Habakkuk’s Second Complaint
12 Lord, are you not from everlasting?
My God, my Holy One, you will never die.
You, Lord, have appointed them to execute judgment;
you, my Rock, have ordained them to punish.
13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.
Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?
Why are you silent while the wicked
swallow up those more righteous than themselves?
14 You have made people like the fish in the sea,
like the sea creatures that have no ruler.
15 The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks,
he catches them in his net,
he gathers them up in his dragnet;
and so he rejoices and is glad.
16 Therefore he sacrifices to his net
and burns incense to his dragnet,
for by his net he lives in luxury
and enjoys the choicest food.
17 Is he to keep on emptying his net,
destroying nations without mercy?
I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint.
In the verses leading up to verse 12 Habakkuk asks God what He is going to do about all of the injustice going on around him among the Israelites. Questioning God is tricky business. For most, our questions are disingenuous – we want God (the creator) to justify His actions to us (the creature). This is why Paul answers so vehemently in Romans 9:20 when he says, “who are you, a human, to talk back to God?”. Our questions about fairness reveal our lack of faith that God knows what He is doing, and that before the answer is even given we have concluded that there is no acceptable answer. Faithlessness is sin for people who belong to Christ.
However, there are ways to question God without sinning. God tells Habakkuk that He will bring judgement on the Israelites by way of the Babylonians (aka Chaldeans). Habakkuk acknowledges God’s decision, and knows that whatever God has planned is the right answer. His questioning becomes not about fairness, or questioning God’s motives, but about timing and why it is taking so long for God to judge. The difference between Habakkuk’s questions and the ones we most present is that we don’t agree with God’s judgment, and we question why things happen. Habakkuk is not questioning the action, he wants to know why God hasn’t already judged these people who deserved it long ago. He is for God’s judgement, knowing that God is the ultimate judge, not man.
In this second complaint, Habakkuk lays out his case against the evils in Israel, as well as the coming Chaldeans, and even humanity in general. He begins with an exhalation to God – who is everlasting and because of that has laid out the plans being fulfilled. He is accepting what must soon take place between Israel and the Chaldeans. But in verse 13 Habakkuk becomes depressed. He speaks to God, but also to himself about God’s purity and holiness. God cannot tolerate evil, He can’t even look at it. So why has He let this continue on for so long? Why has the judgement just now come upon Israel for all the atrocities she has committed?
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. – Psalm 103:8-12
It is because He loves that He waits. It seems on the surface like we are all part of one never ending cycle of death and destruction. We are born, we suffer, and then just as all the rest, we die. This is the agony that Habakkuk writes in verses 14 & 15. It’s as if we are all just fish in the sea, at the mercy of whoever has the biggest net. In reality he is correct, sad as it may seem… but there is a silver lining. Though we may be victim to whoever is in power at the moment, our souls are not. God is the ultimate fisherman. He not only catches us out of the tangled net, He lovingly created each of us for a specific purpose while in our ‘nets’. He waits for just the right moment, so that His catch will produce much fruit.
“47 The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – words of Jesus, Matthew 13
Habakkuk continues in 15-17 that it seems no justice prevails against the evils that ensnare all people, whether righteous or not. This man seems even to gain and become wealthy because of what he does. Because his evils work for him, he worships them – and where does evil come from? The father of evil, who wants nothing more than to derail our thinking to that of his lies so our eyes come off of our Father in Heaven. We become worshipers of the things that bring us fortune, instead of the One who gave us the means to begin with. Habakkuk sees no end to the evils around him, especially when it comes to the Chaldeans – for after they have been used by God to judge Israel, they will just move on to another people and do the same. Habakkuk asks for justice.
Now Habakkuk again is resigned to the Lord, and His will in the opening of chapter 2. He knows that whatever God has planned that it is for the best outcome of His purposes and for His glory. God is concerned with our eternal being, and that of others. If He wants to use us to reach another He will. If the only way to reach my neighbor for Christ is for her to see my perseverance through cancer, then that is what God will give me (not to mention that was the plan all along). Have you ever stopped to think about all the events that have lead up to where you are now? Those were no accident. We must always remember that this is not our ‘best life’, but that the life we will live with Christ in eternity is more unimaginably wonderful than even our greatest joy here.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. – James 1