As I mentioned last week, Tasha and I are beginning a two week sermon series on the prophet Habakkuk. These are the first words of his prophecy…
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 wrongdoing
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.
-Habakkuk 1: 1-4
The prophecy of Habakkuk is ancient. It was written around the end of the 7th Century BC in a time of terrible turmoil in Jerusalem. The nation of Judah was under the thumb of Egypt and they controlled the puppet Judean King Jehoiakim. Scholars summarize how he is described in the books of 2 Kings and Jeremiah thus, “Jehoiakim killed innocents who opposed him, and he refused to pay poor laborers. Under his administration, prophets and priests committed adultery and abused authority. He killed the prophet Uriah for prophesying that Jerusalem would fall and he burned Jeremiah’s handwritten prophecy.” So, as you can see, Judah was in a tight spot and Habakkuk asked the logical question; what is God doing?
I heard recently that, going into the election, 49% of Republicans were scared of Democrats and Democratic policies, while roughly the same number of Democrats felt similarly about Republicans and Republican policies. Thus in our post-election America it was inevitable that a large minority of our country would resonate with Habakkuk’s fears. When we are afraid we do lots of crazy things, but what is really hard to do is sink deeper into our faith; to go beyond our current relationship with God and seek answers to harder questions. In the midst of Habakkuk’s fear, he turned to God. He asked hard questions. He sought answers.
It seems we have come to believe it is somehow unfaithful to challenge God. This is not what the Bible shows us. Over and over again the Bible shows us faithful people turning toward God in hard times and asking “where are you?” This is not unfaithful. We live in God’s world. This is truth, and that truth allows us to ask hard questions. This is not unfaithful. What is unfaithful is to take our fear or anger and lash out at the people around us.
Habakkuk’s words should resonate with all of us who dwell in this world and witness the hurts and hardship of our fellow human beings. When we feel as though there is a lack of justice in our world it is both fair and faithful to raise that fear to God. And it is also faithful to remember that God was in this world before any of our problems arose, and God will be present here after we are all gone. This is God’s world and the same God who created us, loves us, and saves us invites us through the words of Scripture to ask hard questions. So go ahead, it’s ok. God can handle our praise and our lament.
Prayer: Holy God, today I pray for those who are in danger in this world. I pray for those who are afraid. I ask that you would be present in the life’s hard places, and that your love, peace, patience, kindness and truth would shine through in my life and the world. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.