Perverted Justice?? – Habakkuk 1:1 – 2:1

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When the terrorists struck at the World Trade Center, did you wrestle with the question of how God could allow people with such a wicked agenda to attack innocent, unsuspecting civilians? What types of difficulties in your own life cause you to wrestle with God in prayer regarding How Long or Why He is allowing such trials? Do we have our own ideas about how God should discipline His children and complain against the strangeness of some of His ways? Habakkuk was dealing with issues like these as God raised up the Chaldeans to judge His people.

BIG IDEA:
THE PROPHET WRESTLES WITH THE APPROPRIATENESS OF GOD USING THE WICKED CHALDEANS TO JUDGE HIS OWN PEOPLE — DIVINE DISCIPLINE CAN BE PACKAGED IN STRANGE WAYS

(:1) INTRODUCTION:

  1. The Message – Description of the Content: “The oracle
  2. The Messenger – Identification of the Prophet: “which Habakkuk the prophet
  3. The Medium of Revelation: “saw

Copeland: Concerning his MESSAGE: the book easily falls into three sections

1) A “burden” – Hab 1:1-2:1
2) A “vision” – Hab 2:2-20
3) A “prayer” – Hab 3:1-19

I. (:2-4) COMPLAINT OF THE PROPHET — DELAY OF THE LORD IN RESTORING JUSTICE TO THE LAND – THE LAMENT OF A DISTURBED SOUL

  1. (:2) Delay in Deliverance Disturbs the Soul
    1. When Will the Lord Hear?: “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, And you will not hear?
    2. When Will the Lord Deliver?: “I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ Yet you do not save.
  2. (:3) Culture of Corruption Disturbs the Soul
    1. Pervasive Corruption: “Why do you make me see iniquity, and cause me to look on wickedness?
    2. Escalating Conflict: “Yes, destruction and violence are before me; Strife exists and contention arises.
  3. (:4) Perversion of Justice Disturbs the Soul
    1. Disregard for Covenant Standards: “Therefore the law is ignored And justice is never upheld.
    2. The Righteous End Up the Victims: “For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore justice comes out perverted.

II. (:5-11) CONSTERNATION OF THE PROPHET — DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD BY USING CRUEL CHALDEANS AS INSTRUMENT OF JUDGMENT – THE ASTONISHMENT OF A SHOCKED PROPHET

  1. (:5) Unexpected Discipline Strategy
    1. Amazing: “Look among the nations! Observe! Be Astonished! Wonder!
    2. Unbelievable: “Because I am doing something in your days – You would not believe if you were told.
  2. (:6-10) Unrestrained Cruelty of the Chaldeans
    1. (:6-7) Summary Qualifications of the Chaldeans for This Mission
      1. Divinely Appointed for Instrument of Discipline: “For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans,
        1. Main qualification = chosen by God for the task
      2. Proven Aggressiveness of Spirit: “That fierce and impetuous people
      3. Unquenchable Appetite for Conquering New Territory: “Who march throughout the earth to seize dwelling places which are not theirs.
      4. Reputation Acknowledged – Strike fear in the hearts of their enemies: “They are dreaded and feared;
      5. Completely Autonomous – Don’t care what other nations think: “Their justice and authority originate with themselves.
    2. (:8) Superior Military Resources
      1. Their Horses: “Their horses are swifter than leopards and keener than wolves in the evening.
      2. Their Horsemen: “Their horsemen come galloping, their horsemen come from afar; They fly like an eagle swooping down to devour.
    3. (:9-10) Swaggering Confidence in Victory
      1. Bent on Violence: “All of them come for violence.
      2. United in Aggression: “Their horde of faces moves forward.
      3. Merciless in Enslavement: “They collect captives like sand.
      4. Brazen in Arrogance
        1. Mock at Any Royal Authority: “They mock at kings and rulers are a laughing matter to them.
        2. Make Fun of Any Feeble Defense: “They laugh at every fortress and heap up rubble to capture it.
  3. (:11) Ultimate Accountability – the Chaldeans Will Be Judged Themselves
    1. Their Dominance will only be Temporary: “Then they will sweep through like the wind and pass on.
    2. Their Cruelty will be Condemned: “But they will be held guilty,
    3. Their Idolatry will be Exposed: “They whose strength is their god.

III. (:12-17) COMFORT/CONFUSION OF THE PROPHET – DEPENDENCE ON THE LORD DESPITE PERPEXITY OF INCOMPREHENSIBLE TACTICS – – THE HOPE OF A PERPLEXED PROPHET

  1. (:12) Perspective Based on Eternity
    1. Character of God: “Are You not from everlasting, O Lord, my God, my Holy One?

Keathley: He began in verse 12 by claiming that God is eternal. I think the idea of immutability, that God does not change, is included here. The fact that God does not change is important because it means God keeps His promises and He has made promises to Israel. Habakkuk knows that God will not totally destroy Israel because of his covenantal promises. That is why he says, “We will not die.”

    1. Confidence in Deliverance: “We will not die.
    2. Control of the Discipline: “You, O Lord, have appointed them to judge; And You, O Rock, have established them to correct.
  1. (:13) Perspective Based on Holiness — Paradox
    1. You Don’t Approve of Wickedness: “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And you can not look on wickedness with favor.
    2. You Seem to be Favoring the Wicked over the Less Wicked: “Why do you look with favor on those who deal treacherously? Why are you silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they?
  2. (:14-17) Perspective Clouded by Unrestrained Cruelty of the Chaldeans
    1. (:14) Vulnerability of Men to Such Unrestrained Cruelty: “Why have you made men like the fish of the sea, like creeping things without a ruler over them?
    2. (:15a) Vultures Take Advantage of Such Vulnerability: “The Chaldeans bring all of them up with a hook, drag them away with their net, and gather them together in their fishing net.
    3. (:15b-16) Victory Celebrations of the Wicked are Especially Galling: “Therefore they rejoice and are glad. Therefore they offer a sacrifice to their net and burn incense to their fishing net; because through these things their catch is large, and their food is plentiful.
    4. (:17) Vexing Question: How Long?? (back to question of vs 2): “Will they therefore empty their net and continually slay nations without sparing?
  3. (2:1) Waiting for a More Definitive Answer: “I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; and I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, and how I may reply when I am reproved.

DEVOTIONAL QUESTIONS:

  1. Is God in control of all of the seemingly bad things that happen to God’s people? : “God is still in control, Almighty God is He; and He cares for His own through all eternity…
  2. Does God get angry with us for expressing our true emotions and wrestling with Him in our prayers with all of our doubts and perplexities?
  3. How would you compare the wickedness of Judah with that of the Chaldeans? Was there really a distinction between the righteous and the wicked in this context?
  4. What events in our life or in current world affairs have evoked these same types of questions from our hearts?

QUOTES FOR REFLECTION:

Stedman: History is in God’s Hands — Habakkuk, the embracer, is embracing the people of Judah, who are suffering under the injustice of the government of that day. He is crying out in protest against the apparent inactivity of God…

Now God answered Habakkuk, but not in the way the prophet thought he would. I’m not sure what he did expect. He probably expected a change of heart in the governing powers in his land, or some rising tide of concern that would deal compassionately with the problems they were facing. God’s answer, however, was totally unexpected…

Now Habakkuk really has a problem. And this time it is not with God’s inactivity, but, rather, with God’s inconsistency. How can a holy God let this kind of thing happen? Habakkuk wonders, “How can God use a ruthless and morally degraded people to punish a more righteous people?”

In the rest of Chapter 1, the prophet goes on to compare these Chaldeans to a greedy fisherman who sweeps through the seas and brings in a net full of fish. He has caught all he needs, but he is not satisfied. He casts his net again and again and brings back more and more fish and stacks them on the bank until they rot in the sun. That is the way Habakkuk sees the Chaldeans acting. They conquer people after people, country after country. Nothing stands in their way…

What do you do when God does not act the way you think he ought to? That is one of the hardest problems we face as Christians. And, especially, what do you do when he uses somebody whom you don’t like to correct you?

When you face a problem in your life where you do not understand what God is doing, do not do what so many do, and say, “Oh, I’ve tried faith and it doesn’t work,” or, “I’ve tried God but that doesn’t work,” or, “I’ve tried prayer and it doesn’t work.” People who say those things really don’t understand what they are saying, because what they are actually saying is, “God is a liar. There is no real God.” What they are saying is, “The Word of God is not true, the Bible is a fraud. It ought to be thrown out.” They are declaring that God is faithless to his own promises. But God cannot ever be faithless to his word. The problem is not God — though we so often blame it on him — the problem is us. We are so ignorant, we see so little, we understand such a minute fraction of the scope of any problem. We ought to do as Habakkuk did — get out on the watchtower and wait to see what God is going to say. If we ask him, God will help us to understand something of what we are going through. That is what Habakkuk did, because he expected an answer.

Freddy Fritz: Making Sense of Today’s News: Among the questions that Habakkuk raised are these: “Is God in charge of today’s news?” and, “If he is, why do things happen the way they do?” In dealing with these questions, the prophet Habakkuk speaks directly to our own times in light of today’s news…

  1. I. God’s Ways Are Often Mysterious (1:2a, 5-6)
    1. God’s Inaction (1:2a)
    2. God’s Unexpected Providences (1:5-6)
    3. God’s Unusual Instruments (1:6)
  2. God’s Ways Are Often Misunderstood
    1. By Careless Christians (1:5)
    2. By Non-Christians (1:11)
    3. By the Prophet Himself (1:2-4)

Today’s news is bound up with God’s kingdom. The key to the history of the world is the kingdom of God. The story of the nations in the Bible is only relevant as it bears upon Christ’s Church. What really matters is God’s kingdom.

