Today’s Old Testament lesson (Habakkuk 3:1-18) encourages me on a day like today, especially when placed in its historical context. Habakkuk prophesied in the days leading up to Judah’s destruction by the invading armies of Babylon; and at the heart of his message is his struggle to understand the brokenness of the world around him. His writings begin with the timely question: “How long, O 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 wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.” (Hab. 1:1-2)
Many of us are asking similar questions. In the wake of yet another mass shooting event — this one at a school in Parkland, Florida — we struggle to understand why tragedies like this keep occurring (or perhaps more accurately: we have a pretty good idea why they occur, and so we struggle to understand why we seem to be so unable or unwilling to do something about it). We, too, wonder how long it will be before God acts? We have offered “thoughts and prayers” for what feels like too long, and we yearn for the LORD to listen and save.
But God answers Habakkuk, just as I believe He will answer us. Of course, the answer isn’t exactly what Habakkuk wants to hear. In his case, the LORD reveals that Babylon — an enemy of Israel and an unrighteous nation — will become the instrument of His justice. Of course, this creates questions of its own. But in the midst of addressing even those questions, the LORD makes this much clear: “The righteous person will live by his faithfulness.” (Hab. 2:4)
In response, Habakkuk offers both a prayer and an affirmation of faith. The prayer? “LORD, have heard about your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds. Renew them in our day. In our time, make them known; in wrath remember mercy.” (Hab. 3:2) And the affirmation? Even if the worst may come, “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Hab. 3:18)
May we, too, rejoice in the LORD — even in the wake of tragedy. And may we understand that “living by faithfulness” calls us to pray and act in ways that expand God’s kingdom embrace; so that God’s kingdom will come — and God’s will be done — on earth as it is in heaven.
How long, O LORD?
Renew your deeds in us, God. In our time, make them known.