Get Real with God Blog

I once heard the story of a venerated Buddhist monk from South Korea who was brought to a prestigious American university to dispense his wisdom to a couple of thousands of students and faculty who had packed an auditorium to hear him. They brought the old sage to the stage and all they could hear was… silence. For forty five minutes he sat there in stone silence and finally, upon the insistence of some of his handlers, and as the crowd grew restless, he managed to say barely in a whisper, “Teach me. I know nothing.”

The book of Habakkuk starts with a bang. The prophet displays his verbosity and displeasure at God for not taking care of business. He complains that God sees the evil that is being committed in the land and instead of acting to swiftly punish the bad guys and vindicate the good ones, God just sits there, either unwilling to act, or worse yet, impotent.

But as chapter two starts, to our utter surprise, we find the prophet, like the old sage from South Korea, suddenly making a vow of silence and waiting quietly until he hears from God.

“I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.” (Habakkuk 2:1). And so he does. Instead of strong words, intent listening; instead of questions, pause; instead of strife, rest. Take notice: In the midst of his most agonizing wrestling with God, the prophet takes time to rest so he can hear from God.

What a foreign concept to us who live in the age of immediacy; the times of fast delivery and quick sound bites. The prophet is teaching us that after a stormy confrontation, nothing like focused attention to hear God speak to us. You’ve laid out your case, you’ve bared your soul, now shut up and listen in silence. That seems to be the message of this brief introduction.

My, oh my… How much more sound would living be if we followed this advice. The Sons of Korah, who wrote songs to be used for worship at the temple, said, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10).

We are familiar with the first part of this verse, but we often forget the second part: We can be still because we know that God will eventually establish His perfect will upon the earth. That is the missionary God coming across in an ancient song.

As we listen to Habakkuk in chapter two, we learn that yes the enemy is fierce and seemingly unbeatable. We learn that it may be a while until the sunshine will usher in the time of perfect harmony and perfect justice in the universe. But we also learn that while the wheels crank, we might as well not be the squeaky joint in the contraption.

The prophet says that though the night seems long, we must keep our watch ever so diligently. And protect our integrity. That is how I take the little phrase, “The righteous shall live by his faithfulness,” one of the most-often quoted phrases quoted in the New Testament. In other words: Act I: Protest. Act II: Be quiet and wait; Act III: Keep the faith.

“Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:4-5).

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade