Read Habakkuk 1:1-11
Think of a new heaven and a new earth.
Think of God wiping away every tear from your eyes.
Think of ultimate justice and fairness and mercy and love all mixed into a perfect day.
Think of wanting to burst out into songs of praise to God the Father and think of giving glory to the King of Kings in every thought we can conceive.
Think of hearing echoes of voices crying out and joyfully singing, “Worthy is the Lamb.”
Think of standing in the presence of holy God, the blood of Jesus having cleansed us from all unrighteousness, and only our good deeds that brought glory to God are up for discussion.
Think of the crown of righteousness that is in store for us.
Think of the words, “Well done good and faithful servant. Come and share you Master’s happiness.”
Think of God dwelling with men and not even needing the light of the sun. God is with us and we are not blinded by his blinding light.
Can you get your mind around all of those things?
Now come back to reality because that’s not where we are.
Oh we get a taste of the Kingdom of God in the here and now, that’s for sure. We seek God’s Kingdom and his righteousness. We store up treasure in heaven and show Jesus our love for him with every one of the least of these brothers and sisters that we love and help; but we live in a broken world.
We cry out for justice in a broken world.
We like the prophet cry out, “How long are you going to put up with this?”
We ask, “Are you listening, God?”
“Can you hear me?”
We ask that God look at everything unholy and unrighteous and self-serving and then we ask, “What are you going to do about this?”
We complain that there is no justice in our justice system.
We cry out that, “The bad guys are winning.”
We can’t believe the violence that is all around us. It doesn’t make sense. The sanctity of human life seems to be a thing of the past.
“God, what are you going to do about this?”
At some point in a person’s life, there is generally some anger or frustration directed at God.
“How could you do this to me?”
“How could you let that happen to my baby sister?”
Sometimes we have anger. Other times we think that we are the victim.
But Habukkuk is frustrated that God will not bring his judgment against and upon his own people for turning their backs on him and worshipping false gods.
Habakkuk sees evil all around him and God doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it.
C’mon a few lightning bolts here and there would be in order.
Habakkuk longs to see the finger of God touch the evil people around him much as it did for Moses in Egypt.
But what was coming would not be a surgical strike.
What was coming was the Babylonians.
The Babylonians were not a holy people; in fact, they were pretty much an unholy people. Sometimes they might be referred to as the Chaldeans, but in any case, these were not good people. God described them as ruthless and impetuous.
But they were coming to be the prominent power in the known world. Nabopolassar would rise to power and be succeeded by one who would expand the Babylonian Empire into Judah. Nebuchadnessar came and conquered God’s people and deported the best and brightest of them.
Habakkuk asked God, “What are you going to do about all of the sin and apostasy among your chosen people?”
He cries out to God, “Your eyes are too pure to look upon evil. So why do you permit this evil to exist?”
“What are you going to do about it?”
God answers, “I give you the Babylonians. They will do things that you cannot imagine.”
The Babylonians would come. They did come. They did horrible things to God’s Chosen People. If you had any position or skill to speak of, they carted you back to Babylon with them. The temple and the city of Jerusalem were reduced to ruble.
And Habakkuk might have thought, “That’s not exactly what I was hoping for.”
Habakkuk would have voted for the surgical strike—just take out the bad guys. But what would come would be a judgment against God’s Chosen People.
God’s ways are not our ways.
We might have preferred to just walk around the city and country pointing our finger at people.
“God, this guy is really bad. Just Zap him.”
“These folks are just stuck on the fence. Sometimes they worship you and other times they worship that idol made out of wood or stone. Just make their crops dry up and die.”
“These people over here are really bad. I would really like to bring the term ‘smote’ back into widespread use. God, just smote those people. Smote them into oblivion and make it hurt.”
But God tells Habakkuk that he is sending the Babylonians—people bent on violence—to take care of this judgment. He would use an unholy people to execute a sentence of judgment against his own people, and then he would deal with the Babylonians.
What was Habakkuk to do about this?
