By: Craig Collier
Many people have a favorite book of the Bible—one that they turn to regularly to help them cope with troubles, to remind them of important truths, or to rejuvenate their faith. For me, that book is Habakkuk. That is probably not near the top of the list for most people, but I have come to enjoy it immensely.
Habakkuk is one of the “minor” prophetic books and is only three chapters in length. He prophesied to Judah, the Southern Kingdom, some time prior to Babylonian captivity. It is different from many of the prophetic books in that instead of addressing the people, Habakkuk addresses God and records God’s responses to him.
In Habakkuk 1:1-4, the prophet complains about all of the sin that surrounds him in Judah. His countrymen are rejecting God, and Habakkuk wonders when and if God will do anything about it. As Christians in the midst of a sinful world and sinful country, we may have similar questions for God.
The Lord’s answer in 1:5-11 takes Habakkuk off guard. God plans to allow the Chaldeans (or Babylonians) to bring about His judgment on Judah. Habakkuk is puzzled in 1:12-2:1 because the Chaldeans are even more wicked and violent. How could God use them as His instruments?
God’s response in Chapter 2 calls for Habakkuk to trust in the Lord. The Chaldeans will be used to bring judgment to Judah, but the Chaldeans will also be judged. God pronounces woes upon the Chaldeans for their violence, killing and plundering of nations around them, and their idolatry. Two well known passages appear in this chapter, the first of which is 2:4b, “the righteous shall live by his faith” (ESV). God is calling upon Habakkuk and others who strive to live righteously to have faith in Him. It may look sometimes like God is not in control or that He is not acting when we want Him to act, but we must have faith that He knows what is best and will do His perfect will in his perfect time.
The second well-known verse is 2:20, “But the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him” (ESV). In context, God is mocking the idolatrous practice of people making idols from wood or stone and worshipping those speechless creations as gods.
In contrast, God, the Creator, calls upon us as His creation to be silent in reverence before Him and His sovereignty over all. In Chapter 3, Habakkuk has ceased his complaints. He considers ways in which God has been faithful in the past and trusts that he can continue to count upon God even when times are bleak. “Though the fig tree should not blossom nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut of from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God the Lord is my strength…” (3:17-19a, ESV).
When we are overwhelmed by the wickedness around us and when we are confounded by various agents of power around the world, let’s remember the lessons of Habakkuk—God is in control, He may use even the wicked to bring about His will, but the wicked will be judged in God’s own time. Our job is to live by faith.