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LORD, how long do I have to call out for help? Why don’t you listen to me?

Part 4

January 23, 2010

LORD, how long do I have to call out for help?

Why don’t you listen to me?”

We’re now up to part 4 of what has turned out to be a series on –things are pretty bad here – where are you God?. If you haven’t read the first parts, you may want to check them out first.

Since this is turning out to be rather longer than I’d expected – there’s obviously no conclusion yet. But – one may start to wonder, what does this have to do with the theme of my site? After all – it’s supposed to be about “which God”? Ultimately, the objective was to be to decide whether we want a God that reacts to Habakkuk’s issues the way it works out in this Book. Along the way though – I’ve noticed a second theme coming into play – namely whether we want a God that interacts with Habakkuk the way it is in this Book.

Anyway – here we go. In the last installment, God had essentially agreed with Habakkuk that things were pretty bad on earth and something needed to be done. But – God thought things were even worse than Habakkuk did – and appeared to be calling for drastic and final measures to deal with the people. Then Habakkuk does a partial about face and pretty much tells God that He won’t destroy His chosen people in this way – because that’s not what God is about. He finishes off by saying that He will await God’s reply. Again – some commentators look at this as weakness, others as arrogance, and others as knowing God very well.

Where would you put it? How do you think God looked at it? Let’s find out. Based on his last sentence

I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.

Habakkuk is apparently expecting to get chewed out – and is expecting to have to come up with an answer to God’s next words.

And so here are God’s next words – at least the start of them:

Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.
For the revelation awaits an appointed time;it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.

Gee – that doesn’t sound so bad. Doesn’t sound like God’s upset at Habakkuk at all. In fact – remember in the previous chapter, Habakkuk was being so bold as to put himself in the same company as Moses and Isaiah? It seems that God agrees with that assessment of the importance of what’s happening here. Habakkuk is instructed to write down his vision and put it on tablets – just as Moses was told to do with the 10 Commandments,

How cool is that? Habakkuk’s going through quite a sequence of feelings:

Two things here – (1) God’s not mad at Habakkuk at all and (2) maybe He’s not going to wipe them out, otherwise who would be around to read the revelation?

This begs the question – so what is God going to do? If He’s not going to let things remain as they were – and He’s not going to wipe them out – will He actually do what Habakkuk had in mind all along?

Since the NIRV is easier to follow, here’s what it has for God’s response:

Hab 2:2 The LORD replies,

“Write down the message I am showing you in a vision.

Write it clearly on the tablets you use.

Then a messenger can read it

and run to announce it.

Hab 2:3 The message I give you

waits for the time I have appointed.

It speaks about what is going to happen.

And all of it will come true.

It might take a while.

But wait for it.

You can be sure it will come.

It will happen when I want it to.

Hab 2:4 “The Babylonians are very proud.

What they want is not good.

“But the one who is right with God

will live by faith.

Hab 2:5 “Wine makes the Babylonians do foolish things.

They are proud. They never rest.

Like the grave, they are always hungry for more.

Like death, they are never satisfied.

They gather all of the nations to themselves.

They take their people away as prisoners.

Hab 2:6 “Won’t those people laugh at the Babylonians? Won’t they make fun of them?
               They will say to them,

“‘How terrible it will be for you

who pile up stolen goods!

You get rich by cheating others.

How long will that go on?

Hab 2:7 Those who owe you money will suddenly rise up.

You charge them too much interest.

So they will wake up

and make you tremble with fear.

Then they will take away

everything you have.

Hab 2:8 You have robbed many nations.

So the nations that are left will rob you.

You have spilled man’s blood.

You have destroyed lands and cities

and everyone in them.’

Hab 2:9 “How terrible it will be for the Babylonians!

They build their kingdom with money

they gained by cheating others.

They have tried to make the kingdom

as secure as possible.

After all, they did not want to be destroyed.

Hab 2:10 They have planned to wipe out many nations.

But they have brought shame on their own kingdom.

So they must pay with their own lives.

Hab 2:11 The stones in the walls of their homes will cry out.

And the wooden beams will echo that cry.

Hab 2:12 “How terrible it will be for the Babylonians!

They build cities by spilling the blood of others.

They establish towns by committing crimes.

Hab 2:13 I am the LORD who rules over all.

Human effort is no better than wood that feeds a fire.

So the nations wear themselves out for nothing.

Hab 2:14 The oceans are full of water.

In the same way, the earth will be filled

with the knowledge of my glory.

