Pentecost 9 August 2, 2020
Habakkuk 1:2-6, 2:2-4
2 Timothy 1:3-14
5, 370, 396, 50
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen. +
O LORD, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, “Violence!” And You will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, And cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; There is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless, And justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgment proceeds.
“Look among the nations and watch— Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days Which you would not believe, though it were told you. 6 For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, A bitter and hasty nation Which marches through the breadth of the earth, To possess dwelling places that are not theirs. …
Then the LORD answered me and said: “Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry. “Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.
Are you a type of person who wants to be in control? Do you have to have the remote in your hand at all times so you can decide what everyone else is going to watch on TV? Do you have to be the one behind the wheel so you can control how the car drives and where it drives?
Although some of us are “control freaks,” in a larger and more serious sense, we need to know that the LORD is in control. We need to know that the LORD has our daily lives, as well as our salvation, well in hand. But this takes faith. The Bible says believers walk by faith not by sight. It says that faith is being certain of what we do not see. Our eyes may tell us everything is falling apart, but faith tells us just the opposite. Let’s explore our inspired text from Habakkuk today with the prayer that we learn better to view our lives through the eyeglasses of faith. Our theme today is “FAITH KNOWS GOD IS IN CONTROL.” We’ll consider how 1. He’s in Control of the “Here and Now” and 2. He’s in Control of the “Hereafter.”
Habakkuk lived about six hundred years before Christ. He was a prophet to the nation of Judah. And if you look at the first paragraph of our text, you find that life in his day wasn’t much different from today. Violence, injustice, conflict were the norm just like now. The headlines in Habakkuk’s day would read much like those in our day. They would tell of the rich exploiting the poor, of corruption in government, and of people literally getting away with murder. If we could look into the homes of Judah’s people, we would see very few parents raising their children to know the LORD God.
Habakkuk’s basic question upon seeing all this evil is: “Who’s in control?” “O LORD, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ And You will not save …”
There are times when we wonder the same thing: “Lord, how long will You let things go on like this? You are a God of holiness, and yet you allow sin and evil to run rampant! Don’t you think you should do something, Lord?”
Sometimes our questioning is more on a personal level. “Don’t You see how my life is falling apart LORD? Can’t you do something to relieve my pain and suffering? LORD, are you really in control?”
What does the LORD say in response to Habakkuk’s complaint? His answer is perhaps as startling as it is simple. He says: “… the righteous will live by his faith.” The believer in Christ lives his life by faith. We may cry out, “LORD, evil is out of control. Aren’t you going to do something about it?” Or, “God, my life is unraveling at the seams. Aren’t you going to help?” But the LORD answers, “I want you to live by faith. Don’t go by what you see. Just trust me. I love you, and I’ve got it under control.”
Today, God wants you to know, first of all, that He has the “Here and Now” under control. And He wants you to understand that the way He’s controlling what happens in the world or in your personal life is a lot different than you’d probably control it. That’s where faith comes in. Faith knows and trusts that God’s way is always the better way, the best way.
The LORD certainly controlled the situation in Habakkuk’s day a lot differently than Habakkuk would have. In response to Habakkuk’s questioning God’s control, the LORD gives Habakkuk a vision and tells Habakkuk to write it down on a tablet. He is to write it “so that he may run who reads it.” Habakkuk was to write it in large enough print so that it would get the attention of people rushing by. In our day we’d say that Habakkuk was to put it on a billboard so that everyone driving 70 miles per hour on the interstate couldn’t miss the message.
What was the message? The message is that the Chaldeans were going to come and wipe out Judah and its people. That was God’s answer to Habakkuk’s question about what God was going to do about all the evil and chaos. That was God’s answer to the prophet’s perplexity about whether or not God was in control. A foreign invader will come and ransack Judah. The LORD says: “For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, A bitter and hasty nation Which marches through the breadth of the earth, To possess dwelling places that are not theirs.”
Now, in hindsight, we can see the wisdom of God’s plan. Judah was on the fast track toward spiritual destruction. If things stayed the way they were, pretty soon there wouldn’t be anybody left in Judah who trusted in the LORD, who was looking forward to the Savior’s coming. God had to take drastic action, had to use tough love, in order to bring His people to repentance so that there would be at least some people waiting for Christ when he finally arrived 600 years later. Yet for Habakkuk, and the other believers of that day, the LORD’s vision took faith to accept.
The righteous shall live by faith! Faith says we’ll never go wrong when we look to Christ and Scripture. Faith clings to every promise of Scripture, though all reason and sense tells us it can’t be so. When we hear about those ugly things on the news, and see so many problems in our own lives, faith says, “Despite what I see, God is in control!”
However, to keep looking at everything with faith, we need to keep looking into our Bibles. The Bible is a history of how God never once failed His people, of how His Words always held true, even in the face of seemingly impossible situations.
Faith knows that God is in control of the here and now. But faith also knows that God is in control of the hereafter. Nearly seven hundred years after Habakkuk, the Apostle Paul quoted our theme passage in his letter to the Romans. There he brought its fuller meaning to light. With it he spelled out the greatest truth in all of Scripture. In Romans we read: “In the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” (Romans 1:17)
St. Paul shows how these words—“the righteous will live by faith”—not only apply to our life in the “here and now,” but they also explain how a person is saved. On the Last Day all must stand before God Almighty, the holy and righteous judge of all. That can be a scary thought. I mean, what are you going to tell God? Have you thought about that lately? Are you going to tell him that you’ve lived the holy and sinless life His Law demands? Could any of us honestly look him in the eye and say that? Are we going to say that the good we did in this life outweighed the bad? Is that really even true? Even if it was, do we really think that’s good enough? Well, it’s not. The Bible says: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” (Galatians 3:10)
The disintegration of society, the problems in our own lives, are nothing compared to the horror of hell. But the righteous shall live by faith! Faith knows that God took control of what will happen to you after you die, of what will happen when you enter the hereafter.
On May 21, 1946 scientist Louis Slotin was working on an experiment in Los Alamos, NM. He was trying to determine the amount of Uranium-235 necessary for a chain reaction—what is known as the critical mass. The experiment involved pushing to hemispheres of uranium together, then pushing them apart with a screwdriver at the moment the mass became critical, thus instantly stopping the chain reaction. But on that day, just when the mass became critical, the screwdriver slipped. Instantly the room was filled with a dazzling blue-ish light. Louis Slotin could have ducked and possibly saved his own life. Instead he took control of the situation by tearing the two hemispheres apart with his bare hands, thus putting a stop to the chain reaction. His quick thinking saved the lives of the other seven people in the room, but nine days later he died in agony.
Twenty centuries ago, the Son of God walked directly into sin’s most concentrated radiation. Christ didn’t duck. On the cross He took the full curse of the world’s sins. He took control of death and hell for you and me and all people. In so doing, He broke the chain reaction. He broke the power of sin over our lives.
How shall we then live? By thinking we have to generate our own bravery? Fight our own fears? Atone for our own sins? Face our deaths by ourselves? No way! That approach to life is downright scary. The righteous shall live by faith! As God’s child you can live everyday trusting that the LORD is in complete control over what will happen to you in the here and now and the hereafter.
Oh … But what if your faith isn’t very strong? Well, remember a diamond is still a diamond whether held by a strong and confident hand, or by a weak and wavering hand. Christ is still in control over your daily life and eternal life, whether you find yourself plagued by doubts or not. More than that, His Word is there to build you up in confident faith, so that you can live, more and more, in the peace of His loving control. AMEN!
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.