Summary: Dealing with grief in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 tragedy.
“WHEN TRAGEDY HITS HOME”
Habakkuk 1: 12 - 2:4
News reports on September 11, 2001 portrayed jubilant Palestinians dancing in the streets, handing out candy, and shouting “God is great” as they celebrated the deaths of estimated thousands of Americans as a result of a coordinated and simultaneous hijacking of four American airplanes. Within minutes all four aircrafts, commandeered by terrorists, plunged nose first into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City which houses over fifty thousand workers, into one of the five walls of the Pentagon, and into a field in Pennsylvania while en route to further devastation. Secretary of State Colin Powell commented that this attack was an unmitigated strike against civilization itself.
Further reports indicated that countless numbers of civilians either leaped or were blown from the thirteen hundred and fifty feet high World Trade Center, including one man who rode the rubble downward from the eighty-first floor, and another couple who lost their lives as they leaped hand in hand. Lt. Colonel Oliver North called the dastardly deed an act of war and painted the Pearl Harbor experience of 1941, in which 2403 lives were lost, as meager in comparison. Another Fox News reporter, in referring to the Omaha Beach tragedy in World War II, commented, “At least they knew they were going to war – these people were just going to work!” President Bush promised swift and sure justice and commented, “Today, our nation saw evil.” Christian leader Jerry Falwell was a bit more blunt in his assessment of an appropriate response to the terrorists in saying, “We should blow them away”.
The people of Jerusalem and the prophet Habakkuk had a similar emotional reaction to the invasion of their
homeland by the wicked Chaldeans who were known for their vicious and unconscionable physical and emotional atrocities against any and all enemies. Habakkuk wondered aloud as to why God did not simply employ His divine strength and intervene to stop the bloodshed. As we watch the news reports, similar questions linger in our thoughts as well. What do we do now? Underground reports include the unfortunate beating of an Arab at the hands of four southerners welding tire tools. Anger demands actions of some kind and emotions often amuck.
Why did God not stop the bloodshed before it began? Why do evil men punish those who desire to recognize the existence of a Holy God? Habakkuk wanted answers - and America want answers and wants them now.
I. WHEN TRAGEGY HITS HOME WE MAY ALWAYS QUESTION GOD’S FAIRNESS
Knowing the sure guarantee of an enormous loss of life at the hands of the wicked Chaldeans, Habakkuk began to rehearse his faith before God and plead with God to act in a manner consistent with His nature. He reminded God that He was “from everlasting…my God, my Holy One” (1: 12). Surely a holy and loving God would protect His people, Habakkuk would reason.
The vicious Chaldeans were known to ransack cities and haul away their enemies with fish hooks plunged into the jaws of their prisoners. They utilized nets to capture their opponents and haul them like fish pulled in from the sea. Terror filled the land and Habakkuk had a rather cheeky and direct talk with his God. He further reasoned that God was a God “whose eyes are too pure to approve evil” (1: 13). Yet God gave no direct indication that the Chaldeans would be annihilated thus ending the pain and anguish of the people of God. Strangely, God appears in Habakkuk to be utilizing the wicked forces of evil to pursue a greater purpose in the lives of His chosen people. Although unwelcome words, God responded, “Look……..be astonished……….because I am doing something in your days, you would not believe it if you were told. For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans” (1: 5). Strange words, indeed, which serve as cold comfort in the midst of our tragedy as Americans.
The irritating issue of the fairness of God always involves our desire to understand why evil seems to prosper, why wicked men live in lavish wealth, and why prosperity and fame seem to fall on the arrogant and unbelieving while often ignoring the righteous and leaving them in the jaws of personal heartache.
II. WHEN TRAGEDY HITS HOME WE MAY BE ATTEMPTED TO ASSUME THAT GOD ENDORSES EVIL
Essentially, Habakkuk prodded God by questioning whether He had endorsed the workers of evil and in so doing violated His very nature. “Why are you silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they?” Habakkuk wailed to God(1: 13). He feared the worse and knew that the physical devastation to the residents of Jerusalem would be unprecedented and would alter life as they knew it. Why the pain and anguish? Could not God accomplish His purposes in a less frightening and painful way? Answers would gradually surface yet the tension in their souls would remain indefinitely and their vulnerability, and ours as well, continued to be experienced.