The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.
2 O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
3 Why do you make me see wrongdoing
and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
4 So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous—
therefore judgment comes forth perverted.
5 Look at the nations, and see!
Be astonished! Be astounded!
For a work is being done in your days
that you would not believe if you were told.
The prophet Habakkuk complains to God about the injustice he sees in this world.
How similar do the prophet’s cries resemble our own? We are dismayed when we feel that our prayers go unanswered, we are furious when we recognize the depths of apathy that exist in our communities (and that no one is trying to fix the broken world in which we live). We feel like God must not understand how bad things are on this earth—because if God knew, then surely, she’d know how to fix it. But maybe the problem is bigger than God.
What do we say to God when we feel that God isn’t listening? The prophet isn’t satisfied in this God to whom he prays, because he wants to find a God that intervenes on behalf of the tormented individual.
The last stanza can be interpreted in a few ways: “Look at the nations and see! You will be astounded!” The optimist is inclined to read this passage as the prophet telling God to be impressed with how people are coming together in the face of such injustices. But prophets don’t show up when things are going well. Prophets are the lightning rods that send shock waves through of our veins, reminding us that we have a job to do on this earth. And we aren’t doing it.
Habakkuk’s heart is breaking on behalf of the individuals who experience pain and do not find justice, just like our hearts deflate when we hear news about refugees who are refused entry to this country; individuals who experience sexual assault at their work; and those who are subject to violence. Our hearts break and we call out to God. It is good to be mad at God—to tell God how disappointed we are–but that doesn’t dismiss the gravity of our own actions. It isn’t God’s job to intervene every time we need her to fix something. That job belongs to us.
Habakkuk is dismayed that God isn’t doing anything in the face of such flagrant injustice. But therein lies God’s true power—to give a charge to each practitioner of the faith that we all have the power to do good in the name of God. Only through our individual actions can the work of God be fulfilled.
Here’s a prayer for today:
Dear God, ignite our anger and turn us into passionate and compassionate people, working in your name to fix the injustices in this world. Amen.
Today’s devotional comes from Elizabeth Pruchnicki. Elizabeth is an Immanuel member and passionate Immanuel in the Evening band member.