I suppose that most of us have, at some point in our lives, heard the saying, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” Although Solomon said as much thousands of years ago in Ecclesiastes 1:9-10…
That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”?
It has already been in ancient times before us…
…this particular expression has been attributed to French critic, novelist, and journalist, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr who, during his lifetime from 1808 to 1890, lived through many decades of warfare and political and social upheaval, as one government after another rose and fell in relatively rapid succession.
Yet, in spite of all the turmoil and after the passing of each regime or administration, nothing of consequence seemed to have changed for the better. The rich were still rich and unscrupulous in their abuse of power, the poor were still poor and at the mercy of the rich, and justice—while a lovely concept—was something that had found no place in reality. When all had been said and done, the story was still the same, with only the characters’ names having been changed.
I feel certain that those living during those turbulent times must have found themselves repeatedly provoked to frustration and complaint, and to wondering what was the point of it all. Questions such as “Why is this happening?”, “When will it end?”, “Where is justice?”, and “Where is God—why doesn’t He do something?” had to have been in the hearts and on the lips of those being victimized and oppressed. But, with no answers or help forthcoming, such questioning would have been nothing more than an exercise in futility, leading only to a greater sense of hopelessness and despair.
Of course, situations and questions like these were not unique to those living in nineteenth century France; they have been the rule rather than the exception for most people throughout history. In fact, we find ourselves living in equally distressing times today. Over the past sixty years in our country, we have been involved in numerous wars that didn’t resolve anything; experienced several financial booms and busts which only served to make the rich richer and the poor poorer; and watched helplessly as paid agitators fanned the flames of racial injustice, destroying public and private property and killing innocent people in the process.
We’ve seen our educational system taken over by those whose beliefs and values are diametrically opposed to everything our founding fathers stood for, and have suffered through a planned epidemic that has killed untold numbers of people, lined the pockets of the politicians and drug companies, and sought to rob us of our personal rights and freedoms. As for those in positions of power, with very few exceptions, they have just been along for the ride—and the money—with one administration after another promising what they believed the people wanted to hear, but then doing nothing to honor those promises!
No doubt, the worst administration yet is currently running our country into the ground and, in the process, exposing levels of government corruption that we didn’t think possible; prompting those whose heads aren’t buried in the sand to ask once again, “Why is this happening?”, “When will it end?”, “Where is justice?”, and “Where is God—why doesn’t He do something?”
While our situation may seem to be just as hopeless as it was in Alphonse Karr’s day, unlike then, our questioning doesn’t have to be just another exercise in futility—not if we know where to look for some answers. Of course, for those who are followers of Christ, that place would be the Bible. There, in the tiny book of Habakkuk, we can gain some much-needed insight from someone in a situation very similar to ours, who was not only asking the same kind of questions, but was getting answers to them, as well.
Although little is known about Habakkuk himself, we do know that he was a prophet of God—a contemporary of Jeremiah—who was living in Jerusalem during the turbulent times leading up to the destruction of the city by Babylon in 587/586 BC—times during which…
- …the revival and reformation that had begun under the reign of good King Josiah had fizzled out following the king’s death in 609 BC, and resulted in the people’s return to apostasy;
- …Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar had defeated the Egyptians in 605 BC, which opened up the way for Babylon to attack and defeat Judah and turn it into a vassal state; and,
- …the sons of Josiah who succeeded him to the throne were weak, wicked, and totally inept when it came to governing the people and the land.
Habakkuk’s First Complaint
Knowing that Habakkuk was a man of faith, with a strong foundation in the Law of Moses and familiar with God’s covenant promises to Israel, we can understand his distress with his current state of affairs, as he cries out to God with his first—and very familiar sounding—complaint, one accusing God of being unconcerned, inattentive, and inactive…
How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted. (Habakkuk 1:2-4)
God’s First Response
No doubt, expecting a promise of God’s imminent rescue and restoration of His Chosen People, Habakkuk must have been stunned when he heard this from the Lord…
Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own.
They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor. Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like an eagle swooping to devour; they all come intent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand.
