We are called to make peace and pursue peace. God’s word shows us that peace is ultimately brought about when justice flourishes. The oracle of the prophet Habakkuk is a picture of what happens when we separate these realities: “the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted”. How deeply we feel this today. In the United States, generations of native nations watch the descendants of colonizers and kidnappers move over spaces stolen from their rightful owners. Our mothers and sisters bear the strains of racist, reductive social requirements. Dr. Wil Gafney writes “The cry of Habakkuk, “How long, O Lord” has been a staple in black preaching and a heart-cry of many womanists. It has also been a common hermeneutical response to the extra-judicial killings of black women, men, and children by police”. While a “strong Black woman” takes every pain and abuse muzzled and lying down, only an “angry Black woman” demands justice for her invisibility and the state of global anti-womanism. “How long?” is our daily refrain. Blessed beloved, the King is coming. He has sent his answer.
Scriptures: Habakkuk 1-3, Psalm 74
When I was a child, I remember my mother preaching on Psalm 74. Quoting verses 9-12, she said “None of us knows how long. That’s why we take our burdens to God, the King of old”.
Habakkuk teaches us the same. He shows a boldness in bringing his questions to God. He seeks an answer to his complaint not only because he does not have answers, but because he knows - like the old folks say: he knows that he knows - the God who has all the answers. By testifying to God about God (“Are you not from everlasting?”), he glorifies the Limitless One in confessing his own limitations. This is not a man resigned to his own weakness, this is one of God’s servants displaying prophetic weakness. His is a testimony that the unction to cry aloud is God given.
My sisters, our God the King is not so fragile that he hears only quiet, shy prayers.
Your discomfort in injustice is by God’s design, you were made to bring your complaints to the King of old. Even when everyone around you would have you be quiet, cry out for justice from the one who has promised it to you!
When my neighbors take the streets to protest laws that make impoverished people invisible, I raise my voice to God as much as I am demanding sensible action from the mayor’s office. Because I know where real justice will come from. When the Evangelical church lifts up the Trump regime in ways akin to the “peaceable” citizens who celebrated Nazi Germany, we must cry out to the true King even if it sets us at odds with people who claim to call on the same. Unless we bring our complaints to God as people who have no answer, we might presume we can strategize for deliverance (or safety, or “keeping the peace”) in our own talents, by our own strength.
It is when we express our childlike dependence on God that we see that He is the One who lifts our heads. Bodies and lips that quiver reverently in the presence of Creator God display little patience for the destructive schemes of man. If we know that we are God orchestrated, we cannot be man-manipulated.
When it seems that only greed and arrogance will inherit the earth, we must cling to the promise that God will dismantle the entire structure of so-called superpowers. He will make the mighty tremble and He will avenge all wrongs. In that day, it is the meek that shall inherit the Kingdom. Those who refuse the moniker of meekness might not know the joy of holy weakness, that gift to the impoverished of spirit that sings over them in suffering. It often comes with little money, a lack of material security and no acclaim.
It makes people of color ambivalent to the white gaze. It gives us chill in otherwise awkward conversations and confrontations.
It is a intangible, rich inheritance that makes us shout for joy like little children in the presence of our haters. This was Habakkuk’s reaction to God’s answering his complaints: the obedience to run with the vision, and the power to praise in the midst of oppression. We know that the King is coming, and though he may not come when we want him to, he will be right on time.
Beloved sisters, weakness will be rewarded with power. In Jesus, your humanity is not met with scorn or derision but with love and compassion. Your confession is not only met with God’s pardon but with his very presence. Let’s go boldly, weakly, before Him in prayer.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, You have sworn yourself to us in love. It is this commitment that gives us the freedom to admit our frailty. What the world has called weak or feminine you have called good. Help the Church to embrace our full calling as the Bride. Though we feel the weight of having to be more than humans, you are the ones who help our striving to cease. Show us the beauty of the complexities you have made in us: Black, bold, limited and free.
Help us to no longer be afraid to come to You as little children in need and want of your tender mercies. In your power, Holy Spirit, our Great Helper, work in us as we strive to participate in your motherly care for the world. Amen.