Ep070: Fight Injustice with Injustice?

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”. 

Today we look at Habakkuk, one of the minor prophets in the  Old Testament. He starts his prophecy with a chapter-long complaint that God is doing absolutely nothing about the injustice and violence in Judah. He says,
  How long, Lord, must I call for help,
    but you do not listen?
  I cry out to you, “Violence!”
    but you do not save?   (Hab. 1:1)
  Destruction and violence are before me;
    strife and conflict abound.
  Therefore the law is paralysed,
    and justice is perverted. (Hab. 1:3-4)

Great prayer, Habakkuk. Sounds like our world today. 

God was listening, and he answered Habakkuk. He said,
  Look. . . and be utterly amazed (Hab. 1:5)
  For I am going to do something in your days
      that you would not believe,
      even if you were told. 

That’s great, God!  Do something amazing and unbelievable. We’re ready. 

So what was God’s amazing plan? He said he was raising up the Babylonians as a ruthless, godless, treacherous, violent, and self-serving nation. Their army would destroy and conquer nations. They would trample the injustice in Judah that Habakkuk complained  about. 

Habakkuk didn’t think this was an amazing solution — the Babylonian army replacing the unjust civilization in Judah with their own violence and injustice? What problem does that solve? This gave Habakkukk something new to complain about, so he said, 

    You have appointed them to execute judgment?  (Hab. 1:12)
    Why do you let the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? (Hab. 1:13). 

God replied that Babylon would plunder many nations, but they too would be punished for injustice. Those they plundered would rise up and plunder them.

Did Habakkuk find this comforting? A merciless empire will violently destroy unjust Judah and then God will send someone to violently destroy the merciless empire. Is this a biblical interpretation of world history? Is there no end to the cycle of violence and retribution?

Overwhelmed, Habakkuk turns from complaint to prayer. He says,
  Lord, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds . . .
  Repeat them in our day,
      in our time make them known;
      in wrath remember mercy. (Hab 3:2)

Then he recounts some of God’s great deeds, like the plagues on Egypt and parting the Red Sea. Yes, God had acted powerfully in the face of angry nations, but he did not promise an Exodus-type deliverance in Habakkuk’s day. Facing a world war with no exit in sight, Habakkuk prayed a prayer of resignation and hope. Let’s pray with him, bringing to his ancient prayer our 21st century experience of injustice, war, and climate change. 

O God,
  I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
      to come on the nation invading us.
  Though the fig-tree does not bud
      and the grape vine bears no fruit,
  though the olive crop fails
        and the fields produce no food,
  though there are no sheep in the sheepfold
        and no cattle in the stalls,
    yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
        I will be joyful in God my Saviour.
    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. 3:16-19) 

Yes, Lord, be our sovereign, our king, our strength. Rule the warring nations. Cool the burning earth. Bring justice to the unjust world. Make our feet like the feet of deer, enable us to walk on the high places. 

Amen. 

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”. 

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