How Long, Lord?
Quite a few people in the Bible have asked God, “How long do I have to put up with this?” Even Jesus asked this question when his disciples and the Pharisees (religious leaders) were arguing. Mark 9:19 He was human as well as divine and knows how we feel.
Habakkuk was a prophet during a time when the king and leaders of Jerusalem were especially wicked. This was in the late 500s BC. The Bible doesn’t tell us anything about Habakkuk, but we can see what he is like through his prayers.
“O LORD, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see iniquity,
and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law is paralyzed,
and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
so justice goes forth perverted.” Habakkuk 1:2-4
God answers and tells Habakkuk he will punish these rulers of Jerusalem by sending the Babylonians to destroy them and the city. The Lord had told many prophets this and had warned the people of Jerusalem for years.
God said, “They have built high places to Baal on which to burn their children in the fire as offerings to Baal—something I never commanded or mentioned, nor did it even enter My mind.” Jeremiah 19:5
Isaiah the prophet wrote about the people of Judah: “Your hands are the hands of murderers, and your fingers are filthy with sin. Your lips are full of lies, and your mouth spews corruption. No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity. They hatch deadly snakes and weave spiders’ webs. Whoever eats their eggs will die; whoever cracks them will hatch a viper. Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood.
They pursue evil schemes; acts of violence mark their ways. The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks along them will know peace. So, justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.”
I’m not so sure Habakkuk was happy with God’s answer. At first, he acknowledges the right of God to punish, but then he told God what he thought of the Babylonians and asked, “Is he to keep destroying nations without mercy?”
Then Habakkuk says something bold,
“I will take my stand at my watchpost
and station myself on the tower,
and look out to see what he will say to me,
and what I will answer concerning my complaint.”
We can also pray like this. We can ask God anything and then wait for an answer. I’ve done this many times and he has always answered my questions. Either he puts the answer in my mind, I find it in the Bible or gives me a dream. My sister Liz asked God a question about 15 years ago and recently got the answer. She laughed about that, but it just shows that God will answer one day. We must be patient.
God tells Habakkuk to write down what he is going to tell him so many can read it. His answer to this question is long and I believe is not just about the king of Babylon. It looks to me like a judgment of the nations of all the world. And he specifically says, “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. Habakkuk 2:3
The Pulpit Commentary says:
“The prophecy personified yearns for its fulfilment in “the end,” not merely at the destruction of the literal Babylon, but in the time of the end – the last time, the Messianic age, when the world power, typified by Babylon, should be overthrown.”
In verse 4, God compares the wicked and the righteous by saying, “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” Instead of relying on their own strength, those who follow God live by faith in the strength of God.
So, what does God say? It seems to me I should copy down everything from Habakkuk from this point to the end of the book, but I won’t do that to you. It would be good to find the book online and read it, asking God to help you understand.
Suffice it to say, God tells of the evils the nations have done; how they have hurt the innocent. In chapter 3 he moves on to judgement, when he will come down and allow the earth to be destroyed while he saves those who are waiting for him. They are hiding from their persecutors, but he knows where they are.
When this earth is dying from global warming, which will cause heat from the sun to burn our food and people, then Jesus will return and rescue those who believe in him. This is told in the book of Revelation and is one of the last plagues to fall on earth.
“The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire.” Revelation 16:8
God doesn’t cause the sun to burn us, be he allows the world to reap what it has sown. We have sown chemicals into the earth and sky and one day they will rain down on us. But there is hope in God. He will save those who wait on him. Jesus will come the second time in the clouds of heaven and call us to himself.
“I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4
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