For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life
Habakkuk 1:2-5, 3:17-19
Let us pray:
Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen
Scripture is unflinching in its descriptions and tellings of people:
People have questioned, yelled at God, misunderstood God and disobeyed God and all of those things are laid out…for us to know that they happen, that God is not afraid of our questions or fist-shaking – but instead stands ready to remind us that we are not forsaken. Some of these have abandoned God completely. God tells those stories, reminding us that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” really knows God’s love, but also showing time and time again that hearts whose intention is to turn to God are able to do so, because God stands ready and willing with forgiveness and welcome. I think of Peter
Habakkuk’s prophetic book is a good one because there are several things happening in here that show us what a relationship with God looks like:
First, Habakkuk is lamenting the lack of justice in Judah (where he lives). Judah’s leaders have wandered far from God and things are not right. He stands up and looks around and sees people being mistreated and abused and he hates it. He has a complaint. It is not about him, specifically, but it is about what is happening in the world around him. And we know about this complaint because Habakkuk takes it right to the very throne of God and says: Hey – What the heck God? How long are you going to let this keep happening? Why aren’t you listening? What exactly ARE you doing? Habakkuk lays out his complaint before God. And he does not hold back anymore than he would if he was making this complaint to his neighbor or his friends.
Second, God answers him. It’s not an entirely satisfactory answer – but God doesn’t hesitate to give him some information about how the wicked will be brought to justice – again, by virtue of other wicked peoples (in this case the Babylonians). Judah will be overrun by the Babylonians, and this will end the current oppression. Remember that God always hears and God is big enough to handle any of our doubts, our fears, our challenges. God doesn’t berate Habakkuk for asking – instead God provides an answer that says the evil hasn’t gone unnoticed and that God is working.
Third, Habakkuk doesn’t stop there. He continues his complaining. We didn’t read it this morning as part of our text, but he basically asks why God will let the Babylonians prosper – they are wicked, too! Habakkuk says he’s heard lots of great things about who God is and about what God has done, but he cannot figure out why God is not just fixing ALL the evil right now and right away in a way that will end it once and for all.
It’s a difficult problem. It’s one that everyone who thinks very long about faith in God wrestles with and the reality is that understanding who God IS helps us understand what God DOES – when we know that God operates from a place of perfect love and gives us the opportunity to choose that love over evil, then we know that the evil that happens in the world is permitted only to the extent that God allows each person to make their own choices – and those who choose other than love and kindness or selfishness over selflessness – those choices will ALWAYS look like evil. But God has FINALLY abolished evil and death (which is usually the end result of all evil acts) in the person of Jesus and in the act of the resurrection.
God has moved to act against evil. God has poured out the Spirit and made it possible for those who follow Jesus to do differently, to live differently, to love completely – but even as we live in the time where we can make peace and live graciously, we, too, struggle with what we see and what we hear and what we know about what is happening around us.
And that’s where our final connection to Habakkuk can come in – he has heard God tell him to wait it out, that the new thing he is going to do is going to be amazing and miraculous, and that even the Babylonians will not finally be permanent – in fact, evil does not ever prevail forever. And Habakkuk, even in his questions, proclaims that he will never stop praising God – no matter what happens, because God has proven faithful. Listen again to Habakkuk’s words in chapter 3: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, thought there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength,”
Habakkuk recognizes that God has not left them alone. That even if starvation seems imminent, even if it looks as though all is lost, God is trustworthy and faithful and he can be joyful, resting in God’s strength, even as his own is failing.
By the way, please note that Habakkuk does not anticipate that God will fix his problem – rather, because God has answered him and promised ultimately that the evil around him will be addressed, Habakkuk knows that God is paying attention and sees what is happening. God is working, Habakkuk just can’t always see it and in the meantime, he can know that God’s hand will prevail.
We, too, live in a place where we can’t always see God’s action in the ways and times we would like. Still – we can rest in God’s faithfulness. We know that God is at work and that God is paying attention.
We know that death has been overcome. We know that Jesus is alive. We know that Jesus is the person whose life and death proclaim over and over that sin and evil and bad are not going to win. Jesus taught us that WE are part of the fight against them – when we live lives that reflect what Christ taught – when we love our neighbor, when we treat others kindly, when we give instead of take, when we do not seek revenge, when we pray, when we feed, when we clothe, when we ACT – we are agents of good who are far more effective than any DC or Marvel superhero ever concocted by a comic book writer. We have the power, in Christ, to actually impact the people around us for the good. That’s the new thing that God has done, part of what God promised Habakkuk, part of what Habakkuk and all of the Old Testament witnesses were waiting for: the promise of the living Christ working and moving in each of us to love the world and conquer evil where ever we find it in our world today.
Did you know you were a superhero in cognito? Well, you are. Love your neighbor today and use your power.
As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:
What does it mean to say God loves?
God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.
God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.
God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.
God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption
God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing
God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.
God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.
God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.
God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.
God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.
God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.
God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.
For God so loved the world…
God loves you.
God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.
God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.
God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.
So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.
God loves you. Go, love the world with him.