O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save! Why dost thou shew me iniquity and grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and strife and contention. The law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth. They are terrible and dreadful... They shall come all for violence.... Art thou not from everlasting, O LORD God, Holy One? Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the righteous?
Habakkuk 1:2-13 (KJV, excerpt)
Habakkuk, one of the so-called “minor prophets” of ancient Israel, cried out to God in protest of injustice and oppression. Since he lived during the time of the Babylonian Exile, his lament was on a national level. Now that I’ve acknowledged the original purpose of this text, I’ve taken the liberty of applying the translated text in a modern setting.
The words of this prophet scream at us today on a personal level. Just as the prophet was lamenting that he looked around and saw suffering, so can we. And just as the prophet likely included himself as one of those who suffered, so can we.
Oppression is all too real in domestic violence and in crimes against persons.
Injustice is all too real in the obstacles placed before us when we want to act on it.
- When we seek redress in the courts for wrongs done to spouses and children.
- When we seek evidence buried by those entrusted with it.
- When we seek uncorrupted autopsy findings.
- When we seek to remove the unworthy from the ranks of law enforcement.
- When we seek representation from attorneys less concerned with obtaining justice than with protecting their ability to perform before the same judge in the future.
- When we seek to hold our elected and appointed officials accountable for misbehavior.
How frustrating it is today, as we look around and see that the need for action is great, and then realize that we are so powerless to make a difference!
Well, are really so powerless?
Consider God’s reply to Habakkuk in this excerpt from chapter 2.
And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Behold, the just shall live by his faith. The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. The LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.
Can we appropriate God’s reply to Habakkuk? Do we have any reason to see a vision of hope for something better? Even if we do, is there any reason to write it down as the prophet was commanded to do, so that it can be published far and wide?
I believe we have every reason to do so. Look around, and above all the destruction and violence we see signs that there is light ahead. Here are just a few examples.
- In the state of North Carolina, one survivor of domestic violence has formed an organization to address the subject. Some of the results have included state legislation, and a successful lawsuit against a police body that failed in its duty to protect and to serve.
- One year ago the Time’s Up! blog was started by a few people who had a vision. They followed an inner(?) drive to write the vision down, so that it would be published far and wide.
- Not long after I joined the ranks of contributing writers, I learned of several Blog Talk Radio programs that address these issues of violence, crime, and injustice. They gave voice to those who suffer, as well as to those who actively do something about it. Lawmakers have been influenced by the spreading of this vision. If legislation has not yet been proposed, it is only a matter of time before laws will be passed.
- Resource materials are now available to assist in escaping abusive relationships, in surviving the trauma of crime, and in rebuilding the lives of survivors.
- Church leaders are recognizing their past mistakes in properly addressing violence survival issues, and the pastoral landscape is changing -- though slowly.
- Pastors are networking with resource providers and with those who are better equipped to respond effectively in a more practical manner than “Give him another chance,” “Forgive and forget,” and so on.
- Networking is spreading on a wider scale, to force accountability in the courts and in the halls of government when injustice has occurred and lives have been lost.
So Habakkuk had a vision, and so can we. Here is an excerpt of the prophet’s response, from the third and final chapter.
His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. The sun and moon stood still. Thou didst walk through the sea, through the heap of great waters. Although the fig tree not blossom, neither fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive fail, and the fields yield no meat; the flock be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength.
So this is all well and good, you might say. And amazingly enough, I agree with you!
In the first chapter the prophet cries out to God asking Him to do something.
In the second chapter God tells him He will, but in His own time.
In the third chapter the prophet says that while he’s waiting, he will praise God.
For some reason you may not find this satisfactory. While God’s timing is perfect, many people continue to suffer and die as we wait.
This is my challenge to you. If this idea is distressing to you, talk with God about it. Maybe you may find an unexpected gift in His answer.
Grace and Peace,