How Much Longer for the Wicked?
“Why is it . . . that you [Jehovah] keep silent when someone wicked swallows up someone more righteous than he is?”—HABAKKUK 1:13.
1. When will the earth be completely filled with knowledge of Jehovah’s glory?
WILL God ever destroy the wicked? If so, how much longer must we wait? Such questions are asked by people throughout the earth. Where can we find the answers? We can do so in divinely inspired prophetic words about God’s appointed time. They assure us that Jehovah will soon execute judgment upon all wicked ones. Only then will the earth become completely “filled with the knowing of the glory of Jehovah as the waters themselves cover over the sea.” That is the prophetic promise found in God’s Sacred Word at Habakkuk 2:14.
2. The book of Habakkuk contains what three divine executional judgments?
2 Written about 628 B.C.E., the book of Habakkuk consists of a series of three executional judgments by Jehovah God. Two of those judgments have already been carried out. The first was Jehovah’s judgment against the wayward nation of ancient Judah. What about the second? It was God’s judgment executed upon oppressive Babylon. Surely, then, we have every reason to be confident that the third of these divine judgments will be carried out. In fact, we can expect the fulfillment of it very soon. For the sake of the upright ones in these last days, God will bring destruction upon all wicked humans. The last of them will draw his final breath in the rapidly approaching “war of the great day of God the Almighty.”—Revelation 16:14, 16.
3. What is certain to befall the wicked in our time?
3 The war of God’s great day is drawing ever closer. And the execution of divine judgment upon the wicked in our time is just as certain as the fulfillment of Jehovah’s judgments against Judah and Babylon. Right now, however, why not imagine that we are in Judah in Habakkuk’s day? What is going on in that land?
A Land in Turmoil
4. Habakkuk hears what shocking news?
4 Envision Jehovah’s prophet Habakkuk sitting on the flat roof of his house, enjoying the cool evening breeze. At his side is a musical instrument. (Habakkuk 1:1; 3:19, subscription) But Habakkuk hears shocking news. Judah’s King Jehoiakim has killed Urijah and has had the corpse of that prophet cast into the graveyard of the common people. (Jeremiah 26:23) True, Urijah did not maintain his trust in Jehovah, becoming fearful and fleeing to Egypt. Yet, Habakkuk knows that Jehoiakim’s violence was not prompted by any desire to uphold Jehovah’s honor. This is evident from the king’s utter disregard for divine law and his hatred of the prophet Jeremiah and others serving Jehovah.
5. What is the spiritual state of affairs in Judah, and how does Habakkuk react to it?
5 Habakkuk sees the smoke of incense rising from the roofs of nearby homes. The people are not burning this incense as worshipers of Jehovah. They are engaging in false religious acts sponsored by Judah’s wicked King Jehoiakim. What a disgrace! Habakkuk’s eyes fill with tears, and he pleads: “How long, O Jehovah, must I cry for help, and you do not hear? How long shall I call to you for aid from violence, and you do not save? Why is it that you make me see what is hurtful, and you keep looking upon mere trouble? And why are despoiling and violence in front of me, and why does quarreling occur, and why is strife carried? Therefore law grows numb, and justice never goes forth. Because the wicked one is surrounding the righteous one, for that reason justice goes forth crooked.”—Habakkuk 1:2-4.
6. What has happened to law and justice in Judah?
6 Yes, despoiling and violence abound. Everywhere that Habakkuk looks, he sees trouble, quarreling, strife. ‘Law has grown numb,’ has become paralyzed. And justice? Why, it “never goes forth” victorious! It never prevails. Instead, ‘the wicked surround the righteous,’ circumventing the legal measures intended to protect the innocent. Indeed, “justice goes forth crooked.” It is perverted. What a deplorable state of affairs!
7. What is Habakkuk determined to do?
7 Habakkuk pauses and reflects on the situation. Will he give up? No indeed! After reviewing all the persecution of God’s faithful servants, this loyal man renews his determination to remain firm, steadfast as Jehovah’s prophet. Habakkuk will continue declaring God’s message—even if doing so means death.
Jehovah Carries On an Unbelievable “Activity”
8, 9. Jehovah is carrying on what unbelievable “activity”?
8 In vision, Habakkuk sees the false religionists, who dishonor God. Listen to what Jehovah tells them: “See, you people, among the nations, and look on, and stare in amazement at one another.” Likely, Habakkuk wonders why God is addressing those wicked ones in this way. Then he hears Jehovah tell them: “Be amazed; for there is an activity that one is carrying on in your days, which you people will not believe although it is related.” (Habakkuk 1:5) Actually, Jehovah himself is carrying on this activity that they cannot believe. But what is it?
