous,
and are silent when the wicked swallow
those more righteous than they? (Habakkuk 1:13)
The rationale of a greater evil replacing a lesser one does not make sense to Habakkuk. Be of no doubt, Habakkuk’s faith is steadfast, assured of God’s covenant with and salvation for His people, but he wants to know how these wicked “Chaldeans” fit into God’s purpose. Once again, God responds to the prophet in the next chapter.
When confronted with injustice in your life or calamitous news of the world, don’t scream or suppress your anger, don’t unknowingly retreat into reclusiveness, don’t panic and abandon the ancient paths. Instead, remember in your prayers to ask what’s up God?
God will respond.