After the prophet Habakkuk files his complaint with the Most High God, he stands at his watch post, waiting for God to respond. He stays awake, tossing and turning all night, because he doesn’t want to miss God’s answer. Finally God responds, but not as straightforwardly as Habakkuk might have hoped. “Write a vision,” God says. “Make it plain. Put it on a billboard so a runner can read it” (AP). If you read ahead to chapter three, you’ll see the vision is a terrifying scene of judgment.
For now, let’s linger with the notion of God’s vision coming into focus. When you step out of a warm building on a cold morning and your glasses fog up, you can’t see anything clearly; but you trust that in time all will become visible to you. The same is true for God’s vision that will be made clear at the appointed time. It isn’t a vision for days of sunshine, warmth, and prosperity. It is a reminder that in times of darkness, cold, and despair, the righteous still live by faith. They rely on God and rejoice in God’s faithfulness even when they can’t see the future clearly.
A young adult I know spent weeks in Greece volunteering at a refugee crisis center welcoming people fresh off the boats from Syria. In the dark of night, she joined teams who waited at the water’s edge for the next boat filled with nursing mothers, scared children, and young men fleeing political violence. They were willing to risk it all for a different future, even one completely unknown to them. We who will never know the fear of fleeing for our lives must also trust God to bring about a future we cannot see.
O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, remind us that you hold the future even when we don’t know what the future holds. 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 afflictions” 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. How can you wait actively for God’s response to your prayers and complaints? How will you enact God’s response when it comes?
Read Psalm 119:137-144. How do you follow God’s commandments in the face of injustice and corruption?
Read 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12. The work of the church has never been easy. How does your faith community work to exude God’s love in a time when many reject or feel rejected by church institutions?
Read Luke 19:1-10. When have you run to Jesus? How can you share your experience so others pursue Jesus as well?
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