The 20th Sunday after Pentecost (C)
Sermon Text: Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
Peace be unto you from our Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
There are certainly many jobs that a person can have and we know that they are not all the same in terms of their degree of difficulty, safety, satisfaction, benefits and rewards, etc.
Some jobs seem better than others. We all probably have our “dream job.” But then, too, it would not be hard for any of us to fire off a list of jobs we would not like to do. There is even a television show, “Dirty Jobs,” where you can see what certain work entails and be glad that you do not have to do it.
Although it is not really a dirty, greasy, grimy job, I think most of us agree that they would not like to work in a complaint department, more likely known as “customer service.” For sure, all of us hear complaints, deal with complaints daily in one way or another, but to do that day-in and day-out, hour after hour… God bless the people who actually do this and if you are one of them, may God continue to give you patience and a kind and caring disposition! We certainly admire you.
Speaking of complaints, there is Someone who has been hearing them, dealing with them and the people uttering them far longer than any of us. In fact, He has been doing it since the beginning of time. It is the Lord our God. And of the many things for us to rejoice in, is the divine patience, kindness, caring, mercy and grace which the Lord has for His people… that which He shows toward you… and me.
You can divide complaints into two camps… those that are legitimate and warranted and those that are not.
Likewise, you can divide complainants into two camps… those who are making a legitimate point regarding a situation and those who are… well… just whining for whining sake. Do you know of any whiners in your life? (And stop looking at people around you!)
Around 605 BC, things were not going well for the people of Israel. I know, quite a shock! Following the wonderful reign of King Josiah, they are now under the oppressive rule of King Jehoiakim. Things were tough. Life was tough and the Prophet Habakkuk speaks out saying,
“O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:2-4)
It was not good and in many and various ways, my friends, we can relate to this, relate to Habakkuk. We, too, become frustrated with life… frustrated and bothered by some aspect of our life and we wonder where is God in all of this? Does He hear me? Why doesn’t He do something? Why doesn’t He help me or help my loved one… help those I care about?
Likewise, as with Habakkuk, so with us… there is certainly “destruction and violence… strife and contention” in our lives as well.
We, too, wonder and become disgusted about the application of the law, both in the civil realm as well as in the church… that it is likewise “paralyzed” and that “justice never goes forth.”
We, too, feel surrounded by the wicked to the point that we do not want to hear the news, watch or read the news regarding what is happening in our community, state, nation and world. It can become very unsettling.
And just like Habakkuk, we should bring this to the Lord our God in prayer and supplication. All that weighs heavy upon us.
We, too, should leave all of this at the foot of the cross including our complaints as we pour out our very souls to the Lord.
Keep in mind that the definition of “complaint” includes simply expressing dissatisfaction over a state of affairs or an event. It includes sharing that we our suffering in some way. It includes stating a grievance, lamenting over things which truly bother and upset us.
Please… take these things all to the Lord in prayer. God’s people have been doing this for century upon century. Remember that many of the Psalms… the first hymnbook and prayer book of God’s people… are songs of lamenting, the bringing forth of complaints and concerns over what is happening, be it in the life of an individual or in the lives of God’s people.
The message is clear… lay it before the Lord… whatever it is. And do not let Satan play mind games with you where he would talk you out of coming to the Lord with this or that saying it is too small of an issue or too large of one… that it is inappropriate or inconsequential… or that it is too late, too far gone. It is all a lie from the “Father of all lies.”
I love where in the New Testament our Lord Jesus tells us,
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
He is saying this to you… to me… to all people. Christ’s arms are wide open to receive us… to calm our trembling, to free us from our frustrations, our pain and sorrow.
In a very interesting way, Habakkuk served as a type of Christ. His name literally means “embracer” … one who takes someone into their arms. And that is exactly what this servant of the Lord did with the people entrusted to his care. He embraced and encouraged them in the face of difficulty and hard times.
In a far greater way, Christ is our “embracer” as you and I rest securely in hands still bearing the marks of nails.
You will notice that our Old Testament text is actually broken up into two sections, the first is found in chapter one where Habakkuk pours out his soul to the Lord. Then we have in chapter two God’s answer to him. It is, in effect, His answer to all of us… to each and every complaint, concern or worry we may have.
The Lord God speaks here of the “vision” which He gives to His people and in fact, has given to them beginning with Adam and Eve after the Fall. It is the vision of their salvation, our salvation.
It is the vision of the end of all suffering and oppression brought about by sin.
It is the vision of the end of sin itself accomplished by the Messiah to come, through our Savior, Jesus the Christ who would come in the fullness of time… a time still beyond that of Habakkuk, but which this prophet nevertheless looked forward to.
Our text declares,
“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” (Habakkuk 2:3)
There is your answer Habakkuk, both in terms of your current situation here on earth as well as what is certainly to come. There is your answer people of Israel. There is your answer people of St. Paul’s… all of you… all of us.
As for our current situation, help and healing is here for us in Christ Jesus and infinitely more is on its way. It is coming. Wait for it. Whatever we face in this world, whatever assistance we need, whatever rescuing and defending, whatever end to something, victory over something… it is coming. God has said so and it will come about.
“If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay” thus saith the Lord.
And how blessed we are my friends. Keep in mind Habakkuk and all of the faithful in the Old Testament were told to keep their eyes on what would come in time… yes, both their temporal freedom from oppression, but far more than that… their eternal freedom in Christ Jesus.
For us, Christ has come. The manger… the cross… and the empty tomb are real. They happened. It happened.
And so it is that we continue to look back to this point in time, back to the cross and what our Savior did… as we also look forward in time and what our Savior has promised yet to do… in what is yet to come… namely the victory over what may beset us and grieve us during our earthly sojourn and the fullness of our salvation which we will enjoy so very soon in heaven.
Remember… just as with Habakkuk and the saints of old… so with us and all who may come after us… “the righteous shall live by faith.” In that faith, we continue on. We heed our Lord’s Words, “Wait for it.” It’s coming. He is coming. Take heart. Indeed take comfort in all that the Lord shares with you here and throughout Holy Scripture… and be at peace… true peace.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“Wait for It”
10/2/16 The Rev. Mark H. Hein
St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL