Habakkuk 1:13 “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You cannot look on wickedness with favor. Why do You look with favor on those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they?” (NASB)
The question Habakkuk asks here concerns God’s divine plan to use the Chaldeans to punish Judah for its faithlessness. Despite the particular context of Habakkuk’s inquiry, this question has been a ubiquitous one for nearly every human being who has ever lived. Not simply, how is it that God could use an evil nation to punish another evil nation? But how could God, Who is all-good and all powerful, permit evil? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do the wicked prosper? Why is life harder for the righteous one?
One finds these questions constantly probed by Christians and non-Christians alike. We know innately that something is wrong with the world. We know it is not as it should be. Murder, burglary, and adultery are rightly decried as evil. So too are the natural disasters that nature brings. Are hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and pestilence really necessary, dear God? While for non-Christians, their struggle with these questions will only result in frustration and exhaustion (unless they acknowledge the Lord), for Christians the story is different. Indeed, for those Christians who personally wrestle with questions of this variety, the book of Habakkuk should not only be a comfort to them, but one studied in-depth, and not overlooked as it often is.
The remarkability of Habakkuk as a book lies in its unique nature as a dialogue with God. Not very often in the Old Testament does God patiently answer the inquiries of individuals—and Habakkuk is an entire book! Habakkuk asks very pointed questions to God, and God answers the prophet very clearly. As a human being and follower of God, the prophet Habakkuk shared many of the concerns we have today. More remarkable still is God’s response to Habakkuk’s question in this verse. Thus, dear Lord, how could You tolerate such an evil nation as Babylon, a people who make their own strength into a god? God’s answer entails multiple parts.
God explains that He will bring justice on the wicked, but we must be patient for it. This is part of what it means for the righteous to live by their faith (2:3-4). Now, for the second time, God gives Habakkuk an answer he perhaps did not want to hear. Indeed, Habakkuk asks this question in 1:13 precisely because he is incredulous to God’s response to his first question of 1:2-4. Perhaps what Habakkuk would have preferred to hear was that God would quickly smite the Chaldeans and restore Judah to its former glory, and dwell with His people once more. That is often the case with Christians and non-Christians alike. It is not so much that we wrestle with the aforementioned questions; but it is the answers which are not very welcomed.
Too often, human beings dig for answers for which they are not primed. While it is certainly the case that God has withheld much knowledge from mankind (e.g. the timing of His return), He nonetheless takes the time to patiently answer many of our other questions. But are we prepared for the answer He might deliver? If one fears a potential answer, one might be better suited to not ask the question in the first place. How patient can (or should) one truly be? Solely because God does not answer according to our preconceived ideals of a beautiful world does not mean God is heartless, a monster, or non-existent. It simply means that our minds are still immature, and require refinement in fire. You may want to ask God questions, but do you want the answers? Not without reason does the Preacher say in much wisdom there is much grief (Ecc. 1:18).