How long oh Lord?

Habakkuk 2:14: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”

Another week of burdensome news comes to a close. Israel’s High Court of Justice bypassed the legislative authority, the Knesset (parliament), and ordered the state to approve surrogacy for same-sex couples. A supermarket checkout employee was ordered to compensate a drag queen 25,000 NIS for refusing to speak to him in the female tense. The ultra-Orthodox parties, who are not part of the government coalition for the first time in over a decade, continue to yield power and intervene in the due democratic process, and people are dying left, right and center in car accidents, from crime and from domestic violence. If I had to guess, I’d say that the grass in not much greener on your side of the fence (though many times it seems to be!).

I usually find myself burdened and shaking my head, saying to myself, “until when will this mayhem continue!? How long, Lord, until you put an end to it all!?” If you feel the same, then we are all in good company. The prophet Habakkuk felt the same way and voiced his direct and difficult questions to the Creator of the universe.

The book of Habakkuk begins with the following words (1:1 – 5) “The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw. O LORD, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, “Violence!” And You will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, And cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; There is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless, And justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgment proceeds. Look among the nations and watch – Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.”

Habakkuk penned these words Judah’s final years of prosperity under king Josiah. It then transition into moral, material and spiritual decline culminating in the destruction of the Jerusalem and the first temple by the Babylonians and finally to Judah’s exile in 586 B.C. Habakkuk saw what physical and emotional suffering spiritual depravity leads to, much like we’re experiencing now  death, violence, injustice, fear, immorality etc. A few centuries later, Yeshua saw and experienced the same things as the nation of Israel rejected Him from being Messiah, leading to the destruction of the second temple in 70 A.D. and the final exile in 135 A.D.

Saturday eve and into Sunday is “Tisha B’Av” – the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av. It’s the same exact day in the year that both temples were destroyed, separated by a few hundred years. Could it be a bit more than a coincidence? I think so. Was God trying to convey a message to His people? I think so. Unfortunately, they weren’t very good listeners.

Despite his frustration and outcry, Habakkuk remained focused on the Lord, expectantly waiting and watching for what the Lord would answer to his difficult questions. He was willing to hear whatever the Lord was to tell him. “I will stand my watch And set myself on the rampart, And watch to see what He will say to me, And what I will answer when I am corrected.  Then the LORD answered me and said: “Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry.” (2:1-3).

God was soon to respond to Habakkuk. His answer may not have exactly what Habakkuk wanted or expected, but God promised that even though it may tarry, it will surely come to pass. There is a saying in Judaism written by Maimonides (Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon), a famous Jewish sage from the 12th century, which is part of his thirteen-principle creed: “I believe by complete faith in the coming of the Messiah, and even though he tarry in waiting, in spite of that, I will still wait expectantly for him each day that he will come”. This 12th principle clearly has its roots in Habakkuk 2:3 and expresses the expectant coming of Messiah no matter how long it takes.

Many Jews are still very expectant for Messiah to come for the first time. We know that Messiah has already come and gone once and is now at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us and preparing a place for us. But we continue to eagerly and expectantly wait and watch for His return a second time knowing that even if He tarries, He will surely come. While Habakkuk was frustrated and helpless to begin with, he eventually found comfort and peace in his conversation with the Creator, knowing that God will overcome all the injustices, pain and suffering taking place around him. Habakkuk stood firm knowing that the God of his salvation and the source of his strength is in control of all things and is never late in that which He promised.

We too can stand on that same affirmation. Though we see and experience so much evil and injustice, we’ve been given the vision, we have it in God’s word so we can take hold of it and run with it and declare along with Habakkuk 2:14, 3:18–19 “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea… Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.”

This article originally appeared on Out of Zion Ministries and is reposted with permission.

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Stefan Silver serves as a pastor at Kerem-El (God’s Vineyard), an indigenous, vibrant Hebrew-speaking congregation located in the center of Haifa. He holds an Executive MBA from Haifa University and has pioneered two leading media and internet evangelism ministries in Israel as well as serving with Out of Zion Ministries. Stefan is married to his wife Keren, a Messianic worship leader and recording artist, and together they have three beautiful daughters. They reside in a coastal town near Haifa.