2015-12-13 - Habakkuk
Kvetching has a long history of tradition amongst the Jewish people. One of the more famous kvetchers was Tevye.
“GIVE thanks unto the Lord, for He is good.–Whatever He ordains, His way is the best.” It has to be the best, for if you had the wisdom of a Solomon could you improve on it? Look at me–I wanted to be clever, I turned and twisted, this way and that, and tried everything I knew, and then when I saw it was no use, I took my hand off my chest, as the saying is, and said to myself, “Tevye, you’re a fool, you won’t change the world. The Lord has given us the ‘pain of bringing up children, which means that in raising children you have to accept the bad with the good and count them as one.” … 1
How is it written in Perek? “The Holy One, blessed be He, wished to grant merit to Israel–” The Lord wanted to be good to Tevye, so He blessed him with seven female children, that is, seven daughters, each one of them a beauty, all of them good-looking and charming, clever and healthy and sweet-tempered–like young pine trees? Alas, if only they had been ill-tempered and ugly as scarecrows, it might have been better for them, and certainly healthier for me. For what use is a fine horse, I ask you, if you have to keep it locked up in a stable? What good are beautiful daughters if you are stuck away with them in a forsaken corner of the world …”
The Jewish tradition of arguing with God, complaining (or kvetching) about the way things are, has an honorable history. In fact it is a wonderful illustration of faith at work. It is a testimony of a people who once knew where to go for answers. Consider the Psalmist.
"Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised. For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the LORD. In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.” His ways prosper at all times; your judgments are on high, out of his sight; as for all his foes, he puffs at them. He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved; throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.” His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity. He sits in ambush in the villages; in hiding places he murders the innocent. His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless; he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket; he lurks that he may seize the poor; he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net. The helpless are crushed, sink down, and fall by his might. He says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.” Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted. Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”? But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none. The LORD is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land. O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more." (Psalm 10:1–18).
Habakkuk follows in this same tradition. One could say there does seem to be a lot of complaining in scripture. The complaining that really touches a chord within us relates to the apparent prosperity and immunity of the unrighteous. The concern is over the unfair luck of the wicked; they seem to escape the consequences of their actions.
When we focus on a moment in time instead of looking at the big picture, there is some truth to this perception. This inequity is due, of course, to the fall and the resultant depravity of the human race. Ah, what an uplifting perspective. It’s no wonder that Habakkuk had such a negative outlook on life. And it’s that outlook we will consider today.
To be continued.
All verses are from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise noted.