Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Daily Old Testament: Habakkuk 1-2 and My Own Article on "Continuing Revelation" (Part 7)

Introduction to Habakkuk
Eighth of the 12 minor prophets. The text was probably from the late 7th c. when the Chaldaeans [Hellenic term for Babylonians] were growing strong. The first two books are part of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Habakkuk 1 –“How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen! ‘Violence is everywhere!’ I cry, but you do not come to save” (1:2). “I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. The law has become paralyzed and there is no justice in the courts” (1:4).

I think at least half the Bible is made up of cries for God’s attention, maybe half of all human history!

God responds to the prophet here though. “I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it. I am raising up the Babylonians, a cruel and violent people. They will march across the world and conquer other lands” (1:5-6). They are violent and ambitious. “They sweep past like the wind and are gone. But they are deeply guilty, for their own strength is their god” (1:11).

The prophet cannot fathom that the Lord would let his people be destroyed. “Must we be strung up on the hooks and caught in their nets while they rejoice and celebrate? Then they will worship their nets and burn incense in front of them” (1:15-16). Will they never be stopped?

Habakkuk 2 – The prophet waits for God to respond to his complaints, and He finally does, but the promise He makes is for a future redemption. “If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place” (2:3). The wealthy trust that all will be well, but “wealth is treacherous and the arrogant are never at rest. They open their mouths as wide as the grave, and like death, they are never satisfied” (2:5).

But the comfortable wealth they think they enjoy will not last forever. “You believe your wealth will buy security, putting your family’s nest beyond the reach of danger. But by the murders you committed, you have shamed your name and forfeited your lives” (2:9-10).

All the evils committed by these self-centered people – gloating over weaknesses in other they help to cultivate, destroying the forests of Lebanon, destroying animals in the wild, making idols to worship – all these things will be revealed as empty and lifeless.

From Leadings: A Catholic’s Journey Through Quakerism -
“Continuing Revelation”
Part 7
I did finally make the decision to join the Society of Friends in 1981-82. It was not a decision that implied complete accord or comfort with the state of things among Friends, or even complete agreement with everything early Friends had said about the gospel.

I was not entirely in agreement with early Friends’ radical rejection of outward things. To me it seemed obvious that the outward dimension of our human lives—our experiences, words, histories, what others observe and say—all played an essential role in the “epistemology” of faith, its development in us. We needed to get “to know” the Christ who was in us by getting acquainted with him as best we could by learning what we could about him – what others wrote about him, about his life and about why others saw him as the fulfillment of the “types and shadows” of God’s presence under the Old Covenant.

My whole journey had been one of coming to know within the things I had stumbled around outwardly for years. I could in no way say from my experience that I could have come into these things without the outward dimension, but I didn’t hold Fox’s rejection of “outwardness” against him either. I just sensed that what he had meant by “outward” was different in some essential way from what modern people understood by the term. Modern Friends had a much more rigorous sense of what was to be understood by “outward”, including in the concept not only outward rites or formulas but even the concepts embodied in the words we used, the conceptual and linguistic forms the Christian religion had taken in its development.

The other thing I could not accept was early Friends’ complete rejection of sixteen hundred years of church history as sunk in apostasy. This seemed to me a little over the top, part of the Reformation’s radical rejection of the “tradition” as it had developed in the Catholic Church. But I excused these excesses by seeing Friends to some extent as prophets to the churches of the seventeenth century. They had not recovered a lost gospel; they had simply challenged Christians in all churches against getting caught up in the outward forms of Christianity—whether the outward form was a way of worshipping, a creedal formula, or a way of approaching Scripture—and to emphasize the inward and experiential dimension of the gospel in which they professed to believe. Then again, I tried to look past this disagreement by not seeing it as something central to the early Quaker message but something incidental only, a part of their Reformation zeal.

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