The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see iniquity,
and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law is paralyzed,
and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
so justice goes forth perverted. Habakkuk 1:1-4 ESV
O Lord, God of vengeance,
O God of vengeance, shine forth!
Rise up, O judge of the earth;
repay to the proud what they deserve!
O Lord, how long shall the wicked,
how long shall the wicked exult?
They pour out their arrogant words;
all the evildoers boast.
They crush your people, O Lord,
and afflict your heritage.
They kill the widow and the sojourner,
and murder the fatherless;
and they say, “The Lord does not see;
the God of Jacob does not perceive.” Psalm 94:1-7 ESV
In the earlier part of the twentieth century, the city of Chicago was a place of violence and cruelty and injustice. There were several reasons for this. First of all, there were many people living in the city, and the population was growing very rapidly. There weren’t enough police officers to enforce the laws and protect the people from violence. Because law enforcement was weak, there was a lot of organized crime, and children were exposed to it at an early age. Many young people saw a life of crime as a ticket out of the poverty they lived in, especially after the Great Depression came in 1929 and made it hard to find honest work. Also, in 1920 the United States made it illegal to make or sell any kind of alcohol such as whiskey or beer or wine. Many people still wanted to have alcohol, so gangsters in organized crime made and sold it for a lot of money, and they were willing to use violence to protect their business. They grew rich selling alcohol, and were able to use some of their money to pay police officers not to enforce the laws. The police department and the government of Chicago at that time were very corrupt and ready to take money rather than to uphold justice.
In the last days of the southern kingdom of Judah, there was also a lot of violence and injustice. The law wasn’t enforced, and innocent people weren’t protected by the king and his government. Wicked people took advantage of righteous people, and there was no one to help the innocent when they were hurt. In all this, God seemed very far away. He didn’t seem to care that there was no justice among his people, or to be able to help those who were being hurt by injustice and violence. The prophet Habakkuk cried out to the Lord during this time, asking him how long before he came to his people and helped them. Habakkuk laid the hurts and the troubles of his people before God and waited for his answer.
Sometimes we see violence and injustice in our world, and we wonder where God is and why he doesn’t do anything to stop it. We wonder if God cares at all about his people or if he is willing to punish the wicked and help those who are being hurt. There aren’t always easy answers to these questions, but we can be sure that God does care about justice and about the weak. He came to us in Jesus as an innocent person who was hurt and killed in a terrible, violent way on the cross. God used this injustice to save us and bring us back to himself, and because of what Jesus did we are God’s people, and we can always go to him for help and for strength. God works through his people to bring about good in the world, and he is always at work, even though we can’t always see or understand, to bring about his purposes even in the worse of circumstances.
Dear Heavenly Father, help us to trust you and to work for you in the world you love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.