Where is God? Most believers encounter a time in their spiritual life when they doubt or question God. Habakkuk was a prophet of the Lord who confronted God with what he thought were contradictions in His actions towards mankind. The prophet’s questions and God’s answers are recorded for us in the Book of Habakkuk.
Habakkuk spoke God’s message to the people of Judah who repeatedly violated her covenant with God, knowingly breaking their relationship with Him. Judah (the southern kingdom) should have learned to take God seriously as she had witnessed the destruction and exile of Israel, (the northern Kingdom) for doing the same thing. God had been merciful to both Judah and Israel by sending many prophets to warn them, calling them to repent and return to Him. Sadly, God received only their rejection.
The Lesson from Habakkuk: Take your relationship with God seriously because those who love God obey His Word. God is also merciful and forgives those who repent of their sins.
Habakkuk was deeply troubled by the wickedness he observed in Judah. This is what he said to God:
Destruction and violence are before me, there is strife and conflict abounds. Therefore, the law is paralyzed and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous so that justice is perverted. Habakkuk 1:3-4
The evil Habakkuk saw in his time is the same wickedness we see today. When the systems God set up to protect us are corrupted, evil triumphs.
How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Habakkuk 1:2-3
Where are you, God? Habakkuk knew God and trusted Him enough to take his complaint directly to Him. He was not afraid to question Yahweh, his God, with difficult questions.
The lesson from Habakkuk: God knows your thoughts and He wants you to come to Him with your struggles and doubts. Come to God believing that He hears and answers prayer.
In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. Psalm 5:3
Habakkuk saw injustice and violence all around him and he wanted God to do something about it. We ask the same questions today. Why does God often seem indifferent in the face of evil? Why do wicked people go unpunished? God’s ways were confusing to Habakkuk because he knew his God was just and righteous. By not taking action, God seemed to be acting against His character.
Rise up, O Judge of the earth; pay back to the proud what they deserve. How long will the wicked, O Lord, how long will the wicked be jubilant? Psalm 94:2-3
The Lord Answers Habakkuk
Habakkuk wondered why God did not punish the wicked for their sins and God said, “I will!”
This is what God said to Habakkuk:
“Look at the nations and watch and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own. They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor. They all come bent on violence. They deride kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at all fortified cities; guilty men, whose own strength is their god.” Habakkuk 1:5-7, 10-11
God told Habakkuk that He would bring the wicked Babylonians against Judah to punish them for their unrepentant sin. God’s answer to Habakkuk showed that He did know what was going on, and that He had a purpose and a plan even before Habakkuk asked his questions. We also learn that God sees man’s heart. Notice how God personally described the evil Babylonians to Habakkuk in this verse. Babylon is in present day Iraq and God’s description reminds us of Al-Qaeda and Isis today.
The Lesson from Habakkuk: God reveals Himself and His plans to those who seek Him.
Does He who implanted the ear not hear? Does He who formed the eye not see? Does He who disciplines nations not punish? Does He who teaches man lack knowledge? The Lord knows the thoughts of man; He knows that they are futile. Psalm 94:9-11
The Lesson from Habakkuk: God is Sovereign over nations and world events and He will judge evil in His timing.
The Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him! Isaiah 30:18
Habakkuk’s Second Complaint
God answered Habakkuk’s honest questions, but not in the way he wanted. Habakkuk now has a second complaint: How could God use a nation much more wicked than Judah to execute judgement?
My God, my Holy One, your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? Habakkuk 1:12-13
After Habakkuk expressed his confusion to God, he said this:
I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what He will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. Habakkuk 2:1
Notice that Habakkuk expected God to answer his concerns. We often wonder, “Where is God?” yet we do not know Him or seek Him.
The lesson from Habakkuk: The times when God is silent is when your faith will be tested. When God appears to be doing nothing, doubts begin to creep in and Satan whispers: God is powerless, God does not care, God is not good, God is not who you thought He was. Ask God to strengthen your faith and trust God when you cannot see.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Hebrews 11:1, 6
The lesson from Habakkuk: God uses even nations who do not acknowledge Him to serve His purposes. God is holy, completely separated from sin and evil so His judgments are always true and right. When we or a nation deserve correction, how can we complain about the kind of discipline God uses?
