Sunday, October 06, 2019

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4; 17th Sunday after Pentecost; October 6, 2019;

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4; 17th Sunday after Pentecost; October 6, 2019;
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw. O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? 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.” (Habakkuk 1:1–4, ESV)
I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint. And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:1–4, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
It is easy to get down about what’s going on in the world these days. This last week an LCMS pastor I knew in Iowa was beat to death in his own church parking lot. The confirmation class was waiting for him to come in and teach. The whole community of Fort Dodge Iowa is reeling at the loss. He was very involved in his community, as a police and first responder’s chaplain. This senseless crime seems to be related to a robbery. It is easy to agree with Habakkuk’s complaint. “Destruction and violence are before; strife and contention arise.”  There’s a definite uptick also in Christian persecution in our country. To say nothing of the persecution of Christians around the world, which is higher now than it’s ever been. As Habakkuk says, “For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.” God’s plan for marriage is under brutal attack. The LGBT agenda is rampant everywhere. And their aim is not to coexist with, but to destroy traditional marriage. Babies are dying in the womb thousands a day. And politics… I don’t even have to say how crazy that is. And again, we echo Habakkuk, “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?”
Habakkuk was facing the same kinds of issues. Although the violence he was speaking of was done by those who claimed to be God’s people. He was sent with a warning, as God often does with the prophets. But Habakkuk complains that the more he preaches the less effect it seems to have. “I call them back from violence and injustice, but everything I do is for nothing. They just don’t listen. The law is corrupt. The courts are for those who have the money to get the judgment they want. Judgment is not equal for all.”
Now, a critical part of the opening of the book of Habakkuk is missing between the two sections we have in our text today. The exchange goes something like this:
Habakkuk:    God how long are you going to let this violence go on? How long is my preaching going to have no effect? How long will you let the law be impotent?
God:               Don’t worry, I’ve got everything under control. And you wouldn’t believe it if I told you anyway. I am raising up the Chaldeans. They are bitter and nasty. They wreak havoc everywhere they go. Even their horses are mean. And their horsemen are like eagles. And they come with swift violence. They laugh at city walls. And they will sweep away all those guilty people who depend on themselves. They will punish the evildoers.
It was not the answer Habakkuk was looking for.
Habbakuk:    O Lord! I know you see all things. But, don’t you think that the righteous will suffer with the evil? Do you have to send such and evil people to punish? And what about those evil people? When will they get their comeuppance?
And then Habakkuk, does something amazing. He says, “I will look out to see your justice.” And God answers. “Write this down and make it plain. So that all will understand. So that the reader may announce it to all they see. It will all come to pass in my own time. The proud will suffer, but the righteous shall live by faith.”
God was saying two things. First, the people who were to be led away into captivity, would return to their land. And Second, that the Chaldeans would also be punished for their evil.  Wait for it…
Wait for it… a lot like that feather in Forrest Gump, floating here and there seemingly undirected but under God’s control. God’s vengeance would happen in his perfect timing. Let it blow in the wind.
Now, I’m not saying, necessarily, that God is going to send a foreign power to punish us. But it could happen. We, as the church, should be on our knees in continual repentance. God’s justice comes in His own time, and falls upon all, even those he loves. Discipline is never pleasant, but it is necessary. We are to leave that to our faithful God.
With the Festival of the Reformation coming, it is timely that our text ends with “the righteous shall live by his faith.” Despite what it looks like God is in control of all things. It is the righteous one who puts his faith where it belongs. And it isn’t just accepting correction. It is placing our faith in the one who has done and is doing all things for our good.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, ESV)
It isn’t just a vague notion of faith either, not a faith that just thinks that everything will work out. It is faith in the one who promises to make it work out. Jesus Christ our savior is that one. He has promised it. He does battle with the devil, the world and our own sinful nature. He defeats Satan with his perfect life lived in our place. He gives us that life and declares us to be righteous ones. Then he gives us faith through the work of the Holy Spirit. We, the righteous ones have confidence in Jesus by remembering our Baptism. Satan’s accusations against us have no effect. He can howl and bellow all he wants. He can stir up the world against us, but Jesus has defeated them all.
He took on the world, in all its evil, and defeated it. And not in a way that is expected or understood by the world. To all the world it looked like defeat and weakness. But Jesus’ strength is evident in his willingness to die on the cross for the sins of the whole world. He defeated the power of death through his resurrection. That resurrection is ours as well, through faith in Jesus’ promises. The evil of the world has no response to Jesus and his death and resurrection. They simply deny the truth and curse it.
And most of all, he defeats our sinful nature. The sinful nature that we harbor and protect. The sinful nature that looks at what is happening around us and falls into despair. That is impatient for God’s justice. Jesus has defeated our sinful nature. He calls us to recognize what he as done and put away our sinfulness.
So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh [our sinful nature], to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”” (Romans 8:12–15, ESV)
He calls us to put our faith again, in his promises. We are sons of God, in Christ Jesus. Our sinful nature has no chance against him.
It is, in fact, true that nothing Satan, the world, or our sinful flesh can conjure up is stronger than the Resurrection One. We are to look at all that happens around us, the violence, the hate for him, the agendas of those who have both feet in the world and put our faith in Jesus. We are closer today than yesterday to his coming again in victory. We can see the signs all around us. We see then and rejoice because his justice is coming soon. When we face these fearful things, we say with him, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus.” Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

No comments: