Habakkuk’s Place in the Grand Story

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This man named Habakkuk held the extraordinary role of prophet of God, but he was ordinary in the way he, like many of the rest of us, look out at the injustice in the world and wonder when God will set things right. Why do “good people” suffer and “bad people” prosper? These enduring questions set off Habakkuk’s sense of righteousness, but deeper than that, his first outcry is about the disobedience of God’s own people.

Habakkuk wanted to know when God was going to make his people act right. How long was God going to let his own people live in stubborn unrepentance? This is just the first volley in Habakkuk’s conversation with God, and the response he receives is not one he expects—or appreciates. God confirms his plan to deal with Judah’s disobedience, but he says he will do so by unleashing the wicked Chaldeans on them. That is how he plans to execute judgment. In other words, God says, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Suddenly Habakkuk shifts gears. Concerned first about Judah’s disobedience, now he wants to argue that they’re not that bad, certainly not bad enough to warrant harm at the hands of pagans. But God is teaching Habakkuk something about his sovereignty, something that reaches back further into history than Habakkuk’s day and proceeds farther into the new day to come. The gist is this: Whatever happens, good or bad, God does all things for his own glory. Pushed to this vivid realization, Habakkuk can only respond with radical trust in God’s goodness and faithfulness, even in the midst of suffering.

The closing lines of his book reflect his vow to “take joy in the God of my salvation” (3:18) and find strength in him alone no matter what. But for all of God’s inscrutable ways, he still gives Habakkuk—and us!—the glimpse at the end-goal of it all. God is sovereign over all the ups and downs and joys and pains of this life. But through it all, his master plan for this broken world is that it gleam only with his manifest glory. Habakkuk 2:14 shows us God’s vision for fallen creation. Every nook and cranny will some day be filled to the brim, overflowing with glory, reflecting in diamond-bright brilliance the new dawn sun (Rev. 21:23; 22:5).

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