Hab 2:15 “How terrible it will be for the Babylonians!

They give drinks to their neighbors.

They pour the drinks from wineskins

until their neighbors are drunk.

They want to look at their naked bodies.

Hab 2:16 But the Babylonians will be filled

with shame instead of glory.

So now it is their turn to drink

and be stripped of their clothes.

The cup of anger in my powerful right hand

is going to punish them.

They will be covered with shame instead of glory.

Hab 2:17 The harm they have done to Lebanon

will bring them down.

Because they have killed so many animals,

animals will terrify them.

They have spilled man’s blood.

They have destroyed lands and cities

and everyone in them.

Hab 2:18 “If someone carves a statue of a god, what is it worth?

What value is there in a god

that teaches lies?

The one who trusts in another god

worships his own creation.

He makes statues of gods that can’t speak.

Hab 2:19 How terrible it will be for the Babylonians!

They say to a wooden god, ‘Come to life!’

They say to a stone god, ‘Wake up!’

Can those gods give advice?

They are covered with gold and silver.

They can’t even breathe.

Hab 2:20 But I am in my holy temple.

Let the whole earth be silent in front of me.”

So the Babylonians will rise up – as God said He would do with them. But this time, it’s not going to be total annihilation and it’s not going to be permanent – no matter how much it looks like there’s no other possibility. As God says - “I am the Lord who rules over all … So the nations wear themselves out for nothing.” And the final line - “Let the whole earth be silent in front of Me.”

OMG again!

It’s probably not a coincidence – as I’m writing this now, the words in the song I’m listening to include “The Lord is good, the Lord is kind” and “His truth from age to age endures”. And that’s what Habakkuk has just had confirmed. Not learned – because he already knew it in his heart. But confirmed, because he actually heard it from God in the vision.

Again – how cool is that!!??

So – for the question of relevance – if the name Habakkuk was left out – or if I used John or Joe or any common name from today to describe what was going on – it would totally fit. We may claim to be more civilized. We are certainly more technically advanced. We have what we claim to be a higher standard of living. But in the end – we are still people. We still have the same basic problems. And there are still some good people who look to God, knowing that only He can actually do anything about it. And I don’t mean covering up the symptoms, or using fancy words to make it seem like the problems don’t exist. I mean really taking care of the root cause of the problem – evil. Relevancy doesn’t seem to be an issue at all. We are taught to believe that we can take care of things ourselves – that we don’t need God – but that’s not any more true today than it was back then.

And for the question of ”things are pretty bad here – where are you God?" - that hasn’t really changed either. As it says in verse 2:3 -

The message I give you waits for the time I have appointed. It speaks about what is going to happen. And all of it will come true. It might take a while. But wait for it. You can be sure it will come. It will happen when I want it to.

That message wasn’t just for Habakkuk. Remember – it was to be put on the tablets and announced to all. And since God and His truth are eternal – it’s meant for us as well. God will triumph over evil. Maybe not when we’d like – and maybe not in the way we’d like – but it will happen. And it will happen in the way the He chooses. And it will happen at the time He chooses. In that we can be sure.

And of course, the final question. Which “god” do you want to have? The wooden god of the Babylonians? Or maybe their stone god – he must be stronger than wood? Or maybe one covered with gold and silver – that must be more valuable?

Or would you prefer the Living God – the one who has the power to have the whole earth be silent in front of Him? And yet, at the same time – the One who wants us to speak openly and honestly to Him – to pour out our feelings to Him – the One who will always be faithful to us – the One who can save us?

It seems like such a “no brainer”. And yet so many people who are very bright and “brainy” in the ways of the world have and will continue to make the wrong choice. They’ll say no one can be like this. No one can have that kind of love. No one can do those kinds of things – to control the earth – to control every human being (especially them?). And yet He can – and we’re such a tiny little piece of the universe – and He not only can control it, but He created it! But He still cares about each and every one of us! To me, it seems like the more we “know” about life – science – math – people – everything – the less we should be saying that God can’t do these things, and the more we should be in total and complete awe of the One who can do all those things – and stuff we can’t even dream of.

Yes – He’s my choice. And I pray that He’s yours too.

I wonder what Habakkuk had to say about this turn of events. But it’s getting late. Have to wait until next time, for the conclusion of the series that going to have to be renamed. It can’t be ”things are pretty bad here – where are you God?" Maybe ”things are pretty bad here – I’ll be waiting for you God!"