Habakkuk provides us one of the most remarkable sections in all of Scripture, as it contains an extended dialogue between Habakkuk and God (Habakkuk 1–2). The prophet initiated this conversation based on his distress about God’s “inaction” in the world. He wanted to see God do something more, particularly in the area of justice for evildoers. The book of Habakkuk pictures a frustrated prophet, though Habakkuk channeled his frustration into prayers and eventually praise to God.
The book of Habakkuk reminds us that no place is too dark and no wall too thick for God’s grace to penetrate in a powerful and life-affirming way.
As you hear this, don’t think about the Babylonians as a place. Think about something within yourself that’s keeping you from a fuller commitment to God. Or, something like cancer talking to God. Depression. Frustration of any kind. Doubts of all colors. Any kind of pain from your toenails to your crazy mind. A conversation between you and God…any day of the week. All thanks to the prophet Habakkuk. (An abridged version.)
Justice Is a Joke
“God, how long do I have to cry out for help before you listen? How many times do I have to yell, ‘Help! Murder! Police!’ before you come to the rescue? Why do you force me to look at evil, stare trouble in the face day after day? Anarchy and violence break out, quarrels and fights all over the place. Law and order fall to pieces. Justice is a joke. The wicked have the righteous hamstrung and stand justice on its head.”
God Says, “Look!”
“Look around at the godless nations. Look long and hard. Brace yourself for a shock. Something’s about to take place and you’re going to find it hard to believe. I’m about to raise up Babylonians to punish you, Babylonians, fierce and ferocious—World-conquering Babylon, grabbing up nations right and left, A dreadful and terrible people, making up its own rules as it goes. Their horses run like the wind, attack like bloodthirsty wolves. They mock kings, poke fun at generals, Spit on forts, and leave them in the dust. They’ll all be blown away by the wind. Brazen in sin, they call strength their god.”
Why Is God Silent Now?
“God, you’re from eternity, aren’t you? Holy God, we aren’t going to die, are we? God, you chose Babylonians for your judgment work? Rock-Solid God, you gave them the job of discipline?
But you can’t be serious! You can’t condone evil! So why don’t you do something about this? Why are you silent now? This outrage! Evil men swallow up the righteous and you stand around and watch!
You’re treating men and women as so many fish in the ocean, Swimming without direction, swimming but not getting anywhere. Then this evil Babylonian arrives and goes fishing. He pulls in a good catch.
Are you going to let this go on and on? Will you let this Babylonian fisherman, Fish like a weekend angler, killing people as if they’re nothing but fish? What’s God going to say to my questions? I’m braced for the worst. I’ll climb to the lookout tower and scan the horizon. I’ll wait to see what God says, how he’ll answer my complaint.”
Full of Self, but Soul-Empty
And then God answered: “Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision-message is a witness pointing to what’s coming. It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time.
Look at that man, bloated by self-importance—full of himself but soul-empty. But the person in right standing before God through loyal and steady believing – is fully alive, really alive.
Note well: Money deceives. The arrogant rich don’t last. They are more hungry for wealth than the grave is for cadavers. Like death, they always want more, but the ‘more’ they get is dead bodies.
Who do you think you are—getting rich by stealing and extortion? How long do you think you can get away with this? Indeed, how long before your victims wake up, stand up and make you the victim?
Who do you think you are—recklessly grabbing and looting, Living it up, acting like king of the mountain, acting above it all, above trials and troubles? You’ve engineered the ruin of your own house. In ruining others you’ve ruined yourself.
Who do you think you are—building a town by murder, a city with crime? Don’t you know that God-of-the-Angel-Armies makes sure nothing comes of that but ashes.
Who do you think you are—inviting your neighbors to your drunken parties, Giving them too much to drink. You thought you were having the time of your life. Wrong! It’s a time of disgrace. All the time you were drinking, you were drinking from the cup of God’s wrath. You’ll wake up holding your throbbing head, hung over – hung over [by your own] violence,
What’s the use of a carved god so skillfully carved by its sculptor? What good is a fancy cast god when all it tells is lies? What sense does it make to be a pious god-maker who makes gods that can’t even talk? Who do you think you are—saying to a stick of wood, ‘Wake up,’ Or to a dumb stone, ‘Get up’? Can they teach you anything about anything? There’s nothing to them but surface. There’s nothing on the inside.
But oh! God is in his holy Temple! Quiet everyone—a holy silence. Listen!