Our text centers on the faith of Habakkuk at a time when life had left him extremely hurt and disappointed. Habakkuk prophesied for the Lord between 620 and 600 BC to the southern kingdom of Judah. Judah was caught in the midst of great spiritual apostasy; wickedness abounded on every hand. But while Judah was fading, Babylon—a pagan people—was prospering. Judah was on her way out, but Babylon was reaching new heights. Judah was going backward, but Babylon was progressing and expanding, and they were doing it through very aggressive and violent means. This turn of events disturbed Habakkuk. Habakkuk was a godly man who did his best to live a life that would be pleasing to God. More than that, Habakkuk was aware of the history of his people. He knew that he was of the tribe and lineage of David; he knew that the blood of Abraham ran through his veins and the veins of his people. To borrow an expression from Peter, he knew that Judah was a chosen people, a royal priesthood and a holy nation that enjoyed a unique relationship with God. Habakkuk knew that God had built a hedge around His people and had protected them from their enemies. But now things were changing. Because of spiritual wickedness, because of unrepentant sin, Israel had been swept away by the Assyrians just a century earlier. And now, the same fate was threatening Judah at the hands of Babylon—for the same reason.
Church, never forget that God has a purpose for our lives and, if we submit to Him, He will help us achieve His purpose. But as we consider this text today, we would also re-mind you that, as merciful and as lenient and as patient as God is, if we abuse His mercy, there will come a time when patience runs out. That’s what happened with Israel, that’s what was happening with Judah, and in many ways it seems like that’s what’s happening with us today. Time after time, God had warned His people to live up to His standard or suffer the consequences of their choice, and the same thing is being said to us today.
God has a standard for his people—the Christ standard. The Christ standard is love without limit or restriction; the Christ standard is living a life that shows others that Jesus is in control; the Christ standard is doing for others what you would want others to do for you; the Christ standard is blessing those who curse you and doing good to those who hate you and praying for those who would use you and persecute you; the Christ standard is living by the Spirit and not gratifying the desires of the sinful flesh; the Christ standard is pursuing excellence in all that we say and think and do. And when we fail to strive to live up to the Christ standard, we test the patience of God. And if we’re not careful, His patience will run out. This same Paul who urges us to live by the Spirit also warns us, “Don’t allow yourselves to be fooled. God will not be mocked. Whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.”
Habakkuk had been a religious and a devout man, and it was inconceivable to him that God would allow such a people as Babylon to threaten the peace of Judah. Hear him question God, “How long will I cry for help when it seems as though You will not hear? Why are You silent in the midst of this sorrow?” Habakkuk becomes the voice of the godly man trying to understand the ways of God when life has not met expectations. But as we consider Habakkuk’s complaint, there are a couple of things that Habakkuk failed to take into consideration.