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Written by Jim Jordal   
Thursday, 17 March 2016

HABAKkUK COMPLAINS TO GOD

By Jim Jordal

 The oracle which Habakkuk the prophet saw.  Yahweh, how long will I cry, and you will not hear? I cry out to you "Violence!" and will you not save?  Why do you show me iniquity, and look at perversity? For destruction and violence are before me. There is strife, and contention rises up. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth; for the wicked surround the righteous; therefore justice goes forth perverted.                                                                      Habakkuk 1:1-4 WEB    

In this poignant lament the prophet Habakkuk asks two questions of a seemingly unresponsive God. The first seeks to know why God appears not to hear or answer his cries against violence and destruction in his land. He asks, “Why do you show me iniquity and…perversity,” but do not answer when I cry?  Why do I see the law paralyzed by strife and contentiousness so that justice cannot emerge? And why do you allow the wicked to gain power over the righteous, causing justice to become perverted? Sounds just like the present situation, doesn’t it?

Prophets currently ask the same question: “Why, O Lord, do you allow evil to destroy your people, and not bring deliverance?” In the next few verses Habakkuk got a quick answer that struck him with awe:  Look among the nations and watch---Be utterly astounded. For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.”

That “quick” work occurred almost immediately as God sent the conquering hordes of Babylon to take the nation into a 70-year captivity in a strange land among a strange people. God’s answer to Habakkuk’s complaint was destruction of the evil ways of the land under the Babylonian horde, followed by the restoration of the penitent nation to its home in Jerusalem 70 years later.

Little is known about Habakkuk except that he was a temple musician of the tribe of Levi, who also held the role of prophet. The book bearing his name is one of the 12 so-called minor prophetic books, although the cries they mount against evil and for deliverance are anything but minor.

Habakkuk’s first question got an immediate and violent answer. His second question, although similar in nature, got a much different answer. In verse 13 of the first chapter He asks God, “Why do you look on those who deal treacherously, and hold your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he?”

God’s answer comes as Habkkuk sets himself to watch for it “Then the Lord answered me and said: Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, it will not tarry…But the just shall live by his faith (NKJV)”

The remainder of chapter two describes the many dastardly activities of the wicked and the promised woes brought upon them by God. Twenty-five hundred years have passed and still the wicked remain as powerful and conspicuous as ever. But a new paradigm has emerged---that of the consecrated life of righteous persons living in expectant faith that what God said he will do.

So Christians today still cry for justice and actively pursue it, but now in absolute certainty that God will bring it about. The vision of God’s kingdom here on earth will reach fulfilment at the appointed time. As Habakkuk says: “But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, it will not tarry.”

Meanwhile, we live as though the vision is already here. I like this phrase from King Solomon’s speech (2 Chron. 6:4)  at the completion of the temple in Jerusalem, when he brought together promise and fulfilment with this ringing accolade: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who has fulfilled with his hands what he spoke with his mouth…”

That’s exactly what God is doing today with all the violence and shaking occurring virtually everywhere: He is fulfilling with his hands what he spoke with his lips. And we are part of it.