You are righteous, O LORD,
and your judgments are right.
You have appointed your decrees in righteousness
and in all faithfulness.
My zeal consumes me
because my foes forget your words.
Your promise is well tried,
and your servant loves it.
I am small and despised,
yet I do not forget your precepts.
Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness,
and your law is the truth.
Trouble and anguish have come upon me,
but your commandments are my delight.
Your decrees are righteous forever;
give me understanding that I may live.
Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.
O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see wrong-doing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous-therefore judgment comes forth perverted.
I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint. Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.
I love Habakkuk. Frankly he gives voice to the cries of my heart: “How long, O Lord!” Why? Why do you make me SEE this stuff? Why does justice never prevail? Why does wickedness have the last word? Why? Why?!?
How many of you relate?
How many of you are troubled by the injustice and wrong-doing you see all around you?
I love how Habakkuk says he will stand watch and WAIT for God’s answer. He is a bold one. Seriously. He essentially challenging God.
I admire Habakkuk because I usually do not feel so bold as to pray like that – to challenge God to make Godself known, to answer me, to make things right. But I love this because I feel all these things. I too cry out from the depth of my own brokenness and the brokenness of the world crying, “How long, O Lord!?!?”
And what I love about this verse is how God answers. What we just read of Habakkuk’s complaint is only a portion of it. He actually goes on for a while longer, complaining. But then GOD ANSWERS. God assures Habakkuk that all will be made well. God assures Habakkuk that evildoers and wickedness will not have the last word. In fact, God will have the last word, and God entreats Habakkuk to write this vision big and boldly, so that even those hurrying by will see it. God will make things right, and we are to wait for it with hope.
So what does this say to us? How does this conversation speak to you and to me?
Well, it reminds me to be bold. If we do not speak honestly with ourselves and with God, we will not find the answers we seek. If we don’t take the risk of asking, we don’t open ourselves to the possibility of hearing God’s answer to us.
So whatever is on your heart, speak it to God. Do not be worried about offending God. God already knows what is on our hearts. We need to speak it. We need to hear ourselves say it. Half the time, our feelings and thoughts are not even real to our own selves until we hear ourselves say them. Something actually changes in our brains when we give voice to our thoughts. Speaking them out is an act of vulnerability. And we need to be vulnerable with God. In fact, who else can we most trust, and with whom we can be most vulnerable, if not God?!?
I encourage you to feel what you feel and think what you think. And bring ALL of you, ALL of that to God. We serve a God who is big enough to handle our anger. We serve a God who is strong enough to handle our doubts. We serve a God who is loving enough to see us for all that we are and still love us.
Therefore, may we bring our honest and heart-wrenching questions before our God in prayer.
Was Habakkuk chastised by God for his challenge? What Habakkuk shamed for being angry and discouraged? No. Not at all.
When Habakkuk went honestly before God, speaking his truth and opening his heart – complaining to the God of the Universe – God showed up.
We serve a God who wants to be in communion with us. We serve a God who wants to be with us. We serve a God who fashioned us to walk with God in the garden, speaking with God at the time of the evening breeze. That is what we were made for but our ancestor’s gave up when they chose to eat of the forbidden apple and take things into their own hands.
We are made to be in conversation with God.
This world is not fair. It is not easy. We have no guarantees that good actions will yield good rewards. Too often we watch as the selfish plunder and pillage the selfless. Too often we gaze helpless upon the rape of the natural world for our own ends and means. Too often we watch as systems of inequality leave the vulnerable and wounded, more alone and more unseen. Too often we watch as the haves get more and the have nots even less…
So let us praise God, that our hearts are breaking with God at injustice in the world!
Let us praise God, that we are not blind to the inequity in the world!
Let us praise God for showing us a better way – for showing us that all are worthy and cherished and of value.
Let us praise God for burdening our hearts for the hearts of our neighbors, near and far.
In the passage we see Habakkuk on fire for justice. He is angry because he has God’s heart for the world. And that is an honorable and good thing. As painful as it is to look upon injustice, how much worse would it be if we didn’t see injustice for what it was. How much worse would it be if we were defensive and hardened to the evil in our world.
So as we grieve, as we mourn, as we grow angry, as we are discouraged, as we long for healing and cry out from the depths, “How long, O Lord?!?” may we too hear God’s voice.
May we quiet ourselves to listen for God’s answer to us.
And may we find comfort in knowing that Christ too grieved, Christ too mourned, Christ too was discouraged, Christ too cried out from the depths!
We are in good company. And our discomfort is a sign that we are truly no longer of this world. God has made us new. We are in the world, but this world is not our home. We are made for more, and we know it. The world is God’s world, and the Kingdom of God is real.
Justice will come.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it.
It will not delay.