This little prophecy really speaks important truths into our life. It addresses the problem of God’s silence and seeming inactivity at times when you would have expected Him to act.
How should we understand God’s dealings with us in the process of history? Is history in the hands of God ?
Or is He simply a remote deity that may be compared to a watchmaker making a watch, winding it up and throwing it into the desert waiting for its time to run out, remaining essentially uninvolved with the watch?
Or is He involved in history? Is He “Yahweh – Jireh“, the Provider, or is He like many Namibian fathers that not take care of their children and who are not involved in their lives?
I do not have to persuade you, that the Scriptures portray God as a caring, loving, heavenly Father. He not only has made the world (Gen. 1:1; John 1:3) but He also “sustains all things by the power of His Word,” (Hebr. 1:3).
The Psalms are filled with affirmations of His providential love and care for all His creatures.
He is involved in the history of the world (e.g. Psalm 2).
He knows His people, even before they are born (Psalm 139).
He deals with stubborn and rebellious generations (Psalm 78:8).
He cares for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field (Matt. 6).
He is the God of all the earth (Psalm 24:1) and of the Universe (Psalm 19).
He is the God of the Macro-cosmos and the Micro cosmos. He is the God of the infinity of space, and He is the God of the atoms, electrons , quarks etc.
Presbyterian theologian RC Sproul once said, “There is no ‘maverick molecule ‘ in the Universe’ . He indwells all things and all things hold together in Him- that is how intimately God relates to all created things.
Here’s the question. If God is so involved in this world how come He feels so far away at times? Many people would argue that great tragedies in the world (tsunamis ; earthquakes ; epidemics and diseases; famines, man’s unrestrained cruelty) would indicate that God doesn’t really care about this world which He has created.
This is where Habakkuk finds himself. If you had asked Habakkuk at this point whether he felt that God was caring for Him or for his country, the nation of Israel , He would have perhaps initially said, "I don’t know ! He seems to have abandoned us!
This sentiment is discerned in 1:2-3: “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help and you will not hear? Or cry out to you “Violence” and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you look idly at wrong?”
SITUATION IN ISRAEL IN HABAKKUK’S TIMES
Habakkuk is a contemporary of Jeremiah ( which dates this writing roughly between 605-600 BC). This is a time when Israel is at an all - time spiritual low, and it showed in her moral and spiritual life. Habakkuk was greatly troubled by what he was seeing. As a prophet he knew that the spiritual state of his nation was due to their own neglect of God. Israel had forgotten her God. She was following other gods. Sin and immorality are rampant. In justice prevails (1:3). Destruction and violence abounds in society. This always happens when the law is disregarded. Listen to how Habakkuk puts it in 1:4: “So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.” There was serious spiritual apathy, which went hand in hand with a general moral, judicial and political decline.
At this point Habakkuk did not understand why God allowed it all. He had been praying to God for help (1:2) but God did not answer! This is the problem, and this easily becomes a snare to many people. Why does a good God not intervene when the wicked surround the righteous? It was not that Habakkuk wasn’t wanting God to deal with sinful Israel. He was not defending the evil in the nation. He was after all a prophet of God, and he had this oracle (lit. a burden) on his heart and mind. His problem was this: Why is God not acting ? Why is He so quiet?
I wonder whether you perhaps feel the same at times? I confess that as a pastor with a burden for this nation, I often feel like this. I know that many Christians are overwhelmed at the rampant evil in our society and they are asking, “why does God not do anything about this ?”
The answer is in coming. God is not sleeping on the job. The answer to what He is going to do is for the next semon Right now we simply want to deal with the state of mind in which we find ourselves when we perceive that God does not appear to act when we think that He should. We need to talk about our response to God's seeing inactivity.
There is, of course a presupposition behind our question, “Why does God not act?” . That is due to the fact that we use the Bible in a particular way. Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones  drew my attention to this fact. He writes, “We tend to use the Bible as a text book of personal salvation. Many people seem to think that the sole theme of the Bible is our personal relationship with God. Of course that is one of the central themes… but that is not the only theme in the Bible. Indeed, we can go so far as to say that the Bible puts the question of personal salvation into a larger context. Ultimately the main message of the Bible concerns the condition of the entire world and its destiny; and you and I, as individuals, are a part of that larger whole…”
The problem occurs when we look at our world from a limited, self- centered perspective and when we fail to take into account the grand message of the Bible concerning the world and its destiny. This is the problem which we find in Habakkuk’s mind at this time. He could not reconcile what he was seeing , with what he was believing.
A similar example of this sort of perplexity is found in Psalm 73. There the Psalmist confesses that he had almost stumbled. His feet had almost slipped. He had a faith crisis when he considered how the wicked always seemed to prosper, while God fearing men like himself always seemed to struggle. In fact he seems to begin to believe by and by that his faith had been all in vain. The more he tried to work this out in his mind, the more depressed he became. But thankfully the turning point came for him in Psalm 73:17, “… until I went into the sanctuary of God ; then I discerned their end…”.
It was not until he had understood the big picture i.e. God’s perspective on the entire matter, that he began to see the true future of the wicked. That new perspective changed everything for him, even though the prosperous and arrogant people in that 73rd Psalm seemed at this stage to have continued in the same frame of mind.
WHY THIS PROPHECY IS SO VALUABLE TO US AT THIS TIME
1. We need a grand perspective of God’s plan for the world in history. Does God’s silence and His choosing not to answer our prayers ( according to our desire) have anything to do with the fact that He is not involved with this world? Habakkuk will teach us that this is not so. We shall learn that God’s silence and His non-answers to our prayers are still to our benefit. And, for that matter aren’t you glad that God does not answer every one of your often self centered and self focussed prayers that tend to exclude eeryone and everything else? For that matter too, aren’t you glad that He did not answer Jesus’ prayer in the garden : ”Lord let this cup pass from me?”
2. Secondly, Habakkuk will teach us , that things in history sometimes get worse before they may get better. The divine surgeon has to cut before He heals. We may be assured that He always heals His people – even if only beyond the curtain of death.
3. Thirdly, Habakkuk will teach us something about the apparent discrepancy between what we see and what we believe. Habakkuk was greatly troubled by what he saw. The problem was that he could not reconcile what he saw with what he believed. He knew that God had to punish his nation. That was clear to him. He knew that God is holy and that his eyes were too pure to behold sin. But what he could not understand was that God could use means, which to Habakkuk’s mind were unthinkable. In this case we shall discover that God will use the Babylonians, a nation of idolaters and ruthless people – to punish His chosen Hebrew nation!
Now this all serves as an introduction. We may need to prepare ourselves to correct our stereo- typical thinking of God. Habakkuk was guilty of stereo-typical thinking. The value of reading the prophet Habakkuk is that we might obtain new insights into the nature of God’s often perplexing working in this world. And perhaps we will begin to understand why things are as they are in the world. There is wonderful scope to broaden our spiritual horizons in this book. And perhaps a few of us will make a quantum leap in our understanding as we begin to understand the nature of the sovereignty of God. There is wonderful scope to learn true humility. There is wonderful scope to live more by faith and in dependence upon His grace.
 Martyn Lloyd Jones: Faith tried and Triumphant (IVP) , p.4