Does God Get It? (Habakkuk)
But that picture is incomplete. It’s scrubbed of an ugly side of American history. A time filled with hate, bias, and prejudice. And during that moment, some 63 years ago now, a young 14-year old was brutally tortured and murdered.
The searing images of America gone bad was thrust back into the national consciousness this week as the United States Department of Justice quietly reopened the murder case of Emmett Till. His family appeared on television this week, pleading for justice once again – a cry they had been sharing for 63 years.
For many in the African-American community, the words of Habakkuk in the first chapter are a familiar cry.
O LORD, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
3 Why do you make me see iniquity,
and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law is paralyzed,
and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
so justice goes forth perverted.
Does God get it? Is he in control?
Does God Get it? from Wellington First Assembly on Vimeo.
We continue our study of the minor prophets today. Twelve short messages, written over a period of 400 years, chronicling the terrors and evil that each generation lived in, looking toward God for help, proclaiming a prophetic message that unless people turn from their wicked ways, their unjust treatment of their neighbors, the consequences of sin would overwhelm them.
Let’s set the historical state. King Josiah was the ruler over Judah. A righteous just king, ascending the throne at the tender age of 8, he had re-discovered the book of the law, the scriptures of Moses and established reform. He reigned for 31 years, from 640-609 BC, establishing fair trials and mediating justice. Things were going about as well as they could. But spiritual blessing while pursuing God does not always equal material success.
The world’s super powers were shifting as the Babylonians and Egyptians fought over Assyrian territory, using Judah as it’s battleground. In 612, BC the Babylonian army conquered Nineveh (completing the prophecy of Jonah) on their march toward Judah. Josiah died in battle in 609 defeated by the Egyptians, allies of the Assyrians who were trying to stem the invasion of Babylon. The Egyptians placed Jehoiakim on the throne of Judah, over the rightful successor of Josiah. From that day forward, the land of Judah was forced to pay tribute and would never be independent again.
Five years later in 604, the Babylonians advanced towards Judah and Jehoiakim switched his allegiance to Babylon from Egypt. The Babylonian army was challenged by the Egyptians and retreated – so Jehoiakim switched his alliance back to Egypt. That did not last long as Nebuchadnezzar mounted another campaign six years later in 598 resulting in the eventual fall of Jerusalem in 586.
In a short 25-year time span, Jerusalem and Judah went from a peaceful righteous country to being conquered and taken into captivity.
Habakkuk’s prophetic message was written somewhere between 608-605 BC. He saw the impending storm clouds on the horizon. He was already seeing the just reforms instituted by Josiah being broken. He was worried about his country and God’s promise for his people.
Habakkuk writes from the perspective of the poor and powerless. He, as many, had expected that the religious reforms would bring national blessing, not national disaster. His own countryman had resorted to violence and oppression among themselves – each doing what they thought was right to survive, instead of allowing the sovereign Lord of history to guide their moral actions.
Like many of his fellow citizens, he wonders, he questions, he cries out to God. Where are you? Do you get it?
His first complaint, his first question is found in the passage we read earlier. Let me paraphrase that question into one that we often cry out?
1. Are we stuck in with injustice in this world? (1.4)
This is a question that everyone asks when they see the news. Someone else has been murdered, another plant has closed down, the wrong person got promoted, A boss gets away with sexual harassment, police misconduct, government corruption and yes, even pastoral abuse. The stories are endless. To those living in the situation, the pain is real, the desire for justice unsatiated, the urge for revenge – heightened.
It’s one thing if it’s just a moment, or a month, or a year. But when injustice resides for an extended part of time, a decade, a century, that injustice becomes so engrained into the culture that those with privilege do not even see it. So Habakkuk’s cry echoes again.
The cry does not fall on deaf ears. The Lord hears Habakkuk. And he answers with a resounding NO! You are not stuck with injustice. This too will pass, because I am in charge. In fact, you are going to be surprised and amazed at what I’m going to do. Verse 5 says it like this -- You won’t believe it!
And Habakkuk, is going yea, tell me what’s going to happen? Who are you going to raise up to defeat the Egyptians that are holding us down. Who’s your secret weapon? Are you going to raise up a new Samson, a new Moses. What, tell me.
And the LORD says, I’m bringing in Babylon to drive out the Egyptians.
