Culture,  Old Testament,  Theology

God Can Use Evil People to Administer Justice

We often imagine justice being administered by those who hold to God’s righteous standard. In the past, Western culture and society was tremendously influenced by Scripture, and so was influenced by a biblical standard of justice. However, now as the Western culture disintegrates a new kind of morality has arisen—a morality where everyone does what is right in their own eyes.

In the world we face today, we need to remind ourselves of the comforting truth that God’s sovereign control is not prohibited from using evil men to administer justice. One of the clearest places this is revealed is in Habakkuk.

The book starts with the prophet questioning God about the lack of justice; the destruction, violence, and wickedness that was present in the people of Judah (Hab 1:2-4). Habakkuk’s question is, “Why won’t you do something?”

God’s answer was something that would astonish Habakkuk. God was going to use the Babylonians of all people to come and administer justice against Judah (Hab 1:5-11). This answer provoked quite the response from Habakkuk, who did not understand how God could use the Babylonians as His instrument of justice.

The Babylonians were in the process of defeating the Egyptians and Assyrians to become the premier world power of that time, and they were ruthless and known for their violence and arrogance (cf. Hab 1:9-11). How could God use a people more wicked than Israel to judge Israel (Hab 1:12-17)? Although the prophet struggled with this issue, he had confidence that God would give him an answer (Hab 2:1).

God’s answer was simple, yet profound: “the righteous shall live by his faith” (Hab 2:4). Although not able to understand why God does what He does, God’s people live trusting Him to administer justice and to preserve the righteous.

Although that is the focal point of His message, God also assures Habakkuk that the Babylonians will not escape justice (Hab 2:6-20). God will use the Babylonians to administrate His justice on Israel, but then He will also give justice to them as well. Such is the God who rules history and orchestrates it all. In the end, Habakkuk summarizes the confidence that God’s people can have in Him:

photo of trees at sunset symbolizing justice

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places (Hab 3:17-19).

By way of brief application, thankfully I would say that the God of Habakkuk remains the same today. He is completely free to use wicked or evil people to administer justice. Although as Bible followers we would hope and pray for righteous leaders who are sensitive to God’s standard of justice, God’s hands are not tied by the wicked.

Photo by David Boca on Unsplash

Peter serves at Shepherd's Theological Seminary in Cary, NC as the professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages. He loves studying the Bible and helping others understand it. He also runs the Bible Sojourner podcast.

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