Steven P. Wickstrom
all Scriptures quoted from the ESV
Habakkuk is one of those books in the Bible that we seldom read. Even though the book tends to be overlooked, it has some tremendous theological nuggets. The book of Habakkuk is the eighth of the twelve “minor prophets” (they are minor only in that they are each much shorter than the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel (called “major prophets”)) located at the end of the Old Testament. The book consists of three chapters composed in Judah during the last days of Josiah and the regime of Jehoiakim, sometime before the invasion by the Chaldeans (Babylonians) and the exile of Judah, circa 605-587 B.C.1 Little information exists about Habakkuk other than his title of “prophet.” He was likely a contemporary of Jeremiah as well as other minor prophets such as Nahum and Zephaniah.2 The main emphasis of Habakkuk is the sin of Israel and the just judgment of God.
Violence and almost complete negligence of God and His law filled the times in which Habakkuk lived. “The fabric of national life had begun to come apart at the seams.”3 God would chasten His people with the invasion of Judah, the destruction of Jerusalem, and exile from the land—all as “the result of covenantal defection, of a failure to trust in and obey the Lord.”4 The theme of the book of Habakkuk typically magnifies the crucial verse: 2:4b “the righteous shall live by his faith.”
Habakkuk’s complaint (chapter 1:2-4)
(2) O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?
(3) Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.
(4) So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.
Even though Habakkuk wrote this prayer of complaint 2600 years ago, it is impressive how it is still applicable today. In the U.S. today, we see unprecedented violence in our cities being fanned by the media and certain groups in the government. We see justice being perverted as criminals go free and victims get prosecuted. Sin is being taught in the schools as being normal, and the population is persecuted for not embracing sin. The government and the media are becoming more anti-God with each passing year. As the U.S. turns its back on God and embraces evil, Habakkuk’s prayer takes on even more relevance. It is only a matter of time before the Bible will be deemed to be hate speech.
It is easy to see that Habakkuk is frustrated. He is practically beating his fists against God’s chest in anger because it looks like God does not care. He laments that God’s law is paralyzed (ignored), and because of that, justice does not exist. He sees that the wicked vastly outnumber the righteous, and he sees no hope for Israel. We could easily paint the same picture for the U.S. today.
God’s response (chapter 1:5)
(5) Look among the nations and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.
Interestingly, God does not rebuke Habakkuk for praying a prayer of complaint. He doesn’t even scold Habakkuk for claiming that God does not see or care about the desolate condition of the nation. Habakkuk is concerned that the nation is spiritually and morally bankrupt, and God is unaware of it. Instead of a reprimand, God pointed out that Habakkuk’s eyes were pointed in the wrong direction. Habakkuk was looking at everything that was wrong in the nation rather than being focused on God.
Don’t worry about pounding your fists on God in frustration. God has big shoulders; he can take it. God would rather have you talk to him in your anger and frustration than not talk to him at all. Don’t be surprised, however, when God tells you to change your focus.
God told Habakkuk to look among the nations with open eyes and see what God was doing. God expected Habakkuk to be in a state of wonder and awe and to be astounded at God’s actions. God then made a shocking statement, “For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” God’s plans were so big and globally massive that Habakkuk would not have been able to comprehend what God was doing. God was essentially telling Habakkuk, “I got this.”
This is an important lesson for us today in God’s message to Habakkuk. God is the God of I got this. Unfortunately, we tend to have the same problem as Habakkuk. We look at the situation rather than the God of I got this. We see the covid19 pandemic and all the fear and don’t see the God of I got this. We see whatever health crisis we’re going through and don’t see the God of I got this. We see whatever financial crisis we’re going through and don’t see the God of I got this. You get the picture; our focus is in the wrong place.
A virus is so small it takes a microscope to view it. Is a virus too big for God to handle? Some planets are so far away it takes a powerful telescope to see them. Is it not God who controls their movement through the galaxy? A microscopic virus is no problem for God to handle. A gigantic galaxy, so large that it that exceeds imagination, is no problem for God to control. He’s got it. Any situation you are going through is no problem for God to control. He’s got it. Is our focus on the problem, or the God who’s got it?
God is doing something so huge that our brains could not comprehend it if God told us what it was. That is a very comforting thought. The God of I got this is doing things even though we don’t see it. It may look like the world is out of control, but God is the one who is manipulating circumstances, and even nations, to do what he wants. God is the ultimate puppet master who is pulling all the strings. God is always in control. He is never not in control. He is the God of I got this.