Habukkuk

Sermon October 6 2019

Lectionary readings:

Lamentations 1:1-6

2 Timothy 1:1-14

Luke 17:5-10

Lamentations Chapter 1 describes the unhappiness and gloom of Jerusalem following its destruction at the hands of the Babylonians. It was written by the prophet Jeremiah, who is also known as “the weeping prophet.”

In Lamentations 3 The faithful lament their calamities, and hope for God’s mercies.

In Luke 17, the disciples ask for their faith to be increased and Jesus responds with a parable that tells them they need humility.

In 2nd Timothy, Paul who is nearing the end of his life, doesn’t want to die without giving some last encouragement to Timothy who he loved and mentored. The reading focuses on reminding Timothy to hold fast to sound teaching, to guard and fight for the gospel. 

On todays’ lectionary page there was an alternate reading from Habakkuk and because I had not really studied that book, it caught my interest so I want to talk about this minor prophet with a big lesson today.

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

1:1 The prophecy that the prophet Habakkuk received.

1:2 O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?

1:3 Why do you make me see wrong-doing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.

1:4 So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous– therefore judgment comes forth perverted.

2:1 I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint.

2:2 Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.

2:3 For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.

2:4 Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.

Habakkuk means to embrace or to wrestle and Habakkuk did both. Usually a bible book of a prophet is about that prophet going out and telling the people what God has told him to say. Habukkuk is a sort of journal of a conversation with God. The book has only three chapters and is divided into three sections. The first is a conversation between Habakkuk and God, the next is a list of woes, and the last is a psalm of praise. 

Things have gone from bad to worse in Judah and for generations God has tried to get His people’s attention and they just turn away. So now, Habakkuk looks around and sincerely asks God, “God what are you doing? Are you going to save your people? And not only does he ask God these questions but he sets himself down to wait for an answer.  He is not budging an inch. This is so important to him.

God answers him! But the answer is not exactly what Habakkuk would have hoped. God tells him to judge Judea’s wickedness, he will hand them over to the Babylonians. Now we know as Habakkuk did, that the Babylonians were a warlike people who liked to plunder other lands. They are to Habakkuk, much more wicked than the Judeans. Habukkuk who has come to God to try to understand now is even more confused. He asks God how can He use such wicked people to punish the Jews. God is way ahead of Habakkuk and tells him to wait, that they too will be destroyed. He gives a list of all the bad things that will happen. 

The Babylonians plundered a lot of nations but the ones that are left will plunder them. The Babylonians disgraced nations but the Lord will disgrace them. The Babylonians made idols and called on them but the earth will be silent before the Lord.

Habakkuk then sings or prays a psalm of praise that ends with these words: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. 

There is comforting news in this text. 

  • God honors our sincere questions. I believe He wants us to bring our questions and worries and pain him along with our joys and praise. We look around at the world today and we wonder about some of the same things! We see violence, and strife and contention. We see justice perverted. Sometimes, there is nothing we can do. So we take it to the Father. 
  • God answers our questions and prayers. Sometimes we have to wait. Don’t give up. God responds to persistence!
  • Sometimes the answers are not what we might like but we see only our little piece of the whole tapestry and not the big picture. 
  • We can have faith that God will make everything right because God has been faithful in the past. We read over and over again, how the people turn away from God and God makes a way for them to be restored until the final answer, Jesus Christ. 
  • Spending time with God allows us to know Him better. Maybe we won’t get a direct answer to a specific question, but remember how you could tell sometimes who your kids were hanging out with by the way they acted or talked? The more time we spend with God, the more we have the chance to understand and trust Him as He changes our fears about this world to praise and a desire to bring about His kingdom here on earth.

Now Habakkuk composes a psalm of praise for the God that he trusts to eventually make all things right and we, having the perspective of reading this text after the New Testament, know that God does make all things right through His Son. who finally, once and for all, restores us to relationship with God, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Habakkuk 2:4 ends with “but the righteous live by their faith.” These 7 words are quoted 3 times in the New Testament. Romans 1:17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith

Galations 3:11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.

Hebrews 10:36-39 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For,“In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” And “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

  • We are to be a people that talks to the Lord and when we have planted our feet on the rampart and are waiting patiently for God to answer, even if it seems no answer is forthcoming, we will continue to walk by faith. 

The reminders in the text’s today are to be humble, to talk to the Lord, to hold on to the gospel, and have faith because God is faithful and will complete the work he has begun in each and every one of us.  

Scot Mcknight when teaching seminary said this: “Sometimes I ask students to read the prophets after they have read Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul articulates theology and the prophets inform us that theology isn’t what it is supposed to be until it is lived. Of course, Paul says this, too, but sometimes it takes time with a prophet to know what the apostle is saying.”

My challenge to all of us is to read any of Paul’s letter to the Romans and then go back and read any of the prophets. See for yourself how the gospel of grace has always been there. The good news that God sees and is at work to restore us to who we were meant to be, made in His image! But simply reading isn’t enough. We have to live it, go back and read some more and then walk it out some more. It is a lifelong and life changing conversation with the one who created us and knows and loves us too much to leave us incomplete and separate from Him and the rest of His creation. 

There is a beautiful comparison in the these texts. The disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith and Jesus spoke to them about humility. 

Habakkuk speaks to God about saving his people and God increases his faith.

Habakkuk got a lesson that is hard for us all to learn – that faith doesn’t mean there won’t be storms. Faith is a way to find meaning in a life where storms are inevitable. Amen.

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