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A Sob and a Song

Article by Justin Bise

Twentieth century pastor/theologian, S. Lewis Johnson said, “Habakkuk starts with a sob and ends with a song.” Mourning turns to praise. The name Habakkuk is thought to mean embracer. He certainly needs a hug given what is going on in Judah during his day.

How long, O Lord, will I call for help, And You will not hear? I cry out to You, “Violence!” Yet You do not save. 3 Why do You make me see iniquity, And cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; Strife exists and contention arises. 4 Therefore the law is ignored And justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore justice comes out perverted. --Habakkuk 1:2-4 (NASB 1995)

Can you sympathize with Habakkuk? How long must I struggle with this sin in my life? How long before you rescue my lost loved one? How long before you judge the wicked in this nation? How long, Lord, how long? Is this a God-honoring prayer or an accusative prayer toward God? We can read this either way, but I believe it is honoring to God. Habakkuk is saying, “Lord, I know you are able.” “You have the ability to stop this evil that is going on.” “I know your character Lord, how long, how long before you grant repentance or bring judgment?” This is no different than many Psalms in which the supplications of the psalmists say “How long?” Psalm 6, Psalm 13, Psalm 35, Psalm 74, Psalm 79, Psalm 89, and Psalm 94 each pose the question to God, "How Long?" This is a legitimate prayer. This is a God-glorifying prayer. How long?

A prayer of lament is glorifying to God because we know He is the only One who is able. Remember Psalm 22 quoted by Christ from the cross, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" The Father forsook the Son so that sinners could be called sons of God. This is the God to whom we can pray. This is the God to whom Habakkuk prayed.


Why is not a sinful question. Habakkuk’s next question is “why?” Why is a question that says we care, not just about the issue or situation, but about the reason. Why does evil exist is the question. The theological term for this is theodicy. The world wrestles with this, but only Scripture has the answer. Genesis 3 is why evil exists. God is sovereign, God is omnipotent, God is omniscient. Habakkuk is asking why must I see this evil in the land of your chosen people? Habakkuk acknowledges that God is the One causing him to look upon the evil. Destruction, violence, strife, contention, do these sound familiar? Habakkuk was a man trusting in God amongst a people trusting in self, does this sound familiar? Remember, everything that happens is under God’s decree, but not under His prescriptive command. Did God command Adam and Eve to sin? No. Did God decree that they would sin? Yes. If He didn’t decree it, then it wouldn’t happen. Nothing happens without the direct design of God all to His glory. Sin is not prescribed by God, but it is decreed by God. Acts 2:23, this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of lawless men and put Him to death. Who crucified Christ? The Romans, yes. The Jews, yes. God, yes. All of the above, yes.

If times are good, praise the Lord. If times are hard, praise the Lord. We can trust the One who did not spare His own Son on our behalf. May we be a people who can trust the great Triune God of the universe. May we rest by faith alone in the God-Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. May we not stop after chapter 1 of Habakkuk, but may we read all the way through chapter 3, where mourning turns to praise.

Habakkuk 3:3 “…in wrath remember mercy.”

Justin Bise is an elder of Bass Chapel Baptist Church in Surgoinsville, TN. He and his wife, Jennifer are the proud parents of two and they all faithfully serve The Lord in their local church. Among the many hats that Justin wears, he is also the lead director of the Deeply Rooted Conference.

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