Read: Habakkuk 1:12-2:20
Consider: Having raised his first complaint with God and received an answer, Habakkuk proceeds to raise a second complaint. This time he asks God why he has chosen a particularly ungodly and ruthless nation (the Babylonians) to execute judgement on Judah? Habakkuk’s logic is that God, being holy, should not be using such a wicked nation as his instrument of punishment. Habakkuk seems to come from the direction of thinking that if the Babylonians are wicked, yet are used as God’s instrument of punishment for others, surely they aren’t being punished for their own wickedness. This seems to Habakkuk as if they would be getting off scot-free. To Habakkuk’s sense of justice this does not seem right.
God’s answer is that while the Babylonians may be wicked, they will still be subject to his judgement, but only in his allotted time. Historically, we know that the Babylonian empire fell to Cyrus around 539 BC, about 66 years after Habakkuk was written. This means that where God says in Habakkuk 2:3 – For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay, it probably meant that Habakkuk was unlikely to see the Babylonians being punished for their wickedness. To Habakkuk and us 66 years seems a very long time, yet God could say –Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. Do you get the point here? God’s view of time and ours are very different. God reassures Habakkuk that the Babylonians are indeed a wicked nation and they will be punished at the time he has appointed.
Remember that in Habakkuk’s first complaint he saw violence and injustice in Judah that seemed not to be punished and God told him that the Babylonians would be his instrument of punishment. Here it is the Babylonians themselves who would be punished for their wickedness. This reveals God’s even-handedness in dealing with sin. To the Jews in Habakkuk’s day they would have thought that God’s blessing would be reserved solely for his chosen people, with his punishment being reserved for all the other nations. This idea of God viewing sin and sinners identically irrespective of any external differentiator (e.g. nationality) is worked out in the New Testament in the person of Jesus Christ. In Romans 3:22-24 it says:
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Having received two complaints from Habakkuk, God is able to say at the end of chapter 2 – The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him (Habakkuk 2:20). It is as if God has said ‘Enough of the questions! Be quiet!’
We will see in the next post how Habakkuk reacts to this.
Pray: Father, forgive us for thinking that some people get away with being evil and not being punished. We see that you treat all people equally and your judgement of sin applies to everyone. Thank you that you also hold out the offer of forgiveness to everyone through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen
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