Saturday, December 18, 2010

December 18

OT: Habakkak 1:1-3:19

We read the entirety of Habakkuk today. Harris says that it was written "when Babylon was bout to devastate Judah" and that it "is less a book of prophecy than a collection of philosophical mediation and a psalm describing Yahweh as a world conqueror." He also brought up a really interesting point about the content of Habakkuk: although the chapter 1 concludes that God has Himself raised up Babylon to conquer Israel, there is no indication that this is the result of Israel's own sin. Here's what Harris says about it:

"Unlike Jeremiah or Ezekiel, however, Habakkuk does not argue that Judah's sins deserve so catastrophic a punishment. Indeed, he differs strikingly from the Deuteronomistic historians of the period in not asserting that the people's suffering is a result of their collective guilt.

"In Chapter 2, Habakkuk declares that he will 'stand on [his] watchtower' and await Yahweh's response, which is simply this: 'The upright man will live by his faithfulness.' That is, people must have faith that their God will eventually see justice done; this confidence in divine control of the outcome will sustain the righteous soul in its trials."

I found all that to be fascinating and could not believe that I had missed it in the reading. It's kind of crazy that Habakkuk differs from all the others by not claiming that Israel deserved such treatment. In fact, chapter 2, is all about the injustice of Babylon and how they were eventually going to get theirs.

And it's not that Habakkuk is wrong, or even contradictory to the others. They, too, think Babylon is horrible and cruel, and they, too, assert that God will pay them back in full. And now that I'm looking back over the passage itself, I remember that I took Habakkuk's vision of injustice in 1:2-4 to be about injustice in his own land, apart from the Babylonians. The injustice he is picturing here is not the injustice of conquest, but internal injustice. He says that as a result, "The law is paralyzed,/and justice never prevails." When you are being conquered, you don't turn to your judicial system for answers. Thus, the injustice described here seems to be a systemic injustice within Israel itself, and injustice that prompts Habakkuk to ask God to remedy it. Then God says He is going to bring Babylon, and Habakkuk is like, "Huh? But they're bad, too!"

At least, that's what I got from it. And I have to say, I can personally relate to Habakkuk's view of, "You know what? Everything doesn't actually make perfect sense to me," more than I can relate to the absolute moral certainty of the prophets. Not that I'm down on the prophets--not at all--I'm just saying that my own experience is more closely aligned with Habakkuk. I ask the same questions to god that Habakkuk asks in 1:2-4, and like him, I have to conclude that the righteous will live by faith (2:4).

NT: Revelation 9:1-21

Thinking back, I think that, as horrible as those other trumpets/seals/whatever were, no people specifically died. Plants died, animals died, and parts of the sun, moon, and stars died, but not people. With these next two woes, people come into play. The first one lets locust come out from the Abyss (what?) and torture all of those who did not have God's seal on their foreheads for five months. It was pretty awful. Then the next trumpet signaled that those same locusts would be able to kill a third of mankind. It doesn't say this time that there will be any distinction between God's people and those who are not.

Random thought: Didn't the Black Plague kill 1/3 of Europe? I wonder if there were people who thought that the sixth trumpet of the apocalypse had sounded. Wow, those must have been dark days.

Psalm 137: 1-9

A bitter, sorrowful psalm spoken from the perspective of one weeping on the banks of a river while in exile. The Israelites in the psalm are being tormented by their captors, who are demanding that they sing the old songs of joy they used to sing at home. In response, the psalmist has three inward responses: he vows never to forget his home and his ultimate source of joy, he flashes back to the horror of the actual conquest, and he bitterly wishes eye for an eye justice for his enemies, which is graphically portrayed in the desire for someone to smash their babies' heads against rocks. Yikes.

Prov. 30:10

"Do not slander a servant to his master, or he will curse you, and you will pay for it."

Is the "he" the master or the servant? I get different messages from either designation.

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