Habakkuk is caught up in the problem of Evil in the world and cries out to God. “Why do you allow such evil to exist?” He speaks about the evil he sees around him and how no one steps up to help those suffering. To further that problem, he continues to confront God with this issue. In Habakkuk 1:4, we see the pain associated with the issue and get a view into what is happening that is about to bring God’s judgment on Israel and Judah. He says, “So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.” The law, designed to give justice to all people, has no force in the land anymore. Justice is not being administered. The wicked get away with all their sins, and the righteous face perverted justice. As one commentary reads, “The result of the abandonment of God’s mishpat (justice) in Judean society is chaos: the law is numbed, justice does not go out, the wicked surround the righteous, and justice is perverted. No wonder the prophet complained about such a sorry state of affairs. With the breakdown of the social order, the nation lacked the elemental necessities for existence. When law is paralyzed and justice perverted, the righteous become the pawns of the wicked.”[1]

It sounds a lot like our present day in some respects. In the last few years, there has been a focus on “defunding” the police in many liberal controlled cities in the U.S. Prosecutors have let recidivists off with little or no consequences for violent crime. The justice system focuses on the rights of the criminal instead of the rights of the victims, many of whom have been beaten, battered, abused, robbed, raped, and assaulted. The Nation is in a national debate about the cause of such problems, but most see it as the left-wing liberal movement away from law enforcement. The Heritage Foundation reports, “Beginning in 2015 with the election of Kim Foxx, first of the George Soros–promoted rogue prosecutors, as Cook County (Chicago) State’s Attorney, cities with rogue prosecutors have imposed policies that all—each and every one of them—inure to the benefit of criminals. Such policies have contributed to the lawlessness across so-called blue cities and the steep rise in crime rates across America. To suggest now that Republican elected officials who have followed different policies have contributed to crime increases is at best laughable.”[2]

In the book of Psalms, there is a whole category of passages described as “Imprecatory.” That means an innocent victim cries out to God for justice when he cannot find any on earth. He pleads for God to act. David wrote many of these psalms while he was on the run from Saul. Psalm 17 begins with David’s prayer. He says, “Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry! Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit! From your presence let my vindication come! Let your eyes behold the right!” David refused to take vengeance on his enemies and committed them to God’s righteous judgment. Waltner comments on this passage, “This prayer shows how readily the cry of the innocent moves toward imprecation. The cry for vengeance is born of suffering. To suffer unjustly seems not only unfair, but also an affront to God’s justice. Persons who are cornered may cry out in rage. They appeal to the God of justice to act justly.”[3] God will always act justly, and righteousness will always work itself out according to God’s will in the end. This is where Habakkuk is going with his confrontation of the wicked. He does not call for vengeance but for faith in God to bring justice to those who cannot get it for themselves. I don’t suppose anyone suffered more unjustly than Jesus himself. He teaches us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. So Paul follows Habakkuk and Jesus when he tells us in Romans 12:19, “ Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

[1] Barker, Kenneth L. 1999. Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah. Vol. 20. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[2] https://www.heritage.org/crime-and-justice/report/the-blue-city-murder-problem

[3] Waltner, James H. 2006. Psalms. Believers Church Bible Commentary. Scottdale, PA; Waterloo, ON: Herald Press.