Summary: Jeremiah is called the 'prophet of doom' but his contemporary Habakkuk is 'a prophet of grace'. God IS in control; persevere in the faith.
Text: Habakkuk 3 verses 17-19
Sermon – The faith to persevere.
Habakkuk, his name probably means ‘one who embraces or clings’
lived in Judah towards the end of Josiah’s reign (640-609BC)
and his prophecies are generally dated a little before or after
the battle of Carchemish in 605
when Egyptian forces, which had earlier gone to the aid of the last Assyrian king,
were routed by the Babylonians under Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar
and were pursued as far as the Egyptian border.
Habakkuk was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah
and like Jeremiah probably lived to see the initial fulfillment of his prophecy
when Jerusalem was attacked by the Babylonians in 597BC.
The short book of Habakkuk is only 3 chapters
and is different from other prophets
in that it contains a dialogue between the prophet and God.
In the first 2 chapters Habakkuk argues with God;
he complains that God’s ways are unfathomable, if not unjust.
Habakkuk was perplexed that wickedness, strife and opposition
were rampant in Judah
and God seemed to be doing nothing about it.
Don’t we feel the same, about corrupt politicians, corrupt bankers,
policemen taking bribes,
criminals who seem to be treated lightly by the courts?
Then, when God tells the prophet that He IS preparing to do something about it
by using the ‘ruthless Babylonians’ (Hab 1:6),
Habakkuk’s perplexity only increases.
He asks himself, and God, how can God, Who is pure and holy,
use an impure and unholy force
to punish those who were supposed to be God’s chosen people?
And that is the important thing:
the Jews were supposed to believe and behave
as if they were God’s chosen people, but they didn’t,
so God intended to use a human agency against them to chastise them
and bring them to their senses,
so that they would repent and return to Him.
Jeremiah is called a ‘Prophet of doom’
because he predicted the fall of Jerusalem and the exile,
but Habakkuk is regarded as ‘ a prophet of comfort’;
not because he gave a ‘softer’ message,
but because his writings were intended to strengthen and support the people,
to prevent them from despairing of the coming of the Messiah, Christ,
however strangely or badly things may go in the short term.
He calls on the people to persevere in the faith;
not to look at circumstances
or be put off by opposition;
and not to believe the lies of the devil
that God does not know what is happening,
or worse still, that He does not care.
We live in times that are far from perfect
and if we are honest
we will confess that WE are not perfect either,
so Habakkuk prompts us to ask:
What do you and I have to do to please God?
What can you and I do to make sure we have a place in Heaven?
What do you and I have to do to get our sins forgiven?
The answer to these questions is:
You and I cannot do anything;
Why? Because you and I could never do enough.
There is nothing you or I or any other human being
could ever do which could cause us to say to God:
‘I deserve your grace; I deserve eternal life; I deserve a resurrection body’.
So what do you and I need to do or have, to please God?
The answer is ‘FAITH’.
As the writer of Hebrews put it in chapter 11 verse 6:
“Without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God”;
not just hard or difficult, but impossible!
According to the Bible, and as Martin Luther made clear in the 16th century,
like Abraham, or like any saint of God, we are justified by faith,
and only by faith, trust in the living and almighty God.
The Gospel, the good news, is that although we are sinners,
and in no way deserving a place in heaven,
because of our faith, God regards us, treats us, as righteous,
and as His children for all eternity.
We all know too well from experience that faith does not protect us from attacks,
illness, unemployment, opposition and even persecution;
in fact the more we want to be close to God,
the more the devil will throw his wicked missiles at us;
but faith sees us through them.
The Old Testament is not only Law, rules and commandments;
it also contains Gospel, the message of grace,
and in Hebrews 10:38
we get the same important message:
“The righteous shall live by faith”;
What FAITH actually is, is described in Hebrews 11:1
It is the assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction that things that cannot be seen with our physical eyes,
really do exist, like air, like wind, like love,