March 1, 2007 – Habakkuk – Keeping Faith, Trusting in GodNot only is trust in God a major theme in this little book, it is also the theme of today’s readings. Another coincidence?
This summer I spent time on my own studying the Minor Prophets and took some days to dawdle through those little books just before the New Testament. I do not have my study Bible here, but one of the things I remember about Habakkuk is that he, unlike most other prophets, questions God’s plan, “This is why the law is benumbed, and judgment is never rendered: because the wicked circumvent the just; this is why judgment comes forth perverted.” (verse 4.) And God answers that “a work is being done in your days that you would not have believed.” (verse 5) God refers to the fact that foreigners will invade and he will use those foreigners as an instrument to chastise and to purify the tribes of Israel. Still, Habakkuk is persistent, in verse 13, “Too pure are your eyes to look upon evil, and the sight of misery you cannot endure. Why, then do you gaze on the faithless in silence while the wicked man devours one more just than himself?”
Chapter 2 begins with a beautiful image of this prophet standing on a rampart to watch and listen for the God he has challenged. And God answers in a clear voice and asks the prophet to write down the words of the reply. Look at the rest of the verses of Chapter 2. Habakkuk sees the impending invasion of the armies of Nebuchadnezzar and describes well the devastation of the hills of Lebanon which were stripped of its beautiful cedars to build palaces, the excessive hunting of the wild beasts, and the veneration of weapons. And he knows that the tribes have squabbled among themselves too much. He knows that this kingdom has neglected and even forgotten the issues of social justice (verses 9-12) to which Yahweh had called them. He understands that the invaders will take away what little integrity the tribes have left.
And God replies that Habakkuk must trust the plan – even though the plan may look crazy.
The opening portion of this book reminds me of Jeremiah’s “terror on every side” in chapter 6 of his prophecy. Jeremiah follows that image with one of the metal smith working at the forge to heat and purify molten ore – to eliminate the slag. And that is what Habakkuk sees on his horizon for Israel. The coming test.
Today’s Mass readings are much like this small prophetic book. We hear Esther call out for help, feeling all alone (Esther C: 12, 14-16, 23-25) when she knows the Haman wants to destroy the Hebrew nation. Psalm 138 today repeats 3a as the antiphon, “Lord, on the day I called for help, you rescued me.” The Gospel reading is Matthew 7: 7-12. “Ask and you shall receive.” The morning OT Liturgy of the Hours reading is from another minor prophet, Baruch. Look for him and read Chapter 2 verses 14 to 16.
From time to time we all feel an impending test, a rising sense of doom and anxiety. We experience frustration and even anger at the events and people we see around us. If we trust in God, trust in the unseen plan, look for the positive, hope for the hopeless, and transform the intensity of our anxiety and anger into merciful love, we will be rescued. We will mostly likely not understand anything more, but we will find a little pocket of peace in which we may place our worries.