Habakkuk isn’t an easy person to like. His book is a series of complaints. He complains because the wicked are taking advantage of the good folk. He complains because no good deed goes unpunished. Mostly, he complains at God for not throwing around a few well placed lighting bolts. God replies that he’s going to get around to it. The guilty will, in time, be punished. Habakkul isn't too happy with God's plan to use Babylonian mobsters to bring about his street justice. God says, "I can hit straight licks with crooked sticks." Habakkuk, however, is not the kind of person to let his complaint go at that. He says that he will keep watch. He will be the one who remembers the poor and the oppressed. He will push until justice is done. His 'watchman on the wall' phrase, should be seen as a passionate and persistent commitment to social justice. This all doesn’t make him easy to like.
Prophets are a particular kind of saint. They are unpopular saints. They are complainers. They are the ones who keep pointing out how things are not really fair for everyone. The rest of us are satisfied when the majority are happy. When the economy is good and the stock market goes up, most of us will leave our watchman’s post on the wall. Saints like Habakkuk, however, keep rocking the boat until the minority and the weakest child gets their due. This is a special calling. We can be glad that the Habakkuk type people are rare. But people like Habakkuk have an indispensable role in the Kingdom of God.
We don’t often honor the people who champion unpopular causes. I think of those few in the 1980s who pushed for the rights of the disabled. In the church, we said, “Look we painted one parking space with a handicapped symbol and built a ramp to the first floor. Isn’t that enough?” It was rare to find a saint in the church who pushed for changes that opened our facilities to the full range of disabilities.
It would be easy to exclude Habakkuk from our Bible and his kind of saints from our leadership. Yet it is in Habakkuk that we first hear the radical desire of God to open up sainthood for all people. Habakkuk 2:4 contains the phrase, “the righteous shall live by faith.” The Apostle Paul, Martin Luther, and John Wesley, each found this verse to be pivotal to their understanding of God’s grace. They heard Habakkuk say that works, sacrificial offerings, and extensive education do not make one a saint. Everyone who comes to depend completely on faith becomes a saint. All Saints is made all possible by the way God’s grace makes even the most sinful of us righteous. It takes a real watchman like Habakkuk to stand by heaven’s door and leave it open long enough for even the most incorrigible of us to enter in.