When Faith is Tested
No one likes the hickory stick or going to the woodshed. Younger generations may not understand those terms, but many know they refer to moments of discipline to correct rebellious behavior. God takes sin seriously and He instructed His people about the certainty of judgment for disobeying His commands. Thankfully, God is longsuffering and merciful.
God had warned His people through natural disasters and foreign occupation of the Promised Land to no avail. God’s patience was tested, and His judgment was about to arrive in an amazing and shocking manner. Habakkuk was instructed to look across the nations and witness an astounding sight. God’s intention to discipline is found in verse 5. His instrument to discipline is found in verses 6-11.
God’s agent of correction was the Chaldean army. He chose a nation that promoted itself, exploited others, and rejected authority to bring judgment to Judah. This chosen judgment agent confounds the prophet. God’s ways often confound us too. While we wrestle with moments such as these, we must be careful to ask the right questions of God. God’s people were more than deserving of God’s correction. God is never indifferent to the sins of His people, the nation Israel or the church. If judgment begins at the house of God, what then can the wicked expect (1 Peter 4:11)? God takes sin seriously.
The prophet expresses confusion on God’s use of an evil nation for judgment. Habakkuk asks several questions as he wrestles with God’s decisions. Why would God employ a people of iniquity (12-13)? Why use sinners to punish other sinners? Why would God endorse a people of injustice (14-15)? If God is righteous and just, how could he use an unjust nation to make His people right? Why would God excuse a people of idolatry (16-17)? God’s people were being judged for their idolatry by an even more idolatrous nation.
Habakkuk questions God’s decision appealing to His name (v 12), His nature (v 13), and His justice (v 14-17). God had purposes to fulfill through the Jewish nation and He would preserve His people, but they would experience painful trials. We must remember that the greater the light, the greater the responsibility to walk in the light. The Jews claimed to know the Lord and yet they were sinning against the very law they claimed to believe! Sin in the life of a believer is far worse than sin in the life of an unbeliever.
Habakkuk’s wrestling with God’s revelation is an opportunity to refine his faith. We are in a similar situation today. We must honestly and humbly ask some tough questions not of God, but of ourselves.
Pastor Chris Thompson