III. Theological Significance
Habakkuk was incensed at the inhumanity of the people of Judah and was intensely concerned over the injustice in the kingdom. The acute discrepancies between God's promises and the undeniable realities of injustice forced the prophet into a theological impasse. How could God allow these circumstances to stand? Ultimately Habakkuk realized that God would not allow injustice to persist. Regardless of their oppressive circumstances, the true people of God will live in faithfulness to his covenant, awaiting his redemptive work in history. This was Habakkuk's message, and the writers of the NT saw in it the central truth of the Gospel in germinal form. Habakkuk's principle of the faithful life became the foundational premise of Paul's doctrine of salvation by faith, proclaimed to the Asian church (Gal 3:11) and the European church (Ro 1:17). The author of Hebrews also made this doctrine clear for the Jewish church (10:36-37).
Classical Wesleyanism was deeply disturbed by the injustice and poverty so prevalent in eighteenth-century England and was committed to social action. Indeed, some scholars have argued that the Wesleyan Revival's social ethic and its ministry to the victims of England's rapid industrialization saved the nation from political revolution. Unfortunately, our tradition has not always retained this emphasis.
Some liberation theologians have used Habakkuk to support violent revolution as the divinely ordained answer to social injustice. But God did not command Habakkuk to gather faithful Judahites for the purpose of raising up arms against the wicked and corrupt society. Instead, in his divine prerogative, God employed a more wicked and corrupt nation as an instrument of his wrath. After the Babylonians served his purpose, they too were punished. The more appropriate biblical paradigm for a Christian response to injustice is Jesus' ministry in Palestine during the oppressive Roman rule (Jn 8:32).