Habakkuk opens rather abruptly, with the prophet turning the tables on the God of the universe, it seems. “How long?” he asks. How long will God ignore Habakkuk and instead allow violence and injustice to run rampant among . . . his own people?! The prophet is calling into question one of Yahweh’s fundamental characteristics—his justice. To Habakkuk—and to so many of us today—it appears that God is not just because all around us we see violence, destruction, and the perversion of justice. And again, Habakkuk is complaining about this among God’s own people.

Imagine yourself in that position—you are there in your local church and evil surrounds you on every side. You are taking communion with people on Sunday who on Monday exploit the poor and on Tuesday commit murder and sexual assault. They have no fear of God, they regularly pervert justice, and they go through all the normal Christian rites and rituals, even reading their Bible regularly and tithing dutifully. And only you seem to notice, or at least to care, that the Christians around you are wicked to the core.

Now imagine this. After you pour out your complaint to the Father like Habakkuk did in 1:2–4, the Lord graciously speaks to you. He tells you not to worry at all, because he is going to set things right. In fact, this very moment he is raising up a group of people who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State to bring his judgment to your church. It sounds absurd, right? And yet that is exactly what God says to Habakkuk. God will bring justice to his own people my means of the Babylonian Empire, “that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. They are dreaded and fearsome; their justice and dignity go forth from themselves. . . . Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!” (Hab 1:6–7, 11)

Russ Meek

Author, editor, and lecturer in Old Testament and Hebrew at Ohio Theological Institute