Faith in the Face of Injustice
My heart has hurt many times this year. Has yours?
I’ve looked around and said “Lord, how long will we cry? What are you doing?” Injustice against others. Violence and disunity. Lies close to home.
We’re not alone. Many in the Bible have asked God similar questions, Habakkuk being one of them. He said to God,
Habakkuk cried out to God. When will you see? Where are you? The people are sinning; there’s destruction and violence. And the ‘system,’ it’s no better. The word of God isn’t changing anyone. Living in the 7th century B.C., Habakkuk knew the corruption around him dishonored God and wanted God to do something. In this first section of the book of Habakkuk, we find an example in the prophet and a message from our God.
An Example in the Prophet
You and I could probably pray the same prayer as Habakkuk. And so could many believers around the world. Injustice is everywhere. The law, the instruction from God, intended to keep it in check seems powerless. God, where are you? Habakkuk stood in a long line of godly people who dared to question God, and his God is not afraid to hear him. So, Habakkuk is the friend of the honest doubter who will speak to God instead of just about him. This is how we deal with our anger, our anxiety about what is happening. We begin by expressing our emotions to God.
God can handle our complaints. As he responded to Habakkuk, we see that he is working, but what he is doing is not what the prophet expected. God is raising up the violent Babylonians to bring judgment on his people who have rebelled against him. (Hab. 1:5-11)
Habakkuk wasn’t happy with God’s answer. He had asked God to help, and now God was sending destruction?! And he is doing it with people who are even more unjust? Habakkuk is shocked and horrified, and he tells God that.
Wait, God. You are infinite and holy. You wouldn’t do this. Would you use people who are more evil than us to discipline us? You control all things, and these guys are horrible and destroying the world. It’s like they throw nets and catch and kill people and then they worship the killing. They are merciless. God, this? Ok, God I’m waiting. I’m standing to hear you. This is not ok. (Hab. 1:12-2:1)
Can you relate to Habakkuk? Calling out the injustice you see sweeping over people? Sometimes God’s judgment is not what we expect. In this case, it was long-haul justice; immediate judgment with the plan of redeeming his people. God was sending Israel into exile for their rebellion, so that they would wake up and repent. He also had a plan to bring them back with hope. In time, he did just that, bringing them back to their land to wait again for the Messiah who would deal with the injustice within them and the injustice around them one day. But for Habakkuk, he just waited in the midst of it, waiting for the judgment on the injustice he saw.
A Message from Our God
God didn’t leave him there. He spoke to Habakkuk in response to his plea and told him “the righteous shall live by faith.” (Hab. 2:4) Those were his instructions—to continue living in faith because he had a just God who cared for him and is his salvation. (Hab. 2:20, 3:18-19) Things would not get easier, but he was to continue to live in faith.
We are like Habakkuk, but at the same time we aren’t exactly. We don’t live in God’s nation, held accountable by a covenant with God. We have not received prophecies warning us of coming exile and the promised hope. But as we look around at injustice, we also know the just God. We know that God is working and one day will bring justice.
And you and I have been told that we live by faith in Jesus Christ, the just God who is our salvation. (Rom. 1:16-17) He came the first time to take the judgment of God so that we could be justified. He is the God who cares. So, friends, bring those pleas to God with all your might, and he may answer with comfort and change. But even if he does not, we will live by faith, fighting the fight of faith for justice, and looking forward to the day of final justice, when Jesus will return to bring a new creation in which justice reigns. Sometimes we wait for the long-haul justice.