Summary: Why does a just God delay justice? How can a loving God allow evil? Why do we think we can judge God by our standards?

Have you ever felt that God was just like the judge in Luke’s parable? Perhaps you have a problem, a need, a pain, a burning question; you bring it before God, and - nothing happens. You remember what Jesus said about persisting in prayer, so you go on battering at the heavenly gates - for an answer that doesn’t come. How hard it is to keep trusting that God has everything under control, and that not only his goodness but his power can be trusted.

Some people put the question like this: Since there is evil in the world, the idea that God is both loving and all-powerful does not compute. So they give up on one of the two propositions. They conclude that either God doesn’t care what happens to us, or he can’t do anything about it. That’s pretty depressing.

I don’t know whether it’s harder to trust God with everyday personal stuff or with bigger things, like war and peace and prosperity and politics. It’s always easier, of course, when you can find someone to blame... and with the broader social issues you can always find enough sin around to bring a just God to the punishment point. So perhaps you don’t ask the kinds of questions that Habakkuk is asking. But when I first read this book, it was right where I was at. “What can God be thinking of, to let all this stuff happen?” To me this first chapter reads just like the morning news. And the answers are still especially helpful to me during an election season.

It’s interesting to note that some scholars think that the name Habakkuk comes from a word meaning "embrace," because this book is an oddly comforting one, simply because it addresses straight on the great question of why God allows evil.

The problems Habakkuk wrestled with and eventually learned the answer to - thus becoming able to comfort and teach not only his own people but ourselves as well - are exactly the problems you and I wrestle with. For although the prophet lived in a time very different from ours on some levels, particularly in terms of national security, there are also a lot of similarities. Judean society was ruled by corrupt officials, filled with violence and class division, economic oppression, envy and despair. Habakkuk doesn’t pull any punches in his outcry to God:

"O YHWH, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you "Violence!" and you will not save? Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround

the righteous-- therefore judgment comes forth perverted.{Hab 1:1-4}

Doesn't that sound like today? Why, Habakkuk says, does he have to cry "Violence!" and hear no answer? Here is the problem of unanswered prayer from a righteous man, a man of God who is asking on behalf of his people, not for himself. The people are immersed in wickedness; there is unrest, violence, injustice and oppression everywhere he looks. Those who are responsible for setting an example, for teaching righteousness, for maintaining order do nothing about it - indeed, they make it worse. And when matters come before the courts, the courts themselves are found to be corrupt.

Because he is truly a man of God, Habakkuk knows that the thing to do with a problem is to take it to God - and he has been doing just that. He has been praying about his problem. But he doesn’t get any answer. So his heart cries out in perplexed bewilderment, "Lord, ho long do I have to keep crying out to you like this? You aren’t doing anything! I’ve been watching for a change, watching for revival, watching for something to happen, yet nothing does. How long do I have to wait?”

Have you ever felt that way? Look around: a lot more than Ma Bell, Microsoft and the nuclear family have broken up. The crumbs of our foundational beliefs have been swept into the margins of society; people are making up their own religions - if they haven’t abandoned the idea of faith altogether. And in Habakkkuk’s day similar things were happening. A brief revival had occurred under Josiah - but it was only superficial, and as soon as his successor was sworn in the people - and their priests - went back to their old ways, worshiping whatever god they liked in

whatever way they liked, and forgetting that God was also concerned about their economic and political behavior.

So Habakkuk cries out to God. And God answers. What makes this book unique is that Habakkuk never talks to the people of Judah at all... It is, instead, a dialogue between one man and his God. That is what makes it so immediate, so relevant. We are all Habakkuk; each of us at some time in our lives wrestles with God over his incomprehensible silence. And as God answers Habakkuk, he answers us as well.

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