Habakkuk 1:12-2:1: The Problem of Reconciling God’s purposes

Have you ever asked a question, got an answer, but the answer provoked a number of further questions? That’s the trouble with our questions isn’t it? We think we have a good grasp of an issue, and all we need is one more piece to make the picture complete, but when we hear the answer, we realise our original idea was wrong and so we have a number of further questions to try and fill out the picture in our minds. This is Habakkuk. He had what appeared to be a simple question, ‘How long until you do something about the sins of Judah, God?’ His question in one way was quite self-centred. He was part of the righteous remnant who was suffering due to the injustice but He wasn’t thinking about the bigger picture. He was not thinking about the promise God made concerning Manasseh’s sins which would result in exile; he was not thinking about God’s sovereignty concerning Assyria, Egypt, Babylon as well as Judah. So when God answered his question telling him that He was doing something about it, and that something was a Babylonian invasion of Judah, and people being carried off into exile, the answer shattered Habakkuk’s comfort in his conception of things and led to more questions. Habakkuk has made his first complaint, God has made His first response, now we look at 1:17-2:1 where Habakkuk makes his second response. Here come the questions that flow from God’s answer.

Here is the basic flow of Habakkuk’s second complaint. Firstly, Habakkuk states his faith in v12; this is what he knows and believes. But there are still niggling questions that arise and so he articulates his continuing doubt in v13 stating the heart of the problem, ‘why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallow up the man more righteous than he?’ to Habakkuk’s mind this is not a solution but creates more problems, these problems are stated in v14 where it degrades humanity, and v15-17 outline how this will only lead to greater evils being committed not less. His complaint ends in 2:1 where convinced with the righteousness of his complaint he waits expecting a rebuke from God, but his attitude is one of willing to continue to argue the righteousness of his case.

We will divide this sermon under three headings, Habakkuk’s faith v13; Habakkuk’s doubt v13-17; and Habakkuk’s waiting 2:1.