9 Habakkuk listens intently to God’s further words, recorded at Habakkuk 1:6-11. This is Jehovah’s message—and no false god or lifeless idol can block its fulfillment: “Here I am raising up the Chaldeans, the nation bitter and impetuous, which is going to the wide-open places of earth in order to take possession of residences not belonging to it. Frightful and fear-inspiring it is. From itself its own justice and its own dignity go forth. And its horses have proved swifter than leopards, and they have proved fiercer than evening wolves. And its steeds have pawed the ground, and from far away its own steeds come. They fly like the eagle speeding to eat something. In its entirety it comes for mere violence. The assembling of their faces is as the east wind, and it gathers up captives just like the sand. And for its part, it jeers kings themselves, and high officials are something laughable to it. For its part, it laughs even at every fortified place, and it piles up dust and captures it. At that time it will certainly move onward like wind and will pass through and will actually become guilty. This its power is due to its god.”
10. Who are being raised up by Jehovah?
10 What a prophetic warning from the Most High! Jehovah is raising up the Chaldeans, the savage nation of Babylon. On its march through ‘earth’s wide-open places,’ it will conquer many, many dwellings. How terrifying! The Chaldean horde is “frightful and fear-inspiring,” terrible and dreadful. It makes its own inflexible laws. ‘Its own justice goes forth from itself.’
11. How would you describe the coming of the Babylonian forces against Judah?
11 Babylon’s horses are swifter than speedy leopards. Its cavalry is fiercer than hungry wolves hunting by night. Raring to go, ‘its steeds paw the ground’ impatiently. From distant Babylon they head for Judah. Flying like an eagle speeding to a tasty meal, the Chaldeans will soon pounce on their prey. But will this be only a foray, just a raid by a few soldiers? Oh, no! “In its entirety it comes for mere violence,” as a gigantic host swarming up to wreak havoc. Their faces aglow with eagerness, they ride westward toward Judah and Jerusalem, moving as rapidly as the east wind. Babylonian forces sweep up so many prisoners that they are ‘gathering captives just like sand.’
12. What is the attitude of the Babylonians, and of what does this formidable enemy “actually become guilty”?
12 The Chaldean army jeers at kings and derides high officials, all of whom are powerless to stop its relentless advance. It ‘laughs at every fortified place,’ for any fortress falls when the Babylonians ‘pile up dust’ by building a mound of earth from which to assault it. At Jehovah’s appointed time, the formidable enemy “will certainly move onward like wind.” In attacking Judah and Jerusalem, it “will actually become guilty” of doing injury to God’s people. After a whirlwind victory, the Chaldean commander will boast: ‘This power is due to our god.’ But how little he really knows!
A Sound Basis for Hope
13. Why is Habakkuk filled with hope and confidence?
13 With increased understanding of Jehovah’s purpose, hope grows in Habakkuk’s heart. Filled with complete confidence, he speaks in adoration of Jehovah. As noted at Habakkuk 1:12, the prophet says: “Are you not from long ago, O Jehovah? O my God, my Holy One, you do not die.” Indeed, Jehovah is God “from time indefinite to time indefinite”—forever.—Psalm 90:1, 2.
14. What course has been pursued by the apostates of Judah?
14 Reflecting on his God-given vision and rejoicing in the insight it provided, the prophet continues: “O Jehovah, for a judgment you have set it; and, O Rock, for a reproving you have founded it.” God has judged the apostates of Judah adversely, and they are in line for reproof, severe chastisement, by Jehovah. They should have been looking upon him as their Rock, the only real stronghold, refuge, and Source of salvation. (Psalm 62:7; 94:22; 95:1) Yet, the apostate leaders of Judah do not draw close to God, and they continue to oppress Jehovah’s harmless worshipers.
15. In what sense is Jehovah “too pure in eyes to see what is bad”?
15 This situation greatly distresses Jehovah’s prophet. So he says: “You are too pure in eyes to see what is bad; and to look on trouble you are not able.” (Habakkuk 1:13) Yes, Jehovah is “too pure in eyes to see what is bad,” that is, to tolerate wrongdoing.
16. How would you epitomize what is recorded at Habakkuk 1:13-17?
16 Habakkuk therefore has some thought-provoking questions in mind. He asks: “Why is it that you look on those dealing treacherously, that you keep silent when someone wicked swallows up someone more righteous than he is? And why do you make earthling man like the fishes of the sea, like creeping things over whom no one is ruling? All these he has brought up with a mere fishhook; he drags them away in his dragnet, and he gathers them in his fishing net. That is why he rejoices and is joyful. That is why he offers sacrifice to his dragnet and makes sacrificial smoke to his fishing net; for by them his portion is well oiled, and his food is healthful. Is that why he will empty out his dragnet, and does he have to kill nations constantly, while he shows no compassion?”—Habakkuk 1:13-17.
17. (a) In assaulting Judah and Jerusalem, how are the Babylonians serving God’s purpose? (b) What will Jehovah reveal to Habakkuk?
