Summary: After acknowledging God’s ultimate justice the prophet humbly asked in worship the hard issue of how the wicked could be used to punish those less evil than themselves (CIT). He said this apparent moral contradiction needed further clarification from God
PERPLEXING PROBLEMS WITH SOVEREIGNTY
[1 Chronicles 29: 11 & 12]
Habakkuk is a profound book that delves deeply into the mysteries of God. This passage is Habakkuk’s response to the preceding divine revelation concerning God’s future plans to bring about correction. God’s amazing disclosure left Habakkuk even more perplexed and bewildered. After acknowledging God’s ultimate justice the prophet humbly asked in worship the hard issue of how the wicked could be used to punish those less evil than themselves (CIT). He said this apparent moral contradiction needed further clarification from God.
Let’s look at Habakkuk’s bold questions to the Sovereign Lord.
I. Faith in God’s Ultimate Justice, 1:12.
II. Apparent Injustice, 1:13-17.
III. Awaiting Reproof, 2:1.
Verse 12 expresses the prophet’s faith and struggles. Art Thou not from everlasting, O Lord, my God, my Holy One? We will not die. Thou, O Lord, hast appointed them to judge; and Thou, O Rock, hast established them to correct.
However devastating the divine judgment may sound, the prophet drew consolation and hope from God’s holiness and faithfulness. In a sea of confusion, Habakkuk clung to the life buoy of God’s holy character. In a chaotic storm the prophet grasped the rock and promises of his steadfast Lord.
Therefore the prophet directs his appeal to God addressing Him by names that represent His character. Looking to God and contemplating His character is what any Christian should do when He doesn’t understand, especially when He doesn’t understand God’s workings. The Everlasting Lord (Ps. 90:2) would not allow His people to die. God has a commitment to His people and will not allow them to be wiped out nor their soul to be extinguished. Even if Habakkuk could not understand all that God did, he found comfort in knowing the nature of the God he served.
God’s holiness provides a basis for our trusting Him to help. He is the Holy One who cannot do wrong. The Lord who is in control of history. The Babylonians did not simply rise up on their own. God raised them up to punish or judge Israel for the nation’s injustice. Punish here means correction, a redemptive chastening, to assist Israel to learn what is just or right. Man may determine by his conduct how he will encounter God’s sovereignty, but he cannot escape it.
Habakkuk’s confidence to address God because of the distressing revelation comes from His personal relationship with God. He calls Him my God and my Holy One. His Rock would not change but would remain his foundation, his fortress and his changeless stability.
II. APPARENT INJUSTICE, 13-17.
Yet a burning problem remained in Habakkuk’s heart. How could the everlasting Holy One utilize so wicked a people to administer discipline? Habakkuk begins to analyze this seeming contradiction.
Verse 13 is a classic statement of why evil appears to flourish unchecked by a just and holy God? Thine eyes are too pure to approve evil, And Thou cannot not look on wickedness with favor. Why dost Thou look with favor on those who deal treacherously? Why art Thou silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they?
Habakkuk asks the Lord to realize that He can’t use the Babylonians to judge Judah. They are worse than we are! Here the prophet’s focus seems to shift from targeting or permitting of a sin, and a questioning God’s justice, to a questioning of God’s sovereignty, or God doing what He deems right to do.
In light of God’s pure and holy character how can He tolerate the treacherous? Why would God allow such a wicked people to devour those more civilized than they? It seems like a perversion of justice. Sinful Judah’s wickedness was dwarfed by the atrocities committed by the Babylonians. How could God display His sovereignty in such a way? (Job 19:7).
Wrestling with challenges to our personal belief is a way God grows our faith. Christians should not avoid tough questions, but honestly face them and work through them.
In verse 14 Habakkuk begins to more fully voice his objects through the use of fishing metaphors. Why have Thou made men like the fish of the sea, like creeping things without a ruler over them?
As in verse 13 the existence of calamity and evil in the world is related without hesitation as permitted by the Sovereign Lord who is in control of human destiny (Isa. 45:7; Lam. 3:37-38; Amos 3:6; Rom. 9-11). The comparison of men to fish implies a treatment that is subhuman and vulnerable. Helpless as fish Judah is easy prey for the powerful invader. Sea creatures are equally helpless and lack the organization or leadership that exists in human society. The people are pictured as so helpless that they won’t even organize themself for their own self-preservation. God had left them on their own without a leader to guide them out of their helpless state. Judah could never survive an attack from the savage Babylonians, unless God gave them a leader to show the way out.