Just as I would be shocked were the Lord to use the Islamic State to judge my church, Habakkuk is shocked that God would use Babylon to raze Judah. The rest of the book goes on to promise God’s later judgment on the Babylonians (ch. 2), and it ends with Habakkuk’s prayer recounting God’s glory and majesty, which lead him to trust in Yahweh fully. What’s the point of this promise of judgment from Babylon and of Babylon? I think its twofold.
In a previous article on reading Micah theologically I outlined what I see as the foundational presuppositions for reading and interpreting Scripture—particularly the Old Testament—theologically. There I stated that God is the author of Scripture, Christ is the telos of Scripture, and the church is the owner of Scripture. These three principles guide my understanding of Habakkuk’s voice to the Christian church today as he reminds us that God is just, God is sovereign, and humans are to wait on him in faith-filled trust and expectation.
God is Just
Habakkuk opens rather abruptly, with the prophet turning the tables on the God of the universe, it seems. “How long?” he asks. How long will God ignore Habakkuk and instead allow violence and injustice to run rampant among . . . his own people?! The prophet is calling into question one of Yahweh’s fundamental characteristics—his justice. To Habakkuk—and to so many of us today—it appears that God is not just because all around us we see violence, destruction, and the perversion of justice. And again, Habakkuk is complaining about this among God’s own people.
Imagine yourself in that position—you are there in your local church and evil surrounds you on every side. You are taking communion with people on Sunday who on Monday exploit the poor and on Tuesday commit murder and sexual assault. They have no fear of God, they regularly pervert justice, and they go through all the normal Christian rites and rituals, even reading their Bible regularly and tithing dutifully. And only you seem to notice, or at least to care, that the Christians around you are wicked to the core.
Now imagine this. After you pour out your complaint to the Father like Habakkuk did in 1:2–4, the Lord graciously speaks to you.