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questioning figure August 2 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Habakkuk

Why Does God Allow Evil?

Why is there so much evil and violence in the world? Why doesn’t God do something? Since the days of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, there has been evil. Evil is not something new, and evil is not God’s fault. Still, we ask, why doesn’t God fix it? This question is also what the prophet Habakkuk asks of God before Jerusalem is destroyed in 586 B.C. What he learns will help us.

Habakkuk is a prophet to the nation of Judah. His prophecy may have been written during the early reign of Eliakim (Jehoiakim), after his brother Jehoahaz (Shallum) was dethroned and exiled by the king of Egypt. Although their father, King Josiah, made many spiritual reforms, his people remained evil.

The fix is not always the way we want it.

Habakkuk observes the wickedness and violence in his and other surrounding nations. He also sees an evil conquering nation coming from the north which consumes all other nations in its path—Babylon. He wants to know what God is going to do about it.

In a dialogue with him, God gives answers to Habakkuk. The good news is that He will judge—He will bring justice. The bad news is that the LORD will use Babylon to do it, i.e., punish His people.

“Wait!” Habakkuk says. “That is not what I meant. Surely, you will not wipe out your own people! You are too righteous to destroy your people with a nation that is more unrighteous than your own.”

God replies to Habakkuk: “Write it down in stone and declare it to Judah” (Habakkuk 2:2, NIV). He assures his prophet, this will happen, soon and in the future. Soon, Babylon will attack Judah and almost wipe them out. She will exile the survivors of Judah. God further instructs Habakkuk to be patient—Babylon will get its due punishment. The destroyer will itself be destroyed.

In the future, a reunited Israel will face this same kind of threat from a nation which is referred to in the Bible as Mystery Babylon (Revelation 17:5). A mystery is something which is not yet revealed; so we do not know who this nation will be, but we know she will be like Babylon.

Is there no comfort, no hope?

Yes, there is hope. Those who will not repent will face judgment, but our enemies will also face judgment. Babylon will conquer many nations with violence, but she, too, will be judged. This is some comfort to us, Habakkuk, and Israel.

What about those who try to live right before God?

“The just will live by faith.” This is one of four similar declarations in the Bible (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38). Here, God says to Habakkuk, “Behold, as for the proud one [referring to the king of Babylon; Habakkuk 2:5-6, NASB], His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.” Babylon’s leader (Nebuchadnezzar) is proud and will suffer for it, but the righteous ones will live by faith; that is, they will experience God’s favor and blessing. We will see examples of this in our next lesson.

What about us; do we want God’s favor and blessings? If so, in remorse, we must turn from our evil ways to God to escape His judgment or discipline (more...).

So what do we do in the meantime?

Knowing the certain judgment which will come upon Judah, Habakkuk prays to God: “LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2, NIV). Habakkuk knows God will not change His mind this time. Seeing Babylon's fierce attack on other nations, he prays for God’s mercy.

Habakkuk then has a vision of God’s power in future days when He will deliver His people, His anointed one. Commentators debate whether “anointed one” refers to Christ or to the future Israel. In context, in the poetic parallelism of prophecy, “anointed one” seems to refer to His people Israel. God has His hand of blessing on His people. They are chosen and anointed, and God will deliver them.

Most of us would wish our nation to escape judgment, but God is just. We may, like Habakkuk, have to endure times of trouble from the LORD's judgment on our nation. How will we escape? We can only hope to escape God’s judgment by turning from our sins to Him and praying for His mercy (more...).

How will we endure judgment if our nation must go through it? It will do no good to complain. Instead, we should take the attitude of Habakkuk. He waits patiently for God’s prophesied judgment, although he does not desire it. The nation of Judah might lose their crops and their cattle and flocks, but Habakkuk is resolved to be joyful in God His Savior. He has confidence that God will help him to be on top of his troubles instead of beneath them (Habakkuk 3:16b-19). If we trust in God as our Savior, we can experience the same joy even in the midst of our trials. Will we make the decision to accept God’s will and be joyful in Him until the day He delivers?

Lessons to Live By

Why Does God Allow Evil? Why doesn’t He end it?

  • God will judge—He will bring justice, but He starts with His own people.
  • The just will live by faith. Do we want God’s favor and blessings? Do we want to escape his judgment or discipline? If so, we must pray for His mercy. In remorse, we must turn from our evil to God and obey Him (more...).
  • How will we endure judgment if our nation must go through it? If we trust in God as our deliverer, we can experience joy even in the midst of our trials.

Focus Verse

Habakkuk 2:4 (NASB ‘ 95) “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.”

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A Look Ahead: In our Next Lesson, we will see some Lights in the Darkness of Judah's situation, some people who live by faith.

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