And Habakkuk, stunned upon hearing this, mutters under his breath – I don’t believe it.
So your plan is to trade out one oppressor for another? That doesn’t sound like a plan. Don’t you get it? We need some help here. NOW!
We all know this feeling. It’s when one shoe drops after the other. When things pile on, one at a time, seemingly never ending. The easiest thing to do is to quit and give up hope. Supposedly, right beyond the next obstacle is the sunshine. But do I really have to go through that? If you have ever felt that way, then you are not alone.
For Habakkuk, this answer terrifies him. Concerns him. Makes him legitimately upset. Anger tinges in his voice. He launches another complaint towards God. Because God’s answer seemed to contradict everything he knew about justice that he had learned when Josiah was king.
We find his complaint in verse 12.
2. Will Consequences of evil wipe out the Just? (1:12)
O LORD my God, my Holy One, you who are eternal--
surely you do not plan to wipe us out?
O LORD, our Rock, you have sent these Babylonians to correct us,
to punish us for our many sins.
13 But you are pure and cannot stand the sight of evil.
Will you wink at their treachery?
Should you be silent while the wicked
swallow up people more righteous than they?
Habakkuk understands that the mediation of justice means that there will be consequences and corrections for those who have done wrong. But he is having a hard time comprehending, as do all of us, that God would use the unjust to punish the unjust at the expense of the just.
Consequences of sin are far reaching. When someone commits a tragic felony, it has a lasting traumatic impact on their entire family, even into the next generation.
For Habakkuk (and for us) this threatens his very understanding of who his just God is? How can a just God continue caring for his chosen people if he allows evil to beget evil? This makes no sense. Can he continue to serve a God like this?
That’s a question that every person wrestles with, especially when they are in their early young adult years and first begin to encounter the systemic sinful nature of this fallen world. Where is God? Does God get it? Does God care for me? Where is his justice and love? Should I not get an immediate reward if I do the right thing?
Habakkuk rightfully recognized that God’s justice and righteousness is the core guarantee of the covenant, the special relationship with the chosen people. Everything falls on this. The same very special relationship which has now been extended to each of us through the actions of Jesus inaugurating the new covenant by suffering the injustice of the cross yet delivering true justice in the resurrection.
Habakkuk does something different from people who just complain. He actually puts some effort into learning the answer. The text says that he climbed up into his watch tower, he performed his guard duty – doing the best that he could with the understanding that he had to continue to ensure that he could bring what little justice there was in the protection of his people. The second thing he could do while watching guard from a high tower was to look for the answer that he knew God would bring. The difference in approach between Habakkuk and many of us – he expected God to answer his complaint. Otherwise he would have never watched, waited, and worked for justice. How many of us complain, but never do something about it – even as limited as it could be?
Habakkuk received his answer. A resounding NO, the just will not be wiped out. In fact, the LORD said, put it in big print. Write it on the largest tablet you can find. Shout it out so all can hear. I am a just God and I will provide justice for my people. Verse 4 is God’s everlasting guarantee.
Look at the proud!
They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked.
But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God.
In the ancient writing style of the time, this verse would be in bold, italicized, made into large font. You can tell by the chiastic structure of this couplet. The first verb TRUST connects with the last noun FAITHFULNESS, while the description of crooked lives contrasts with righteousness – which literally means that which is not crooked.
God’s answer is clear. Anyone who is proud in their own might – The Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Americans – anyone who trusts in their own wicked hearts will never be just. The only way to see justice in this world is to live in righteous by being faithful go God.
This, my friends, is the message of salvation. This is where the apostle Paul, in both of his writings to the Ephesians and the Romans proclaims that salvation is a gift of god, received by grace not by any work that a person can do, because the righteous shall live by faith. It sets out the eternality of God’s love for us. We will not be wiped out, no matter what circumstances come against us, not matter how long those circumstances last, because we have faith in Jesus Christ -- the author and finisher of faith.
Implicit in that question is its corollary – 3. Will Evil always rule? (2:3-6)
God provides that answer clearly as well. Be patient
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.
It is hard being patient. For the family of Emmett Till, 63 years is a long time. For many of us, we will never see the final outcome of injustice that has happened to us. If you are like me, I want things wrapped up, nice and tight, in a shiny bow. I wish that all the world’s problems could be solved in a 30-minute episode of an evening sit-com – but it doesn’t work like that.
