The prophet Habakkuk lived in tumultuous times. The kingdom of Judah would shortly fall, and violence and lawlessness were the order of the day. To Habakkuk this caused great distress and he was unable to understand the events that were taking place around him. It seemed that circumstances had slipped out of the control of heaven and that wickedness ruled supreme. In his distress he turned to the Lord (1.2-4) and cried, "Violence!" (1.2), in an attempt to bring this to His attention. But the law seemed to be slack and judgment did not appear to be in operation.
The answer he received added to his consternation. The Chaldeans would be sent to invade Judah and punish her for her sins. How could the Lord use such a nation, less righteous than Judah, to punish her? He could not understand how the Lord was dealing with His people. Do we sometimes feel like Habakkuk? There are areas of the world where violence reigns and lawlessness seems to be supreme. The unrighteous flourish and the disruption and anxiety that is the order of the day causes believers at times to despair. Will peaceful conditions ever return? The question of Habakkuk comes to the lips of many: "O Lord, how long?" (1.2). When will God act to bring peace and stability again?
Even in the so-called "politically stable" areas there is much to distress believers. Violence in society is on the increase. Governments are enacting laws that strike at the core of the teachings of the Word of God, and the Bible no longer is seen as the basis of law making. There is a growing lack of tolerance to the gospel and to all things truly Christian from those who insist that others be tolerant of their "life styles", that but give evidence of the fact that God has given them over to "a reprobate mind" (Rom 1.28). Politicians, the media, the "arts", education, and even those who wrongly claim to be Christian, combine to speak and act against that which believers hold to be the truth.
Do we lose heart at times, thinking that we will never see God at work? If we do, let us examine how Habakkuk responded. He would stand upon his spiritual watchtower so that he could rise above all that surrounded him, all that pressed in against him, and see into the long distance. The man in the watchtower is not occupied with his immediate surroundings, but with what is far off.
If we feel perplexity and anxiety as we view circumstances around us, let as do as did Habakkuk and ascend our spiritual watchtower to look into the distance towards coming glory. Today can only be understood in the light of that coming day. The present can only make sense when we look ahead to the promises of God and have faith in the God who will bring this to pass. Thus Habakkuk tells us that for today "the just shall live by his faith" (2.4), faith in God to keep His promises and to bring to pass all for which we hope.
The reply received by the prophet will encourage all. First, the Lord did have an answer: "Write the vision ", he is told (2.2). God was still in control. Second, the Lord continued, " and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it". The message was so plain that even a man running past would be able to read the tables on which it was written. Today the message regarding the future is plainly found in the Word of God. Third, it declared that God would act at a time that is already appointed. If it is not immediately fulfilled, do not despair; wait for it, as Gods timetable will not slip.
The words found in Habakkuk are an encouragement to all who are concerned about how the testimony will fare in the future, until the Lord comes. All over the world there is violence. In some countries the lives, homes, and families of Christians are at risk. In others the fear is that the gradual suppression of Christian testimony will gain speed. But the Lord will act in His own time, and when the wrath of God is poured out the saints will have been Raptured. Let us look from the watchtower, lean on His promises and take heart: God is still in control!