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First Reading: Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

1The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.  2O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,   and you will not listen?  Or cry to you “Violence!”   and you will not save?  3Why do you make me see wrongdoing   and look at trouble?  Destruction and violence are before me;   strife and contention arise.  4So the law becomes slack   and justice never prevails.  The wicked surround the righteous—   therefore judgment comes forth perverted.  2:1I 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.  2Then the Lord answered me and said:  Write the vision;   make it plain on tablets,   so that a runner may read it.  3For 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.  4Look at the proud!   Their spirit is not right in them,   but the righteous live by their faith.

Here is the same passage as found in Eugene Peterson’s Transliteration “The Message”

Justice Is a Joke

1 1-4 The problem as God gave Habakkuk to see it:

God, how long do I have to cry out for help before you listen? How many times do I have to yell, “Help! Murder! Police!” before you come to the rescue? Why do you force me to look at evil, stare trouble in the face day after day? Anarchy and violence break out, quarrels and fights all over the place. Law and order fall to pieces. Justice is a joke. The wicked have the righteous hamstrung and stand justice on its head.

2 What’s God going to say to my questions? I’m braced for the worst. I’ll climb to the lookout tower and scan the horizon. I’ll wait to see what God says, how he’ll answer my complaint.

Full of Self, but Soul-Empty

2-3 And then God answered: “Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision-message is a witness pointing to what’s coming. It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time.

4 “Look at that man, bloated by self-importance— full of himself but soul-empty. But the person in right standing before God through loyal and steady believing is fully alive, really alive.

Colleague and friend Phil Heinze (Living The Lectionary) writes these words:

Habakkuk cries out his complaint into the silence of God and wonders “what’s the point?”

I wonder the same thing when evil events paint a cruel caricature of the human race.

But the truth is I know more decent people than the depraved ones that dominate the news and even though good people do not make the headlines they make the world a better place simply by being in it.

Even so Habakkuk’s complaint is that God is not doing enough to see that the wicked are diminished and the decent flourish.

God’s response is to give Habakkuk something to do. “Write a vision on tablets a runner can see.” Our “make a sign a runner can see” means we speak God’s “wait and see” in the face of all that troubles us and put all our effort and energy into transforming this world to look more like the world God promises is coming.

In that way we act out the hope that God’s deliverance does not delay whenever decent people act decently.

Let us pray: Almighty God, help us to see the writing in BIG letters that we need to see when troubles are causing us nothing but worry. Grant us patience and vision. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen

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