Summary: God, like loving parent, punishes because He loves.
Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus, who is the Christ.
I grew up the middle child of three. I have an older brother and a younger sister. Being a middle child isn’t as bad as some would lead on. I disagree with the common complaint some middle children have of “being the forgotten one”. No I probably don’t have as many baby pictures as my older brother and no I wasn’t the “baby of the family” but I know I got plenty of attention growing up.
Being a second child has it’s perks. One major advantage to having an older brother is that you can learn a lot from his mistakes. I saw him test how far he could push my parents. I saw what was acceptable and what was not tolerable. And I saw my brother get sent to his room and punished for many different things growing up. There is a lot a younger sibling can learn just by observing.
It was mostly just the threat of punishment that I had seen first hand which that kept me from doing ornery things growing. Some ornery things that we kids would do while growing up, received special threats of punishment. One of those threats was particularly scary. Soap in the mouth for cursing. The threat from my mom was that she would get that soup from under the kitchen sink and make us drink the liquid soap until our mouths were “clean”. Now I hadn’t tasted soap before but I was pretty sure it didn’t taste very good. The threat alone kept my mouth “clean” most of the time.
Our reading from Habakkuk this evening talks about threats and punishment as well. We don’t read from Habakkuk very often. In fact the entire book of Habakkuk consists of only 3 chapters! Habakkuk is one of the prophets from the Old Testament. Habakkuk is a prophet who receives a vision from God.
Habakkuk lived during a time of rampant wickedness. He looks around his community and sees evil things done all around him. Habakkuk wonders in his writings why God allows all of this wickedness to occur amongst God’s own people. He cries out to God for help, “there is violence, trouble, and wrongdoing all around”! Habakkuk is saying this is not acceptable God! You need to fix this. Everything is messed up down here Lord!
Habakkuk will later receive his answer in the vision God gives. God too is displeased with what he sees and God hears the cries of his people. God will not let the injustices, the wrongdoings, and the violence continue. For God wanted Habakkuk and His people to live righteous lives. Look at verse 4 with me, “the wicked surround the righteous—therefore judgment comes forth perverted”.
Clearly God wants us to live righteous lives. Now before I go on it’s important to understand what I mean by the word righteous. The word righteous should not be understood as a moral term. I think that is the common understanding when we hear righteous, that a righteous person is good, blameless, and honorable. The common understanding is that a righteous person is someone who lives a “good life”. This is not the primary meaning I believe God intends when he asks we live righteous lives.
Rather the word righteous should be understood as a relational term. First and foremost to live righteously means to live a life dependent on God. To live righteously is to live knowing that this very life we live is not possible without God. A fully righteous person is one who is completely dependent upon God and God alone. We are reliant upon God. The righteous are needy, but needy in a very good way because the righteous are needy of God.
On the other hand the wicked ones Habakkuk writes of are those who have absolutely no reliance on God. The wicked are the ones who more easily break God’s laws and ignore their neighbor’s needs because….well they do not rely on God. The wicked feel no need to live by God’s laws. Habakkuk sees far too many of these people around him, those that are not relying on God.
God tells Habakkuk he will not allow this to continue. God will not allow those who are dependent on Him to continue to be trampled upon and corrupted by the wicked, those who are not needy of God. God shows Habakkuk in a vision that he will use Babylon as a tool to punish and to cleanse the wicked. God allows Babylon to do this because God is both just and merciful. Another important understanding to be made right here is that God is indeed a God of love. And it is because of the love God has for us that justice must occur.