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Habakkuk’s deep desire for God-honoring justice and his strong negative reaction to its absence make his book all too relevant to contemporary readers. Inundated as we are with disturbing news and images from around the world, the sheer scale of the problem will appear overwhelming if we do not view it in light of the gospel. Furthermore, Habakkuk’s awareness of his own moral shortcomings and those of his compatriots show that the problem of sin is deeply rooted in human nature, and so includes all of us. But despite the gravity of the situation in Judah and beyond its borders, God’s answers to the prophet’s exasperated prayers bring him from a state of doubt and despair to one of firm faith and joy, even before anything has changed in Judah or abroad.

Three elements of this short book stand out for both their contribution to the prophet’s spiritual reorientation and their potential to guide our attitudes, actions, and expectations in a world that seems as unhinged and self-destructive as the ancient Near East in the late seventh century BC.

1. God is not indifferent to injustice in Judah.

This truth amounts to a direct rebuttal of what seems to be Habakkuk’s assumption at the beginning of the book. He does not go so far as to accuse God of injustice, but unless God does something, that conclusion appears to be inevitable (Hab. 1:2–4). God’s response to the prophet is patient and instructive. His commitment to bring judgment against sinful Judah (Habakkuk’s initial concern) shows that His covenantal commitment to His people does not guarantee their immunity to sin’s consequences. God is not indifferent to injustice.

But when God reveals to the prophet that He will use the Babylonians to punish Judah, Habakkuk is again mystified. Presuming that Judah is “more righteous” than Babylon (Hab. 1:13), he implies that if God were to allow this, this too would be to countenance evil (Hab. 1:13).

2. God is not indifferent to injustice in Babylon.

God’s lengthy response to Habakkuk’s charge in chapter 2 demonstrates that the Lord is fully aware of Babylon’s guilt—even before it attacks Judah. God lays out in detail the profound pride, violence, and self-glorification that drove Babylon-as-empire to dominate as much of the ancient Near East as possible. Summarized in Habakkuk 2:5, the empire is condemned for violently plundering other nations in order to enrich itself (Hab. 2:6–13) and using every means at its disposal to take what it wanted from other nations (Hab. 2:15–17), all the while attributing its success to false gods (Hab. 2:18–19).

Over against Babylon’s project of global domination, the Lord asserts that breathtaking judgment is about to fall on the empire. But God’s intervention will do more than repay Babylon for its sins, thereby addressing Habakkuk’s second concern. God promises nothing less than to establish His saving rule worldwide, so that the earth will be filled with knowledge of Him (Hab. 2:14). This leads to the third element of God’s response to Habakkuk.

3. Faith in God brings peace and leads to life.

Even before God unpacks the promise of Habakkuk 2:14 in particular in chapter 3, showing that His perfect justice and His surprising grace will punish sinners and remove sin once and for all (Hab. 3:3–15), His promise of full justice and salvation has begun to reorient the prophet (Hab. 3:2). This reorientation is completed by the bold vision of God’s arrival to save and to judge in what follows.

Two results of the message that God will fully judge sin and fully save His people are particularly relevant to Habakkuk and his readers. First, this truth reaches Habakkuk’s very heart and brings about a complete transformation of his outlook. His exasperation and doubt are replaced by a calm confidence that takes God at His word and sees by faith the purification and perfection of all creation. In this new state of heart and mind, the prophet can wait patiently for God to fulfill His promises in the ways and at the times He has sovereignly determined.

Second, the saving, redemptive justice that God will bring to those who trust His gracious promises (Hab. 2:4) ultimately leads to life. The soaring language of chapter 3 presents God’s saving intervention as a second exodus that liberates God’s people not so much from Babylon’s clutches as from the condemnation and servitude that are the result of their sin. This is only possible through the Messiah (Hab. 3:13), whom God sent to suffer on behalf of His people and exalted by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:3).

Habakkuk’s message is a definitive response to the problem of sin that so troubled the prophet. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ reveal both the certainty of God’s final victory over evil and the possibility of salvation through His Messiah. In light of these truths, we can celebrate God’s patience in withholding judgment and do our utmost to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth until His return (2 Peter 3:9).

This article is part of the Every Book of the Bible: 3 Things to Know collection.