Old Testament prophetical books comprise 22% of Scripture and yet most people rarely read them. Why don’t we dig them?
First, much of their messages are written in Hebrew poetry—which means seeing lots of imagery and parallelism. Second, there is historical context behind their writings—which means navigating through some rough terrain (corruption from within God’s people and threats from brutal aggressors). Three, prophets act like prosecutors presenting evidence in God’s courtroom—which means feeling the weight of seeing God balance mercy with justice.
Take Habakkuk for example. God is about to judge his people by summoning a Babylonian invasion. This doesn’t sound fun to read. Why dig into it?
Habakkuk reveals what happens to someone who has the audacity to hash it out with the Lord of all creation. OK, spicy, huh?
“How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen! ‘Violence is everywhere!’ I cry, but you do not come to save. Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts” (Hab 1:1-4).
We might have similar thoughts about our day, but them’s fightin’ words. We would never talk to God like that—but we think it. “Does God care? If he’s all-powerful, then why doesn’t he do something? He knows the trouble we’re in!”
Why do we think that God doesn’t care?
1) Because we do not see our prayers answered right away. “How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen!” (Hab 1:2a). It’s like our inner alarm clock goes off. “OK, I’m done asking. Now I’m mad.”
2) Because we’re stressed out and things are not getting better right away. “‘Violence is everywhere!’ I cry, but you do not come to save” (Hab 1:2b). We repeatedly call heaven’s 911 number until our battery drains. “Just forget it, God.”
3) Because we see that life is unfair and nothing happens right away. “Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? … there is no justice” (Hab 1:3-4). We get stuck in the prison of “why” and just have to cry out of exasperation, “So, God, what do you have to say for yourself?”
Notice what God says to Habakkuk. “Look around at the nations; look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it” (Hab 1:5). While God listens intently to our every prayer, he’s busy moving “the nations” to answer them! WOW. There must be a lot of moving parts that we don’t see! What is God up to? Who is he working on? What is he doing that we don’t know about?
If you’ve been wondering if God cares, follow Habakkuk’s lead. Hash it out with God. Don’t worry, he can take it. He can “walk and chew gum” (listen and work on the answer) at the same time. He is not hard of hearing (Ps 34:17). He’s not a slow poke (2 Pet 3:9). And his answers are “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20).
For Habakkuk, it wasn’t the timing he wanted nor the answer he was looking for. In fact, God’s answer provoked a whole new set of questions for him. Tune in next week!