Standing at the watch post
Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 (NRSVA)
(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 judgement comes forth perverted.
(2) 1 I will stand at my watch-post,
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.
2 Then the Lord answered me and said:
Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so that a runner may read it.
3 For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will not delay.
4 Look at the proud!
Their spirit is not right in them,
but the righteous live by their faith.
A friend once commented to me that she thought that God’s watch was always five minutes slow. Sometimes, I think we might be tempted to feel that it’s not five minutes slow, but five months slow, or five years slow. How often do we feel that we can cry out with the psalmist, “how long, O Lord?” And here we see the prophet echoing that cry. Heaven is silent.
We look around us at the world today, our political systems in disarray, poverty, famine, war, disease, and oppression the world over, a constant backdrop to our daily lives. Do we not want to cry, “how long, O Lord?”
God answers the prophet Habakkuk. His answer may not seem very satisfactory in the circumstances but then, who are we to pass judgement on God? God tells us that he has a vision for a time in which the wicked will not prosper, and the poor will not be disadvantaged. He urges us to have faith, even when the journey to that point seems endless.
And in our own faith journeys, we will all have had times when heaven seemed to be silent and prayer unanswered. And yet we will also have experience of answered prayer, sometimes after months and years of perseverance. God is faithful, and he will answer.
Father, give us strength for the long obedience.
Help us to pray and have faith
even when we cannot hear your voice
or sense your presence.
We know in our heads
that your time is the right time;
help us to believe it in our hearts.
Thank you for your long faithfulness,
even when we doubt
and are tempted to turn from you.
Thank you for answered prayer
even when we lack faith.
Father, we pray in the words:
“I believe; help my unbelief!” Amen.