Habakkuk 1:3-4 Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralysed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.
How easy it is for us today to identify with the difficult questions the prophet Habakkuk was asking more than two and a half millennia ago. Our God is love, our God is just, and our God is powerful and sovereign; our God does hear and listen to the humble prayers and desperate cries of his people – so why are there so many blatantly wrong things continuing to have such a dominating influence in our world?
Even as I ask that question, I am reminded of two important things:
Firstly that the usual Hebrew word for ‘why’ is made up of two parts: ‘la-ma’ (as in Jesus’ cry from the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, LAMA sabachthani” – Mark 15:34), which is literally ‘with regard to what?’. So asking our God “Why?” is really asking him, “What purpose do you have in this?” It is interesting that the ‘why’ in Habakkuk 1:3 only has the ‘what’ (‘ma’) part in the Hebrew text!
This is a good segue into my second important thing: God will actually explain to Habakkuk in response to his cry, that what is going to happen to his Covenant People is all his initiative, as part of his ‘Big Picture’ Plan of Salvation, and all he requires of his people is that they trust him with this (Habakkuk 2:4), even if they can’t understand his Divine Providence in it.
Seven centuries later the Author of Hebrews will quote Habakkuk 2:4 (Hebrews 10:38), and say a similar thing about Providence: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). The Apostle Paul will also make use of Habakkuk 2:4 in Romans 1:17, 2 Corinthians 5:17, and Galatians 2:20 and 3:11. Lord, please enable me to exercise this kind of faith whenever I find myself formulating a question directed to you that starts with “Why?”
– Bruce Christian