on Habakkuk 1 :4
The law is slacked - They pay no attention to it; it has lost all its vigor, its restraining and correcting power, it is not executed; right judgment is never pronounced; and the poor righteous man complains in vain that he is grievously oppressed by the wicked, and by those in power and authority. That the utmost depravity prevailed in the land of Judah is evident from these verses; and can we wonder, then, that God poured out such signal judgments upon them? When judgment doth not proceed from the seat of judgment upon earth, it will infallibly go forth from the throne of judgment in heaven.
on Habakkuk 1 :4
Therefore - i. e., Because God seemed not to awake to avenge His own cause, people promised themselves that they might sin on with impunity. Sin produces sin, and wrong produces wrong; it spreads like an infectious disease, propagating itself, and each, to whom it reaches, adds to its poison. At last, it reached those also, who should be in God's stead to restrain it. The divine law itself is silenced, by the power of the wicked, by the sin of the judge, the hopelessness of all. When all around is evil, even those not yet lost are tempted to think; "Why should I be other than they? What evil befalls them? Why stand alone?" Even a Psalmist Psalm 73:15, Psalm 73:12-13 speaks as if tempted to "speak even as they. These are the ungodly who prosper in the world; they increase in riches; verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency;" and Solomon Ecclesiastes 8:11, "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil."
The law is slacked - literally "is chilled" (as we say, "is paralyzed"), through lack of the fire of love. This is what our Lord says Matthew 24:12, Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. The divine law, the source of all right, being chilled in people's hearts, "judgment," i. e., the sentence of human justice, as conformed to divine justice, "doth never go forth." Human sense of right is powerless, when there is not the love of God's law. It seems always ready to act, but always falls short, like an arrow from an unstrung bow. The man seems always about to do right; he judges, sees, aright - all but does it - yet, at last, he always fails. "It goes not forth. The children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth" Isaiah 37:3.
For the wicked doth compass about the righteous, laying snares for him, as the Jews for our Lord; evil is too strong for a weak will to do right, and overbears it. Pilate sought in many ways, how he might deliver Jesus, yet he finally did deliver Christ into their hands.
Therefore wrong judgment proceedeth - literally, "judgment proceedeth wrested." He had said, "it never goes forth;" never, that is, in its true character; for, when it does "go forth," it is distorted. Dion.: "For gifts or favor or fear or hate the guiltless are condemned trod the guilty acquitted, as saith the Psalmist Psalm 82:2, 'How long will ye judge unjustly and accept the persons of the ungodly?'" Theoph.: "'Judgment goes forth perverted' in the seat of man's judgment (the soul), when, bribed by the pleasures of sense, it leans to the side of things seen, and the ungodly one, the rebel angel, besets and overpowers him who has the sense of right; for it is right that things seen should give way to things unseen 2 Corinthians 4:18; 'for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.'" Why then all this? And how long? Why does God bring it before him and He who "is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, behold grievance," which His Holy Eyes could not endure? Neither the unseen presence of God nor the mission of the prophet checks. If he rebukes, no one hearkened; if he intercedes for sinners, or against sin, God made as though He would not hear. God answers that, though to man's impatience the time seems long, judgment shall come, and that, suddenly and speedily. While the righteous is enquiring, "how long?" and the wicked is saying Matthew 24:48, "My Lord delayeth His coming," He is come, and seen in the midst of them.
on Habakkuk 1 :4
1:4 Therefore - Because the wicked go on with impunity. The law - The whole law, moral, ceremonial, and judicial. Is slacked - Is slighted, and not observed. Go forth - From magistrates, judges, and public officers. Doth compass about - As it were besieges, with design to oppress and ruin.