The Prayer of Habakkuk comes to us today. This book has always been a mystery to me. We don’t know much about who this prophet is, leading to many diverse understandings of who he is and what religious traditions he comes from.
Habakkuk is somewhat unusual as The Prophets go, because it contains no prophecy directed to Israel. Instead it is a dialogue between the prophet and God. We also discover that Habakkuk is a Presbyterian! “O Lord, I have heard of your renown, and I stand in awe, O Lord of your work.” Here is someone who holds the sovereignty of God above all else.
I must admit, I am not always as confident and trusting. He trusts God to a T, and believes that God will take care of things in his own time.
“God stopped and shook the earth; he looked and made the nations tremble.” And then later in verse 16: “I hear, and I tremble within; my lips quiver at the sound…. I wait quietly for the day of calamity.”
I wish I could be so confident. I see areas of our church and our nation that are dysfunctional, such as the dreadful healthcare system in this country, and my patience grows thin. And while the ACA has helped millions more folk get basic healthcare, I still feel humiliated as a USAmerican when I see the statistics of healthcare outcomes and how we are last or next to last in 20+ categories when compared to other industrialized nations. I am further humiliated by our philosophical stance on healthcare – treated as a commodity. We live in the one country (of those top 30) that does not view healthcare as a basic human good necessary for thriving, instead basically viewing it as a commodity. Forget about whether it is a right or not. It is a basic human need. Period.
I want things fixed, and I want them fixed yesterday!
Habakkuk does not take a back seat to his concerns, but offers them to God first and foremost. I wish I could give things over to God so easily. Over and over again, this is his mantra: God, the Lord, is my strength.
And yet, my anger wells up at the system. We pay more per capita than any other industrialized nation, and yet we have these miserable outcomes? Some Americans pride themselves as having the “best healthcare,” but that is simply not true anymore. John’s Hopkin’s tracks major healthcare outcomes of the top 30 countries (through the Commonwealth Fund), and we are at the bottom or near the bottom in nearly every category they have. Of course these outcomes are only one level of my anger. Most of it comes from the fact that we allow PROFITEERING on a basic human need. How awful.
Sometimes it is difficult for me to believe that God really has the kind of power that Habakkuk describes so vividly. Is this just his poetic exaggeration? The color of a hymn gone wild? Do you believe in a God that can shake the nations and the people?
I want to believe. I want to believe that our world can find peace, and that nations will turn their attention to the poor, the afflicted, the oppressed, the sick – struck in awe by the God who shakes them into understanding. I dream of a day when all the people will be fed, when all have a roof over their head, when all will have clean water and clean air and access to affordable healthcare, and they can all read.
Despite the world’s problems, I am ready to join with Habakkuk in praise, because I have experienced the joyous gift of Christ among us. I have seen the joy of Christ break through on this world. And so I press on, praying I can be part of the miraculous transformation that is needed ahead.