Surprised By God

I want to remember that earthly power is temporary. Lent Week 3, Day 15

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When was the last time you were completely surprised by God? I mean, God did something so completely opposite what you believe of God?

I love reading the OT prophets, especially the smaller ones. So much takes place in such small books. Read the book of Habakkuk. Not only is his name fun to say, his book is short so you can read it in about 5 minutes.

It starts with an amazing exchange: first, Habakkuk complains to God. I don’t think we do this enough. I think we need to lament more. I think we need to cry out more. I think we need to be more honest in our relationship with God and call on God to explain just what is going on more often.

I wish I knew why are afraid to do this. All throughout the Bible, there are people of God crying out and lamenting and complaining and yelling and it is okay. It is fine to let God know what we are thinking. God knows our thoughts anyway; do we think we are hiding them by not speaking them out loud? Or writing them in a journal? Or saying them as we pray silently?

Habakkuk is angry. And his anger sounds almost like he is describing today’s world:

How long must I cry, O Eternal One,
and get no answer from You?
Even when I yell to You, “Violence is all around!”
You do nothing to save those in distress.
Why do You force me to see these atrocities?
Why do You make me watch such wickedness?
Disaster and violence, conflict and controversy are raging all around me.
Your law is powerless to stop this; injustice prevails.
The depraved surround the innocent, and justice is perverted.

This sounds a lot like what I want to say about what is going on today. Our leaders are corrupt and make no effort to hide it. People in the highest office blatantly lie and when caught in those lies, they lie even more. The most vulnerable among us are being mistreated in the short term and in the long term with policy and budget proposals.

And many good people support these things. This is what truly makes me angry. This is what makes me call out, “God, Your law seems powerless. What is going on?”

Expressing anger as a child of God is nothing new. It is something God’s people should do more often. However, we must be ready for the second part of the exchange.

When God replies to Habakkuk, God reveals something extraordinary: God is going to use the enemy of God’s people to bring about God’s justice.

Eternal One: Take a look at the nations and watch what happens!
You will be shocked and amazed.
For in your days, I am doing a work,
a work you will never believe even if someone tells you plainly!
    Look! I am provoking and raising up the bitter and thieving Babylonian warriors from Chaldea;
they are moving out across the earth
And seizing others’ homes and property in their path.

When God speaks to God’s people, it is rarely what we expect to hear. God tells Habakkuk, “I hear you. I see you. I am already working on it.”

But God throws in a little twist. The way God is going to bring about justice in Israel is by raising up Bablyon. That doesn’t sound very God-like, though. At least, not the way I want God to operate.

But maybe what God is saying is when a nation decides to mistreat the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner, the natural consequences are disastrous. Maybe God is saying when the leaders of any particular nation become blatantly dishonest, even the naturally dishonest will seem truthful.

So call out to God. Cry out. Complain. Lament. But be prepared for the answer. It may not be what you are expecting.

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All things are temporary. All earthly power is temporary. As much as we don’t want to admit it, all nations, including ours, rise and fall.

So what can we do about it? On a grand scale, maybe not much. On a smaller scale, maybe a little bit more. Who is being hurt right around you? Who is standing to lose access to the most basic needs? Who needs a welcoming home, a meal, an act of service?

We may have to watch as Babylon comes in to bring about God’s justice. But we don’t have to watch idly. We can busy working by loving on the people right around us.

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