Justice Is a Joke: The Cry of Habakkuk and Its Echo in the New Testament

A conceptual image depicting the themes of justice and injustice. On one side, the prophet Habakkuk, depicted as a Middle-Eastern man in ancient robes, is seen in despair, surrounded by symbols of chaos and disorder, representing his struggle with the concept of justice. On the other side, a representation of the New Testament era, showing a diverse group of people gathering around a figure embodying Jesus, who is teaching and comforting them. The background should blend from dark, chaotic elements on Habakkuk's side to a more peaceful, light-filled setting on the New Testament side, symbolizing the transition from despair to hope and from injustice to divine justice. The entire image should tell a story of the journey from questioning justice to finding answers in the teachings of Jesus, filling the entire frame without color bars on the edges.

By Larry Billinger

Habakkuk, often called the “doubting Thomas” of the Old Testament, presents a journey from doubt to faith, from questioning to understanding. His name, meaning “wrestler,” aptly describes his spiritual journey through the book that bears his name. In Habakkuk 1:1-4, we witness the prophet’s deep struggle with the prevalence of injustice and God’s seeming inactivity.

Habakkuk 1:1-4

Justice Is a Joke

1-4 “The problem as God gave Habakkuk to see it:

God, how long do I have to cry out for help
    before you listen?
How many times do I have to yell, “Help! Murder! Police!”
    before you come to the rescue?
Why do you force me to look at evil,
    stare trouble in the face day after day?
Anarchy and violence break out,
    quarrels and fights all over the place.
Law and order fall to pieces.
    Justice is a joke.
The wicked have the righteous hamstrung
    and stand justice on its head.”

Habakkuk’s Struggle

Habakkuk begins in the valley of despair. “O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!” (Habakkuk 1:2). His plea reflects a profound sense of abandonment and frustration. The prophet is not just crying; he is screaming for God’s intervention in a world filled with violence and corruption.

The Paralysis of Justice

In Habakkuk 1:4, the prophet laments the paralysis of the law, a condition where justice seems absent, and the wicked surround the righteous. This paralysis symbolizes a judicial system that fails to function, echoing the frustrations many feel today when witnessing the inefficiencies and injustices in our legal systems.

Echo in the New Testament

This cry of Habakkuk finds its echo in the New Testament, particularly in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ teachings and actions addressed the very injustices Habakkuk lamented. Christ’s ministry was marked by a profound concern for the marginalized and an uncompromising stand against hypocrisy and injustice.

Jesus: The Answer to Habakkuk’s Cry

Jesus embodies the answer to Habakkuk’s cries. Through His teachings, Jesus illustrated a kingdom where justice reigns and the marginalized are lifted. His crucifixion, an act of profound injustice, becomes the means through which God addresses the brokenness and injustice of the world.


Habakkuk’s journey from the valley of despair to the mountain of faith mirrors our own struggles with understanding God’s ways, especially in the face of rampant injustice. His book is a reminder that, in times of doubt and confusion, we can look to the example of Jesus Christ, who brings hope and justice to a broken world.

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