17 October 2007

Habakkuk in Kyrgyzstan

I recently received a letter from friends in Kyrgyzstan, chock full of genuine concerns: looming political crisis, rising inflation, persecution of the church, faith-stretching projects underway, personal financial struggles, a serious health problem and the gathering of world leaders in Bishkek. Then they added,

"Yet, in the end, we were reminded that GOD IS IN CONTROL! He holds the hearts of rulers in His hand, and shapes their wills to His own. What a comforting thought! We may feel that the political situation in the world is spinning out of control, but we are reminded of the day when Jesus will reign and 'the whole earth will be full of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea' (Isaiah 11:9)."

Here is my response to them:
It caught my attention when you quoted Isaiah 11:6 in the context of, or in response to, your list of struggles and, what could be interpreted as, spiritual attack or oppression. One of the other places that we find those words is in Habakkuk 2:14, "For the time will come when all the earth will be filled, as the waters fill the sea, with an awareness of the glory of the LORD." However, the context in which Habakkuk finds himself is dire and perplexing -- a people more wicked than his own are being used as the instruments of judgment on his people, as well as, all around him he sees terror, greed, corruption and idolatry, often where he thought he saw God's glory at work, even among God's people (ch. 2).

Nevertheless, Habakkuk is told that this tidal wave of the LORD's glory is "slowly, steadily, surely" coming (2:3) and that "if it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place." Two paths are placed before him: "Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked" and then there's "the righteous" who "will live by their faith." (2:4) We too live in perplexing times, even among believers we find both the emerging of God's glory and corruption and syncretism (old spiritual ways mixed with their new faith); we see moments of redemption and occurrences of oppression and terror.

Eventually, Habakkuk re-centers himself "But the LORD is in his holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before him." (2:20) Then he is able to close his prayer with these words:

17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights. (3:17-19)

God's kingdom -- like a slow train coming, as the prophet Bob Dylan said. Keep the faith.

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