How long, O Lord, am I to cry for help
while you will not listen;
to cry ‘Oppression!’ in your ear
and you will not save?
Why do you set injustice before me,
why do you look on where there is tyranny?
Outrage and violence, this is all I see,
all is contention, and discord flourishes.
Then the Lord answered and said,
‘Write the vision down,
inscribe it on tablets
to be easily read,
since this vision is for its own time only:
eager for its own fulfilment, it does not deceive;
if it comes slowly, wait,
for come it will, without fail.
See how he flags, he whose soul is not at rights,
but the upright man will live by his faithfulness.’
How promptly, here, the Lord responds to the anguished cry of the prophet.
Often, though, it doesn’t seem to work like that. Our cries seem to go unanswered, and maybe that is so: maybe sometimes there is no response, only silence.
But at other times, there may be a response, but one that – for some reason of other we don’t hear or notice. After all, in Habakkuk’s case, the response is not that startling. Maybe what is expressed to us in Scripture as a response expressed in measured words, was in fact a quiet stirring in the heart. Maybe it was a certain disatisfaction with the adequacy of his lament as description of the situation and how it must be addressed/resolved. Maybe.
How often the Lord speaks to us this way: a feeling, a memory, a sense of unease that makes us think again, that stops us settling for a first response, helps us avoid a hardening of our heart.
As with Habakkuk, when the Lord acts this way, he can seem to do very little indeed, certainly very little compared to what we ask of him. But by that little our life can be changed; a certain freedom is restored, horizons expand, and we move on differently, even hopefully…
- When/how did the Lord last speak with you?
- What helped or what hindered your listening?
- Speak with the Lord of your experience.
Detail from Battle of Britain memorial. London. (c) 2014, Allen Morris