Habakkuk 1:5-11 is a prophecy in which God relates His intention to raise up Babylon, a “ruthless” and “dreaded” nation, to achieve His purpose. This raises the question, Does God sometimes use evil to accomplish His plans?
There is an important distinction to be made between God controlling evil and God creating evil. God is not the author of sin, but He can use sinful men to attain an objective. Romans 8:28 says, “For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” “All things” includes both good and bad things. God can use struggles, heartbreaks and tragedies in ways to bring about His glory and our good. Such events, even though we don’t understand the reason for them, are part of His perfect, divine plan. If God could not control evil, He would not be God. His sovereignty demands that He be in control of everything, even “dreaded” nations such as Babylon.
At the same time, the Bible is clear that God does not sin and He performs no evil. James 1:13 teaches, “God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” Deuteronomy 32:4 says, “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice” (see also 2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 18:30; and Matthew 5:48).
The problem in Habakkuk is that God was using the Babylonians (an evil people) to accomplish His will. Our wise and perfect God can and sometimes does use the sin already existing in our world to fulfill His purpose. The perfect example of this is Jesus’ crucifixion: the murder of Christ was an evil act, but through it God redeemed His elect and “disarmed the [demonic] powers and authorities” (Colossians 2:15). In Habakkuk’s day, God’s purpose was to bring judgment on Judah for their idolatry. Babylon was the instrument of His judgment (cf. Isaiah 10:5).
God’s revelation caused Habakkuk to then ask how God could use a nation wickeder than Judah to judge Judah (1:12-2:1). God’s response was a promise that He would later punish Babylon as well (2:2-20). In the end, Habakkuk could only acknowledge the Lord’s perfect wisdom; the prophet ends with a song of praise in chapter 3.
We may struggle with questions about God’s methods as Habakkuk did. How God chooses to operate is up to Him. At times, He intervenes miraculously. Other times, He works behind the scenes. And, yes, God may even allow a certain measure of freedom to evil forces in our world to bring about His design. Like Habakkuk, if we view life from God’s perspective, our response will be to worship the Lord, knowing He is in control of all things.