Summary: An outline of the Book of Habakkuk, showing how Habakkuk moves from a type of Pharisaism to an understanding of the grace of God through faith.
THE POOR OLD LADY, I THOUGHT SHE’D DIE
This morning I should like to discuss with you the Book of Habakkuk as it applies to the crime and corruption which exist in North America. In order to get us into the feeling of the Book of Habakkuk, I would like for you, for a few minutes, to think of how you would complete some statements about law and order. I shall not ask you to express your answers, but I would like you to think about them. Your answers may be serious or humorous. Here are the incomplete statements which I would ask you to complete.
There ought to be a law against .......
They ought to enforce the laws against .....
There ought to be stricter laws against .....
There ought to be much more severe punishments for the following
They ought to ban ........
Your first response may be: They ought to ban preachers like Pastor Barton who are always asking questions. And you may be serious or you may be joking. I shall warn you that I am leading you down a garden path. But don’t worry. I shall not leave you there to die. For a minute or two, think about these incomplete statements.
My sermon this morning will be an overview of the Book of Habakkuk. There will be six points to the overview and therefore six points to the sermon. Eventually I shall read the whole first chapter. I shall not spend as much time on chapters 2 and 3.
1. FIRST, WE HAVE THE OUTRAGE OF HABAKKUK, THE PROUD LEGALISTIC PHARISEE. 1:2?4
(Hab 1:2 NIV) How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or
cry out to you, "Violence!" but you do not save?
(Hab 1:3 NIV) Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.
(Hab 1:4 NIV) Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The
wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.
Let me suggest to you that Habakkuk’s outrage shows a Pharisaical spirit in at least four ways.
First, Habakkuk believes like a Pharisee that the primary solution to his nation’s problems and the primary solution to the world’s problems is found in the law of Moses. At this point Habakkuk makes no mention of faith, faith in the Messiah, faith in the covenant of promise given to Abraham. His primary concern is not for the sinner. His primary concern is not for redemption and grace. His primary concern is that sinners be punished for breaking the law. And he is suggesting that if this were done, the nation’s problems would be over. Habakkuk’s outrage could be summed up in these very un-Biblical words: "Where sin abounds, law and judgment must much more abound."
Habakkuk is like a Pharisaic legalist. Actually, Habakkuk’s primary concern is for himself. He wants everybody to obey the law so that he can live in a well?ordered society. You see, law?breakers are a bother to all of us fine, upstanding, law?abiding citizens. We have to pay for the police to catch them, the courts to convict them, and the prisons to house them once they are convicted. And if people break the law and get away with it, often our insurance rates go up. You see, when sinners get away with sin, it is perfect people as Habakkuk and we who have to suffer for their sins. Retirees who worked hard for their pension plans have to pay when the welfare system is abused. It is just not fair.
Secondly, Habakkuk is proud like the Pharisee in his relationship to God. Habakkuk thinks that God is doing a rather poor job of running the universe. Habakkuk calls God to account for not answering his prayers, for not dealing with violence, for not punishing people for breaking the law. It is obvious that Habakkuk thinks that if he had the power God has, and if he were in control of the universe, he would do a much better job than God. If God were a politician, it does not appear that He would get Habakkuk’s vote. Interestingly enough, God does not respond by saying to Habakkuk: I commissioned you as a prophet to promote justice in the country. I commanded you to teach people My Word. I commanded you to lead people in righteousness. Why are you doing such a poor job? Why are there so many problems in the land? How long will I have to put up with such ineffective prophets as you? When are you going to start doing what I told you to do? How long must I put up with such ineffective help? God is much more patient with Habakkuk than Habakkuk is with sinners.