In verses 12–13 of the first chapter of Habakkuk, the prophet affirms that God is sovereign. Israel’s troubles are not because God is unfaithful or weak. Rather, the Babylonians are tool God is using to punish Israel:
O Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment,
and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof.
The prophet poses this question:
Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
you are unable to look at disaster.
Why would you look at the treacherous
or keep silent when the wicked swallows one who is more righteous?
There’s an unstated assumption at the end, that Israel’s sin is less than Babylon’s. This is shaky ground. Who can say whether one sin is more offensive to God than another? Is religious pride and idolatry less offensive to God than violence and cruelty?
If we can find a way resolve that matter, however, there is a great question here: does the end justify the means? Is it right for God to use an evil tool to achieve a good result? That’s a great question even for us frail mortals, who work in a world where everything is tainted with evil. How much better a question is it for God? On the one hand, God can see everything clearly, and will not be overcome by the tools he uses. But for him not to stand off and watch, but to engage evil directly in order to use it: how can he do that?