Christ the King Sunday – A day of deliverance which God’s people eagerly await
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Live By Faith
Don’t you see this? One of the most amazing toys a child can get is legos. There is something about legos that just captures a child’s imagination. But, as amazing as they are, those legos are also a curse. To the dad who is walking through the living room in the middle of the night, there are few things more painful than stepping on a lego with bare feet. And the next morning the mom or dad says to the child that left the legos out there on the ground, “Don’t you see those legos just sitting there?’” When I was a child I quickly learned that that question was a trick question. In my own brain I thought to myself, “Sure I see them there. I left them there so that I could come back and play with them the next day.” But that’s not what my parents meant by the question. When they said, “Don’t you see this,’”, what they meant was, “aren’t you going to do something about this problem?’” This morning we focus in on one of the last prophets in the Old Testament. And, as he begins his prophecy, he asks this sort of question, but not as a dad speaking to his children. Instead, he asks this question, “Don’t you see this”, of his Lord above. “1 The pronouncement that the prophet Habakkuk saw. 2 How long, Lord, must I call for help and you do not listen or cry out to you about violence and you do not save? 3 Why do you force me to look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Oppression and violence are right in front of me. Strife is ongoing, and conflict escalates.” (Hab. 1:1–3 CSB17)
Don’t you see this? That was the question Habakkuk asked the Lord. Habakkuk’s life was like walking through and over a scattered mess of legos every day. But it was worse. There was destruction out there in the world. Wicked kingdoms were conquering the world. And no one was there to stop them. Within their kingdom there were divisions. People would lie, gossip, and slander against each other. And because of all of this, there was deprivation. Those who were weak were being neglected. And Habakkuk told his Lord, “why do you make me look at this?”1 And with that question was the clear prayer and plea: “Won’t you do something about this?’”
And what Habakkuk proclaims hundreds of years ago still rings true today. As we live in this world, what is shocking to us is how much destruction, division, and depriving that happens. And the shock is not just that happens, but that it keeps happening, again and again, over years and decades. I’ve been preaching for about 20 years. And in the early days of my ministry, I remember getting serious push-back because I preached what the bible clearly taught, that marriage is for one man and one women. Now I get pushback by even saying that there is such a thing as a male and a female. And when this goes on, year after year, decade after decade, you begin to speak and pray as Habakkuk: “Why do you make me look at this?” Notice then the Lord’s response to both Habakkuk and us: “5 Look at the nations and observe— be utterly astounded! For I am doing something in your days that you will not believe when you hear about it. 6 Look! I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter, impetuous nation that marches across the earth’s open spaces to seize territories not its own.” (Hab. 1:5–6 CSB17)
Don’t you see this? That’s what Habakkuk says to the Lord. Then notice the direction that Habakkuk goes in. He anticipates and waits for the Lord’s solution to the problem. I remember when I was a child in school, and we had a PE teacher, that when it was time for us to go out for recess, he would ask the question, “Are you ready?” Then, when we said, “yes,” he would say, “Are you really ready?” And this would go on for a while. And years later I understood why he did this. He wanted us to be fully aware and move forward with full appreciation.
And what was it that the Lord wanted Habakkuk to fully see and know? The solution to the problem of destruction, division, and deprivation, was the Babylonians.2 And you have to put yourself in Habakkuk’s shoes. The Babylonians were not the solution. They were the problem. They were a godless, violent people. It’s like today, saying that the savior of democracy will be communist Russia. And this teaches us a very important truth: God is smarter and wiser than we are. As one of my professors said long ago at the Seminary: God very often uses one bad guy to punish another bad guy. The Israelites had become a wicked people. So the Lord used an even more wicked people to punish them. The Lord is smarter and wiser than we are. But notice how these words conclude: “1 I will stand at my guard post and station myself on the lookout tower. I will watch to see what he will say to me and what I should reply about my complaint. 2 The Lord answered me: Write down this vision; clearly inscribe it on tablets so one may easily read it. 3 For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it testifies about the end and will not lie. Though it delays, wait for it, since it will certainly come and not be late. 4 Look, his ego is inflated; he is without integrity. But the righteous one will live by his faith.” (Hab. 2:1–4 CSB17)
Habakkuk patiently waits for the Lord to answer his prayer. And what is the answer? It has two parts. First, the Lord states the fact that “he” is filled with pride. The “he” here is speaking about the Babylonians. But, the same could be said about anyone who does not repent and is filled with pride. God sees all those who do not repent. And we have the promise that in his own time and in his own way, he will deal with them.
But, what’s so fascinating about these words is the ‘mind your own business’ tone they have to them. Who is the one whose responsibility it is to manage the destruction, division, and deprivation in the world? Is it yours? No, it’s the Lord’s. And these words speak a very important truth to us today. What good is it, if when you walk through your house at night and you step on that lego, and you focus so much on that pain that you lose awareness of what is around you? You hop on one foot around the corner and then fall down the stairs. There is nothing wrong with bringing the destruction, division, and deprivation out there in the world to our Lord’s face and eyes. But what good is that if Judgment Day comes, and we are so busy pining over the evil out there in the world, that Judgment Day comes, and we aren’t ready? With repentance in our hearts then, our ears can be aware enough to take in these final words.
In the final few words the Lord says that the righteous will live by faith. And each of those words deserves some time. Who are the righteous? The righteous are those who wear Christ’s righteousness on the Last Day, not our own. Second, there is the word, live. In this context, living, means both to get through this life and get to eternal life. And finally, we have the answer to the word, “how.” How is it that we who are declared righteous get through this life and get to eternal life? It’s by faith. Through this amazing gift of confidence and trust that our good and gracious Lord gave to us, we are able to trust that he will contain the evil out there. Did your vote count? Did it make a difference? Are all the problems of the world solved now after this election we had a few days ago? The destruction, division, and deprivation still happens. But, if your hearts waver in fear, my dear friends in Christ, ask yourself this question: When was the last time you had nightmares about the Chaldeans? In Habakkuk’s day they did. But the Lord ended the Chaldeans. And so the same is true today. The Lord will contain the evil out there. But even more important, our Lord also crucifies the sin in our hearts. Day by day, just as Christ was crucified on the cross, so also we are crucified too. Each of our sins of complaining without hope or focusing in on the problem of sin out there so much that we aren’t aware of the promises—all of those sins are paid for and crucified there along with Jesus on the cross. And with that we are given every confidence and boldness to live by faith. We recognize and rejoice that, at any time, Jesus could come and rescue us from this present evil age. Amen.
1 ”תַרְאֵ֤נִי“ (Hab. 1:3 HMT-W4)
2 ”הַכַּשְׂדִּ֔ים“ (Hab. 1:6 HMT-W4)