They mock kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at all fortified cities; by building earthen ramps they capture them. Then they sweep past like the wind and go on—guilty people, whose own strength is their god. (Habakkuk 1:5-11)
Habakkuk’s Second Complaint
But what kind of answer is that for the prophet? Instead of reassuring His servant that the deliverance he has been hoping for was on its way, Habakkuk is told that God would be sending the most wicked nation on earth at the time to judge his people and ravage his homeland! Perplexed beyond measure by this reply, the prophet registers this second complaint with God…
LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, you will never die. You, LORD, have appointed them to execute judgment; you, my Rock, have ordained them to punish.
Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?
You have made people like the fish in the sea, like the sea creatures that have no ruler. The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks, he catches them in his net, he gathers them up in his dragnet; and so he rejoices and is glad. Therefore he sacrifices to his net and burns incense to his dragnet, for by his net he lives in luxury and enjoys the choicest food. Is he to keep on emptying his net, destroying nations without mercy? (Habakkuk 1:12-17)
Upon hearing this, and after trying to reconcile how a holy God could overlook the wickedness of the Babylonians while judging the “less wicked” Israelites and failing to do so, Habakkuk decides the best thing for him to do is…
I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. (Habakkuk 2:1)
God’s Second Response
Once there, he hears from God a second time, this time not only acknowledging the wickedness of the Babylonians but also promising that they will be destroyed by their own evil—one day! Instructing Habakkuk to…
Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. (Habakkuk 2:2-3)
…God then proceeds to describe the wicked and their ultimate end, through a series of Five Woes…
See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness—indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples.
Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying, Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion! How long must this go on? Will not your creditors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their prey. Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.
Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain, setting his nest on high to escape the clutches of ruin! You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life. The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.
Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice! Has not the LORD Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies! You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and let your nakedness be exposed! The cup from the LORD’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory.
The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, and your destruction of animals will terrify you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.
Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman? Or an image that teaches lies? For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak. Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it.
The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him. (Habakkuk 2:4-20)
Habakkuk’s Worship and Prayer
Armed with a fresh vision of the Lord in His holy temple, with the earth and all of its nations under His feet, Habakkuk stops complaining and begins to worship instead. In shifting his gaze from the problems which had previously consumed him onto God Himself, his focus now becomes the glory of God rather than the wickedness of men—praying…
LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. (Habakkuk 3:2)
In the verses that follow (Habakkuk 3:3-15), the prophet goes on to recall some of the past works of God on behalf of His people; times when…
- He visited plagues on the Egyptians in order to free His people and lead them out of bondage;
- He guided His people through the wilderness by the cloud of His glory;
- He parted the Red Sea and the Jordan River so that His people could cross;
- He made the sun and moon stand still so that Joshua could win an important battle; and,
- He subdued the nations of Canaan in order to give His people the land.
In response to this, Habakkuk humbly confesses…
I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. (Habakkuk 3:16)
…then makes this bold declaration of faith…
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
And this is where this book ends. Since he is not mentioned anywhere else in scripture, we have no idea what happened to Habakkuk after this. We don’t know if he was carried away as an exile in one of Nebuchadnezzar’s three deportations to Babylon, if he had to live through and witness the horror of his beloved city’s destruction, or if God in His mercy spared him through death before that terrible event took place. Whatever happened, it is unlikely that he was among those who lived to see God’s judgment on his enemies some seventy years later. Even so, I feel certain that he finished his course well and in faith.
That being said, let’s see what we can take away from his encounter with God that might help us answer those questions previously posed…
Why is this happening?
Like Habakkuk, when we are being confronted by evil and unrighteousness at every turn and are wondering why, we need to remind ourselves that God is holy and because of this, He must judge sin and unrighteousness. One of the primary ways He does this is through the process of Sowing and Reaping—oftentimes, a much lengthier process than we would like.
