The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you "Violence!"
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrongdoing
and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous —
therefore judgment comes forth perverted.
Little is known of the prophet Habakkuk. He, like the “major” prophets (Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah) received a burden (NRSV translates it as oracle, but the Hebrew suggests a burdening vision). What is different about Habakkuk’s burden is that it is not rooted in God’s declaration to his people, but the reflection of the prophet’s love of community directed towards God.
Habakkuk’s prayer questions God regarding the plight of the people in Habakkuk’s community.
“O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?”
The prayer of the prophet is not questioning or challenging the character or credibility of God. Instead, Habakkuk understood that because God describes himself as the God who sits on a throne of justice and righteousness and leads with unfailing love and faithfulness (Ps 89:14) that there is a holy expectation that the people of God can expect response in their suffering and rescue from violence. It is because God is provoked by the cries of God’s creation that Habakkuk can ask “How Long”?
In light of the suffering of God’s people, God responded:
“Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land.”
A God who sees, listens, experiences and intervenes in the suffering of God’s people. Jesus, who is described as having the fullness of God (Col 1:19), went to the cross to respond to the suffering of humanity, but also to identify with the suffering of humanity. Jesus would tell his followers that whatever was done to the “least of these”, was done to him. Jesus demonstrated an incarnational approach to suffering. He would show us that we are share in the suffering for the world by both entering into solidarity with those who are suffering and seeking to transform systems and environments that promote suffering. The Apostle Paul understood this when he wrote that he wanted to know Christ and the power of the resurrection and the participation in his sufferings. Paul certainly understood that he was not suffering to take away anyone’s sins, but suffering in solidarity with those who suffer, like Jesus does.
So when Martin Luther King Jr asked “How Long” must African American’s await for basic civil rights, it was a call for incarnationality. When protesters around the world began to ask “How Long” will people of color be subject to legal injustice and brutality, it was an invitation for solidarity. When Guatemalan refugees risk their lives fleeing horrific violence and cry out “Cuanto Tiempo?”, it is an opportunity for the people of God to join the presence of God in entering into suffering.
This Lenten season, begin by meditating on Habakkuk’s prayer and ask yourself, “who is suffering in my sphere of influence?”. Mediate on Jesus’s desire to identify with your suffering and ask yourself to whom is Holy Spirit is calling you toward solidarity in their struggle?
Michael is an ordained Elder and Superintendent of the River Conference of the Free Methodist Church. He currently serves as a Pediatrician for the US Army at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio Tx.
Michael was born in Massillon, OH, and answered his call to ministry while finding success as a board certified Pediatrician in Cleveland, Ohio. Michael along with his wife Amelia, were the founding Pastors of Christ Community Fellowship, in Twinsburg, Ohio. Michael has also served as the coordinator of local ministerial groups and has directed numerous community based ministries over the past decade. He has also served in denominational roles as district leader, conference boards and general church delegate. His passions include leadership development, community development, cultural competence and relational wholeness.
MIchael has served in multiple pastoral roles in Ohio and western New York. His medical experiences include directorships of health centers, Free Clinics, and child advocacy programs. Additionally, he was involved in short term missions programs in Kenya, Malawi, and Rwanda Africa, where Michael and his wife, Amelia Cleveland-Traylor, MD, rendered patient care, offered consultations, and preached the gospel.
Michael and Amelia have been married for 34 years and have two children, Matthew (28) and Michaela (25). He enjoys reading, fitness and is an avid movie-goer. He and Amelia are huge Cleveland Browns, and Cleveland Cavaliers fans.
Michael’s academic training includes degrees from Oberlin College, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Northeastern Seminary, and Cleveland State University. He also completed Physician Executive leadership training at the Weatherhead School of Business in Cleveland, OH and Coach training with Spiritual Leadership Inc., located in Lexington, Ky. Michael attended Ashland Theological Seminary and continued his theological education at Northeastern Seminary where he earned his Masters in Theology and Social Justice. Michael is currently a D. Min candidate at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. Michael has developed significant interests in organizational change, culture, and transformational leadership and writes frequently in his blog “Learning, Loving, and Leading”.
“Encouraging wholeness and health through joining the Life-giving, liberating mission of Jesus “