In today’s passage, the beginning of a dialogue between the prophet Habakkuk and God, Habakkuk complains vehemently to God and questions God, who seems to be silent and inattentive in the face of the tyrannical rule of the Chaldeans: “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?”
I have questioned God, even railed against God, not only about my own suffering but also about injustice in the world. Perhaps you have done the same. Like the psalmist who desperately cries for deliverance from personal enemies in the fourfold “How long?” of Psalm 13, we question God and wonder where are God’s justice and deliverance in an increasingly scary world.
On March 7, 1965, commonly known as “Bloody Sunday,” several hundred people were tear-gassed and beaten with billy clubs as they began a nonviolent march for freedom and justice across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to the Alabama state capitol. The march resumed on March 21 and ended March 25, 1965, before the state capitol, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech that also included a fourfold “How long?”:
How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever.
How long? Not long, because you still reap what you sow.
How long? Not long. Because the arm of the moral
universe is long but it bends toward justice.
How long? Not long. . . . Our God is marching on.
When we experience injustice, unfairness, and intense personal suffering, let us freely cry out to God in our prayers. Let us also live in hope and wait for God.
O Lord, hear my prayer. When I call, answer me. O Lord, hear my prayer. Come and listen to me. Amen.
Habakkuk stands aghast at the “destruction and violence” all around and wonders how justice never seems to conquer. At the end of the reading, God contrasts the proud, whose spirit “is not right in them,” with the righteous who live by faith. The psalmist delights in God’s righteousness and in the commandments of God; however, he admits that “I am small and despised.” The psalmist’s “trouble and anguish” appear in Second Thessalonians also, but here the “persecutions and the af ictions” endured by the faithful serve a particular end: They stand as signs of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel reading Jesus tells Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house,” which reminds us that the righteous who live by faith are not necessarily the socially or religiously acceptable.
• Read Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4. What situations in your life and world cause you to cry out to God, “How long?”?
• Read Psalm 119:137-144. Who have you known who trusts God implicitly? How has that person’s example helped you in the past? How might you let it help you in the future?
• Read 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12. How will you offer Christ’s peace to someone you meet today?
• Read Luke 19:1-10. Jesus’ interaction caused Zacchaeus to trust God and straighten out his life. Where and with whom might God be leading you to share with others the heart of Christ?
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