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Habakkuk’s Dilemma

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Habakkuk’s Dilemma

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Jesus Christ gave His disciples a critical mission to perform. He declared that, “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
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). Furthermore, He called on them to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20 Matthew 28:19-20 [19] Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.
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).

Jesus’ early disciples and others who followed them carried out those duties diligently. And here in the 21st century His Church steadily implements that identical mission. But what has happened over recent decades as these vital responsibilities have been executed? Hasn’t sinfulness and irreverence toward God continued on relentlessly, and actually grown worse? Doesn’t it seem as if most people have no interest in learning the truth of God, and therefore His teachings and warnings through His Church go unheeded?

If you have ever thought this way you’re not alone. About 2,600 years ago, God’s prophet Habakkuk had comparable thoughts and expressed them in a prayer to His Creator by means of a question. Although God answered his query, Habakkuk didn’t really like what he heard and it left him perplexed. So later, he boldly asked God another question and in due course, he began to understand.

Habakkuk prophesied in Judah from 640 to 609 B.C. during the reign of King Josiah. As the nation experienced a period of relative material prosperity, idolatry flourished and God’s way of life was rejected. Although Josiah instituted various spiritual reforms, crime and violence still prevailed. Moreover, the wicked prospered, widows and orphans were forsaken and lawlessness was pervasive. As a result, God raised up Habakkuk and other prophets to call the people’s attention to these escalating sins. He warned the country’s leaders and citizens that God simply wouldn’t tolerate such behavior and unless change occurred, He would have to punish the nation.

Habakkuk’s urgent prayer to God

What was the result of Habakkuk’s many years of conscientious preaching and warning? Well sadly, little if anything since most people refused to heed his God-given words. After experiencing this condition Habakkuk became disheartened and sought to know why God didn’t take immediate action to deal with Judah’s sins. In a prayer he said, “O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even cry out to You ‘Violence!’ And you will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me. There is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore perverse judgment proceeds” (Habakkuk 1:2-4 Habakkuk 1:2-4 [2] O LORD, how long shall I cry, and you will not hear! even cry out to you of violence, and you will not save! [3] Why do you show me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention. [4] Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment does never go forth: for the wicked does compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceeds.
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). So, everything Habakkuk witnessed, with nothing happening to stop it, built up distress within him. Can we perhaps identify with Habakkuk’s painful dilemma as we see rapidly increasing violence, perversion and lawlessness in our society (Ezekiel 9:4 Ezekiel 9:4And the LORD said to him, Go through the middle of the city, through the middle of Jerusalem, and set a mark on the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the middle thereof.
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)?

In response to Habakkuk’s prayer, God explained that He was fully aware of Judah’s iniquities and would chasten the nation if its people didn’t repent. He said that unless this occurred, the country would be invaded, conquered and its people removed from the land by an exceedingly cruel and violent nation—the Chaldeans—also known as the Babylonians (Habakkuk 1:6-9 Habakkuk 1:6-9 [6] For, see, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwelling places that are not their's. [7] They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves. [8] Their horses also are swifter than the leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves: and their horsemen shall spread themselves, and their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly as the eagle that hastens to eat. [9] They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand.
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). After hearing this, Habakkuk was utterly stunned! Just the thought of his people being vanquished by such a despotic, depraved nation completely horrified him! With this knowledge, Habakkuk’s dilemma grew even greater! While at first, he wondered if God would even punish Judah at all, now he became distressed that his nation might be entirely wiped out (Habakkuk 1:12 Habakkuk 1:12Are you not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? we shall not die. O LORD, you have ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, you have established them for correction.
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)! Although deeply troubled, this faithful prophet waited patiently for God to provide him with more information (Habakkuk 2:1 Habakkuk 2:1I will stand on my watch, and set me on the tower, and will watch to see what he will say to me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.
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). Soon God did just that and He asked Habakkuk to write down what he heard so that others could also understand (verse 2).

The prophecy is also for a future time

God then told Habakkuk that He certainly knew that the Chaldeans were arrogant, idolatrous and ruthless (verses 8-14). But He further revealed that in due time, they would be sorely punished and their kingdom entirely demolished (verses 16-17). This happened in 539 B.C. when the Chaldeans’ capital city of Babylon was overthrown by forces of the Medo-Persian Empire. But there is more to the story since Bible prophecies are often dual in nature. God then told Habakkuk, that, “This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed” (Habakkuk 2:3 Habakkuk 2:3For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.
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, New Living Translation, emphasis mine throughout).

