Summary: The Prophet Habakkuk looked around and saw a world filled with violence, destruction, toleration of wickedness, injustice, strife and conflict. Where was God? Ever look at your world and wonder the same thing? Listen to the Lord's answer!
Violence, injustice, toleration of wrong, destruction, strife, conflict. Those are the words that the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk used to describe the world around him. It was about 600 BC and Habakkuk saw people who were mistreating and taking advantage of one another, people who thought that violence was the solution to conflict, a society that tolerated what God said was wrong. He saw strife in families and communities. Injustice was running rampant as people seemed to do whatever they wanted with little to no consequence. But in Habakkuk’s mind the worst part about it was that the Lord didn’t seem to be doing anything to stop. It almost seemed like God didn’t care. You heard Habakkuk’s complaint to the Lord in the opening verse, “How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” (Habakkuk 1:1). Where was the Lord in all of this? Was the Lord going to just let the wicked get away with this while the few faithful followers of the Lord suffered and struggled?
Sound familiar? Violence, injustice, toleration of wrong, destruction, strife, conflict. Ever seen that? Just look around us. Sometimes I’m almost afraid to see what headline pops up next on my phone. Another shooting at a mall or a school, a suicide bomber in a Middle Eastern market place or European airport, another city rioting and causing senseless destruction. Conflict and strife in families when parents care more about themselves than they do about their children. Toleration and pride in sin, and persecution of those who will not promote or participate in it. Don’t you ever find yourself ready to voice the same complaint to the Lord as Habakkuk did nearly 3000 years ago? Lord, where are you in all of this? Aren’t you going to do something? Are you really going to let the wicked get away with this while the seemingly few faithful followers of the Lord like us struggle and suffer?
What was the Lord’s answer to Habakkuk? “Then the Lord replied, ‘Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not be proved false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay…the righteous will live by his faith’” (Habakkuk 2:2-4). Simply put the Lord told Habakkuk three things: wait, be patient and trust me. The Lord was aware of all that was taking place and he would deal with it in his own time and in his own way. Habakkuk and his fellow believers were simply to wait, be patient and to trust the Lord – or as the Lord says to Habakkuk, “The righteous will live by his faith.” God calls his people to live by faith, that is, to trust him.
And that’s the Lord’s answer to our complaints as well. The Lord turns says to us, “Wait, be patient and trust me.” But are you satisfied with that answer? Aren’t there times when we hear the Lord’s answer and think, “That’s not good enough! Sorry, God, you’re going to have to do better than that. I need details, not just a ‘trust me.’ I need answers for why and how and when and…” Why do we have such a hard time accepting God’s simple answer of, “Wait, be patient and trust me?” I think it has a lot to do with what we heard in the other two Bible readings this morning.
Do you remember what the second lesson from Romans 6 called Christians? We are called “slaves to righteousness.” And in the final part of the gospel lesson from Luke 17 Jesus calls us “servants.” Doesn’t that make you a bit uncomfortable? A slave or a servant does not have much control. They are told by someone else what to do and they are expected to do it. We are called to serve the Lord and to do what he says is right. And when we hear that, there is a part of me that says I don’t want to be a slave or a servant. My sinful nature and humanistic ego does not want for someone else to tell me what to do, to allow someone else to be in control of my life. We would rather look at what God says in his Word and say, “God, thanks for the suggestions, but finally I’m going to do what I believe is best for me.” The Lord tells us to wait patiently and we are quick to throw up our hands and say, “Sorry, God, you’re just taking too long. I’ve got a much quicker way to get what I want.” We look at what God asks us to do and we say, “Sorry God, that’s just not going to work for me. I’ve got a better way.” The Lord’s, “Wait! Be patient! Trust me!” goes against every fiber of our human nature because it means that we’re going to allow someone else to be in control.