Paul Decker: A SIGHING FAITH (Habakkuk 1:1-2:1)

Where is God when things go wrong?

We will find three complaints that Habakkuk has about God. God is:

I. INDIFFERENT (2)
II. INACTIVE (3-4)
III. INCONSISTENT (12-17)

Ken Gehrels: It means – “to embrace.” Only, not the sort of embrace that one finds in affection. It’s a wrestler’s grip – hanging on and twisting in the hopes of winning. Habakkuk is the prophet who wrestled with God…

James Dobson says that it’s the confusion over “why” that so often shreds a person’s faith to bits. He’s right. — [Dobson, When God Doesn’t Make Sense]

Piper: In chapter one, then, Habakkuk protests first against the violence and injustice of his countrymen in Judah (1:1-4), and then against the violence and injustice of the Chaldeans whom God is sending to punish Judah.

Keathley: Warren Wiersbe entitles his book on Habakkuk as From Worry to Worship. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones calls his, From Fear to Faith. While Habakkuk begins by wondering or worrying about the world around him and God’s seeming indifference, he ends by worshipping God. When he heard who was coming 3:16 says he trembled, but he certainly ends up expressing faith by the end of the book. What they are trying to capture in the titles of their books is the progression Habakkuk makes from questioning God to trusting God…

When you are talking with someone who has just experienced a tragedy, don’t just tell them “God is good. He loves you and He will work things out for the best and quote Romans 8:28-29.” I think it is okay, maybe even necessary to cry with them, hurt with them, question with them. Help them work through the pain, not ignore it. Of course you don’t want to stay there indefinitely, but it is part of the process. Too often, Christians think the questioning part of the process is wrong.

Definbaugh: But Habakkuk’s logic is wrong. The use of foreign nations as a chastening rod was not inconsistent with His character, and it was not something new. God had foretold this in the Mosaic Covenant:

The Lord will force you and your king whom you will appoint over you to go to a people whom you and your ancestors have not known and you will serve other gods of wood and stone there. You will become an occasion of horror, a proverb, and an object of ridicule to all the people among whom the Lord will drive you… The Lord will raise up a distant nation against you, one from the other side of the earth as the eagle flies, a nation whose language you will not understand, a nation of stern appearance that will have no regard for the elderly or consideration for the young (Deuteronomy 28:36-37, 49-50).

The Book of Judges is filled with examples of God’s use of foreign nations as His chastening rod:

They [Israel] abandoned the Lord and worshiped Baal and the Ashtars. The Lord was furious with Israel and handed them over to robbers who plundered them. He turned them over to their enemies who lived around them. They could not withstand their enemies’ attacks (Judges 2:13-14)

God is morally just in using the wicked to achieve His purposes:

For the wrath of man shall praise You; With a remnant of wrath You will gird Yourself (Psalm 76:10, NAU).

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28, NAU).

God is righteous, and He is also sovereign. He is able to use the wicked, and even their wicked deeds to accomplish His purposes. For the moment, I will cite only one example – Pharaoh:
For the scripture says to Pharaoh:

“For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may demonstrate my power in you, and that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth” (Romans 9:17).

Pharaoh’s oppression of God’s people, and his refusal to let God’s people go, became an occasion of blessing for the Israelite nation. It resulted in their release from slavery and their possession of the land of Canaan. Nevertheless, they did suffer under the hand of Pharaoh for a number of years. God used the wicked to accomplish His purposes. God used Pharaoh to bring Himself glory and to produce good for His people, Israel. Habakkuk was wrong. A righteous God can use wicked men to achieve His purposes.

I believe that Habakkuk’s second argument is further flawed in that it is based upon the very questionable assumption that the people of Judah are more righteous than the Chaldeans.

You are too just to tolerate evil; you are unable to condone wrongdoing. So why do you put up with such treacherous people? Why do you say nothing when the wicked devour those who are relatively innocent? (Habakkuk 1:13, emphasis mine)

The NAU translates the last part of verse 13 quite literally,

Why do You look with favor on those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they? (NAU, emphasis mine)

This is a very dangerous argument, in my opinion, and one that almost all of us have employed at one time or another. We know that certain things are sin, but we generally have different categories of sin. The Jews of Jesus’ day found Jesus guilty of blasphemy, an unpardonable sin to them, and yet they were self-righteous and greedy. They found ways to avoid their responsibilities to their parents and, according to Jesus, they stole widows’ houses. They oppressed the poor in the process of making themselves rich.