His job was just to tell God’s Chosen People that judgment was on the way and it would look like the Babylonians.
The Babylonian Empire has come and gone.
There is no real international power in this Region or even a remnant of this once powerful empire that imposed God’s judgment upon his own people. Iraq and Iran have stirred up some trouble over the past few decades, but the days of empire have long passed from this region.
So other than just knowing a little about biblical history, why do we care? We have read several prophets that warned Israel and Judah that they had better go cold turkey on their false gods and idols or the wrath of God was headed their way.
We know this part of history. Why do we need to read it again in this book most people have not read?
This is a conversation with God. It is a conversation full of reverence and complaint at the same time. It also causes us to think about our conversations and prayers with God.
We might want to be careful what we ask for.
We might want to be very careful about asking for justice.
Who are we to complain to God and ask for his justice upon the wicked?
Well, that’s what Job wanted. If God would just hear his case, he would set things right. When Job got his audience with God, he decided that he really didn’t have anything to say and surely didn’t want God asking him any more questions that began with, “Where were you when…”
That’s what Jonah wanted. God did not need to send a prophet to Nineveh. He just needed to bring justice upon those ungodly people. If he sent a prophet, they might repent. They needed their comeuppance.
Think of the medieval knight that came before the closed gate of the castle. He is there because some wrong has been committed somewhere in the kingdom, so he cries out: “Send your lord out to do battle so that justice may be done upon him.”
We all have our view of how God should impose justice upon this world, but we are well advised not to let that view work its way into our prayers.
Who are we to ask for justice?
We all have sinned and deserved death.
We all have sinned.
We deserve to be condemned.
Who are we to ask God to bring others to justice?
Mercy, compassion, and love must be at the heart of our prayer life. Let us leave justice fully in God’s court.
Jesus would say, judge not lest you be judged—and with the same standards that you used to judge.
If we are honest with ourselves, we don’t want that. We love living in grace, knowing God’s mercy, and being forgiven when we deserved to be condemned.
We are told to keep our eyes on Jesus—the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. We are to keep running our race, not stop and see how everyone else is doing. Who are we to judge another man’s servant.
But sometimes, the ungodliness of the world is just thrust right into our face.
Yes it is!
We can’t miss it but we must choose to defer condemning those who are doing evil and understand with certainty that the Judge of all the world will do right. He alone will balance the scales of justice and mercy. He does not need a consulting opinion, a friend of the court, or sentencing guidelines.
I will be so bold as to say, let’s not spend our time asking God to judge the wicked.
So what should we do when we look around us and see evil and wickedness in almost every segment of life?
Do we just turn a blind eye?
There is the story of the 4 nuns that had been assigned to paint convent. It was summer time and they were getting hot. One of them suggested that they take off all of their clothes as there were no men around.
This seemed to work well for a while. They were making good progress. What paint they had splatted on themselves would easily wash off later. This was a good plan.
Then came a knock at the door.
One nun sheepishly asked, “Who is it?”
The answer was, “I am the blind man.”
The nuns looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders in agreement. There was no need to put their habits or robes back on and get paint all over them. After all, it was a blind man.
So they opened the door and let the man in. They were surprised at how well he navigated for a blind man, that is until he looked all around the room and asked, “OK, where do you want the blinds.”
We do not turn a blind eye to the evil in the world. We do not turn a blind eye to those who are outright rejecting God and living however they want to live.
We are people who live in the light. We have eyes to see.
But we are also people who stay the course given to us. We run the race given to us. We cast off anything that weighs us down.
Our eyes remain fixed on our Master—the Author and Finisher of our faith.
And though there be evil and sin and wickedness all around us, we stay the course. We pray and pray more and pray even more. It is sort of like we are praying all the time.
But this conversation that we are having with God is not about judgment. It must be about being about the business that our Master has given us.
Perhaps our part of this ongoing conversation with God might go something like this.
Lord, I see your glory in this creation, but I also see evil all around me.
Help me to be your light in this darkness.
Lord, I give thanks for the abundance that I have, but I see people enslaved by decadence instead of liberated souls with thankful hearts.
