O LORD, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even cry out to You, “Violence!” And You will not save. (Hab 1:2)
Does that prayer sound familiar?
Sometimes, we may pray just like the prophet Habakkuk, asking God: “How long, Lord?”
Habakkuk raised this question because he could not bear to see all the wickedness of his kinsmen. He was wondering why God did not judge and punish all those who sinned.
Our human sense of justice tells us that the wicked should be punished, especially, if they have hurt us. We will naturally seek to take revenge on them, because we simply can’t seem to find peace of mind if we are not vindicated.
This sense of justice often causes us to doubt God’s justice as we wonder why He tolerates all the evil in this world and does not punish the wicked straight away. Sometimes, we may have similar questions regarding our own brothers and sisters in Christ who have fallen or have become sources of strife and contention in the church.
Like Habakkuk, we may ask the Lord, “Why do you allow all these things to happen?” “Don’t you care?”
But in Habakkuk 1:5-11, God tells the prophet that His punishment will surely come; He will raise up the Chaldeans against the Israelites to punish them for their sins. The Chaldeans (or Babylonians) were known for their cruelty and wickedness, which indicates that Israel’s punishment would be very severe.
God is jealous, and the LORD avenges;
The LORD avenges and is furious.
The LORD will take vengeance on His adversaries,
And He reserves wrath for His enemies;
The LORD is slow to anger and great in power,
And will not at all acquit the wicked.
The LORD has His way
In the whirlwind and in the storm,
And the clouds are the dust of His feet. (Nah 1:2-3)
Here, Prophet Nahum gives us insight into God’s justice and the magnitude of His wrath. When the Lord starts to punish evil, it will be a day to reckon. It will be something that we wouldn’t want to be part of (cf. Heb 10:31). However, we don’t know when He will execute judgment; God has His own time and plan. In addition, He does not delight in punishing man; He would rather see us repent, return, and be saved.
So what’s the answer to the Habakkuk’s question? How should we respond if we see wickedness, injustice, contention, and strife around us, or if we become victims of injustice?
Apostle Paul has provided an answer, which, I believe, truly reflects the heart of God:
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:19-21)
I believe that this is what we need to learn. Instead of taking matters into our own hands or questioning God, let us channel our energy towards overcoming evil with good. We may not necessarily see results in this life, but if we follow Paul’s advice by faith, we will definitely receive our reward in heaven.