O Lord my God, my Holy One, you who are eternal—
surely you do not plan to wipe us out?
O Lord, our Rock, you have sent these Babylonians to correct us,
to punish us for our many sins.
But you are pure and cannot stand the sight of evil.
Will you wink at their treachery?
Should you be silent while the wicked
swallow up people more righteous than they?
Are we only fish to be caught and killed?
Are we only sea creatures that have no leader?
Must we be strung up on their hooks
and caught in their nets while they rejoice and celebrate?
Then they will worship their nets
and burn incense in front of them.
“These nets are the gods who have made us rich!”
they will claim.
Will you let them get away with this forever?
Will they succeed forever in their heartless conquests?
I will climb up to my watchtower
and stand at my guardpost.
There I will wait to see what the Lord says
and how he will answer my complaint. (NLT)
There is really no such thing as unanswered prayer. It is just that we don’t get the answers we wanted or expected. Or those answers are a long time coming. God is not deaf to our prayers but we may be blind and deaf to his responses.
When this prophet with the odd name prayed that God would deal with the evils within the people of God, he got an unexpected answer. God would use the even more evil Babylonians to execute judgement. It seems God is able and willing to use truly bad people and events to achieve good purposes. Though we must never make the mistake of calling these bad things good or being supportive of them in themselves.
Habakkuk is still not satisfied. So he uses a military metaphor to describe his watching and waiting to see how things will work out. Like him, we can be puzzled by how God answers prayer. But like him, we can watch and wait, eyes peeled for what God is doing. We won’t go off in a sulk and give up on prayer just because things didn’t turn out the way we desired.
We keep alert, discerning what might be happening or not happening. It is not glamorous work but if we are to be encouraged in prayer and sensitive to God’s workings, it is necessary work. We do not just see each day as a sequence of random events. We recognise God is at work achieving his good ends through all sorts of surprising means.