Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Sep 3 2019 - Habakkuk 1:1-2:1

I have just been reading the news from the BBC's online website. In Japan a 50-year-old man stabbed children waiting to catch their bus for school before killing himself. In Ukraine, women walking to escape from the area of their country occupied by Russian militants have walked miles before queuing at the border in an attempt to gain freedom. Several of the elderly have died on the long walk or while waiting without food or water in the queue. And then there is the political chaos and division in this country which threatens only to get worse. Nothing ever seems to get better. I'm reminded of a song from the sixties (an impressionable age for me):

It's good news week
Someone's dropped a bomb somewhere
Contaminating atmosphere
And blackening the sky

Things were no better in Habakkuk's day. He was living at the time when the Babylonian army were invading the land God had promised as an inheritance for his people. Destruction and violence are all around him and conflict abounds (v.3). Habakkuk has cried out to the Lord:

How long, LORD, must I call for help,
    but you do not listen? …
Why do you make me look at injustice?
    Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? (1:2-3)

If these scenes of violence and injustice cause him so much distress, he cannot understand why God, who is holy, just and true, is not moved to do something. He cries out to God but receives no answer. Do we not similarly cry out to the Lord in prayer when faced with the violence and injustice of our world and our day? We cry out, "How long before you do something, Lord? Don't you care about the innocent children, the weak and the elderly who suffer needless oppression?"

At last the Lord responds to Habakkuk's complaint, but his answer provides no word of comfort. The Lord tells him that the ruthless and violent Babylonian army, who are sweeping across the world of his day, have been sent by the Lord himself as judgment upon his rebellious people (vv.5-11).

Unsurprisingly, Habakkuk responds to this message by renewing his complaint. How can God who is Holy and just make use of such evil forces as these:

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
    you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.
Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?
    Why are you silent while the wicked
    swallow up those more righteous than themselves?  (v.13)

Habakkuk cannot believe that this is God's last word. So he stands on the ramparts of the city and looks out to see what will happen next and how God will answer his complaint (2:1).

There is so much in our world that distresses us and prompts us to cry out to our God in prayer – even in angry prayer. We need to learn that God is not unmoved at the injustice of our world. The compassion we feel is but a pale reflection of his own broken heart of love for a world gone wrong. He is the God who sent his Son into the world to suffer its violence and injustice and to bring us salvation. He is the God who, in Jesus Christ, will one day put this broken world to rights. Our cry will not go unanswered. God, the holy and righteous one, will have the last word.

Almighty God, help us to trust you even when we cannot understand what is happening to our world, to ourselves and to those we love. Thank you for your great love for this rebellious world revealed in the Lord Jesus, and for the promise of the day when all that is wrong will be made right.

Peter Misselbrook