Habakkuk – For our day

by Jennifer Roach, LMHC

Habakkuk is the book you never knew you needed.

The problem of evil is a question every generation must grapple with.  If God exists, why does he allow school children to be killed in a shooting? If God is good, how can he let people suffer as they do? If God cares about his children, how can poverty, disease, and violence rampage us as they do?

Habakkuk grappled with this question too. In his day the question was, “If God loves us, why do the Babylonians terrorize us?”  I offer the following reading of Habakkuk – for his day, and for our day – as an answer to the problem of evil.

For Our Day – The Complaint King James – The Complaint
I wake up early and read the papers. Another shooting. No, two more. Violence all around.

I pray and tell God about the violence and wonder why he does not save us from it.

Verse 2. How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
And not just in the news. Family members doing wrong to each other. Destruction of faith and love. We’re swimming in conflict. It’s everywhere. 3.     Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
The laws don’t help. The legal system doesn’t either. We all see how much is going wrong in the world, but no one can do anything. It feels like wickedness is winning. 4.     Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.
The Lord’s Response The Lord’s Response
Oh, you’ve noticed the violence.

Well, watch this, you wouldn’t believe it, even if you were told.

I let violence happen. You cry, “How can God let this happen?”

There are dreaded people who are intent on violence.

They’ll amaze you with how violent they are.

They care nothing about you or me, they only care about the damage they can do.

I let violence exist in your world.

And you cannot understand why.

5 – 11.  “Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.
I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people…
They are a feared and dreaded people;
they are a law to themselves…
    they all come intent on violence….
11 Then they sweep past like the wind and go on—
guilty people, whose own strength is their god.”
 The 2nd Complaint The 2nd Complaint
God, I don’t understand. You are an eternal and holy God.

I know that your eyes are too pure to even look at this level of evil.

I know that you can’t tolerate wrongdoing.

So, I’m very confused, why do you let all this violence happen?

Your children suffer.

Why do you let the wicked get away with this?

I will wait for your answer

12   – 13. Lord, are you not from everlasting?
My God, my Holy One, you will never die.
You, Lord, have appointed them to execute judgment;
you, my Rock, have ordained them to punish.
13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.
Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?
Why are you silent while the wicked
swallow up those more righteous than themselves?
The Lord’s 2nd Response

Chapter 2

The Lord’s 2nd Response

Chapter 2

You are only seeing part of the picture. Violence only seems to be prevailing.

These violent men are never satisfied by the evil they do – they always want more.

That’s why it keeps happening.

They can’t get enough – in fact it is impossible for them to ever get enough.

There is no end to their stealing.

They can’t steal enough.

There is no end to their plundering.

They can’t plunder enough.

There is no end to shedding blood.

They can’t get enough blood.

They indulge in too much vanity.

They love the shedding of blood.

The thirst of violence is never satisfied.

You wake up and see that another act of violence has been done and ask me, “Why is this happening? And “When will this end?”

You can not understand how strongly violence hungers for more.

But the Lord is in his Holy Temple.

Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time… Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and a taunting proverb against him, and say, Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his! how long?….Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil!…12 Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity! 13 Behold, is it not of the Lord of hosts that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity? 14 For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea….17 For the violence of Lebanon shall cover thee, and the spoil of beasts, which made them afraid, because of men’s blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein.






20 But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.

Habakkuk’s Prayer for Today

Chapter 3

Habakkuk’s Prayer

Chapter 3

The Lord does not give Habakkuk an explanation of the problem of evil.

He could have.

In fact, Habakkuk is just like us – he asked for the explanation. “Why do you make me look at suffering?”

But God knew that the explanation would not satisfy Habakkuk. Just like it would not satisfy us.

God could have explained all the theology behind evil. He could have explained why evil always thirsts for more and is never satisfied.

But he knew that answer would not satisfy us.

Instead, God give Habakkuk a vision of Himself, in all this glory.  And he asks Habakkuk to be satisfied with that answer.

The point being that evil and violence are never satisfied. So no explanation of them could ever really satisfy either.

So God reminds Habakkuk who He really is. That he rules the universe. And he asks Habakkuk to allow this vision of Him to suffice. He asks Habakkuk to not be like evil – something that is never satisfied – and to accept the answer he has been given God.

O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid…God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power. Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet….I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: and the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble. Was the Lord displeased against the rivers?…Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers….10 The mountains saw thee, and they trembled: the overflowing of the water passed by: the deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high. 11 The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of thine arrows they went, and at the shining of thy glittering spear….13 Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck. 18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

19 The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.


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Jennifer Roach earned a Master of Divinity from The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, and a Master of Counseling from Argosy University. Before her conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints she was an ordained minister in the Anglican church. Her own experience of sexual abuse from a pastor during her teen years led her to care deeply about issues of abuse in faith communities.

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