Wednesday Reflection – July 31, 2019
The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him! Habakkuk 2:20
The first two chapters of Habakkuk consist of a dialogue between the prophet and God. Habakkuk dared to openly question Yahweh. First, the prophet is upset with God’s presumed indifference in the face of clear injustice, and then he objects to the action God is taking. God has seemingly sided with idolaters. God responds by assuring Habakkuk that the perpetrators will face repercussions in the form of five woes. The conversation ends with addressing the absurdity of idolatrous worship. God gets the final word by reassuring the prophet, “But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”
I believe God was asserting that he is active and present in the midst of the turbulences in the world. Chandler Vinson agrees and posits that, “Contrary to popular belief and despite the apparent silence, God is in fact on the job. Yahweh is not a helpless bystander but is rather perched in a position of power ready to act.” God being present in his temple signals a reminder that the temple was established as the source from which divine instruction and help would come. The consecrated temple was the place where God would teach, and even if God should have to discipline his disobedient people, he would also hear and forgive.
As God is in his holy temple, he is available to help. Indeed the context of the verse juxtaposes God’s capability with the ineptitude of false idols who say and do nothing. The idol sits where it is put without the ability to hear or to respond, but the Lord, full of almighty power, is in his holy temple ready to respond to the needs of his people. Despite all that we go through, God is not powerless nor disinterested. Instead, he is in our midst and at work. The challenge is that most times we want to see that God is at work and we want to know what he is doing. But, would we need faith? Absolutely not! God calls us to entrust ourselves completely in his care and trust him to take care of us.
The conversation ends abruptly as there is a call to “be silent”. The Hebrew word ‘hacah’ is actually more forceful. It means “Hush!” This command is given to all the earth. The prophet who thought that God was silent is himself silenced by the Almighty. This indicates a demonstration of respect. There is nothing more to say or be said. Ironically, the command to silence evokes praise. Though a gap may exist between chapters 2 and 3, the book concludes with a psalm of praise. The book that begins with complaints ends with praise, evidence that God’s affirmation had a profound effect on the prophet.
The text forces us to ask, has God ever converted our complaints to praise? Is there a place for silence in communal worship? When do we find time to be silent before the Lord? What great benefits there are when we hush before the Lord!