Bible Passage: Habakkuk 1:1-11
Big Idea of Message:
The Lord knows our need before we do, and he is working to bless his people.
How Can God Tolerate Judah’s Wickedness? I am doing something in your days.
King Josiah had reigned in Judah for a number of years and successfully eradicated the land of the pagan shrines and statues (cf. 2 Kin. 23:4-20). Though Josiah put to death even the pagan priests who had perpetuated false religion, what he could not do was put to death the idolatry that still existed in the people’s hearts. Thus, after his death, his sons Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim led the nation of Judah right back into its former abominations. And not only that, but these wicked kings actually prospered (cf. Jer. 22:13-14).
This led to Habakkuk’s first question: “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear?” (Hab. 1:2). Essentially, he was asking, “God, how can you tolerate Judah’s wickedness?” Habakkuk wanted to know why God seemingly delayed in bringing about punitive action against the wicked people of Judah. Idolatry, injustice, sexual immorality, child sacrifice, bribery, murder, theft, and many other sins found themselves right at home in the hearts and hands of the people, and Habakkuk wanted to know how long this was going to continue.
If Habakkuk had asked, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” the answer would be simple: there are no good people (cf. Rom. 3:10-18). The only man who has ever lived a good life is the Lord Jesus Christ. But Habakkuk asked just the opposite: “Why are good things happening to bad people?” The answer God gave shocked him: “For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that fierce and impetuous people who march throughout the earth to seize dwelling places which are not theirs” (Hab. 1:6). In other words, God explained that He wasn’t merely tolerating Judah’s sin, but instead was actually raising up a terrifying nation against the people! Judgment on the wicked nation of Judah was indeed coming, and at the hands of the Babylonian army—a fierce nation whose “horses are swifter than leopards and keener than wolves in the evening” (Hab. 1:8). Furthermore, rather than pie-in-the-sky justice that would happen at a far off time, God promised that it would happen in Habakkuk’s day (cf. Hab. 1:5).
Our Distress Over Our Moral Condition (1:2–4)
In Our Sensitivity to Wrong (1:2–3a)
In Our Helplessness in the Presence of Wrong (1:3b)
In Our Frustration over the Loss of Law and Justice (1:4)
Our Amazement Over the Divine Intervention (1:5–11)
In His Unbelievable Work (1:5)
In His Uses of Such Unlikely Instruments (1:6–11) Habakkuk 1:1
Habakkuk shares a struggle that many Christians throughout the ages have experienced: If God is loving and in control, why are the wicked so successful? While Habakkuk demonstrates an understanding of God’s attributes, he still struggles to understand how God can use the wicked to accomplish his divine purpose. God’s ways are mysterious, and the realization of Habakkuk’s prophecy will mean suffering for the people of God, yet “the righteous shall live by his faith” (2:4). God’s people must look not to themselves but to another—to Jesus Christ. Their confidence does not rest in their own strength, nor in their ability to comprehend everything. It rests instead in the Lord, who is at work on behalf of his covenant people even before they cry out to him.
Camden M. Bucey, Lamentations, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, A 12-Week Study, ed. Dane C. Ortlund, Knowing the Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 8.
The Christian life is a struggle, and it is not easy to walk by faith. The apostle Paul knew this difficulty: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8–9). It is only because of Christ that we are not driven to despair. Paul continues that he and Timothy were “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Cor. 4:10). “Carrying” the death of Jesus is also a burden, but it is one through which Christ’s life will be manifested. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28)….
In the midst of suffering, it appears that the wicked have triumphed. But the Lord uses the wicked as an instrument to accomplish his plans. He moves mysteriously but always succeeds in his time, according to his plan.
Confidence in the Lord must be rooted in his eternal being.
Camden M. Bucey, Lamentations, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, A 12-Week Study, ed. Dane C. Ortlund, Knowing the Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 54.
Far from being an incidental statement in Habakkuk, this passage declares the profound truth of the believer’s new mode of life in Christ. He or she lives by faith (2 Cor. 5:7; Eph. 2:4–10). People speak often of faith in general as referring to believing in something we cannot perceive with the senses. But faith in general is meaningless. Faith is only saving faith if it has the proper object. That is, it truly matters only if it is faith in Christ. Saving faith is an abiding trust in God that he will accomplish all that he has promised to do. Jesus Christ is the object of saving faith, for he has been faithful to establish a new covenant in his own blood, having died for the sins of his people and having been raised for their salvation. The one who believes on Jesus will be spared from judgment, for he shares the perfect righteousness of Christ (Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9).
Camden M. Bucey, Lamentations, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, A 12-Week Study, ed. Dane C. Ortlund, Knowing the Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 55.