Scripture Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
Well, this is the third week in a row that we’ve focused on the Old Testament. This is the second week running that we’ve dealt with one of those often neglected, short little prophetic books from the end of the Old Testament. I promise that starting next week we’ll spend some time in the New Testament as we prepare for Advent and –I just hate to say it so soon—Christmas. But, for now, it’s back to the prophets, specifically –I love to say this name—Habakkuk! If these prophets are known for being weird, a bit self righteous, and needless to say outspoken; and they are; then Habakkuk is the ultimate curmudgeon. He doesn’t like what is going on in his world and so he goes straight to the top; to God. He doesn’t hold back at all; Habakkuk really sticks it to God!
“The portion of Habakkuk set down for today is part of a dramatic [confrontation] between God and the prophet. Habakkuk laments the amount of protracted wickedness in the land. The wicked continually oppress the just, and there is neither law nor justice in Judah. The despairing Habakkuk asks God how much longer the wicked will prosper. God’s reply is decisive, if shocking. In order to punish the wicked of Judah, God is raising up the military might of the Babylonians. The idea of God’s use of foreign invading armies as punishment of the wicked for their sins is classic Hebrew thought from the period (cf. Isa. 5:25-30). The rest of Habakkuk 1 contains a description of the atrocities committed by the Babylonians on the people of Judah.
As our reading begins again at chapter 2, Habakkuk is objecting strenuously to God regarding the treatment of the Judeans. He elects to ‘stand at my watchpost’ until he receives God’s response. God’s answer comes in the form of a short oracle (v. 4), which Habakkuk is ordered to write down. It is to be written clearly, and apparently in large characters, so that ‘a runner may read it’ – a messenger in a hurry running by can still read it and understand it!
The oracle itself is preceded by God’s reassurance. The time will come when God’s vision for a righteous Judah will be fulfilled. Even if it is a long time coming, it will [emerge]. Verse 4 then describes the Babylonians, whose pride will be their ultimate downfall. The focus is on the ‘spirit’ of the proud, who have pride in their strength. On the other hand, the ‘righteous’ do not live by their own strength, but rely on their faith in God.”( Howard Wallace Audrey Schindler, Morag Logan, Paul Tonson, Lorraine Parkinson, Theological Hall of the Uniting Church, Melbourne, Australia.)
It should come as no surprise, Quaker that I am, that my interest is directed at God’s advice to Habakkuk to wait out that time between what is and what is to be; vs 3 says “if it seems to tarry—(“it” being God’s intervention in the life of God’s people)—WAIT FOR IT” …And as I sat with this scripture this week, it was affirmed that this be the message for us here at Adirondack Friends to receive and respond to in the coming days. We need to be engaged in the work of waiting…
As Friends, this is a familiar exercise for us: to wait. That’s what we do—or what we’re supposed to do—during all that silence. To listen for and identify and respond to the presence and activity of God as we open ourselves to it in the act of waiting… In my work over the last few days I have been brought to the realization that this is a very vital part of the call we have with regard to our personal lives, the life of our meeting, as well as the in the wider community—where we work and play and do and be.
These words of Habakkuk are identified as a special type of prophetic oracle. This message is a “massa’” in Hebrew; a message that articulates divine action in the midst of human events. It comes to me that THAT is precisely what our waiting is to accomplish. Through our efforts—and yes waiting can be very hard work—we are invited/privileged/ compelled/ required to bring “that of God” into any and every scenario that comprises our daily life…
And why is this work necessary?! Well, in our scripture as verse 2:4 continues, God calls attention to those who are proud as being the focus of God’s work. Proud is an interesting word. The only other place in the Bible where it’s used is in Numbers. There it gets translated as “acting heedlessly”. One commentator suggested that this refers to folks who act with headstrong blindness in their lives. Thus, those who wait upon the Lord in Habakkuk get contrasted with those who are “proud.” The proud are “persons who do not pay attention to the tensions between God and human history…that is those who act heedlessly”— and are wrapped up or preoccupied solely in their own work, the events and activities and people that occupy their days. I don’t know about you for sure, but I know a lot of folks—good, honest, hardworking folks who seem to be entirely focused on what is right in front of them at any given time. In fact, if I were honest, I would admit to doing that myself –at least some of the time, being totally occupied with the status quo. Here in Habakkuk, God offers the antidote to that limited kind of view. Our reading ends with the word that “the righteous shall live by faithfulness” …faithfulness being that insight into the character of God that enables one to see God’s vision for us, and for the world that surrounds us. We are able to engage in faithfulness as we wait.
So what does this look like?! If waiting isn’t only the time we spend in silence, then what is it? More and more, in recent days, I find myself speaking to myself or out loud in conversations the statement that “I am holding a person, place, or circumstance In the Light.” For me the Light is presence of the Divine. It’s where I or whatever or whoever I am considering is surrounded and immersed by the grace, mercy, peace and love of God. It is both falling into God’s arms and stepping back to see God’s view. Habakkuk calls it “standing in the watchtower.”
This is also how I would define the activity of waiting- “holding you, me, us, that place in the Light.” Out of this juxtaposition amazing things happen, little things, big things, sometimes nothing discernable to me actually happens.
I remember the night before my grandmother died. She had experienced a stroke several weeks earlier and was medically speaking– in a coma; brain dead waiting for death. As I drove home one evening after dark—a 20 minute ride, I thought about my grandma—and held her in the Light. It was as if I was seeing a movie of memories gleaned from my life of relationship with her. I also thought of my mother; the stress on her of my grandmother’s condition and HER medley of memories with her mother. Out of that waiting, I felt led to speak out loud words of love and appreciation and release to Grandma, as if she were sitting beside me. I said “Grandma, you are a GREAT grandma. I love you. It’s OK if you need to go…” I felt very loved, and cared for—hopeful, even, about the future-both Grandma’s and mine. When my dad called the next morning to tell me that my grandmother had died a little earlier—I wasn’t really surprised.
My friend who is a young woman living________________ , a Quaker who suffers from the effects of_____________ , emails me– to tell me she feels my prayers, their Divine energy as I hold her in the Light.
The waiting worship and holding I do as I am present to _______________ when I visit him in prison, or when I visit with anybody, anywhere usually has no outward results. But, that God is present and active I have no doubt…and the results will come in God’s time.
The waiting we do as a faith community also has power and life; both palpable and seen; as well as unspoken and undetected. Where do we get the energy, inspiration, and assurance to move forward together? …To provide prayer and companionship, to be witnesses for truth and peace, to financially support so many things with such a seemingly small group? I would say with resounding affirmation that it is the result of our waiting together in that quiet, steadfast, faithful place—holding all in the Light.
Mahatma Ghandi knew of this place –of this valuable work of waiting in God’s power– when he said “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” Let us continue to hold together, awaiting the vision that God provides to those who watch, a vision that has the power to shake all everywhere with the Divine Spirit. Let us wait for it….