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HABAKKUK


1. This is the message that came to the prophet Habakkuk in a vision from God:

O Lord, how long must I call for help before you will listen? I shout to you in vain, there is no answer. "Help! Murder!" I cry, but no one comes to save. Must I forever see this sin and sadness all around me? Wherever I look there is oppression and bribery and men who love to argue and to fight. The law is not enforced and there is no justice given to the courts, for the wicked far outnumber the righteous, and
bribes and trickery prevail.

The Lord replied, "Look, and be amazed! You will be astounded at what I am about to do! For I am going to do something in your own lifetime that you will have to see to believe. I am raising a new force on the world scene, The Chaldeans, a cruel and violent nation who will march across the world and conquer it. They are notorious for their cruelty. They do as they like, and no one can interfere. Their horses are swifter than leopards. They are a fierce people, more fierce than wolves at dusk. Their calvary move proudly forward from a distant land; like eagles they come swooping down to pounce upon their prey.  All opposition melts away before the terror of their presence. They collect captives like sand. They scoff at kings and princes and scorn their forts. They simply heap up dirt against their walls and capture them! They sweep past like wind and are gone, but their guilt is deep, for they claim their power is from the gods."

O Lord my God, my Holy one, you who are eternal-is your plan in all of this to wipe us out? Surely not! O God our Rock, you have decreed the rise of these Chaldeans to chasten and correct us for our awful sins. We are wicked, but they far more! Will you, who cannot allow sin in any form, stand idly by while they  swallow us up? Should you be silent while the wicked destroy those who are better than they? Are we but fish, to be caught and killed? Are we but creeping things that have no leader to defend them from their foes? Must we be strung up on their hooks and dragged out in their nets, while they rejoice? Then they will worship their nets and burn incense before them! "These are the gods who make us rich," they'll say. Will you let them get away with this forever? Will they succeed forever in their heartless wars?

2. I will climb on my watchtower now, and wait to see what answer God will give to my complaint.

And the Lord said to me, "Write my answer on a billboard, large and clear, so that anyone can read it at a glance and rush to tell the others. But these things I plan won't happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a singe day! Note this: Wicked men trust themselves alone [as these wicked Chaldeans do], and fail; but the righteous man trusts in me, and lives! What's more, these arrogant Chaldeans are betrayed by all their wine, for it is treacherous. In their greed they have collected many nations, but like death and hell, they are never satisfied. The time is coming when all their captives will taunt them, saying: 'You robbers! At last justice has caught up with you! Now you will get your just deserts for your oppression and extortion!"

Suddenly your debtors will rise up in anger and turn on you and take all you have, while you stand trembling and helpless. You have ruined many nations, now they will ruin you. You murderers! You have filled the countryside with lawlessness and all the cities too. Woe to you for getting rich by evil means, attempting to live beyond the reach of danger. By the murders you commit, you have shamed your name and forfeited your lives. The very stones in the walls of your homes cry out against you, and the beams in the ceilings echo what they say. Woe to you who build cities with money gained from murdering and robbery! Has not the Lord decreed that godless nations gains will turn to ashes in their hands? They work so hard, but all in vain! (The time will come when all the earth is filled, as the waters fill the sea, with an awareness of the glory of the Lord.)

Woe to you for making your neighboring lands reel and stagger like drunkards beneath your blows, and then gloating over their nakedness and shame. Soon your own glory will be replaced by shame. Drink down God's judgement on yourselves. Stagger and fall! You cut down the forest of Lebanon-now you will be cut down! You terrified the wild animals you caught in your traps-now terror will strike you because of all your murdering and violence in cities everywhere.

What profit was there in worshiping all your man-made idols? What a foolish lie that they could help! What fools you were to trust what you yourselves had made. Woe to those who command their lifeless wooden idols to arise and save them. Who call out to the speechless stone to tell them what to do. Can images speak for God? They are overlaid with gold and silver, but there is no breath at all inside! But the Lord is in his holy Temple; let all the earth be silent before him."

3 This is the prayer of triumph that Habakkuk sang before the Lord.

O Lord now I have heard your report and I worship you in awe for the fearful things you are going to do. In this time of our deep need, begin again to help us, as you did in  years gone by. Show us your power to save us. In your wrath, remember mercy.

I see God moving across the deserts from Mount Sinai. His brilliant splendor fills the earth and sky; his glory fills the heavens, and the earth is full of his praise! What a wonderful God he is! From the hands flash rays of brilliant light. He rejoices in his awesome power. Pestilence marches before him; plague follows close behind. He stops; he stands still for a moment, gazing at the earth. Then he shakes the nations, scattering everlasting mountains and leveling the hills. His power is just the same as always! I see the people of Cushan and of Midian in mortal fear. Was it in anger, Lord, you smote the rivers and parted the sea? Were you displeased with them? No, you were sending your chariots of salvation! All saw your power!

Then springs burst forth at your command! The mountains watched and trembled. Onward swept the raging water. The mighty deep cried out, announcing its surrender to the Lord. the lofty sun and moon began to fade, obscured by brilliance from your arrows and the flashing of your glittering spear. You marched across the land in awesome anger, and trampled down the nations in your wrath. You went out to save your chosen people. You crushed the head of the wicked and laid bare his bones from head to toe. You destroyed with their own weapons those who came out like a whirlwind, thinking Israel would be an easy prey.

Your horsemen marched across the sea: the mighty waters piled high. I tremble when I hear all this; my lips quiver with fear. My legs give way beneath me and I shake in terror. I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon the people who invade us. Even though the fig trees are all destroyed, and there is neither blossom left nor fruit, and though the olive crops all fail, and the fields lie barren; even if the flocks die in the fields and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will be happy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my Strength, and he will give me the speed of a deer and bring me safely over the mountains. (A note to the choir director: When singing this ode, the choir is to be accompanied by stringed instruments.)


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