“How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.” – Hab 1:2-4
Habakkuk was a bold somebody. He makes a complaint to the Lord that among God’s chosen people (Israel) there is nothing but violence and wickedness. Then asks God why he let’s this stuff go on after He said He’d put a stop to it (see Deut 28). It’s quite brazen from the standpoint of today’s sensibilities.
Well, God answers Habakkuk. It’s a short book and well worth a read or two, but I’d sum it up like this. “Habakkuk, let Me list of a few other issues that I despise that you didn’t mention in your first complaint. And now that we have that squared, let Me assure you – I am about to lay down the law. I am about to put a blistering on Israel that He will never forget.”
By the end of it Habakkuk is scrambling just a bit to deal with the horror of what he’s just learned. “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy” – Hab 3:2. But then he comes to a beautiful resolution at the end:
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. – Hab 3:17-19
What a beautiful resolve. Habakkuk makes a complaint about unrighteousness in the land. God agrees and expresses further, with omniscient eyes, just how bad it really is. God promises the beating of a lifetime is soon to come (and it did, with the Babylonians). Habakkuk responds first with some concern over Israel being laid bare, but then says that his joy is not in the plenty of the land or the good things of life, but in God his Savior.
I’m not sure I would have levied the same complaint as Habakkuk. Sure, I see injustice and scratch my head at the goings on in the world, or in our country. Sure, inside I say “how long, O Lord, will You let the helpless be oppressed and violent men rule over the weak?” But before I get too bold with my prayer for justice I take a moment … and remember Habakkuk (and Jeremiah for that matter). They saw the injustice of the land put to an end – along with everything else. Their nation was rubbed off the map and taken away to Babylon to have a 70 year timeout. That always gives me pause.
I also take a moment because I’m aware that we, as humans, often fall prey to the “God and I” syndrome. We put ourselves on “team God” sometimes. “I see all these things that [I think] are wrong – and God must be equally upset, only He is far more patient than I am and hasn’t yet struck down those evil oppressors that I see, who are not me and are not on team God.” I’d hate to be proven (by God) horribly wrong in how I view the injustice, so I pray a more measured prayer, asking for wisdom too.
Even still, I do find myself in the Samuel Jackson place from time to time. Jackson recently complained via twitter that it was unfair that hurricane Isaac had spared Tampa, with all the Republicans, but might plausibly wallop New Orleans. His exact tweet … with redaction for decency: “Unfair Sh**. GOP spared by Issac [sic], Nolla prolly F***ed again! Not understanding God’s plan!” Jackson did later apologize to God, Tampa, the GOP, and the hurricane (correcting the spelling).
I get it Sam. Don’t think I didn’t feel the same back in 2008. Why, God? How could a man who supports abortion on demand, publicly funded abortion, post-birth abortion in cases where the doctors “missed” and the baby made it out alive … How could he come to lead this nation? How could a man who believes in taking money from the people to give to the wealthy (TARP, anyone?) become president? Later on I would add “how could a man who believes in subverting the rule of law to favor political friends rule this land?” (the GM bailout swept aside the law and the bond-holder hierarchy and gave assets from the newly defunct automaker to friendly union supporters.)
Why? Why does this oppression, this wickedness go unpunished? This leaves me with two conclusions. First, I pray for wisdom, that I can understand what is true and just and right (believe me, I have prayed that prayer many, many, many times – and keep coming to the same conclusions). Second, I remember Habakkuk.
Maybe Jackson’s right, maybe New Orleans will be knocked off it’s rocker again. (Joe Bastardi, who has an unfortunate last name but is really entertaining – especially considering that he’s a weather man – says the storm is coming from a much worse direction for New Orelans and could actually be just as dangerous or moreso.) Maybe California will get hit with a 9.1 quake (odd seismic activity these days). Maybe the banking sector will take another huge deflationary shock and ask for more taxpayer funds (and get them). Maybe the whole thing will start to fray at the edges and unravel just a bit. Or maybe it won’t.
The armchair “team God” types will surely have some things to say about the judgment of God, and their interpretations thereof, in either case. As for me, I’ll be hoping the country can right its course without a complete breakdown. But who knows?