Daily Update #304
2 How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
4 Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.
It’s not fair!
I think all of us have thought or said that at some point in our lives. If you are a parent you will certainly have heard that from one or more (or most likely all!) of your children. As we are all made in God’s image we seem to have an innate sense of justice and the importance of ensuring that justice prevails.
But let’s pause for a moment and think back to a passage in Philippians which we have been considering. Doesn’t Philippians 2:14-15 command us to do everything without grumbling or arguing? So somehow we need to balance the desire for, and pursuit of, justice with making sure that we are not grumbling or arguing.
In today’s passage in Habakkuk the prophet is pretty forthright in his appeal to the Lord. He challenges the Lord by asking him about his perception that the Lord is being slow to answer his call to correct injustices. Habakkuk lived around 600 BC which was a time of turbulence and disorder in Judah. Far from following God’s law, people were inflicting violence on their fellow men and women. Wrongdoing was blatant and went unpunished in many cases. Destruction, strife and conflict were going on right in front of Habakkuk’s nose! The law seemed helpless in the face of all of this, justice did not win out and it was even perverted.
We need to note that this is not a grumble or an argument from Habakkuk, this is a genuine question which all of us can and should pose. The Lord God of heaven and earth is the God of justice and fairness. We read in Psalm 89 about the Lord: “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.” So Habakkuk’s question here is about the apparent inconsistency between his day to day experience of life in his time and his knowledge of God’s character and nature.
For us today, this is a pressing issue. While we live in a country with a long history of the rule of law and the establishment of many legal precedents and much primary legislation designed to ensure that justice is done, this is not always the case. Consider the rights of the unborn child which are very much at risk today, or the flood of cases about historic abuse which have come to light recently.
More widely, our world abounds with injustice. In many countries the rich and powerful hold sway over the weak and oppressed. Those who do not enjoy wealth and privilege have no access to law courts or justice and have to suffer blatant injustice as their daily experience. They would nod in agreement with Habakkuk’s statement about the law being paralysed, justice never prevailing, they themselves being hemmed in by the wicked and justice being perverted. Nodding only, as to speak out would invite persecution and violence against them….
Habakkuk’s question is a fair and reasonable one. The Lord is characterised by righteousness and justice, love and faithfulness. Why do these seem to be so far from our daily experience?
David will begin to look at the answer in tomorrow’s reflection. In the meantime let us learn / be reminded of two things:
- It is right to ask the Lord questions which relate to his character and our daily experience.
- We need to ask these questions in a spirit of humility, seeking to know more about the Lord’s plans for us and for our world
Many may be tempted to ask these questions in an inappropriate way. We need to recognise that we are finite beings with strictly limited understanding. If we try to take our limited knowledge and work out what we should think is the right approach, we will almost certainly get into a mess and make the situation much worse! If we approach God humbly and seek his insight and wisdom, he very often allows us to come to terms with the world as he has created and redeemed it, and shows us his character, which will always include his patience and goodness. These verses from the apostle Peter are helpful:
8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:8-9
Thank you that your character includes love, faithfulness, justice and righteousness.
We acknowledge that while we long for justice and fairness, our world is full of oppression, injustice, violence and wrongdoing.
Help us to know how best to work towards justice and fairness, and give us wisdom to know how to reflect your character in all we do and say.
Give us also patience and humility, so that we can be those who love and serve you.
We ask this in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Tomorrow’s passage: Habakkuk 1:5-6