From innocent childhood queries to complex university discussions, life is filled with questions. Asking how and why and when, we probe beneath the surface to find satisfying answers. But not all questions have answers wrapped and neatly tied. These unanswered interrogations create more questions and nagging, spirit-destroying doubt. Some choose to live with their doubts, ignoring them and moving on with life. Others become cynical and hardened. But there are those who reject those options and continue to ask, looking for answers.
Habakkuk was a man who sought answers. Troubled by what he observed, he asked difficult questions. These questions were not merely intellectual exercises or bitter complaints. Habakkuk saw a dying world, and it broke his heart. Why is there evil in the world? Why do the wicked seem to be winning? He boldly and confidently took his complaints directly to God. And God answered... with an avalanche of proof and prediction.
The prophet's questions and God's answers are recorded in this book. As we turn the pages, we are immediately confronted with his urgent cries.
O LORD, how long shall I cry,
And You will not hear?
Even cry out to You, “Violence!”
And You will not save.
Habakkuk spoke to God using His covenant name LORD (Exodus 3: 14, 15). “how long”: This question is phrased as a formal complaint (Psalms 13:1, 2). Saddened by the violence and corruption he saw around him, Habakkuk poured out his heart to God. Today injustice is still rampant, but don't let your concern cause you to doubt God or rebel against Him. Instead, consider the message that God gave Habakkuk and recognize God's long-range plans and purposes. Realize that God is doing right, even when you do not understand why He works as He does.
As chapter two begins, Habakkuk declares that he will wait to hear God's answers to his complaints. Then God begins to speak, telling the prophet to write his answer plainly so that all will see and understand (Habakkuk 2: 2, 3). It may seem, God says, as though the wicked triumph, but eventually they will be judged, and righteousness will prevail. Judgment may not come quickly, but it will come.
Behold the proud,
His soul is not upright in him;
But the just shall live by his faith.
The wicked Babylonians trusted in themselves and would fall; but the righteous live by their faith and trust in God. This verse has inspired countless Christians. Paul quotes it in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11. The writer of Hebrews quotes it in Hebrews 10:38, just before the famous chapter on faith. And it is helpful to all Christians who must live through difficult times without seeing signs of hope. Christians must trust that God is directing all things according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).
Then in chapter three Habakkuk concludes his book with a prayer of triumph. With questions answered and a new understanding of God's power and love, Habakkuk rejoices in who God is and in what He will do.
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The LORD God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.
The LORD God in Habakkuk 3:19 is the divine name Yahweh and is tied to the term Adonai, which means “Lord.” God will strengthen those who trust in Him (Psalms 18:32, 39). He will give those who live by faith the same confidence that a surefooted deer has in climbing mountains (Psalms 18:33). Like a victorious army, the righteous with God’s strength will occupy the high hills.
God will give His followers surefooted confidence through difficult times. They will run like deer across rough and dangerous terrain. At the proper time, God will bring about His justice and completely rid the world of evil. In the meantime, God's people need to live in the strength of His Spirit, confident in His ultimate victory over evil.
Crop failure and the death of animals would devastate Judah. But Habakkuk affirmed that even in the times of starvation and loss, he would still rejoice in the Lord. Habakkuk's feelings were not controlled by the events around him but by faith in God's ability to give him strength. When nothing makes sense, and when troubles seem more than you can bear, remember that God gives us strength. Take your eyes off your difficulties and look to God.
Habakkuk had asked God why evil people prosper while the righteous suffer. God's answer: they don't, not in the long run. Habakkuk saw his own limitations in contrast to God's unlimited control of all the world's events. God is alive and in control of the world and its events. We cannot see all that God is doing, and we cannot see all that God will do. But we can be assured that He is God and will do what is right. Knowing this can give us confidence and hope in a confusing world.
Listen to the profound questions that Habakkuk boldly brings to God, and realize that you can also bring your complaints and inquiries to Him. Listen to God's answers and rejoice that He is at work in the world and in your life.
References: NKJV Holy Bible, Life Application Bible (NIV), the Nelson Study Bible.