Habakkuk Questions the Lord

Are you not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die… . You who are of purer eyes than to see evil … why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” (vv. 12–13).

- Habakkuk 1:12–2:1

Questioning God is tricky business. On the one hand, we know that many of the questions people have for the Lord are actually veiled demands that the Creator justify His ways to His creatures. This type of questioning is usually disingenuous, coming from people who have already decided that there is no acceptable answer. Such questioning is also arrogant, making the response of faith contingent upon whether or not the questioner finds the answer satisfactory. Paul’s opponent who questions God’s righteousness in election is one who questions the Lord sinfully (Rom. 9:19–24).

On the other hand, it is possible to ask questions of the Lord in a manner that is not sinful. The psalmists and Habakkuk exemplify this manner of questioning the Lord. (Still, let us be careful when asking questions of God, for we can easily fall into questioning Him sinfully.) They ask their question, “How long, O LORD?” (Pss. 35:17; 94:3; Hab. 1:2), in faith. They know His righteous judgment is coming because they trust His holy character, but they are curious as to why His wrath is, from their viewpoint, delayed.

Habakkuk received a most unexpected answer to his question. Indeed, God had not been blind to King Jehoiakim’s evil and the ways in which the wicked Judahites mistreated their righteous countrymen. He would raise up the Chaldeans, who would fiercely and rapidly invade Judah (Hab. 1:5–11). The fact that Habakkuk foresaw this and it came to pass when Babylon conquered Judah confirms the divine origin of the prophet’s vision. The Chaldeans had to defeat the Egyptians to become the region’s leading power. From a human perspective, this looked impossible in Habakkuk’s lifetime.

God’s answer was more perplexing than His apparent delay. Habakkuk accepted that the Lord had chosen the Chaldeans to judge His people and affirmed that Judah’s holy remnant would not die (v. 12). Yet in the prophet’s view, F. F. Bruce comments, the cure was worse than the disease (Theodore Edward McComiskey, ed., The Minor Prophets, p. 853; hereafter MP). Babylon was brutal and persecuted righteous Judahites alongside the wicked (v. 13). Just as the fisherman brings in a full catch of fish with his net, the Chaldeans would capture all the nations (vv. 14–17). Habakkuk could not understand how this was possible, for He knew that God never tolerates evil (v. 13). How, asked Habakkuk, could the holy Lord use such a wicked instrument to judge His own?

Coram Deo

To ask questions of God in faith means asking Him with the willingness to be content with His answer or even if He never appears to give us an answer at all. To ask questions of the Lord in a faithless manner is to demand an answer or to find certain answers unacceptable. As we wrestle with God in prayer, let us take care that we always come before Him in faith, trusting in His goodness and willing to be content with whatever He gives us.

Passages for Further Study

Genesis 18:22–33
Job 3; 42:7–9
Psalm 10
Revelation 6:9–11

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343