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent His rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in. Proverbs 3:11-12
God disciplines those He loves in order to conform us to the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ.
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. Hebrews 12:5-7
Like Judah and Israel, judgement begins with the household of God.
For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. 1 Peter 4:17-19
The Lord Answers Habakkuk Again
Then the Lord replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. 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. But the righteous will live by his faith.” Habakkuk 2:2-4
God answered Habakkuk’s complaint by telling him that though the wicked may triumph for a time, they will not prevail! Judgement may not come quickly but it will come. God revealed that He would punish the wicked Babylonians in His timing.
You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and be exposed! The cup from the Lord’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory. Habakkuk 2:16
God always does what He promises. God raised up Cyrus, king of Medo-Persia, to defeat The Babylonians in 539 B.C. Later Cyrus allowed the exiled Jews to return home.
When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers. Proverbs 21:15
We often ask, “where is God?” because we do not understand what God is doing.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
The lesson from Habakkuk: Only God sees the big picture! In tough times, wait on the Lord and continue to live by faith. History is being moved by God toward the Day of the Lord and the establishment of God’s kingdom. The believer’s hope is always in the sovereignty of Almighty God, ruler over heaven and earth.
The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations. Psalm 33:10-11
Let us humble ourselves in His Presence. He is God and we are not!
“But the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” Habakkuk 2:20
Habakkuk’s Prayer of Faith
Habakkuk now sees his human limitations in contrast to Almighty God’s unlimited power and sovereign control over nations and world events.
A prayer of Habakkuk, the prophet. Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. Habakkuk 3:1-2
The lesson from Habakkuk: Only God can be both just and merciful at the same time. Evil will not triumph forever! God is in control and He can be trusted to vindicate those who are faithful to Him. We must patiently wait for Him to act and not lose faith.
There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord. His ways are eternal. Proverbs 21:30; Habakkuk 3:6
Habakkuk realized that faith and trust in God alone was the answer to all of his questions.
“The righteous will live by his faith.” Habakkuk 2:4.
Faith is also emphasized in the New Testament: Romans 1:17; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38.
The lesson from Habakkuk: God gives His followers strength and confidence even in difficult times as they trust in Him. In His timing, God will bring about His justice and completely rid the world of evil. In the meantime, God’s people are to live by faith in the strength of His Spirit, confident in His ultimate victory over evil.
The Book of Habakkuk closes with a moving expression of the prophet’s trust in His God.
I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights. Habakkuk 3:16-19
Lessons from Habakkuk
The Righteous Live by Faith
God Answers Prayer
God Judges the Wicked in His Timing
God Disciplines His Children
God Forgives Those Who Repent of Their Sins
God Is Sovereign over Nations and World Events
Trusting God leads to hope, not bitter resignation
Expect God to Speak to You from His Word and Transform your life!
Personal Bible study for “Where is God?”
Week 1: Job: 1-41; 39:1-30; 40:1-2, 8; 41:11; 42:1-6; Psalms 2:1-12; 5:3-6; 9:4-10, 15-20; 10:1-18; 15; 18:1-6, 16-19, 25-33; 33:4-15, 20-22; 73; 75; 89:14-15; 94:1-3, 9-12, 20-23; 113:4-6; Proverbs 1:22-33; 3:5-7, 11-12; 16:4-5; 21:15, 30
Week 2: Isaiah 5:16, 20-23; 10:1-3; 13:9-13; 29:13-16, 20-21; 30:18; 40:12-15, 21-31; 43:11; 45:5-7, 9-13, 22-25; 55:8-9; 59:1-2, 9, 12-14; 64:1-7; Jeremiah 30:10-11; Amos 5:14-15; Habakkuk 1:1-5; 2:1-4, 16, 20; 3:1-2, 6, 11-13, 17-19
Week 3: Luke 1:37; 18:1-8; John 3:16-21; Romans 14:11-12; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, 5:7, 15, 17-21
Week 4: Hebrews 4:13-16; 11:1, 6; 12:5-11; 1 Peter 4:17-19; 2 Peter 3:3-13; 1 John 2:28-29; Revelation 3:19-20; 15:3-4; 18:1-8; 22:11-13, 20-21; 3:1-2, 6, 11-13, 17-19
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