Lord , are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, you will never die. You, Lord , have appointed them to execute judgment; you, my Rock, have ordained them to punish. Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? You have made people like the fish in the sea, like the sea creatures that have no ruler. The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks, he catches them in his net, he gathers them up in his dragnet; and so he rejoices and is glad. Therefore he sacrifices to his net and burns incense to his dragnet, for by his net he lives in luxury and enjoys the choicest food. Is he to keep on emptying his net, destroying nations without mercy? – Habakkuk 1:12-17
Welcome to the book of Habakkuk! Apparently little is known about Habakkuk except that he was writing these prophecies sometime around the 600 years before Christ showed up. The format of his writing is a series of complaints and responses from God. The conversational style and content reminds me a bit of the book of Job. The main topic is the Babylonians and their invasion and the impact this has on the people.
Today’s passage is the second complaint lodged by Habakkuk. The gist of this complaint is contained in the two questions: “Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” Essentially this is the question why to bad things happen to good people? The answer to this is deep water for sure.
What I think I have figured out so far in my float through the bible is that although God is the Father of the rain what we perceive as His judgement is often part of a larger “spiritual cycle“. The storm and hard rain that one receives may not be a result of God’s judgement, but rather collateral damage from a larger storm.
Habakkuk claims that God “made people like the fish in the sea, like the sea creatures that have no ruler.” He seems to be saying that God is not intervening in a tangible or meaningful way in the lives of the people that Habakkuk is referring too as “fish”. It seem to me that fish in the sea, although they may not have a ruler, are subject to all sorts of influences that impact their survival like water currents, storms, predators, etc.
The main point of the fish analogy seems to be that fish are subject to being “caught” by “the wicked foe” who “pulls all of them up with hooks, he catches them in his net, he gathers them up in his dragnet”. It strikes me that there are at least two ways one could think about the fisherman “foe” described here: 1) the foe could be a contemporary enemy from Habakkuk’s time like the Babylonians, or 2) the “foe” could be an allegorical reference to the deceiver that rules the earth and is bent of snaring us so that we cannot return to God. The first one is self explanatory, but the second deserves some reflection.
Back in Ezekiel God used idea of fish and nets to help us understand ways that we are “self sufficient fish” (Ezekiel 29:1-10). In that reference it was Egypt and Pharaoh that were being hooked instead of the people of Israel. The point in that passage was that the people of Egypt had build an entire spiritual and physical ecosystem that was apart from God. Perhaps God is trying to make the same point here.
Prayer: God help us to rely on You rather than our own self sufficiency.