Summary: When storms come, where is your faith? In temporal things or the Everlasting God?
Please turn with me to the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk is listed in the Bible as one of the Minor Prophets. The Minor Prophets are grouped together after the Major Prophets and located before the New Testament, after the book of Nahum and before Zephaniah.
Today we will, in sum, examine the entirety of the text of Habakkuk, with special attention given to chapter two.
Here is a quick look at the historical context in which Habakkuk lived. He was a temple musician in Jerusalem at a time when the nation of Judah was experiencing great corruption and violence. He saw first hand the idol worship and the blatant sin of King Manasseh and King Amon. He witnessed the return of Judah to the Lord under the rule of King Josiah and saw the great reforms that were made as idols and shrines were torn down as the people repented. Then King Josiah died and Habakkuk saw the rapid decline of morality and return to idol worship.
Not only was there moral decline, but political upheaval. After Josiah, Judah came under Egyptian rule and the king became a vassal, or puppet king, to the Egyptian Pharaoh. When Egypt lost to the Babylonians, Judah came under their rule. Judah rebelled and eventually the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem, destroyed the temple and deported most of the Jews in what has been called the Babylonian Exile.
These are the conditions in which Habakkuk finds himself ministering: Rampant idol worship, political and financial insecurity, uncertainty of the future, fear for daily safety and an immoral governing body. The literary style in which God chose to communicate his message through Habakkuk is what scholars call a “Theodicy”. Webster defines it as “a defense of God’s goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil” and in the case of Habakkuk, it is God who defends Himself.
I’m stopping right here… did you hear me? It is God who is defending Himself. The Creator. The Almighty. Sovereign, Divine, Spirit-being, Triune, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient, Beyond time. The God who, according to 2nd Samuel when He is angry, the mountains tremble and the earth shakes. The same God whom Moses had to be hidden from in the cleft of the rock as God passed by because His glory was too much for man to bear. The same God who created balls of hot, burning gas billions of miles in circumference and set them in the heavens. The same God who breathed life into the nostrils of man and gave mankind life and this thing called free will. This describes no one who is ever in a position to defend Himself. A resume of this stature demands no such thing – yet He chooses to. In His mercy and His love, and because He knows us so well, God chooses to defend His own goodness and omnipotence in view of the problem of pain, suffering and evil.
Ronald Nash, in his book “Faith and Reason” has written that "the most serious challenge to theism was, is, and will continue to be the problem of evil." The presence of evil and suffering in the world has even been argued by some philosophers from Epicurus to David Hume to cast doubt on the existence of God. Freud and Marx sought to show that religion’s explanations of the presence of evil and suffering were based on delusions. I have known those who could not justify the presence of evil with a good God. As an atheist, this problem of suffering was what kept C.S. Lewis from becoming a Christian for many years.
Many of you have looked at the world with the same thoughts. Why does evil exist? Why does it seem that God does nothing about it? Or perhaps you have looked not only at the world, but closer to home as you have suffered pain. I certainly don’t want to trivialize those painful experiences, but to treat them for what they are: real. And in studying Habakkuk, I don’t believe God trivializes our pain and suffering either.
Before we open God’s Word, let us pray for His direction and guidance in the Holy Scriptures.
We open the book of Habakkuk and find in the opening paragraph a complaint. Habakkuk is complaining of the violence he is witnessing as he sees king after king in Judah taken down. In verse 4 “The law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.” Justice. Habakkuk demands justice – equality and justice, isn’t that what we all want? If this were a just world, we wouldn’t see poverty. We wouldn’t see greed. We wouldn’t see unjust destruction of life and property.
But this is not a just world. And Habakkuk understood this fully because those in power even in his own country were committing acts of immorality, injustice and violence. The people of his time were too tolerant of the evil, the transgression against God’s divine law. A fed-up Habakkuk then offers up his complaint and question to God and God answered Habakkuk’s complaint.