Habakkuk, like Job, raises questions that are familiar to all of us. Like Habakkuk, have we not looked around at our own society and been overwhelmed by its many injustices and depravities?
The period of time of Habakkuk’s ministry as prophet is marked by violence both within and without the nation. It covers some two decades and includes the defeat of the Egyptians by the Babylonians in 605 B.C. and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 B.C. Because of these events, Habakkuk is the only prophet to devote his entire work to the questioning of God’s justice and his government of the world. In the entire Bible, only Job presents a more direct challenge to God’s rule.
Habakkuk, like Job, raises questions that are familiar to all of us. Like Habakkuk, have we not looked around at our own society and been overwhelmed by its many injustices and depravities? Have we not been moved at times to ask God why he allows such things to go on? Habakkuk’s questions are met with God’s responses. In the first chapter, God responds to the prophet’s queries by promising that those who are doing wrong within the nation will be punished by the invading Babylonians. In the second chapter, God responds to Habakkuk’s complaints by assuring him of the reliability of his rule. But he adds something important too, that is, the necessity of the faithfulness of the people.
That last bit is the kicker for us to reflect on today. God’s rule is just and reliable. It is our faithfulness that is not. We are reminded, once again, that God’s justice is perfect. It is our unfaithfulness to God’s just commandments that is the cause of the suffering in the world. God is aware of the injustices of tyrants, both those who rule over entire nations, and those who tyrannize those closest to them in their families, or in their work situations. The violence of the arrogant does not go unseen in heaven. God’s justice will come to one and all. It is not for us to question God’s justice. We are to learn to be just ourselves; obedient to God’s law in all things. It is in this that God will come to our aid and, like Habakkuk, we will finally stop complaining and questioning. We will be able to say, as Habakkuk does at the end of his book in Chapter 3, “God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread upon high places.”
When we live in accord with God’s law, we will begin to experience the graces of God that will help us endure in the face of the world’s injustices. He will strengthen us with courage and patient endurance. He will make us strong in compassion and mercy. He will give us the ability to challenge injustice with the force of moral character. Because we know that God is just and that he is on the side of those who love him, we can be a joyful people. Habakkuk’s metaphors of having “feet like the deer’s” and being able to “tread upon high places” are images of the joy that comes to those who remain faithful to God and are made, therefore, victorious over the tyrants, the injustices, the sufferings of the world.
Lord, help us to grow in our faithfulness toward you and your just commands on us. Sometimes we are overwhelmed by the world’s injustices. And sometimes we are a part of them. Help us to turn away from all that is evil and unjust, by increasing our faith in you, and deepening our desire to do good in all things. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!
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