Habakkuk was a man with a problem. He was burned out. He was angry at God. He was tired of watching the wicked prosper and the righteous oppressed. He brought his complaint to the Lord and waited for a response. Here’s a part of Habakkuk’s complaint:
You have made people like the fish in the sea,
like the sea creatures that have no ruler.
The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks,
he catches them in his net,
he gathers them up in his dragnet;
and so he rejoices and is glad.
Therefore he sacrifices to his net
and burns incense to his dragnet,
for by his net he lives in luxury
and enjoys the choicest food.
Is he to keep on emptying his net,
destroying nations without mercy?
This sounds very current to our lives today. We can all see how wicked people exploit and oppress. They use the power structures that exist in the world like a dragnet to suck the resources from a community or a country. Then they celebrate their success and worship their tools of oppression. Do you get angry at God for appearing to be absent from this mess? Do you look at your own heart and wonder why God is not more present when you fall into despair at the state of things? God responds to Habakkuk’s complaint with a bold vision for how he is moving in the earth.
“Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed
and establishes a town by injustice!
Has not the LORD Almighty determined
that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire,
that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
In our meeting, my coworker, Heidi Vincent, pointed out something that I also noticed, but I’ll give her credit. God’s response might have been deliberately designed to play off of Habakkuk’s “fish in the sea” metaphor. As if God was saying, “If people are fish in the sea, then I will make my glory envelop them as the water in which fish live and breathe.” The wicked might be the fishermen, but the Lord is the ocean. They can worship their nets, but the Lord controls the sea. They live and move by his mercy until their appointed time of judgement. In Exodus, God hardened the heart of Pharaoh in order to bring him to a point of confrontation and ultimate judgement at the Red Sea.
There’s a lot of outrage these days about injustice. I come from a generation of Habakkuk’s who are filled with disappointment and frustration with the American Dream and with the American version of Karma. Where’s my American dream when I worked hard to get through school only to be unemployed and in debt? How is it possible that an innocent man is murdered and his killer walks free? The vision that the book of Habakkuk has for this generation is that of hope that is deeper than any promise of the world’s idols. Can we open our eyes to see his glory? The knowledge of the glory of the Lord surrounds us like water surrounds fish and yet we are blind to it. We say that God can’t exist or can’t be known because we can’t comprehend something so glorious and omnipotent. Why are you so downcast, O my soul? He has revealed this all encompassing glory to us in the teaching, ministry, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
The LORD is in his holy temple;
let all the earth be silent before him.