Habakkuk Questioning the Lord
Habakkuk 1:2-4 “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.”
This is the cry of Habakkuk to the Lord. Evidently, Habakkuk has been calling out to the Lord for a long time and he is frustrated because it seems that the Lord has not heard him. What was he crying out to the Lord? Evidently, Habakkuk, like a broken record, kept crying out one theme, “Violence!!!” The other imperative of Habakkuk in this opening complaint to the Lord is, “why”. Maybe this is the visionary factor in Habakkuk’s experience? Why do you allow me to notice or see iniquity? It’s almost as if Habakkuk is saying, if You’re not willing to change the circumstances, then why do you make me aware of the need? We’ve all known of Christians who insist on ignoring the obvious when it comes to our society or the needs of humankind. Ignorance is bliss and some Christians tend to live their lives determined to be happy in spite of the desperate need of others. Faith is not, ignoring the need! Faith is looking the need right in the eye and not flinching. God is never intimidated by need. He is peace and provider, and He is the savior and the deliverer.
Habakkuk is weary with his attempts to get God to pay attention to his intercession. He is exhausted emotionally and his spirit is discouraged. His cry, “how long” is a cry often heard in the Psalms, (Psalms 13:1-2; Psalms 74:9-10; Psalms 94:3). Psalms 6 is one of the 7 repentance Psalms of David and in this Psalm, David is crying out for his sin. Look at the first 7 verses and feel the anguish of David. “To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments; according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David. O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD—how long? Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. For in death, there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise? I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes…”. When desperate anguish seizes our hearts, that is when the Lord hears our cry. One more example is Revelation 6:9-11, “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.” The cry of the martyrs is a cry for righteous and redeeming action. In my own heart, it is similar to the final cry of the church that has yet to be heard, Revelation 22:17 “The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” And Jesus’ own response in 22:20, “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” This is the concern in my heart for the present Western church, we are desperate for a return to past normalcy and I can’t help but wonder if that desire is not deeply rooted in a love for the world. I John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” Perhaps you thought that the love of the world only entails the most unholy of sins, but I think that John was cautioning us against the seeming innocence of loving this present world order. It is prohibited and it is temporal. It is passing away and nothing will stop its demise.
One of the major works of God in Habakkuk’s life and ministry is the work of faith. No one could argue that Habakkuk has an amazing level of faith directly associated with his unique relationship with the Lord exhibited in that he can boldly come to the throne of God. But as the experience unfolds, we discover that there is a difference between boldly coming to the throne room and presenting ourselves to the throne of God’s rule, as opposed to coming before the throne of grace to receive mercy and to receive help in the time of need. Our understanding of His holiness and justice coupled with His mercy and grace makes all the difference. As we will see as our story continues, God is bringing Habakkuk to a new place of faith, until he can truly declare, “the just shall live by faith” with a revelation understanding of the depth of God’s eternal purposes. But at this point in our story, Habakkuk is confounded by God’s willingness to allow the unrighteous to prosper and the righteous to suffer injustice at their hand.
In our own nation, we often question why God doesn’t intervene in the injustice of evil. Many times, we blame ourselves for having failed at our responsibility to intercede. At other times we assume a role of intercession that is birthed from a wrong understanding of the principles of scripture. I am concerned at the number of times I hear II Chronicles 7:13-14 quoted as a formula for God’s blessing on this nation. So often it is taken completely out of context and has led to mistaken substitutionary repentance. II Chronicles 7:13-14 reads, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” I suppose if the president called for national repentance due to a realization of the judgment of God on the nation, then it would be a contextual promise that God would honor. This would be much like what took place in Nineveh when Jonah prophesied and the king and the people repented. But these verses were never intended for a nation that is not His people. Certainly, the prayer would work if the church was repenting for the failure of the church, but we cannot repent on behalf of any nation that is not His holy nation. In the New Testament, that position of a holy nation can only be claimed by the church, I Peter 2:9-10.
There is presently in our nation a twisted understanding of II Chronicles 7 that teaches that we can repent for this nation’s sin when this nation does not believe that it is sinning and strongly desires to go further in compounding its unrighteousness. It cannot be done! I have many friends and relatives whose heart has not yet turned to God. I pray for them to see their sin and to turn to the Lord, but I cannot repent for them and somehow claim that they are saved. They have to repent for themselves. The church should be in a desperate time of intercession for this nation, but the cry should be that it will see its sin and repent for itself. Our salvation will not come because any particular politicians are in power and create laws that are righteous. That would be wonderful and beneficial to our nation, but it would not convert the heart of this unregenerate people. The nation will still inevitably continue its downward spiral into sin. Nothing will change the destiny of the nations until Jesus returns and establishes His throne on earth!
Just recently we have seen the unjust law concerning abortion eliminated. Is that good? Will God bless us for those changes to the law of our land? Certainly, and most definitely God will withhold His judgment on our nation because of that act of righteousness!!! Praise God for that wonderful action to stop the shedding of innocent blood!!! However, it has also caused the true heart of much of our nation to rise up and even in the very streets demand for that injustice to return. We are a nation addicted to our self-interest and our desire to indulge in sin, and without a sweeping move of God’s Spirit to bring heart-felt repentance, we will once again find ourselves, like Israel, returning to and most likely sinking even deeper into the miry, mud of sin.
This was the direction of God’s working to bring understanding revelation to Habakkuk and this was the crisis of faith that Habakkuk was about to face. God was not sending revival, He was sending judgment, that would then bring repentance leading to revival. There might be moments of reprieve, but the hearts of the people were on a determined path of resistance to the righteous demands of a Holy God. God was leading them to a place of enlightenment concerning their sin, but it would take years to unfold and many tragedies yet awaited the rebellious nation of Israel before the second exodus would take place as Jeremiah declared, see Jeremiah 29:4-14.
In our next posting, we will look at the response of God to Habakkuk’s cry and see how Habakkuk responds to God.