Recently, I came to meet the vicar at St. Stephens for our regular Tuesday afternoon meeting. As I walked up, there was a man sitting on the steps smoking a cigarette who I’d just met briefly two weeks before. I sat down and we got to talking about God, life and his struggles.
He’s not sure if he believes in God. Said, “I guess I’d call myself agnostic” and the primary reason he gave was that the world is so evil. There is so much trouble – wars, pollution, abuse of men against women, the list goes on and on. He couldn’t accept that if there was a God who was all powerful – why hadn’t he stopped the evil in the world? So therefore, the all powerful God of the bible probably doesn’t exist or at least is not an active player in this world.
Habakkuk, the prophet, would differ in this analysis of the problem of evil.
In the book of Habakkuk, we find a dialog between the prophet and God. In chapter 2, God answers the question, “What about evil?” Habakkuk understands that God is using evil men to punish his people, but is that the end? God says no – the day will come with those evil men will face the consequences for their sins. There will be a day of reckoning.
Verse 6 of Habakkuk 2 states “Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing,”
Who are the all these? They are the people in verse 5 which reads: “He gathers for himself all nations and collects as his own all peoples.” The “all these” are the victims of oppression; those who have been gathered up for the purposes of evil men.
What follows in chapter 2 are the words of the oppressed people who will rise up and taunt their oppressors. These victims go on to say are 5 “woes” against their oppressors. Notice in verse 6, 9, 12, 15 and 19. The English word “woe” is not one we normally use. It comes from the cry that people have at a funeral when the emotional pain of death is released in a verbal outburst. In the Bible, it is often used by the prophets to call upon God to bring judgement on evil deeds.
When we acknowledge the reality of evil, not just theoretically but with real people, we are led to call for the judgement of God out of compassion just like the prophet Habakkuk. We should pray for the end of the abuse of women and children. We should pray for the end of modern day slavery. We should pray for the end of war, poverty, racism and any other degrading of human beings made in God’s image.
Evil is real. And this reality leads us to call upon God to bring judgement upon the oppressors. Our timing may not be God’s timing but evil will not rule in the end.
Justice will be done. The victims will not be silent forever.