By Elizabeth Baumann
A Reading from Habbakuk 1:1-2:1
1 The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.
2 O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
3 Why do you make me see wrongdoing
and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
4 So the law becomes slack,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous;
therefore judgment comes forth perverted.
5 Look at the nations and see!
Be astonished! Be astounded!
For a work is being done in your days
that you would not believe if you were told.
6 For I am rousing the Chaldeans,
that fierce and impetuous nation,
who march through the breadth of the earth
to seize dwellings not their own.
7 Dread and fearsome are they;
their justice and dignity proceed from themselves.
8 Their horses are swifter than leopards,
more menacing than wolves at dusk;
their horses charge.
Their horsemen come from far away;
they fly like an eagle swift to devour.
9 They all come for violence,
with faces pressing forward;
they gather captives like sand.
10 At kings they scoff,
and of rulers they make sport.
They laugh at every fortress
and heap up earth to take it.
11 Then they sweep by like the wind;
they transgress and become guilty;
their own might is their god!
12 Are you not from of old,
O Lord my God, my Holy One?
You shall not die.
O Lord, you have marked them for judgment,
and you, O Rock, have established them for punishment.
13 Your eyes are too pure to behold evil,
and you cannot look on wrongdoing;
why do you look on the treacherous
and are silent when the wicked swallow
those more righteous than they?
14 You have made people like the fish of the sea,
like crawling things that have no ruler.
15 He brings all of them up with a hook;
he drags them out with his net;
he gathers them in his seine,
so he rejoices and exults.
16 Therefore he sacrifices to his net
and makes offerings to his seine,
for by them his portion is lavish,
and his food is rich.
17 Is he then to keep on emptying his net
and destroying nations without mercy?
1 I 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.
A year ago last spring this plant started appearing in my garden. I didn’t recognize it, but it was kind of pretty, and as I tend to believe more in volunteer plants than weeds, I let it grow to see what it would do. Big mistake. I still don’t know what this curse is, but it’s an evil monster weed that tries to take over the whole south side of my garden. Worse, it has proportionally huge roots. More than once I’ve spent a day digging up sizable portions of my bed to get rid of it. Over and over, I’ve looked beneath one of my plants to see its long, seed-heavy tendrils have escaped my previous efforts.
Thus begins the book of Habbakuk: evil has so crept in among the good that everything turns out wrong. Habbakuk cries out to God, presumably expecting a surgeon God to carefully disentangle the weeds from among the proper plants. But God has another plan: the Chaldeans. It would be like me dealing with my weeds with a flamethrower instead of a shovel. The book of Habbakuk is about how Habbakuk chooses to respond God’s seemingly senseless choice to let everything get sacked — good and bad together. (Spoiler: Habbakuk chooses to hold onto God — his book is some of the best love poetry you’ll find anywhere.)
God does this to us, doesn’t he? He chooses to let bad things happen. He chooses to let holy things be destroyed right along with wicked ones. He lets even the gifts he’s given us peter out to nothing. And he says with the psalmist, “Be still, [even as I am mucking up your life] and know that I AM God.” Know. Know when literally everything else is up for destruction. And our response is a choice, a choice to love God or reject him.
Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, Tucson, Arizona
Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui