Habakkuk 2:14, “For as the waters fill the sea, the earth will be filled with an awareness of the glory of the Lord.” (NLT)
Habakkuk is a minor prophet. But don’t forget, minor prophets always have a major message. Minor is a comment on the length of the message, not the significance of it. It reminds me of an example I once heard of the difference between significance and prominence. My nose is prominent. Everyone who looks at me will notice my nose. My liver is significant. Unless something goes terribly wrong no one will ever notice the quality work done by my liver. Cut off my prominent proboscis and I may look different, but I’ll live. Cut out my liver and more than my quality of life will be affected. My quantity of life will be ended.
My nose is prominent. My liver is significant.
The same is true of the minor prophets. Few words. Big message. Habakkuk describes the coming end of what once was Israel. The nation was divided. One kingdom had already fallen. The other would soon fall to the Babylonians. Habakkuk describes the conditions of the nation at the time. Habakkuk 1:4, “The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous so that justice has become perverted.”
Does that sound familiar? I imagine every generation looked at the world around them and saw rising levels of wickedness. It’s easier today than ever. Turn on the TV, take a look at Facebook, Twitter, or Google. The wickedness of people is easy to see.
In chapter one Habakkuk cries out to God for deliverance. I’ll bet you have too.
But the answer God gives is not, I expect, entirely the one Habakkuk – or we – really wants to hear. God tells Habakkuk he’s raising up a violent nation for the express purpose of bringing justice to his chosen people.
We don’t like to think about this quality of God. We prefer his more gracious characteristics described in the New Testament. It’s true, our God is a gracious and loving God. But without justice there can be no grace. Wickedness cannot be allowed to prevail. It must be dealt with. Justice is the only answer.
Justice makes right what once went wrong. Justice demands satisfaction. Justice will either be accomplished because the wicked pay for their crime or because someone takes the place of the wicked. In Habakkuk God’s patience has run out. This time, the wicked will pay.
The wicked will always pay. The question is not if, but when and how. When I think about what happened at Sandy Hook, when I consider the man who recently kidnapped a kindergartner and held him prisoner, when stories of under-aged sex trafficking during the Super Bowl come across my news feed the need for justice rises within me. Why not now, God? Why not swift, painful, brutal justice exacted on those who are clearly evil? Why wait?
At times Kind David would pray, “God kill my enemies.” It sometimes sounds like he would add, “…and let me be the sword.” We’ve all been there. We’ve all wanted to see someone get their just rewards. David was also quick to end those prayers with some variation of, “…I trust you God. Your will be done.”
In those moments when my heart cries out for justice I’m reminded by these verses in Habakkuk that there are two reasons God may seem slow to bring justice.
God’s justice is thorough. Did you notice? God said he was raising up the Babylonians, a violent, cruel, brutal people. If you’ve seen the movie 300 – the ones attacking the Greeks are the Babylonians. It’s a movie, but it does a pretty good job illustrating the brutality of Babylon. Habakkuk says God raised them up to exact his justice on his people.
God’s justice is thorough. If his justice seems delayed it’s because he’s setting the table for complete and utter devastation. He has so many tools in his arsenal. When the day comes for justice to be satisfied you can be assured that the punishment will fit the crime and will likely be far beyond anything you can imagine.
But there’s another thought here too. God’s grace is just as thorough as his justice. The giving of grace is not the corruption of justice. On the contrary, grace can only be given when justice is satisfied. For Believers that took place when Jesus Christ suffered the penalty of torture and death on the cross in your place and mine. Sometimes God is slow to deliver justice because he is trying to deliver grace.
Where do you see a need for justice today? In that situation do you believe God is about deliver his justice or his grace? Which would you prefer he deliver? Which would you prefer he give you? How can you determine when it’s time for you to deliver his justice or his grace?
These are the difficult questions, but they are questions with clear answers guided by Scriptural principles. When should I offer grace? How should justice be satisfied?
Thank you for your patience with me. Thank you for giving me grace when I deserved justice. Give me the discernment to know how to carry your grace and your justice into this world. There are so many examples of wickedness in our world today. Do not delay. Deliver this world and your people from this wickedness. Satisfy your justice. Offer your grace. Either way, let your glory cover the earth like the waters cover the sea.
I love you, in Jesus name –