O Lord my God, my Holy One, you who are eternal— surely you do not plan to wipe us out? O Lord, our Rock, you have sent these Babylonians to correct us, to punish us for our many sins. But you are pure and cannot stand the sight of evil. Will you wink at their treachery? Should you be silent while the wicked swallow up people more righteous than they? (Habakkuk 1:12,13)
Habakkuk had been complaining that his own people were living abominable lives and punishment needed to happen. There was too much injustice, too much suffering by the innocent, for God to let it continue. But when God told him that He was going to send the Babylonians to punish His people, Habakkuk had a change of heart. Now God was going too far, using a people even more unrighteous than his own to punish them.
There are two wrong assumptions made here by Habakkuk, and by us too, most likely.
(1) One form of rebellion, because it is more violent and despicable than another, is therefore more deserving of just punishment. It is true that the more heinous the crime the more severe the punishment (Matthew 10:15), but it is also true that all sin is rebellion and desesrving of just requital (James 2:8-13). Israel did not deserve to get off the hook because Babylon was more unrighteous than her.
(2) God cannot stand to be in the presence of evil. This seems true on the face of it, but we find several times in Scripture when God interacts with, even tolerates, evil in His presence. The most famous example is Satan (see Job 1, 2; Revelation 12:10). And in fact, every human being with whom God fellowships is evil at his or her base (Jeremiah 17:9,10).
So Habakkuk is unjustifiably upset with God. God does assure Habakkuk that He will punish Babylon, too (chapter 2). But He is going to use this unrighteous, horrendously violent juggernaut of a nation to cause Israel to suffer. He is going to do this because He loves Israel and wants to move them to righteous living.
So then, the real question for Habakkuk and for us becomes, “How do I live through the season of life where God looks like He is absent from the righteous, not answering my prayers for relief, and not doing things the way I think He should do them?” Habukkuk‘s answer is in chapter 3.
I trembled inside when I heard this; my lips quivered with fear. My legs gave way beneath me, and I shook in terror. I will wait quietly for the coming day when disaster will strike the people who invade us. Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. (3:16-19)
He honestly acknowledged that present circumstances were not going to be tenable, acceptable, good. But he was determined to believe that God was using this for good. And because of this truth he was going to rejoice in the God of his salvation. He was not going to rejoice in his sufferings, but in what God was going to do by way of showing off His salvation. He believed that God was going to prove right and fair in the end and more wise than Habakkuk in His determination to bless those He loved.
Evil instruments in God’s righteous hand means that the evil instrument does not get the last word, but the righteous hand does.
- Lessons From the Old Testament: How NOT to Counsel People in Pain (thimblefulloftheology.wordpress.com)
- Lessons From the Old Testament: Being Honest With God (thimblefulloftheology.wordpress.com)