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by Henry Brinton, July 9 2020

Bible Study 4: Waiting

Habakkuk 2:1-3

Watching for a Sign

Where do you see signs of God’s work in the world?

FPC has been discussing race and racism for years, mostly through adult classes and book discussions. But a video is worth a thousand words, as we discovered when a white woman called the cops on a black man and told them that an “African-American man” was “recording me and threatening myself and my dog.” He was birdwatching in New York’s Central Park and confronted her about letting her dog off its leash in an area where leashing is required.

After his video of her call went viral, she was condemned as a racist and was fired from her job at an investment firm. She apologized to him and he accepted her apology. He condemned death threats against her and said, “no excusing that it was a racist act because it was a racist act — but does that define her entire life? I don’t know.” The viral video exposed racism in our society, making it “plain upon a tablet” (Habakkuk 2:2).

Most scholars place the book of Habakkuk near the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The book begins with Habakkuk complaining about the amount of time he has to wait in order to receive justice from God. He says, “I will keep watch to see what the Lord says to me and how he will respond to my complaint” (verse 1). He raises the question of theodicy (from the Greek words for “god” and “justice”), which asks why wicked people prosper at the expense of the righteous.

Some might find it odd that the book is called the “oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw” (Habakkuk 1:1), since English speakers tend to think that oracles are heard instead of seen. But the Hebrew word hazah, “saw,” means “to have a vision” in the prophetic sense. This visual language continues when God responds to Habakkuk, “Write a vision, and make it plain upon a tablet so that a runner can read it” (Habakkuk 2:2). In the 21st century, this vision could be a video on an electronic tablet.

God then says, “There is still a vision for the appointed time; it testifies to the end; it does not deceive. If it delays, wait for it; for it is surely coming; it will not be late” (verse 3). As the righteous wait and watch for God’s sign, they are to “live honestly” (verse 4).

I believe that signs of God’s work in the world are appearing constantly, such as the viral video in which a black man held a white woman accountable for her racism. Such signs confirm that African-Americans have been right to cry out about violence and injustice, and to demand equality in our nation. As a white American, I need to see these signs, work for justice, and live honestly with my black brothers and sisters.

Prayer: God of all people, help to me to see signs of injustice around me, and to take action to right what is wrong. Amen.

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by Henry Brinton

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