By Reverend Sheila L. Scott
Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
1:1 The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.
1:2 O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?
1:3 Why do you make me see wrong-doing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.
1:4 So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous– therefore judgment comes forth perverted.
2:1 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.
2:2 Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.
2:3 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.
2:4 Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.
Again we hear from a prophet addressing a situation before the exile (an invasion by the Babylonians in the late seventh century BC), but also understood by those returning from the exile to speak an important word to their situation.
In both cases, the people faced major devastation. Buildings and water systems were destroyed. Living conditions were unsafe. Rebuilding would have to happen at some point, but with limited resources, it seemed that day would not come quickly.
This week’s reading from Habakkuk, our only selection from his work in the three-year cycle, reflects some of the questions those who have spent some time in the ruins after a disaster may start to ask.
As Habakkuk surveys the scene, he sees the results of violence everywhere. He wonders, “Does God even care? Will God even raise a finger to help him or anyone face it?” (verse 1).
Part of the role of a prophet is not only to represent God to the people, but to represent the real questions, fears, and challenges of the people to God. Habakkuk does just that in today’s text. “Do you care, God? Do you even care? We cry out to you, and… nothing!” (verse 1). “God, do you see this? We’re calling to you to deliver us, but see no signs of it. Do you even care?”
Habakkuk asks the tough questions. He also waits for God to answer. And he keeps waiting until an answer comes (2:1). When an answer comes, it is partly a call to continue waiting (2:3). Things may actually continue to get worse for a while. But restoration would come some day. It’s not an immediate solution to an apparent problem— the coming storm from Habakkuk’s perspective, or the endless ruins and obstacle after obstacle in getting them addressed by the returning exiles.
However, it is an answer to something the people can do to be part of the solution. Regardless of circumstances, they can lead righteous lives by faith in the midst of unfavorable conditions. This is the answer God wants Habakkuk to write on tablets and make plain so that all may see. A message God wants the prophet to carry everywhere in letters so big even runners running by could read it from a distance (2:2). “The righteous shall live by faith.” (2:4)
The challenge for many of us is found in the waiting process when things haven’t change, things aren’t getting better and may not be getting worse necessarily but there’s no real change. This is were vision becomes most important in our faith walk. A vision gives us hope for a better tomorrow. In many instances in the bible, visions are supernatural revelations given from God. In our text God tells the Prophet Habakkuk to write the vision–in other words keep it before you and the people. Why? Because they were in the midst of some challenging times but when they looked at the vision it gave them hope that things won’t always be this way they had a plan that would led them to a better future. The Scripture tells us, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…(Proverbs 29:18).”