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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). 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).

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). 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)?

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). 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)! Although deeply troubled, this faithful prophet waited patiently for God to provide him with more information (Habakkuk 2:1). 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, 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)—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; Revelation 13:1-4). Bible prophecy discloses that shortly before Christ’s second coming, this powerful Babylonian-type world governing system will arise in Europe (Revelation 18:3). Described as the “Beast” (Daniel 7:6-7), 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, 24, 28). This devastating period is referred to in scripture as “Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:5-8). 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)! And later, like its ancient Chaldean predecessor, this end-time bestial global power will itself be destroyed (Revelation 18:9-11).

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; Isaiah 58:1). 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). 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).

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; 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!