Habakkuk part 2 – 1:1-4 – How Long?

[1] The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.
  [2] O LORD, how long shall I cry for help,
              and you will not hear?
  Or cry to you “Violence!”
              and you will not save?
  [3] Why do you make me see iniquity,
              and why do you idly look at wrong?
  Destruction and violence are before me;
              strife and contention arise.
  [4] So the law is paralyzed,
              and justice never goes forth.
  For the wicked surround the righteous;
              so justice goes forth perverted.(ESV)

“How long?” is the most natural question to ask in the face of suffering.  When true suffering and brokenness arrive, we immediately want to know when they will leave.  We feel the wrong and we cry out for it to be righted.  Amazingly, in this and many other places in the Bible, God invites His people to ask it of Him.  He’s not offended by the question and it does not seem to annoy Him.  Although He is the King and in control of everything, working all things for the good of His people, it is still right and good to cry out, “How long?” when suffering and evil seem to prevail.  We don’t need to pretend everything is ok.  We don’t need to just deal with it.  Habakkuk sees people hurting each other and people in danger and it bereaves him.  It seems like everything is messed up without any hope of justice and peace prevailing.  And so he cries out to the LORD, “How long?”

As we face suffering, uncertainty, and injustice, before we do anything else, it is good and right that we would first direct our attention to the One who rules the universe and join His people who have throughout time cried out “How long?”  While it is a question that seems to reveal a struggle to believe, it is a question that gets us out of our self-sufficiency and is directed toward the only One who can do anything about the wrong we see in our world.  Because the reality is that we live in a world that is continually broken, whether we feel it acutely or not, the disposition of “How long, O Lord?” is a good place for the Christian to be.  It helps us direct our attention toward Him and our hope toward a time when He will fully and finally make all things right again.

Habakkuk part 1 – Introduction

Over the course of the next few days, I will be posting some brief devotional thoughts on the book of Habakkuk, a particularly important book of the Bible during dark times.  I hope you will follow along and benefit from it!

Habakkuk.  Some people pronounce it HaBAKKuk.  Others pronounce it HABakkuk.  It is not a book of the Bible with which many people have much familiarity.  It is, however, a great resource during dark, scary, and uncertain times.  It is written at a particularly dark point in the history of God’s people, Israel.  Although God had chosen Israel as His holy people, set apart for His glory, they were committing all kinds of treachery, worshiping the gods of neighboring people, practicing prostitution in the temple of the LORD, and sacrificing their children to the god Molech (cf 2 Kings 23).  If that weren’t enough, terrifying global superpower Assyria loomed large, threatening to overrun God’s people entirely.  The fate of Israel as God’s chosen and treasured people appeared bleak.

Into this terrifying situation, the prophet Habakkuk enters into a dialogue with God about sin and justice, and ultimately about how we can trust and even praise God during the most trying of times.  For those seeking to make sense of wickedness in the world, the threat of catastrophe, God’s role in it all, and how we can flourish during dark times, the book of Habakkuk provides needed perspective and needed answers.  I hope you will follow along in this devotional study of Habakkuk over the course of the next few days.