35(Habakkuk 1) When Evil Seems to Be in Control
In the last few weeks the Supreme Court decided that laws designed to restrict child pornography on the internet could not be enforced because they violated free speech. On May 17th, the Massachusetts State Court held that marriage between homosexuals was a legitimate right protected also by the same constitution. When after much pressure a law banning the barbaric practice of late-term abortions was passed, a court in California banned its enforcement on the grounds of a woman’s health being denied even though no such health danger is possible.
All the radio preachers got on the air and said that Christians had to rise up and what? Call their congressmen and women, send mass emails and try to shut down Washington to force the Senate to pass the Marriage Amendment. But it did not pass. Where was God?
Habakkuk ministered in the late 7th century B.C., during the end of Assyria and the rise of Babylon’s rule (625-500 B.C.). It was a time when justice and faithfulness had basically disappeared from Judah, and there was unrestrained wickedness and violence throughout the land.
The opening words of this prophecy are a cry of frustration, not understanding why God did not intervene in Judah and set things right:
Habakkuk 1:2-4 O LORD, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, "Violence!" And You will not save. 3 Why do You show me iniquity, And cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; There is strife, and contention arises. 4 Therefore the law is powerless, And justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgment proceeds.
The prophet faced a dilemma. He had already petitioned the Lord to either bring about a spiritual revival or judge the people for their wickedness. But God was doing neither. Habakkuk could not understand how God could allow this evil to continue.
But in the next passage God gives Habakkuk a most startling and unexpected answer:
Habakkuk 1:5-11 Look among the nations and watch -- Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you. 6 For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, A bitter and hasty nation which marches through the breadth of the earth, to possess dwelling places that are not theirs. 7 They are terrible and dreadful; their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves. 8 Their horses also are swifter than leopards, and more fierce than evening wolves. Their chargers charge ahead; Their cavalry comes from afar; They fly as the eagle that hastens to eat. 9 "They all come for violence; their faces are set like the east wind. They gather captives like sand. 10 They scoff at kings, and princes are scorned by them. They deride every stronghold, for they heap up earthen mounds and seize it. 11 Then his mind changes, and he transgresses; he commits offense, ascribing this power to his god."
This is not what Habakkuk wanted to hear! How could the Lord possibly use the Chaldeans, a bunch of pagans who were worse than the sinning Jews, to judge and punish His covenant people?
The Chaldeans were a notorious people. They worshipped nothing but their military prowess and were ready to “heap up earthen mounds” (1:10).
This was an ancient practice of overthrowing a fortress or walled city by hauling in and heaping up rubble until a ramp was formed up to the top of the walls, enabling the soldiers to march over the walls.
The Chaldeans were sinful, self-centered, and ruthless. Habakkuk could not understand how God could choose a far worse people that Judah to be the means of Judah’s correction.
His puzzle could not be solved with human wisdom. Because he did not understand God’s plan he looked to the scriptures:
Habakkuk 1:12 Are You not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O LORD, You have appointed them for judgment; O Rock, You have marked them for correction.
Realizing he could not answer the question alone, he reached out for what he knew was true about God. First, that God is eternal. The troubles that Habakkuk and Judah faced were just small moments in the grand history of the world, a world that God has overseen. The Lord was far greater than any moment in time, problems and all, and God knew how all things would fit into His eternal plan.
O LORD in the printed Bible is always a reference to YHWH, or Jehovah, which the Hebrews always pronounce adonai, meaning sovereign ruler. He does not make mistakes and He perfectly carries out His program.
Habakkuk also knew God’s promises. He was on sure footing when he said “we will not die”. He knew God would remain faithful and not destroy Judah because of His covenant promise to Abraham, which guaranteed a future kingdom.
At the close of the verse Habakkuk sees God’s faithfulness. He now accepted that fact that God was too pure to approve or excuse evil and that His eyes could not favorably observe wickedness. Therefore He had determined to punish the people of Judah, and He had sovereignly chosen the Chaldeans to mete out that punishment.
Even though Habakkuk would not have chosen that method of judgment, he could now say with much greater assurance of faith than before, “I see and accept what’s going on.”
The essence of Habakkuk’s conclusion was based on one thing: faith. And the key to the type of faith that still believes God is in control is seen in God’s declaration in 2:4-
Habakkuk 2:4 " Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.
This final phrase of this verse is one of the most important statements in all of Scripture. It is used in key passages in the NT, first in Romans 1:17, then Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38.
This is key to living in an evil age. When policies seem bent on glorifying debauchery and all forms of wickedness, when the prayers of Christians seem to be powerless, we need to be reminded of this important rule of life – live by our faith.
Have faith that God is still in control of the affairs of this nation. While we don’t glory in bad decisions by the courts, can we have the eyes of faith to see that God can use even that evil to judge this country?
And if God can use the Chaldeans to judge his own people, how about us as individuals? Have we decided that God is not active in our personal lives because we are not prospering, and may even be suffering from the ungodly decisions of those in control over us? Could God be at work judging our own lives by putting that worldly boss over us, or allowing us to fall to evil circumstances out of our control?
When a Christian decides that God is sovereign he will look at his own circumstances in a different light. He will see that Lord is still in control and will bow the knee to repent and ask for deliverance, rather than being a fatalist about his circumstances.
Habakkuk did not leave faith at the doorstep of salvation or in the classrooms of Sunday School. He concluded his prophecy with a strong expression of practical, living faith:
Habakkuk 3:17-19 Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls -- 18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19 The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer's feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills. To the Chief Musician. With my stringed instruments.