17 In assaulting Judah and its capital city, Jerusalem, the Babylonians will act according to their own desires. They will not know that they are serving as God’s means for executing his righteous judgment against an unfaithful people. It is easy to see why Habakkuk would find it hard to understand that God would use the wicked Babylonians to execute His judgment. Those ruthless Chaldeans are not worshipers of Jehovah. They view humans as mere ‘fish and creeping things’ to be captured and subdued. But Habakkuk’s perplexity will not last long. Jehovah will soon reveal to his prophet that the Babylonians will not remain unpunished for their greedy despoiling and their wanton bloodguiltiness.—Habakkuk 2:8.
Ready for Jehovah’s Further Words
18. What can we learn from Habakkuk’s attitude, as reflected at Habakkuk 2:1?
18 Right now, however, Habakkuk waits to hear Jehovah’s further words to him. The prophet resolutely states: “At my guard post I will keep standing, and I will keep myself stationed upon the bulwark; and I shall keep watch, to see what he will speak by me and what I shall reply at the reproof of me.” (Habakkuk 2:1) Habakkuk is intensely interested in what God will yet speak by means of him as a prophet. His faith in Jehovah as a God who does not tolerate evil makes him wonder why wickedness prevails, but he is willing to have his thinking adjusted. Well, then, what about us? When we wonder why certain wicked things are tolerated, our confidence in Jehovah God’s righteousness should help us to keep our balance and wait on him.—Psalm 42:5, 11.
19. True to God’s word to Habakkuk, what happened to the wayward Jews?
19 True to his word to Habakkuk, God executed judgment upon the wayward Jewish nation by allowing the Babylonians to invade Judah. In 607 B.C.E., they destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, killed old and young alike, and took many captives. (2 Chronicles 36:17-20) After a long exile in Babylon, a faithful Jewish remnant returned to their homeland and eventually rebuilt the temple. Thereafter, however, the Jews again proved unfaithful to Jehovah—especially so when they rejected Jesus as the Messiah.
20. How did Paul use Habakkuk 1:5 with regard to rejection of Jesus?
20 According to Acts 13:38-41, the apostle Paul showed Jews in Antioch what it would mean to reject Jesus and thus spurn his ransom sacrifice. Quoting Habakkuk 1:5 from the Greek Septuagint version, Paul warned: “See to it that what is said in the Prophets does not come upon you, ‘Behold it, you scorners, and wonder at it, and vanish away, because I am working a work in your days, a work that you will by no means believe even if anyone relates it to you in detail.’” In keeping with Paul’s quotation, a second fulfillment of Habakkuk 1:5 occurred when Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and its temple in 70 C.E.
21. How did the Jews of Habakkuk’s day view God’s “work” of having the Babylonians destroy Jerusalem?
21 To the Jews of Habakkuk’s day, God’s “work” of having the Babylonians destroy Jerusalem was unthinkable because that city was the seat of Jehovah’s worship and the place where his anointed king was enthroned. (Psalm 132:11-18) As such, Jerusalem had never before been destroyed. Its temple had never been burned. The royal house of David had never been overthrown. It was unbelievable that Jehovah would allow such things to happen. But through Habakkuk, God gave fair warning that these shocking events would occur. And history proves that they took place as foretold.
God’s Unbelievable “Work” in Our Day
22. What will Jehovah’s unbelievable “work” involve in our day?
22 Is Jehovah going to do an unbelievable “work” in our day? Be assured that he will, even though that seems unbelievable to doubters. This time, Jehovah’s unbelievable work will be the destruction of Christendom. Like ancient Judah, she claims to worship God but has become thoroughly corrupt. Jehovah will see to it that every vestige of Christendom’s religious system will soon be wiped out, as will all of “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion.—Revelation 18:1-24.
23. What did God’s spirit impel Habakkuk to do next?
23 Jehovah had more work for Habakkuk to do before Jerusalem’s destruction in 607 B.C.E. What would God yet tell his prophet? Why, Habakkuk would hear things that would move him to take up his musical instrument and sing to Jehovah in prayerful dirges. First, however, God’s spirit would impel the prophet to proclaim dramatic woes. Surely we would appreciate gaining insight into the deep meaning of such prophetic words for God’s appointed time. Let us therefore give further attention to Habakkuk’s prophecy.
Do You Recall?
• What conditions existed in Judah in Habakkuk’s day?
• Jehovah carried on what unbelievable “activity” in the time of Habakkuk?
• What basis for hope did Habakkuk have?
• God will carry out what unbelievable “work” in our day?
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Habakkuk wondered why God allowed wickedness to prevail. Do you?
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Habakkuk foretold calamity for the land of Judah at Babylonian hands
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Archaeological ruins of Jerusalem, which was destroyed in 607 B.C.E.