Help me to model thanksgiving to those who are lost.
Lord, I praise your name. I lift the name of Jesus above all names every day, but I see those who defame his precious name without a thought.
Help me to sing out, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain” in the face of such blasphemy.
Lord, I come to worship you faithfully. I come in spirit and in truth. There is no place else that I could be, but I see so many who worship and love only themselves.
Help me to speak the truth in love and then refrain my judgmental nature so that your own Spirit will do what my words will not and others may come to the repentance and fullness of life that I know in you.
Lord, my spirit burns with passion for you. I awake each morning desiring to please you, but I see so many who are consumed in apathy.
Help me to guide them to a life of purpose.
Lord, I can sing Victory in Jesus and know the Blessed Assurance that brings harmony not only in sound but in my soul, but I am witness to so many who live without hope.
Help me to shatter their hopelessness with the One who has overcome the world.
Lord, I know that the greatest choice that I have made is to respond to your love with love for you that I show by loving my brothers and sisters, but I see so many who live as if they are a victim and have no choices.
Help me to show others how to respond to your grace.
Lord, I desire your kingdom and your righteousness before all things, but I see others who live for the things of this world.
Help me to testify to the assurance, peace, and abundance that I know because you are first in my life so that others may know there is a better way to live.
Lord, I tithe and have been blessed by this simple act of faith and trust, but I see so many who time and time again are in need because they do not trust you.
Help me that I will publically proclaim the fulfillment of your promise and open doors to the abundance you have in store for those who will trust you with their talents, time, and treasure.
Lord, I thank you that you have given us wisdom just for the asking, but I see so many with self inflicted wounds because they ignored you and honored the wisdom of the world.
Help me to light the path with your wisdom.
Lord, I thank you for the grace you have given me when I deserved condemnation, but there are so many all around me who continue in their evil ways.
Help me to take the plank out of my own eye as I minister to them.
Lord, I cherish your mercy and your grace and the love and peace that you have given me that goes beyond my comprehension.
Grant me a heart of mercy so my desire will also be that none perish.
Grant me the desire and ability to forgive those who do not deserve to be forgiven.
Grant me a love that mobilizes all that I am so that I may love even my enemies.
Lord, I covet your kingdom and your righteousness and I enter your gates with thanksgiving and your courts with praise.
Grant me the wisdom to show people your kingdom in everything I do.
Grant me the opportunities to lead others to right living.
Grant me even the trials that come upon my life that I may show others that my joy is in you and not in my circumstance.
Lord, you told us that we would be persecuted and even suffer for you.
Grant me the suffering that leads to perseverance.
Grant me the perseverance that brings character.
Grant me the character that produces hope.
Lord, I know that you are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and that one day you will dwell among men and be our light.
Grant me eyes to see and not to condemn.
Grant me the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Grant me the invitation, “Come and share your Master’s happiness.”
Lord, I have eyes to see and I see both your holiness and the evil in the world.
Grant me acceptance that only you may judge.
Grant me a heart that desires mercy not condemnation.
Grant me continued growth and strength in you grace.
Lord I see your goodness and I see wickedness on this earth.
Equip me to navigate this world with you holy word.
Equip me to walk in your ways with the urgings of the Holy Spirit.
Equip me to serve you as a vital member of the Body of Christ.
Lord I see that you have good plans for my life but I see some who would devise other plans for me.
Send me to proclaim your good news to those who oppose me.
Send me to make disciples from those who do not know you.
Send me to teach your ways to those who respond to your gift and choose to follow you.
Lord, I am yours. Whatever is ahead, I remain faithful to you.
Lord, I am yours. Whatever the challenge, I trust you to see me through.
Lord, I am yours. The servant is not greater than his Master and I am your servant.
Pour me out.
I will not ask for your justice but be joyful in your forgiveness.
I will not ask for your justice, but be overwhelmed by your grace.
I will not ask for your justice, but desire your mercy and goodness all of the days of my life.
Lord hear this prayer.