Summary: When God frustrates us, He asks us to trust Him.
The book of Habakkuk is described as an “oracle.” “Oracle” literally means “burden.” A burden is something that has been lifted up and is being carried. It is used by several OT prophets to describe the message which God had laid upon their hearts. Habakkuk’s message was a heavy burden.
Habakkuk lives in Judah during its darkest days. Only about twelve years earlier, a great revival had taken place in Judah when King Josiah rediscovered God’s Law buried in the temple trash. But when Josiah’s son Jehoiakim took over the throne, he abandoned the Law. Habakkuk is a contemporary of Nahum, Zephaniah, and Jeremiah. Jeremiah once confronted Jehoiakim, saying, “Your eyes and your heart are set only on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion” (Jer. 22:17).
The land of Judah is filled with “violence,” “injustice,” “wrong,” “destruction,” “strife,” and “conflict” (v. 3). “The law is paralyzed,” “justice never prevails,” “the wicked hem in the righteous,” “justice is perverted” (v. 4). His nation is falling apart. Why isn’t God doing anything?
• “HOW LONG?” – If You are powerful, why don’t you help us? This question implies that Habakkuk has been asking God for help for a long time. The Hebrew word for “cry out” (v. 2) means “to shout or roar.” Habakkuk is screaming to God for help.
• “WHY?” – If You are righteous, why are You letting evil go unpunished?
We often ask God these same questions:
• “How long?” – “How long am I going to pray this prayer without getting an answer from You? I keep praying, praying, and praying and nothing happens.” In other words, “I have my limits!”
• “Why?” – “Why is all of this happening to me? Why don’t You do something?” In other words, “I must have reasons.”
Illustration: Frustration game
The Big Idea: When God frustrates us, He asks us to TRUST Him.
But… How can I trust God when He doesn’t seem to want to help me?
We must realize that God’s number one concern for us is not our COMFORT. It is that our TRUST in Him grows.
What should I do when God makes me angry?
1. Believe that He SYMPATHIZES with my frustration.
Other complaints (laments) of Scripture:
• God’s complaint
“The LORD said to Moses, ‘How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them?’” (Num. 14:11).
• Job’s complaint
“Though I cry, “I’ve been wronged!’ I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice” (Job. 19:7).
• David’s complaint
“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Ps. 13:1-2).
• Jeremiah’s complaint
“You, O LORD, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation. Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long? Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may return; renew our days as of old unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure” (Lam. 5:19-22).
• Jesus’ complaint
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46; cf. Ps. 22:1). “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with out weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Jesus knows what it’s like to feel abandoned by God.
Isn’t it wrong to complain to God? Protest and lament can be faithful or unfaithful. The faithful protest begins with an attitude that continues to address God (“God, how could you allow…?”). The unfaithful protest begins with the impersonal (and judging) abstraction (“How could God allow…?”) (James Bruckner, The NIV Application Commentary: Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, p. 215).
One third of the Psalms are prayers/songs of lament. The entire books of Job and Lamentations are dedicated to expressing the frustration and pain of suffering by the faithful.
God wants us to pour out our hearts to Him. If we feel God is being unfair, God wants us have an honest conversation with Him.
2. Believe that He is able to do something BEYOND MY IMAGINATION.
Habakkuk had complained, “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate [lit., “watch”] wrong?” God answers his complaint by using the same two words: “Look at the nations and watch” (v. 5a). Habakkuk is looking at Judah and doesn’t see God doing anything. God tells him to look beyond his nation. He says, “Look at Babylon. I am going to use this nation to judge the sin Judah.” (Habakkuk didn’t like God’s solution, as we’ll see next week.)