Sermon on Habakkuk 1:1-3, 2:1-4
Text: The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.
2 How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? 3 Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.
2:1 I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.
2 Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. 3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.
4 “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright — but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.”
Anyone who has ever had their vehicle break down on the side of the road knows how frustrating it can be. You do what you can to try to fix it, but it doesn’t work. You end up having to call someone to come and help you. Then, you can do nothing but wait for help to come. If you are farther away from home, you have to wait for a long time. The minutes drag past. You hope that the next vehicle you see is the one who is coming to rescue you. You wait and wait. Finally, your help arrives. You are rescued. In our text, Habakkuk was also waiting for a rescue from what he was experiencing. As we study his situation, we can also identify with what he was going through. This morning, we are encouraged to WAIT FOR THE LORD’S DELIVERANCE 1. In The Face Of Evil and 2. In The Assurance Of God’s Promise.
Habakkuk was called to serve in the latter days of the Kingdom of Judah. To say the least, conditions were less than ideal. Listen to the description of some of the activities of one of the kings, King Manasseh: “He sacrificed his children in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced divination and witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, arousing his anger . . . Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites.” (2 Chronicles 33:6,9) As if that description isn’t bad enough, listen to the description of the activities of King Jehoiakim, who was in power when Habakkuk did his prophesying: “These things happened to Judah according to the LORD’s command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the LORD was not willing to forgive.”(2 Kings 21:3&4) During the reign of Jehoiakim, Jeremiah and other prophets were put to death. One can hardly imagine a worse situation for the nation of Judah.
It is no wonder that Habakkuk asked these questions of the LORD: “How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.” (1:2&3) These were supposed to be God’s people. They surely weren’t acting like it. These kings were supposed to be leading and protecting the people. They were doing the exact opposite. Habakkuk had a difficult time understanding why God, who revealed himself as a just and holy God, allowed so much violence, destruction, and strife to be carried out among the people who bore his name. When Habakkuk prayed about it, it seemed that the Lord wasn’t listening.
Can you relate to Habakkuk’s frustration? When you look at the world in which we live, it seems as though there is evil all around us. From our limited human perspective, it seems as though God is not in control of all things, any more. We live in a world that is marred by destruction, violence, and strife. Sometimes the governments in the world, who are supposed to be God’s representatives on this earth, abuse their positions of authority to promote wickedness rather than uphold justice. There are escalating murder rates and injustice in the courtrooms. Abortions and euthanasia are no longer things that are kept in backrooms. When missionaries go into foreign lands to spread the gospel, they have to be recalled because of the threat to their safety
We can even get more personal than that. Are there things going on in your life that you just can’t understand why they are happening to you? Is there some sort of financial frustration that you keep running into? Is there family strife that, no matter how hard you try, it never seems to be resolved? Has illness or injury entered your life or the life of someone close to you? We get frustrated, not only by the things that we are going through, but also by the seeming lack of concern by God. We pray and pray about it, but nothing seems to be happening. It’s interesting to note that this same thought is echoed by the martyrs in heaven in Revelation 6:10. There we hear them cry out, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”. They remember the violence which took their lives and are asking God what he was going to do about it. It’s hard to be patient when we are faced with evil.
After these verses, God told Habakkuk that he was going to take care of the problem that Habakkuk was complaining about. However, it wouldn’t be in the way that Habakkuk was thinking it would happen. God was going to send the Babylonians into the land. Those wicked leaders would all be taken from power. The violence that Habakkuk saw would all end, as the people were conquered and taken away in exile. Habakkuk wasn’t so sure that this was the answer to the problems that he was describing. So, he says, “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.” (2:1)
Then, the LORD gives his answer. He said, “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.” (2:2) He had a message that he wanted to be shared with the people of Judah. He was going to give an answer to Habakkuk’s complaint.
The LORD said, “For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” (2:3) In other words, God’s answer might not seem to come right away, at least according to Habakkuk’s standards. God told Habakkuk to wait and he would see that God would take care of the situation that plagued Habakkuk’s mind. In verse 4, God said, “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright — but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.” (2:4) In essence, God is telling Habakkuk that he was right when he spoke about the savagery and arrogance of the Babylonians. They were bad people. However, God was going to use them for his purpose. He was going to punish the people of Judah for their continued sinfulness through the invasion and exile by the Babylonians. However, God would also hold true to his promises of love, as well. At the end of seventy years, the people would be allowed to come back to the land. More than that, there was the greater promise of a Savior. If the Jewish people had been swallowed up and never heard from again, God’s gracious promise of a Savior would not happen. Even if it didn’t seem that way right now and in the near future, in his good time, God would bring deliverance for his people.
This is why God adds at the end of the verse, “The righteous person will live by his faith.” God tells Habakkuk to hold on to the promises that he has made to him. Live by the faith in the promises that he has heard. God told Habakkuk to wait patiently for the fulfillment of his promises.
God tells us the same thing. He tells us that, in his good time and in his good way, he will deliver us from all this is so frustrating for us during our lives. That is a huge promise that he has made to us. How do we know that we can trust that he will do what he said? The answer is seen in the person of Jesus Christ. God saw that all of humanity had fallen into sin. He saw your sins and my sins, including those times that we have doubted that God really loves us and is really concerned about us. He saw the lack of faith that we, at times, display. God also saw that there was no way that we could ever have paid the debt that we owed him, because of these sins. So, he took care of our greatest problem. God sent his Son into the world to take away our sins. Jesus lived the perfect life that we never could. God has credited that perfect life to our account. To pay the debt of sin that we owed, Jesus went to the cross. He was punished in our place. Our debt has been forgiven. In victory, Jesus rose from the grave. The Holy Spirit has been sent into our hearts to create the faith that makes the results of Christ’s work our own. You are forgiven. Heaven is waiting for you. God has taken care of your greatest problem. Since, he has done this, you can be sure that he will take care of all of our other problems, as well.
It is worth noting that God will not always take care of our problems in the way that we think that they should be. Remember God’s answer to Habakkuk’s complaint about all of the evil that he was witnessing? It wasn’t that God got rid of the evil by having a complete change of heart by the rulers and others. He sent the Babylonians. It may be that God will not take of things in the manner in which we prescribe. He may have a completely different way, and it may not always be easy for us. God’s way of dealing with our problems might be downright difficult for us. However, we have God’s promises that he will always help us. We have to be patient when God is bringing about his deliverance. As we pray for that help, may God give us patience, as he tells us, “Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” May we be the ones who are described as the righteous person living by our faith.
Patience is one of the hardest things to have. We are so used to having what we want right away. If we order something on line, we can get same day or next day delivery. We set up alerts so that we know exactly when our package is going to come. If, for some reason, our package gets delayed, we get really annoyed. They said it would be here tomorrow! May God fill us with patience as we go through life. There is no doubt that there will be hard times. We see evil all around us. We may find ourselves getting impatient waiting for the answers. Dear friend, patiently wait for the Lord to deliver you. He will deliver you from your troubles in various ways while you are here on the earth. He will finally deliver you from all of them when he brings you into the peace of heaven. Patiently wait for the Lord’s deliverance. May we take to heart the words of King Solomon, who said, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) Amen.
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