A Perplexing Problem
Sometimes we have a hard time trying to understand why God allows so much sin and violence in this world without doing something about it. The prophet Habakkuk faced this same dilemma. He cried out to God: “Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? For spoiling and violence are before me; and there are those that raise up strife and contention. Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment does never go forth" (Hab. 1:3-4).
When Is God Going To Judge Our Sinful Society?
Like many Christians today, this Old Testament prophet could not reconcile the holiness of God and the sinfulness of the society he was living in. If there was a God, where was He? Why didn't He answer his prayers (vs. 2)? Sometimes we, like this perplexed prophet, interpret God’s silence incorrectly—thinking He's not doing anything about the wicked world around us—when in fact He is patient and long suffering. The fact that He is not judging right now doesn't mean He will never judge!
What Does the Bible Say
In II Peter 3 we are told told that in the last days there would be scoffers denying the promise of Christ's coming. We are told they are "willingly ignorant" of the fact that God judged this world one time before with a world-wide flood. They mock the concept of God judging a nation because of its immorality and perversion. But the reason God refrains from judgment is this: "He is long suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (II Pet. 3:9). God doesn't mind waiting for judgment day, but that apparent "silence" seems to bother a lot of us, as it did Habakkuk.
A Terrible Accusation
Habakkuk accuses God of not enforcing His own Laws. “Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment does never go forth: for the wicked compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceeds”. That is a serious accusation to level against a holy and righteous God! So God rebukes this perplexed prophet with sternness and sets him straight. “I will work a work in your days which you will not believe, though it be told you. For lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land to possess the dwelling places that are not theirs. They are terrible and dreadful” (1:5-7). God tells Habakkuk that He knows what He is doing, that judgment is indeed coming, and that His holiness and fidelity to the Law is steadfast. God’s answer made Habakkuk’s complaint seem foolish.
This Old Testament Guy Finally Got It
Habakkuk then bursts forth in praise to God. Talk about a sudden change of mind! He finally understands what God is doing and admits that his questioning of God’s ways was premature. “O Lord, You have appointed them for judgment; O Rock, You have marked them for correction. You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness” (1:12-13). He extols the holiness of God and the Lord’s intolerance of evil. He also realizes, finally, that judgment comes according to God’s timing (not his): “Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry” (2:3).
So the next time we are tempted to accuse God of doing nothing, we better think again. And instead of worrying about when God is going to get around to judging them for their sins, we ought to be more concerned about when God is going to save them from their sins.