Tag Archives: Habakkuk

Taunting your Abuser?

Is it ever right to taunt your abuser? Is it Godly?

[WARNING: This is a thought experiment…not a recommendation!]

My wife is working on some presentations she’ll be making on the book of Habakkuk and so we have been looking at the book and talking about some of the difficulties in the text (She’s far more insightful on these things than I am!). The 2nd chapter contains a taunt against the oppressor/abuser Babylon. God is having a conversation with Habakkuk and the short version goes like this:

Habakkuk: Why are you allowing all this sin among your people? Do something!

God: I will. I’m sending Babylon and they will carry Judah off.

Habakkuk: Um…God…Babylon? Really? You do know they are like the most heathen people? You’re going to use the worst group of people in the world to judge us? You know we’re not THAT bad?

God: Yup. I’m going to do something that blows you away. I’m up to something you can’t even imagine. I know that Babylon is proud. And here are the taunts you and everyone else is going to throw at them when I judge them.

At this point God appears to give them words to use when the time comes. Consider 2:15-16

Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies. You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and be exposed. The cup from the Lord’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory.

It would appear that God has no problem taunting humans in their rebellion and depravity. When God taunts, he is speaking truth. When we speak truth, along with God, about unrighteousness then maybe such a taunt is a possibility:

You’ve abused me but just you wait. God is in heaven above. He sees and he will judge. You will face the consequences of what you have done, either in this life or at the last day. There will be justice!

Just an Old Testament thing?

Are taunts only in the OT? Does Jesus do away with them when he tells us to love our enemies? Apparently loving one’s enemies does not mean not speaking a taunt. Notice that Luke records Jesus making ten different “woe to you” taunts against religious leaders and other unbelieving/arrogant people. Can Jesus be failing the second greatest commandment?

Clearly the taunts in the OT or Jesus’ curses of unbelieving religious leaders are not normative. We are not called to do this. But…maybe their existence does a couple of things for us.

  • Give Godly words for the private and possibly public comments made by victims of abuse (note: these words do not approve of revenge, bitterness, or other ungodly motivations. But desire for justice is a good and Godly desire and should be expressed!)
  • Allow others to validate victims’ experience of injustice without pressing for a quick Romans 8:28 response

A word of caution

Habakkuk 2 ends with a postscript to the 5 taunt songs against Babylon.

But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him

Judah was guilty of injustice (1:3). They did not have clean hands. They were not innocent. God did give them words of taunt to use against Babylon. Yet, before God they needed to be silent and humble. The cup of wrath that Babylon would drink is passed over God’s people–not because of their innocence but because of God’s providential love. Christ drinks to the dregs that cup of wrath in our stead. He gives us a better cup to drink.  It is far too easy to consider ourselves innocent and our enemies guilty. We ought to stand in silence and awe because we have not been treated as we rightly deserve.


Filed under Abuse, biblical counseling, Biblical Reflection, christian counseling, Christianity, trauma, Uncategorized

Some thoughts and emotions on justice

What is justice? How do you go about determining what is just and what is unjust?

If you are like me, you’ve had a number of conversations and thoughts about justice in the last 48 hours. I can only believe that such conversations about justice are good, especially if we apply our philosophies to ourselves as well as others.

So, how do you answer my first questions? Do you lead with your intellect or your emotions? Let’s consider each (even though we can’t really separate these two parts of our being)

The intellectual approach to determine what is just

1. What is legal? Lawful = just. This works if you assume that those who create the laws are just lawmakers. But, we all can point to some draconian laws that we would not consider just.

2. What is deserved? Justice = penalty fits the crime. If you get what you deserve, an eye for an eye, then you have been served justice. Of course, if we follow this thinking, it could be just to walk up to a pedophile and castrate him. This would be illegal whether he was tried and convicted or not.

3. What is adjudicated fairly? Justice = blind adjudication. If you are accused of a crime, then justice is served if you receive a fair trial. However, justice does not hold exactly the same meaning as fair. It more accurately means righteous. One could have a fair trial and still get away with murder.

The emotional approach to determining justice

If we are truthful, our emotions tell us what is just. We hear of someone getting their due and we feel relief. Or, we hear someone who got his due but we hear that the one measuring out justice did so in a vicious or destructive way…and we feel conflicted if not downright sickened. Some of our thoughts on justice reveal certain values that we have yet to articulate. Consider the following options from an emotion perspective:

  • Law enforcement attempts to capture a killer but uses deadly force because they thought they saw him reach for a gun
  • A soldier kills an opposing soldier on the battlefield
  • A soldier kills an opposing soldier who was unarmed and running away
  • A soldier kills an opposing soldier who had dropped his weapon and raised his hands in surrender
  • A mass murderer who was not given a final time to give self up before being shot to death
  • A mass murderer killing another murderer who had only killed once

I suspect we could argue that in each case, the killing was legal, even deserved. But does it pass the emotional smell test?

Think this is a new issue? Then check out Habakkuk in the Old Testament. He raises a complaint to God about the sinfulness of his own people, Israel. God answers him and tells him that a heathen group of terrible sinners will bring just punishment on Israel. Habakkuk, as you might expect, struggles with this. “You are going to you THEM? Why they are the WORST!” God answers and tells him that he, God, is going to act in righteous and mind-blowing ways. And Habakkuk responds in only the faithful way he can: I see your fame, I see your Glory and I stand in awe. You are just in all you do. And even if there is no food to eat, I will yet praise you.”

Justice, it turns out, doesn’t always make sense to us. It may be easier to tell what is not justice than what is. For example, we ought not promote pragmatism (e.g., killing someone because jailing him will cost too much) or vengeance (e.g., eye for an eye…since bin Laden didn’t warn 9/11 victims, we ought not warn him).

We cannot go on human laws alone, intellect (as good as it is), or feelings. God’s view of it surpasses all of these ideas. And even when we come to terms with justice, we recognize that justice, without mercy also, is something none of us want to see. We will treat others better than they deserve. We will rejoice when evil men may no longer harm. We will be thankful when governments deliver justice and yet hold them to higher standards than those they judge. We will not return evil for evil. And we will mete out justice yet knowing that we too will face our day of justice as well. And so we will ask God for the grace to live justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly!


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