The Old Testament is full of prophets who carried the banner for justice. Habakkuk was a prophet to Judah prior to the Babylonian exile. His prophecy came around 600 B.C. and much of his prophecy is filled with questions. These questions where stirred up in his mind because the evil that surrounded him in a culture that had turned from God. Notice his lament in the first few verses…
How long, O Lord, will I call for help, And You will not hear? I cry out to You, “Violence!” Yet You do not save. Why do You make me see iniquity, And cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; Strife exists and contention arises. Therefore the law is ignored And justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore justice comes out perverted. - HABAKKUK 1:2-4
Can you resinate with this concern? Habakkuk is crying out to God for deliverance and he is longing for God to bring an end to the strife and contention throughout the world. The prophet has identified a world full of violence (v. 1). The word that he uses is not the usual term for sinful violence or the violence of natural catastrophes. The term he uses for violence describes extreme wickedness. Ultimately the prophet felt as is God was not properly judging sin in the world full of sinful conflict. He is horrified at the level of violence during his day. As you read the words of the prophecy it can appear that God is absent. At best it seems like God looks on an evil world with indifference. It is easy to embrace that mindset especially when cries for a resolution seem to echo back with no answer.
God responds to Habakkuk by announcing that He is not an indifferent spectator in the affairs of the world. Do not assume that God is absent and become discouraged by expressions of conflict, strife and sin throughout the world. Rest assured, God is deeply concerned (Habakkuk 2:1-3). God is perfect in purity and righteousness; He hates evil (Habakkuk 1:3) and He will not leave it unpunished (Proverbs 11:21). He will ultimately destroy evil (Revelation 21:4-5).
I think we have much to learn from the prophet Habakkuk. As you study this short book of three chapters you discover he has many questions but he faithfully waits for God to respond (Habakkuk 2:1-4). The concept here that the just should live by faith and it is actually quoted three times throughout the New Testament.
It is also helpful to remember that the name Habakkuk comes from a root word which means to 'embrace'. Here we begin to see the true character of God demonstrated in this prophecy. Martin Luther explains his name this way, “Habakkuk signifies an embracer, or one who embraces another, takes him into his arms. He embraces his people, and takes them to his arms, i.e., he comforts them and holds them up, as one embraces a weeping child, to quiet it with the assurance that, if God wills, it shall soon be better.”
Although the prophets name carries the concept of embrace you begin to feel the embrace of God in the last words of this prophecy. He has just recalled the tragic events that will take place and a sense of hopelessness seems to permeate the tone of this Psalm. However he is steadfast in his faith and his gaze is firmly fixed on the faithfulness of God.
Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, And makes me walk on my high places. -HABAKKUK 3:18-19
When you feel discouraged from all of the conflict and strife in the world, make sure you keep your eyes of faith fixed on God and run to Him for a joyful embrace.
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