“You who are of purer eyes than to see evil
and cannot look at wrong,
why do you idly look at traitors
and remain silent when the wicked swallows up
the man more righteous than he?” Habakkuk 1:13 esv
Have you ever asked this question of God? In the first chapter of Habakkuk we find the minor prophet making his complaint to God. The first thing he takes issue with is how corrupt the nation of Israel has become. But when God responds by saying that He is going to use the Babylonians to punish His people, Habakkuk complains that it is unfair to use a more corrupt nation to judge a lesser evil.
The book of Habakkuk is really about judgment, righteousness, and justice. The first paragraph begins with a plea for judgment. The people of Israel have become so corrupt that justice is not being served. The righteous are suffering. Habakkuk is suffering. Habakkuk wants swift and righteous judgement, perhaps he is thinking that this judgment will bring him peace.
God responds and tells Habakkuk that He has already got a plan in the mix. God has been silently at work, raising up a nation that is vile and corrupt, all for the purpose of judging His own. The Babylonians were a wicked nation. Their religion was violence and their god was their strength.
But when Habakkuk hears what God has planned, he immediately changes his tune. Maybe he shouldn’t have asked for swift judgement. But how could God remain just when He uses such a corrupt nation to this end? The Babylonians will receive credit for what God is doing. The people of God will be slaughtered and deposed from the promised land. What is God’s purpose for using evil for righteous ends?
While I don’t hold any private interpretation of this passage, it clearly is talking about a particular event that has already taken place, I do think their are some important principles we can glean from looking back on history.
When I began this Bible study on the first of this month, I was astounded at how similar the complaints of Habakkuk are with the complaints of many Christians in the US. Especially older Christians. They no longer see their values being promoted and they express disappointment with the corruption in society. Yet they refuse to see where God might be working.
Many of these same Christians are fighting to maintain their values in the public circle. I recently heard a pastor appeal to his Church of almost 11,000, and to all Christians in a new book he wrote, that Christians should be concerned about legislation because if we can’t get control over the morality of America, God will have to judge us. He even used the story of Nineveh to say that we could stay our judgment if we could position the right people in public office.
I don’t want to sound callous, but I think this pastor is completely wrong. It sounds, to me, a lot like a failed attempt to recognize the failures we must acknowledge as Christians of losing a nation to immorality because we were more concerned with building out mega-churches than gospel saturation. It seems a lot like Habakkuk’s early complaint that is disregarding the way God typically deals with a nation that blasphemes His character. God will not be blasphemed. He will even allow credit to go to a false god before His character is tarnished.
Hebrews 12:6 tells us that whom the LORD loves, he chastens. Collectively, the Church in America has refused to see current events and political failures as a positive opposition. Instead, they have responded rashly, as Israel did, to set up a king with their values in mind. As a result, there has been a tug of war over the morality of a culture which has two sides pulling on the rope of society, with no one leading from the center.
Habakkuk’s second complaint sounds an awful lot like the complaint of many Christians today who refused to see the positive in what God is doing. You may not believe it, but God may likely be raising up Islamic nations for prophetic purposes. This doesn’t mean we should be apocalyptic in our politics where we work to hasten our judgment, but it does mean that we should have a different viewpoint on current events.
Ultimately, there is a lot we don’t know, and as God said, we wouldn’t believe it if He told us. What we do have is hope. We must all look forward to the glorious appearing. We must fight our humanistic tendencies to remain tied to this world. We must live with eternities values in view, fighting the good fight, finishing our course, and remaining faithful (2 Timothy 4:7).