A study of Habakkuk
In 2015, my wife and I started looking to buy a house and found it to be an especially difficult task. The difficulties stemmed from the market being so hot that houses in our range only stayed on the market for a week or less. We had struggled with trusting God because it felt like we were always losing to someone with way more money every time we put in an offer. Every time we bid, an “all-cash” offer would come in for $10-$20k more than ours. After more than a year, we were much less excited to look at each new house. One day, the PERFECT house came up. We toured it, and it was absolutely everything we wanted. We put in our offer, and almost immediately, we found out that an all-cash offer had come in that was much higher than ours, and so our search would continue.
Or so we thought.
About a week later, I got a phone call from our real estate agent, who said that the other person had dropped their offer and ours, being the next highest, would be accepted if we still wanted the house. God worked out our situation in such a way that only He could get the glory for it. God was reminding my wife and I that He is in control, and lovingly urged us to have more faith in Him. So in March of 2016, when God finally placed us in that house, it was by His sovereign plan and to His glory that we ended up in the perfect school district, a perfect distance from church, and the perfect driving distance to shopping. It was everything we needed that we had given up hope of finding.
Today, in our modern culture, the cry for justice is loud and frequent. Even outside of my own yelling, I need only to open the news and see reports of injustice or people fighting for what they believe to be justice. Sometimes in the craziness we lose sight of the fact that justice has been cried out for since the very beginning. Satan convinced Eve that God must be unjust to keep such a good fruit from them. Cain took justice into his own hands because God didn’t appreciate his inferior offering. Women demanded justice from King Solomon and he kindly offered to split their baby for them. The further into the Bible we read the more we see the battle between justice and injustice on display. Many would ask, beg, seek, take, wait for, even demand justice.
Maybe the most audacious but least talked about of these is Habakkuk. Just look at how his book begins.
 O LORD, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save? (ESV)
While we aren’t completely certain of the dates when Habakkuk prophesied, we see the people that God is going to use and it gives us a rough idea. It’s likely that Habakkuk lived during the reign of King Josiah (2 Kings 22:1-23:30 / 2 Chronicles 34-35). To give you an idea of what was going on in Israel at that time, we see that the Northern Kingdom (Israel) had turned away from God, going so far as to “cast out” the priests and Levites (2 Chronicles 11:13-14). As a result, the Lord had given them over to conquest and capture most notably to the Assyrians. The Southern Kingdom (Judah) had been faithful to God, but even they eventually turned from Him. When King Manasseh came on the scene, he “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord”, which led to Assyria’s initial assault on Judah, and in turn led to the capture of 200,000 people. While Manasseh would ultimately turn back to God and Jerusalem would be saved, he would never fully remove the pagan practices that had crept into the country. His son Amon was just as bad, if not worse than Manasseh’s early years. It goes so far as to say that Amon “incurred guilt more and more” to a point that his own servants murdered him (2 Chronicles 33:23-24). All of this left the Southern Kingdom broken and controlled by Assyria.
When Habakkuk enters our story, he may have witnessed some of the horrors of Amon’s reign or, even if he didn’t, he was living with the consequences. Assyrian rule at this time was messy and involved tributes as well as near-constant civil wars within the borders of the empire. While King Josiah had or would soon have the law of God brought and read before the people, it would serve as a blatant conviction of the Israelites. So when Habakkuk looked outside and saw the oppression of God’s people, and the evils being perpetrated throughout Israel by Israel, he was quick to be angry and he cried out to God for answers.
God’s response is amazing. Habakkuk had no right to call God unjust, God didn’t owe him anything, but yet He still listens to Habakkuk and then even chooses to reveal a small part of His plan. God’s opening words in His response sound almost like a father talking to his son about something cool that is about to happen:
The LORD’s Answer
 “Look among the nations, and see;
wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
that you would not believe if told. (ESV)
In the “Sam Huckaby Paraphrase”, I read it as “Buddy, you’re not gonna believe what I’m about to do, it’s gonna be dope”. God let Habakkuk know that He not only hadn’t missed the injustices that Israel was facing but was actively correcting them as a part of His sovereign plan. He spoke of how he was “raising up the Chaldeans”, a country that had previously been conquered by Assyria and was now a part of Babylon. God told Habakkuk that he would use this militant country to bring the Assyrians and the wayward Israelites to justice. Interestingly, as we’ll see more of in part 2, this source of justice is not “just” in and of itself; God actually describes them as “guilty men”.
 Then they sweep by like the wind and go on,
guilty men, whose own might is their god!” (ESV)
Today, we might look back on this passage and be tempted to think “Neat! God gave Habakkuk a step-by-step guide for how He was going to fix things”. We might be tempted to be jealous of Habakkuk because he got what we think we want or even deserve. I would caution you though, because not only is God revealing His plan like this the exception and not the rule, this is still a very vague revelation. Imagine if, while we were searching for a house, God had said to us “I will absolutely give you a house, and I will give it to you out of the hands of someone with more money than you”. This could mean anything! Would we have been happy with that insight? Probably not. God gave Habakkuk an answer that called him to have more faith. He (God) didn’t just give Habakkuk all the details around his plan, and then let Habakkuk sit back and enjoy the show. Instead God assured Habakkuk that He (God) was still sovereign and gave him (Habakkuk) enough information so all the glory would go to God when it did come to pass.
God gave Habakkuk an answer that called him to have more faith.
Notice also how God chose to work by using the foolish things to confound the wise? (1 Corinthians 1:27-30) The Babylonians were a despicable bunch, yet God ordained them to accomplish His plan of justice. Several hundred years later, God would use another despicable captor to orchestrate His plan, but this time it would be the Romans and justice would be borne on a cross. Just like in Habakkuk’s day, justice would be at a premium when Jesus began ministering to Israel. However, unlike Habakkuk, Jesus didn’t question His Father’s plan, because HE WAS THE PLAN.
Josiah revealed God’s law to the people; Jesus revealed God Himself.
Habakkuk cried out for justice; Jesus cried out its completion.
As you read Habakkuk, don’t miss the character of God. He didn’t change from the old testament to the new testament, nor did he become any less involved in carrying out His sovereign plan. God is still in the business of justice, though He rarely uses the methods that people expect Him to use. Ultimately God is working for His glory, not our approval. Let the answers to Habakkuk’s questions point you to the cross, where God displayed His love, His glory, and His justice.
The odds bear out that if you are reading this you already have a relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I hope you are encouraged to be steadfast and immovable, trusting God to work out His plan even amidst trails. If you have found yourself here and don’t know what a relationship with Jesus means, then I beg you to find out. You can seek out these answers at a local church or you can start with this introduction. Just please, don’t wait.