As we have learned so recently in The Coming Harvest, every action taken on earth becomes a seed, either for good or for evil, which will reproduce itself and continue doing so until the time that its harvest comes. As Galatians 6:7-8 explains it…
A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
In the case of those living during Habakkuk’s time, the evil seeds sown by generations of unfaithful Israelites had reached their time of harvest. They had finally exhausted the mercies of God during the reign of Josiah’s wicked father, Manasseh, for…
Surely these things happened to Judah according to the LORD’s command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood [from the sacrifice of children], and the LORD was not willing to forgive. (2 Kings 24:3-4)
The LORD, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.
He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the LORD’s temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. They set fire to God’s temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there.
He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his successors until the kingdom of Persia came to power. (2 Chronicles 36:15-20)
They had been warned in Leviticus 18:28 and 20:22, before they had even entered the land, that if they sinned in the same ways that their predecessors had, they would be vomited out of the land, just as they had been. They were also given this stern warning in Numbers 35:33-34…
Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it. Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell, for I, the LORD, dwell among the Israelites.
As for the Babylonians, their crop of wickedness wouldn’t be ready for reaping until many years later, when they were conquered by the Persian king, Cyrus, in 539 BC. Then, just as they had mercilessly conquered Judah, they were in turn mercilessly conquered by the Persians.
To apply this to our present day, what I believe is taking place around us is the preparation of a crop of evil weeds for reaping. Long hidden behind a cloak of righteousness and justice, they are finally being exposed for what they truly are—the mature produce of the seeds of pride, greed, lust, immorality, perversion, corruption, idolatry, violence and murder that have been sown into the earth by this generation and those immediately preceding it. Having now been exposed and identified, it is a crop that God’s harvesters will soon cut down and throw into the fire.
Over the past three years, may have questioned why God would allow such an obviously corrupt and inept administration to take office—especially one whose very first action was to open our borders to all comers. Unlike Israel of old, whose judgment came in the form of an attack from an outside enemy, perhaps as part of the judgment on our land for all of the innocent blood shed upon it (over 63 million abortions having been performed since 1973), ours is to come from an attack within our very own borders. Given that there are now terrorist cells hidden in various places around the country—terrorists who were able to cross our borders unhindered and who are just waiting for a command to attack—that’s entirely possible.
What’s just as possible, though, is that God’s Warrior Remnant, which has emerged in recent years in response to all of the above-mentioned insanity, will be able to stand in the gap through intercession, demolish the strongholds of the principalities and powers at work behind the scenes through spiritual warfare, and help usher in the harvest that God has promised will come.
Should those of us who know Christ be afraid? Absolutely not! While we should always be vigilant and discerning, we should not fear—for God has promised to hide those trusting in Him under the shadow of His wings until the shaking that is coming has passed.
When will it end?
This is something only God knows.
Only He knows the depths of the human heart…
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve. (Jeremiah 17:9-10)
Only He knows how deep the roots of wickedness go, and how long it will take to remove them. Only He knows how to distinguish the wheat from the weeds. Only He knows how to judge the wicked and bless the righteous at the same time. Only He knows how to bring glory to Himself even in the midst of so much evil.
Where is justice?
Because of whom God is, we can be sure that it’s on its way. Though it may seem slow in coming, it will come because…
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. (Deuteronomy 32:4)
Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! (Isaiah 30:18)
For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed; the offspring of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 37:28)
And, to quote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow…
Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.
Where is God—why doesn’t He do something?
Something else we can take away from Habakkuk’s experience is this, God is always present, and He is always working on our behalf—even though we can’t see what He is doing. Even if He tried to explain it to us, because…
…my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
…more often than not, we just wouldn’t get it.
Perhaps the Lord is choosing to delay judgment as long as possible because He…
…is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
…what if God, even though he was quite willing to demonstrate his anger and make known his power, patiently put up with people who deserved punishment and were ripe for destruction?
What if he did this in order to make known the riches of his glory to those who are the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory–that is, to us, whom he called not only from among the Jews but also from among the Gentiles? (Romans 9:22-24)
What if He has delayed the judgment of the wicked in order to awaken His people to the evil in the world around them, to arouse them from their present state of apathy and into action, and to mature them in their faith through the process of spiritual overcoming? What if—that’s where we are now?
 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, J. D. McClatchy (2000). “Poems and Other Writings”, p.697, Library of America