November 22nd – The Cure for the Unjust Society



There is one little book in the Old Testament which has an importance way beyond its size. It is the book of the prophet Habakkuk. The reason it is so monumental is the revelation which came to this prophet when he was grappling with the ever-present, world-wide problem of the unjust society. ‘Grappling’ is a good word for what he did, because his very name means ‘one who grapples, or wrestles’. The entire book consists of but three chapters. In the first two he wrestles with the great imponderable problem of the unjust human society, and in the third chapter the lessons that he learned are set out liturgically, as a psalm or hymn, to teach ordinary people to sing it. After all the Wesleys were not the first people to teach the crowds to sing good theology. Well, Habakkuk begins by opening his huge burden for the unjust society, of which he complains so bitterly. Why does God allow violence and tolerate brutality, lying, corruption and even bribery in the justice system? Perhaps war will teach us a lesson, he ponders (after all, my own generation can still be heard singing the praises of people who ‘came together’ under the bombardment of the Luftwaffer!). The most efficiently ruthless army which the world had then seen had invaded Israel. The Babylonian Army was like a towering human tide of steel. Suddenly the prophet saw that this was more unjust, more evil than anything that his own corrupt nation had perpetrated. This enemy behaved as natural-born killers – heartless, worshippers of naked force, whose God was Mars. If war were a social ‘cure’, it was worse than the disease. So Habakkuk goes into his watch tower to ponder and pray, to wrestle with God – for this watch tower was not merely a city’s early-warning system, but a world-view. So he wrestles with God, as did his ancestor Jacob.
Then the Lord replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. .. Habakkuk 2: 2-3
In other words,when you see God’s point, put it simply, so that those who can’t read the small print, those who can only read the headlines, may grasp it; and if you find this difficult, wait and work at it, because that’s what a prophet is called to do, namely to speak the mind of God clearly, so that even the illiterate can understand it.
A Prayer:
Deliver us all, O Lord, from the pride which corrupts everything we are, and do, and say, as individuals, communities, families and nations.
Now read Habakkuk 2: 1-5, and wrestle hard with v.4. The Good Life is Faith.

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