PASTORAL POINT “Unwrapped Justice”
The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received. Habakkuk’s Complaint. How long, 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 wrongdoing? 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.
The Lord’s Answer “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 dwellings not their own. They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor. Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like an eagle swooping to devour; they all come intent on violence. Their hordes
advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand. They mock kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at all fortified cities; by building earthen ramps they capture them. Then they sweep past like the wind and go on guilty people, whose own strength is their God.
The call for justice is louder and louder in our world today; isn’t it? Injustice happens at all sorts of levels of society and we wonder, why does God permit it? Why doesn’t God stop it? Why doesn’t God punish the wickedness we see every day? Why do wicked people get away with being wicked? Those are the classic issues that the prophet Habakkuk tussles with as he deals with the nation of Israel. Prophet Habakkuk is unique; he does not speak to the people of Israel or to the neighboring foreign nations, but he speaks to the Supreme Being. Habakkuk does not deliver a message as much as he deals with a problem.
The prophet lived in a pleasure mad society where by, the family life was crumb ing and crime was soaring and the worst kinds of immorality were considered normal. Does this seem familiar in our days!
In his dialogue between him and God, Habakkuk defines himself as a prophet who brings a message from God to the nation. Habakkuk perceives unfairness and he turns to God and protests severely. God responds and Habakkuk grumbles again. And what is it that the prophet is complaining about? The Prophet is protesting about unfairness and violence and God’s apparent indifference. “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help and you will not
listen? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?” (Habakkuk 1:2).
The prophet was convinced that surely this is ‘something that God wants, to see justice in the land. So why doesn’t he do something about it?’ “Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention
arise.” (Habakkuk 1:3). The violence here isn’t being done to him; he’s just an onlooker seeing its effect on other people. The prophet is referring to the violence when the people in authority are the wrongdoers and manipulators of the justice system. “So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteoustherefore judgment comes forth perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:4).
Habakkuk’s reference is to the Book of the Law that Josiah found in the Temple, which initiated his reforms of the nation. But now the manipulation of powerful has even countered those reforms. The law has been paralyzed. And so he complains to God. With conviction, the prophet sees the book of the law as God’s law given
to his people, so should God be the one to inforce this law. So why does God let it be made impotent and allow it to be paralyzed by the violence of evil people? Why does God allow justice to be narrow and be twisted or perverted by the powerful people? These are good questions that people have long asked.
God gives the prophet Habakkuk a response; however, it is perhaps not the one he was hoping for. “See and watch what’s about to happen. And it is going to be a shock. The Lord says: ‘Be astonished! Be astounded! For a work is being done in your days that you would not believe if you were told. For I am rousing the Chaldeans, that fierce and impetuous nation, who march through the breadth of the earth to seize dwellings not their own’.”
(Habakkuk 1:6). God is raising up the Babylonians to exercise his judgement on the nation of Judah. Habakkuk felt like wasn’t it Israel under Joshua that God had used to exercise judgement on the people of Canaan. That was the right way around. Curiously, Habakkuk asks; how could God use people like that to punish the people of Israel.
In the end the prophet Habakkuk understood that the Lord does not hold evil. The Lord is pure in his act. “Are you not from of old, O Lord my God, my Holy One? You shall not die. O Lord, you have marked them for judgment; and you, O Rock, have established them for punishment. Your eyes are too pure to behold evil, and you cannot look on wrongdoing.” (Habakkuk 1:12). The prophet knows that God will not allow unrighteousness to
prevail forever. ‘For God to speak means for God to act’, when his word goes forth things happen. Well, regrettably for Habakkuk, God has spoken, but the outcome of His words is the Babylonians coming to conquer all in their path.
Start from giving yourselves to the Lord. “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.” (Acts 13:38-40). Jesus warned the religious leaders of His own chosen people that they would be judged if they didn’t repent. “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify.”(Matthew 23:33-34). Pride was Israel’s problem and God was going to use a people with great pride to punish them. “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before stumbling. It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.” (Proverbs 16:18-19).
Let us always keep our hearts humble before God so that we would avoid His hand of discipline. We live in a very wicked world. For example, “how do you decide what entertainment to watch? How many references to adultery, sensuality and fornication will you allow a TV program or movie to inflict on you before you turn it off? Maybe you should set a number like 2 or 3 and when you hear or see more than that you will turn it off or walk away.” We need to be careful what we ask for when we make our complaints to
God. Sometimes God delays bringing justice to the world because the price of justice is so high. We shouldn’t be surprised if we see God’s justice being brought about by unjust men and women. Remember that the forgiveness of our sins was brought about by Jesus’ death. God’s ultimate answer to the injustice and evil in our world was to send his son to die at the hands of those sinful men and women so that we might be made
righteous by faith in him. AMEN.