Justice comes. Justice is coming. Evil has an expiration date. The message God had to Habakkuk clearly foretold of the Righteous one, who would be born in a stable in Bethlehem. Justice inaugurated. Habakkuk never saw it – but those who read these words and followed the instructions and tarried and waited and rejoiced. Simeon and Anna were waiting at the temple for Jesus to be presented for circumcision.
What we see as a delay is God working in history. What we think isn’t fast enough is exactly in accordance with God’s timing. The early Christians, beginning to see persecution were reminded to tarry, to wait and long for the second coming of Jesus Christ when final justice in this world will be resolved. This time, the author of Hebrews connects the return of Jesus Christ to Habakkuk 2:3-4, as he quotes this verse, urging fellow Christians to do justice as the await the second coming. As Christians, living in our time of history, it is our duty to actively wait for Christ to return. How do we actively wait? We do acts of justice, acts of compassion. We are called upon to oppose evil and injustice in all forms– even and especially when it conflicts with our preferred political party. This is how we usher in the kingdom of God and see the end of evil.
One final question that Habakkuk raised was, 4. Where is the Real Ruler?
In a time when Judah’s king kept vacillating his policies to stay in power, committing unjust acts upon the very people he was to observe, and world superpowers were using Judah as a punching ground, this is a very appropriate question. Where is the real Ruler?
The answer comes in 2:20. The LORD is in his holy temple. Justice and Righteousness is all connected to holiness and sanctification – being in right alignment (not crooked) with God and ready to do as he asks. God still reigned in Jerusalem. But he does more than occupy a space in a temple. The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. His creation is his temple. We are his creation and Jesus can reside within us, guiding our actions.
If anything this, answers the question of where God is. He is not a distant deity who set the world in motion and abandoned it. He works in the processes of history guiding his plan of salvation for each of us. Yes, God does get it, otherwise he would have abandoned us long ago.
It is because of these answers that Habakkuk can write the prophetic prayer hymn in chapter 3. A quick glance at this chapter reveals that the prophet is recounting every time in history that God acted to preserve justice despite seemingly overwhelming odds. As Habakkuk recounts these stories his faith grows stronger, knowing that God is ageless, and his plan has always been faithful. He remembers Moses and the Exodus across the Red Sea, he recounts the sun standing still for Joshua. God always saves his people. Everytime. No Exception.
This is why Habakkuk, with the present realities of the world still in front of him, can conclude with these words.
Though the fig tree does not blossom,
and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails
and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold
and there is no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will exult in the God of my salvation.
Habakkuk recognizes that times are bad, yet he knows who is LORD. Does God get it? Does God hear our cry? The answer is yes, he does. Habakkuk saw the future when justice will reign and God defeats evil once and for all.
Remember this today:
Your vision of the future determines how you see present realities.
A lot of people think that their past defines them. Certainly, it does contribute to their identity, their prejudices, their biases. Good actions, or bad, acts that we did, or our families or our culture does have an affect on us. But if that’s all we are focused on, we can never move forward. There is one thing even stronger than the past. And that is your vision of the future. Are you focused on impending potential calamities because that’s all you know? The Babylonians coming across again? Or are you focused on a future when justice shall reign? Your interpretation of the present will be determined by what you believe or do not believe God is doing.
For some, because things haven’t been good, when they see present reality as tough, they give up on God, give up on themselves, give up on their family.
For others, looking towards the future, the present realities are things that can be overcome.
Ever wonder how two people, who have experienced the same calamity, can have vastly different outcomes? It always depends on their forward vision. A rock in the way is either an obstacle or a stepping stone.
When we keep our eyes focused on Jesus Christ, the injustice of the present fades away.
The words of this old chorus are powerful...
O soul are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There's light for a look at the Savior
And life more abundant and free
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace
LIFE CHANGE GOAL
I will learn to wait for the sovereign God to work his plan.
Yes that one is hard.
Habakkuk reminds us to focus on the Sovereign God. He points us towards the Messiah and new life in Christ. Our job, hard as it is, is to allow God to finish the work that he has begun.
Does God Get it? Yes, he does.
Do we? Not all the time!
So don’t be impatient, work for justice in the middle of the trials, and let Jesus be in control.
Shall we pray.
via Blogger https://ift.tt/2uCPcOz
July 22, 2018 at 09:40PM