For the Love of God, Volume 2/December 6
From Gospel Translations
2 Chronicles 6:12-42; 1 John 5; Habakkuk 1; Luke 20
THE PROPHECY OF HABAKKUK—or, more precisely, the “oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received”—is cast not as something he is to deliver to others, but as a response to his own complaint before the Lord. The fact that it was written down and preserved in the canon means that in God’s providence either Habakkuk or someone else thought it was so important others should read it. It should not remain a private communication (like the private revelations that Paul sometimes received, 2 Cor. 12:1-10).
The nature of Habakkuk’s protest is set out in Habakkuk 1. The setting is apparently about the time of the final Babylonian assault (1:6). Initially Habakkuk’s complaint concerns the decline of his own people and culture (1:2-5). He has cried to the Lord for help, and expects heaven-sent revival. “How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” (1:2). The rest of his complaint lists the symptoms of a culture in disintegration: violence, injustice, wrong, strife, conflict, and the Law of God paralyzed.
But God answers with words Habakkuk does not want to hear. Habakkuk wants revival; God promises judgment (1:6-11). If Habakkuk is so concerned about the injustice, he should know that God is going to do something about it: he is going to punish it. God will do something astonishing: he will raise up the Babylonians, “that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own” (1:6). They will come “bent on violence” and “gather prisoners like sand” (1:9). God does not pretend that the Babylonians are fine folk. After describing the massive strength of their armed forces, he scathingly calls them “guilty men, whose own strength is their god” (1:11). These guilty men, intoxicated by the ferocity of their own violence, are the people God is going to deploy to chasten his own covenant people—in response to Habakkuk’s prayer that God would do something about the injustice in the land.
God’s response does not satisfy Habakkuk. The second complaint (1:12—2:1) goes to the heart of the issue. Granted that God is eternal and faithful to his covenant people; granted too that he is “too pure to look on evil” (1:13) and therefore must punish his own covenant community, the burning question remains: “Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (1:13, italics added). For however wicked the Judahites are, the Babylonians are worse. How can God use the more wicked to punish the less wicked?
What other examples of this are there in history, sacred and profane?