Lessons From Habakkuk’s Opening Cry
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, Mar-Aug 2014

In the last article on Habakkuk, we looked at the prophet’s opening cry found in the first four verses of chapter 1. Habakkuk lamented the seeming indifference and inactivity of God in the face of great wickedness and violence throughout the land of Judah during the days of Jehoiakim.

Before we move on to the Lord’s response to Habakkuk’s cry or lament, I’ll like us to learn three lessons from his cry.

First, we are living in times that are not altogether different from the days of Habakkuk. There are many sad and sinful things that happen in our times that bring us much pain and cause for concern.

Let’s talk for example about the issue of law and justice in the land. One writer wrote, “Dismissal of God’s Word causes a society to render justice based on other things, such as tolerance, diversity, rule of the majority, or any number of things.”

Isn’t that true of our land and many other lands in this world? God’s word is not looked to as THE standard of justice and righteousness. Instead, justice and morality are determined by man’s ideas and thoughts. This is a frightening thing indeed.

In the recent debates and discussions on the homosexual issue, a lot of emphasis has been given to the fact that homosexuality is still viewed as a crime in our land and that it is not consistent with our cherished and traditional family values. But if you think about it carefully, you’ll realise that the basis for maintaining homosexuality as a crime in our land is very weak. Listen to this statement from an article that was posted on the internet some time ago, “Section 377A (the one criminalizing homosexuality) is inherited from archaic Colonial laws.

England, where these laws originate has moved away from this stance decades ago. It is not Singapore’s values, so to speak, to criminalise gay behaviour. It was our colonial masters who imposed that law on us. Just because it is now the law of the land, is not justification that it should remain so. Laws do not remain static and should evolve with the times.”

If such a view gains greater acceptance and momentum among the population (and there is indication that it is), then we can expect that in the not too distant future, perhaps even in our lifetime, we will see same-sex marriages being legalized in our land.

Francis Schaeffer, the Christian thinker and theologian of the past century, wrote in the 1970s, “There is a “thinkable” and an “unthinkable” in every era. One era is quite certain intellectually and emotionally about what is acceptable. Yet another era decides that these “certainties” are unacceptable and puts another set of values into practice. On a humanistic base, people drift along from generation to generation, and the morally unthinkable becomes the thinkable as the years move on…”

“The thinkables of the eighties and nineties will certainly include things which most people today (remember he was writing in 1970) find unthinkable and immoral, even unimaginable and too extreme to suggest. Yet – since they do not have some overriding principle that takes them beyond relativistic thinking – when these become thinkable and acceptable in the eighties and nineties, most people will not even remember that they were unthinkable in the seventies. They will slide into each new thinkable without a jolt.”

Homosexuality is but one example of what used to be an unthinkable thing now becoming a thinkable or acceptable thing in our day. There are other things like abortion, euthanasia, cohabitation, divorce, rape etc.

Like the prophet, we cry, “Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention. Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.”

Second, we learn from our text that we can cry out to the LORD at such times, “How long, O LORD?”

Remember that it is not just our own comfort and safety and convenience that is at stake but it is especially the glory and honour and kingdom of God in this world that we are most concerned about. When there is violence or “hamas” in the land and when that “hamas” is especially directed against God’s people, then not only do God’s people suffer but the name of God is blasphemed and dishonoured among men.

How can God be so inactive and unresponsive, as it were, to the sin and wickedness and evil in this world?  How are we to understand the inactivity of God in the face of such calamity and adversity and “hamas”?

And then beyond all the problems and sins that we see in the world, when we turn our attention to the visible church of Christ, we are distressed as well for the church itself appears to be in a downward spiral. It is spiralling down in terms of its doctrine and practice and worship. And it has little impact on the life and culture of the world around. Many professing Christians are living no differently from the world. The sins, which the apostle Paul said should not be once named among the saints, are common place among Christians. How can this be? How can God let these things continue among the members of the visible church? Why is He not working? Why?

We learn from our text that it is not wrong to pour out our heartfelt pleas and petitions to God and to ask, “How long?” But remember that we may not ask it in a critical or judgment or condemnatory way, but only in the context of trust in and submission to our sovereign God.  

The third and final lesson I’ll like to leave us is this: that the LORD does not leave us without a word. The entire book of Habakkuk bears testimony to that fact. Verse 1 says, “The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.”

We have even more light and revelation today than the prophet Habakkuk. Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.”

We have the complete and sufficient revelation of God in our hands. Christ Jesus, the greatest and the final prophet, has come and He has revealed to us, in His inspired word, all that we need to know for our salvation and Christian life.

Let us praise and thank Him for that. And let us remember that regardless of what is going on (or not going on) in this world, God is most definitely at work. He is not silent or indifferent. He has spoken. Let us read His word and let us trust in Him with all our hearts and all our lives. Amen.

Linus Chua