Wait for It!

[ABOUT THE AUTHOR: As to work, Stan is a pastor, preacher, minister, teacher, researcher, and writer; as to love, Stan is husband to Pat, father to Rachel, and friend to God’s people; as to passion, Stan seeks first God’s kingdom. Though perfect in none of these, he aspires to be all of them.]

This post is based on the Lectionary reading for December 11, from Habakkuk 2:1-5.

O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?

So begins the recorded words of the ancient Israelite prophet Habakkuk. Perhaps you have been there. Perhaps you are there now. God seems far away and the turn of events makes you wonder if life, if not God, is against you.

I appreciate the Prophets’ raw honesty. They are willing to ask the questions that would surely bring down God’s wrath if we were to ask them aloud.

Habakkuk points to the state of things in his time as evidence of God’s neglect. In fact, the behaviours and lack of loyalty of God’s own people demonstrates that God is absent. The prophet concluded, “So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous—therefore judgment comes forth perverted” (Hab 1:4).

Imagine the prophet’s surprise when God agrees with him. In Hab 1:5–11 God agrees with Habakuk then raises the stakes (Hab 1:5–11). God promises to send an invading army (Babylon) to dispense justice on the faithless Judeans. Habakkuk is taken aback and reels over this revelation. When he gets his bearings, he objects strenuously. How could God send the more wicked to eradicate the less wicked (Hab 1:12–14).

Indeed should not the God who made all people like the fish in the sea, not care about his creature. How can God watch while his people are drug in in as with a net! (Hab 1:15–17). For Habakkuk the unexplainable is happening! Genocide! Disease! Vandalism! Racism! Destruction!

O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?

As Habakkuk struggles to understand God’s nonsensical ways, he nonetheless makes a decision. He will watch to see if God will bring about what he has said. So he announces:

I will stand at my watchpost,
    and station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me,
    and what he will answer concerning my complaint.

 

To which the Lord again responds,

 

Write the vision;
    make it plain on tablets,
    so that a runner may read it.
For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
    it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
    it will surely come, it will not delay.
Look at the proud!
    Their spirit is not right in them,
    but the righteous by their faith will live.

The dialogue between Habakkuk and the Lord continues, but this is a good place to reflect on this divine encounter between the Lord and his prophet.

This certainly does not sound like Good News, does it? I can understand if you would rather not read Hebakkuk during Advent. After all Advent is about the coming of Jesus and should be about joy, right? And certainly joy is the centerpiece, but life also had some hard edges because because our world is broken. The biblical story does not hedge this fact—even if we try to ignore or minimize it. In fact Advent is a deep recognition of how terribly broken our world is.

Yet at this juncture, there is amazing grace. The text notes that the spirit of the proud is not right BUT the righteous by their faith will live.

The apostle Paul found the Gospel embedded in this latter phrase. For the Gospel is the power of God to save people and therefore, just as it is written, “The one who is righteous by faith will live!” (Rom 1:16–17).

Following the word order in the original of both the Hebrew and the Greek, “The righteous by faith will live!” In other words, those who believe in Jesus are the righteous! And wait for it? They will live!

But until them what do we do? Habakkuk may well have said it best at the end of his prophetic book.

Though the fig tree does not blossom,

                        and no fruit is on the vines;

            though the produce of the olive fails

                        and the fields yield no food;

            though the flock is cut off from the fold

                        and there is no herd in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the LORD;

                        I will exult in the God of my salvation.

GOD, the Lord, is my strength;

                        he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

                        and makes me tread upon the heights. (Hab 3:17–19)

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