This statement was a vital key to solving Habakkuk’s dilemma. God showed him that what he was doing in warning Judah was not for his time alone. As other biblical prophecies explain, it was also for a future period—the “time of the end” (Daniel 12:4 Daniel 12:4But you, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
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)—meaning the period leading up to and including the 3½ years of horrendous world trouble prior to Jesus Christ’s second coming. But of course, Habakkuk didn’t understand this at first. It was only after God helped him see beyond the limited focus of his own day and time.

And yet, can we perhaps understand how Habakkuk felt? He simply wanted his world to be made right and his people brought to repentance then and there! Honestly, isn’t that how we feel at times? Don’t we sometimes wish that our society would not have to undergo the violence and suffering that Bible prophecy reveals are coming? Like Habakkuk, there is no way we would ever really want our nations to be overrun and defeated—with cities, towns and rural areas in flames—with starving, suffering and dying people everywhere. Even though God may indeed protect the brethren of His Church from this horrible disaster, it will conceivably affect our own family members, relatives, friends and neighbors.

But sadly, unless repentance occurs, those dreadful punishments will continue speeding toward our nations. As prophecy reveals, near the end of the age God will permit human leaders, influenced by Satan the devil, to form the most tyrannical and cruel empire to ever rule on earth (2 Thessalonians 2:9 2 Thessalonians 2:9Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
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; Revelation 13:1-4 Revelation 13:1-4 [1] And I stood on the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads the name of blasphemy. [2] And the beast which I saw was like to a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. [3] And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. [4] And they worshipped the dragon which gave power to the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like to the beast? who is able to make war with him?
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). Bible prophecy discloses that shortly before Christ’s second coming, this powerful Babylonian-type world governing system will arise in Europe (Revelation 18:3 Revelation 18:3For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.
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). Described as the “Beast” (Daniel 7:6-7 Daniel 7:6-7 [6] After this I beheld, and see another, like a leopard, which had on the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it. [7] After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.
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), this great superpower will inflict terrible punishment upon the nations of modern-day Israel—meaning the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and others—due to their flagrant and continual disobedience of God’s commandments (Leviticus 26:18 Leviticus 26:18And if you will not yet for all this listen to me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.
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, 24, 28). This devastating period is referred to in scripture as “Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:5-8 Jeremiah 30:5-8 [5] For thus said the LORD; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. [6] Ask you now, and see whether a man does travail with child? why do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? [7] Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it. [8] For it shall come to pass in that day, said the LORD of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off your neck, and will burst your bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him:
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). The prophecies of Judah’s fall were a forerunner of what is to come—which Christ said will be the worst time in all of human history (Matthew 24:21 Matthew 24:21For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
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)! And later, like its ancient Chaldean predecessor, this end-time bestial global power will itself be destroyed (Revelation 18:9-11 Revelation 18:9-11 [9] And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall mourn her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, [10] Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is your judgment come. [11] And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buys their merchandise any more:
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).

What should we do?

So, God’s words to Habakkuk about “the end” apply to the time just ahead of us! Considering this, what should we do? Besides staying personally close to God, we need to strongly support the Church’s media work of preaching the gospel to all nations. Plus, we can pray that God would open additional media doors so that many more people can be reached with His message of witness, warning and repentance (Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
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; Isaiah 58:1 Isaiah 58:1Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.
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). Furthermore, we can pray, as did Habakkuk, “O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2 Habakkuk 3:2O LORD, I have heard your speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive your work in the middle of the years, in the middle of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.
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). And just as importantly, we can personally emulate Jesus Christ as living examples of the gospel message by our godly behavior—so others may also give glory to God (Matthew 5:14-16 Matthew 5:14-16 [14] You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. [15] Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light to all that are in the house. [16] Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
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).

Finally, through God’s great help, Habakkuk’s dilemma was resolved. Afterward he continued preaching repentance, living justly by faith and giving honor to his Eternal Creator (Habakkuk 2:4 Habakkuk 2:4Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.
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; 3:19). He did this while knowing that God was in complete control and would handle everything in His good time. Therefore, let’s follow Habakkuk’s trusting example by growing spiritually strong, preparing diligently for Jesus Christ’s return and supporting God’s great work throughout the world!