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Dear friends and members of St. Paul's,
My guess would be that most of us have either forgotten or never knew much about the short book of Habakkuk. It is only three chapters long and it is hidden in the Old Testament between Nahum and Zephaniah. That is as close to being forgotten as any prophet can be. There was an old joke that was told about the prophet Habakkuk up in heaven greeting people and asking the question, “So, what did you think of my book?” People would just scratch their heads and think, “Who is this guy?”
Habakkuk was a prophet during a very difficult time for the people of God. The moral and spiritual fabric of their nation was being ripped and frayed under every pressure. And not only was there internal struggle, but this poor little nation had endured invasion after invasion from powerful neighbors.
Into this grim period of time, two prophetic voices cried out. One was Jeremiah, the second was Habakkuk. As far as we know, Habakkuk was never a public preacher or a professional prophet. His prophecy was much more the personal and private anguish of a man who saw what was happening around him.
Habakkuk also had an uncommon amount of frankness and courage. He was bold enough to ask God those questions which must have been in the hearts of many devout Jews at the time. Habakkuk never says a word to another person. This entire book is a conversation between God and the prophet.
The book opens with a question of frustration. “How long O Lord must I call for help but you do not listen? Or how often must I cry violence, yet you do not save?” Habakkuk wants to know why God does not do something about the terrible situation His people are in.
Have you ever felt that way? In the wake of national and international struggle with a pandemic, or when facing personal tragedy, or perhaps even when you may be waiting for something good to happen, have you too just wanted to try to wake God up to the situation? “Come on God, I’m dying here! Why don’t you do something?” Habakkuk finally said to God, “I will stand at my watch post and I wait for your answer. Habakkuk is going to stay put, until God gives him an answer.
Well the answer comes. God tells Habakkuk to write down what he sees. “Make it plain on tablets,” said the Lord, “so that a runner going by may be able to read it. But be patient. If it seems to be delayed, do not worry. The truth will come. Wait for it. It will surely come.
That command to “wait for it”, would have been tough for Habakkuk to hear. And it can be just as difficult for us to hear today. It can be difficult enough to wait when things are going well. But it can be especially difficult to wait when things are not always going well.
We do like things right now. But, God says, “Wait for it.” The appointed time will come. God wants to reassure Habakkuk, and each one of us, that our God is working and active in this world. The Lord has a steady grip on the steering wheel of history. God will not be distracted.
But we must wait. And if God’s involvement in life appears to be delayed, it is not because God does not care. God is not ignoring us. God is simply asking us to settle in for a good long journey with Him through life. In so many words God is asking us to climb on board and trust Him. Because unlike others, the righteous live by trusting God. The children of God will live by faith.
God has certain purposes in human life. And those purposes are full of love and grace even if and when we do not always understand what God is up to. We are called upon to cast ourselves on God, living in the conviction and hope that God does what is right by the world and for each one of us. We live by faith. The righteous live by faith in God.
Martin Luther, at a critical time in his own life, was profoundly influenced by Habakkuk chapter two verse 4. And then, when Luther read Paul’s quotation of this passage in Romans chapter 1, Luther is reported to have written the Latin word, “Sola” meaning “only or alone” in the margin of his Bible. Faith Alone.
The Good News for us is that Jesus was faithful even to his death on the cross. Yet God also proved to be faithful when God raised Jesus from the dead. God raised Jesus from the dead so that we too might be able, in faith, to live in hope that God will keep his promises to us. We live by faith.
It was in faith, that Habakkuk could end the words of his prophecy declaring that even though everything may go wrong, he would still exalt in the God of his salvation. Habakkuk would declare in faith, that in all things, God the Lord is my strength.
Now there will no doubt be times when most of us will question why God allows certain things to happen. But During such times, we do not retreat from God. Rather we may join with Habakkuk. Join with Jesus himself who once cried out, “My God My God why have you forsaken me?” Reach out to God in prayer. Remember the promises of your baptism. In faith you will discover a Lord and Savior who struggles with you, who reaches in and will renew you, keeping you in His mercy and grace. Your Savior will enable you to live in Him, raising you up to a new life that will be everlasting.
We are born in faith. We live by faith and we die by faith. In all things, rejoice and trust in the Lord.
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