Faith in Troubled Times
Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
Today’s text is the Old Testament Lesson Habakkuk 1:1-4;2:1-4. I’d like to begin with what Habakkuk said right in the beginning: “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help,and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?” Habakuk sounds kind angry and accusatory. We don’t expect a prophet of God to speak to God like that, much less anyone else. That’s because we be tend believe that when we speak to God we better do it with the utmost restraint. But here’s the thing, God really doesn’t like it when we put on airs…or when we try to be politically correct with him. He would very much prefer that we treat him and speak to him more intimately. And occasionally that means we feel free to say what’s on our mind.
Habakkuk is not alone with his salty words. When everything fell apart, his health, his family, his personal fortune, Job says to the Lord “Your hands shaped me and made me. Will you now turn and destroy me?” (Job 10:8) He’s suggesting that God might be capricious or fickle. And then there were the disciples who in teeth of a storm, fearing for there very lives, wake up the sleeping Jesus and say “Do you not care that we are perishing?”
So let us not be so disingenuous as to scold Habakkuk for his strong words directed at the Lord. At least he’s talking to the Lord! The person who thinks he has valid grievances against the Lord and holds it in his heart will go through life with a chip on his shoulder against God which leads to falling away from him.
So what were his concerns? His concerns were pretty deep. As He looked around he was utterly appalled and distressed by what was happening among his countrymen, his fellow Israelites. More than likely Habakkuk was referring to the time of King Jehoikkim. There was violence erupting in the streets. Habakkuk goes so far as to say that the “Law was paralyzed and Justice never goes forth”. “Wicked surround the righteous, and justice is perverted”. His country was crumbling before his eyes. And prayed and prayed for help.... And frustration he say “Do something God! Why don’t you do something”
Is Habakkuk a citizen of the United States? No, he lived long ago, but his statements make it clear that the more things change the more they stay the same. The future seems kind of dark in our day. And we wonder how we are going to make it. Haven’t you after reading the news sometimes, felt like saying “God why don’t you do something about this?”
In Habakkuk’s day was trouble with Babylonians. He wrote in the very year that Nebuchadnezzar had begun to lay siege against Jerusalem. The siege in our time is against The American mind. We have been besieged by something called relativism. That teaching that insists that the truth depends: The truth depends on whatever a person prefers to think it is.
Now let’s just try to wrap our brains around this relativism which has besieged us. Your ethic, it’s whatever you say it is. Your morality, whatever you say it is. Your gender, whatever you say it is. If you want to believe something, go right ahead, what matters is that you believed in it. By believing it you made it true for you and for everyone else. Truth is completely dependent on what you say. Even though you might be presented with mountains of evidence to the contrary, evidence doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is your own voice. “And God said let there be light, and there was light.” do you see what we’re playing at now in this land. And if someone doesn’t listen to your voice, and differs with you, Then that triggers you to release your righteous wrath against those would dare to offend you. “That’s offensive to me.” is thought too be the argument to end all arguments. The reason this is so is because people are thinking they are God. To offend them is to offend god. That’s why there’s so much anger right now… a lot of angry little gods fuming about.
In the midst of all of this confusion, now would be a good time, I think, to Pray to God, our Creator and Lord. For like Habakkuk, it seems sometimes to us our country is soon to become a wasteland. If this fog on our brains of those who now hold positions of authority and power in our country is not somehow cleared, that’s what’s going to happen to us.
In answer God explains to Habakkuk how the world is really going to be divided into two camps: Those who know God and those who do not. Of those who do not believe in God he says “Behold his soul is puffed up;” (That is puffed up with self importance…full of himself). And of those who know God, those who are saved by faith he says: “ but the righteous shall live by his faith.”
•Those who’s soul is puffed-up and not upright, and those who are righteous by faith.
•Those who believe that truth is based on whatever they say it is, and those who know that God’s word is truth.
•Those who believe that they create themselves and their own realty and those who know that God created them and this reality.
•Those who absolve themselves by declaring themselves not guilty by by their own decree and those who admit they are sinners and are absolved by the atonement that was made By Christ Jesus on the cross.
The righteous shall live by his faith. Faith in the promises of God. Faith in the promises of God that would come to their full flower in the atoning death of Christ. That was God’s word to Habakkuk who was overcome with angst over the future. That is God’s word to you: Live by faith.
For Habakkuk and for us, the situation is very big and very complex that there was no way that we can imagine getting a handle on it. But God’s in charge. God is so very in charge that he will even cause those who imagine they can work for their own evil ends to work for the ultimate good of God’s people. Jerusalem would ultimately be sacked. But it’s people would be spread out into the known world. They would settle all over and with copies of the scriptures so that when paul and other missionaries came they would cause the Christian faith to blossom like a flower. God took the horrible situation in Jerusalem and made it into something wonderful. God will do the same for us. It’s going to shake out the way he wants it to shake out. He loves us and has our best interests at heart. We can live by faith.
Of course the ultimate way that we see this principle at work was in his Son Jesus. The evil rose up and plotted against him. Together they worked to bring him to the cross. The corrupt and self-serving, double dealing authority figures Herod and Pilate did little or nothing to stop it. Justice was perverted. The one person who really knew how to love. The worlds only perfect man would die on a cross in a most horrible way. The whole situation was pure madness! As he died, he prayed in the manner of Habakkuk and in the manner that all suffering people pray: “God have you forsaken me?” It seemed like evil had won the day.
But it hadn’t really. Power and riches and wisdom and glory and honor be to God and the Lamb. For he has redeemed all of humanity and now reigns and rules. In Christ God shows you just how much he loves you. And this one who loves you is now in charge. You can expect him to cause all things to work together for your good. You can trust him.
At the end of his book, Habakkuk offers us a poem of rejoicing. And this he wrote to be set to music even as Jerusalem was besieged. Notice his calm state of mind.
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.
These are the words of a man who now knows that no matter what happens. He will be okay. These can be your words. Truly, no matter what happens; no matter how bad things look you will be okay. Why? Because the lord is all powerful and the lord loves you. He has promised to do what’s best for you. You may suffer for a time, but what’s the worst the can happen to you? You die, but then you will be rejoicing with the angels. Nothing. Not a thing can really destroy you now. AMEN