The End of Injustice
051-00751 Habakkuk 1:1-11
I. During the Revolutionary War, a loyalist spy appeared at the headquarters of Hessian commander Colonel Johann Rall, carrying an urgent message. General George Washington and his Continental army had secretly crossed the Delaware River that morning and were advancing on Trenton, New Jersey where the Hessians were encamped. The spy was denied an audience with the commander and instead wrote his message on a piece of paper. A porter took the note to the Hessian colonel, but because Rall was involved in a poker game he stuffed the unread note into his pocket. When the guards at the Hessian camp began firing their muskets in a futile attempt to stop Washington’s army, Rall was still playing cards. Without time to organize, the Hessian army was captured. The battle occurred the day after Christmas, 1776. It was our first major victory of the war.
A. I would think that the Hessian army would be a bit angered with their commander.
1. He ignored the message that would have prepared them for battle.
2. He was more interested in his card game than in the war.
B. Such apathy also seems prevalent in our world today.
1. In New York City a mailman, shot by a sniper, is ordered from a building lobby because he is dripping blood.
2. In Oklahoma City a woman gives birth unexpectedly—on a city sidewalk. Bystanders turn their faces. A taxi driver looks, then speeds away. A nearby hotel refuses a blanket.
3. In Dayton, Ohio, a dozen people see a woman drive her car into the Miami River. They watch indifferently as the woman climbs on the car’s roof and screams that she can’t swim. The woman drowns.
4. So many incidents like this have happened that the Chicago Sun-Times library now has a special file tabbed “Apathy.”
C. We may have become indifferent to the apathy all around; desensitized to it.
1. At least until we are the object of the apathy.
2. Chuck Swindol told of a friend who was a high school teacher. He was assigned to teach a course filled with students who did not want to learn. In fact, it was one of those classes where you had to arrive very early to get a back seat. A couple of boys got there so late, they were stuck on the front row. No one cared what the subject was. The teacher finally got fed up with their apathy. He grabbed a piece of chalk, whirled around to the chalkboard and began to slash away in big, foot-high letters, “A-P-A-T-H-Y!” He underlined it twice, then slammed an exclamation point on it that broke the chalk as he hammered it against the board. One of the less brilliant students up front frowned as he struggled to read the word. Unable to pronounce it, he tilted his head to one side as he started spelling it aloud then mispronounced it. Then he leaned over and muttered to his buddy, “What in the world is ‘a-paythee’?” His friend yawned back with a sigh, “Who cares?” —Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge
D. But what if the one who we believe to be apathetic, indifferent, is God?
1. Haven’t we all at one time or another felt that God was just not listening?
2. Haven’t we all wondered if God really cares?
3. And do we not get frustrated that peace on earth, good will toward humankind is just not happening?
a) Jesus was born about two thousand years ago when this was the promise he brought.
b) Why has it taken so long? What is God doing? Why does he ignore the prayers of the weak, the oppressed, the poor, and the insignificant? Why does he allow injustice, violence, war? How can he stand to see the apathy in our world?
c) This is one of the classic arguments against the existence of God: either he is injust himself, or he doesn’t care, or he is incapable of doing anything about it.
d) Such was the frustration of the prophet Habakkuk.
II. The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received. Or more accurately translated: The burden which Habakkuk the prophet saw.
A. There is good reason for the difference in translation.
1. I don’t want you to think I am changing things at my own whim.
2. Among many who translate the passage this way is John Calvin.
3. Without giving you all the boring details of a language that is long past, the word translated “oracle” comes from a word normally meaning “burden.”
4. And in every case in the Old Testament when this word appears it refers to some burdensome vision or word of a prophet.
B. Habakkuk then says a prayer to God expressing his frustration.
1. This was a private prayer. Habakkuk is justified in freely expressing the depths of his heart before God as we are told to do the same.
2. In this prayer, Habakkuk describes what the burden was that he saw.
a) It is the sad state of God’s people in Israel.
b) It is the injustice of wickedness, violence, ruin, strife, and contention.
c) It is not far from a description of our world today.
d) The only difference is that these perpetrators of injustice are God’s chosen people, God’s covenant people, God’s cherished people.
e) The closest comparisons to us are those who claim to be Christian and who cheat, steal, defraud, divide, and violate the faith of those committed to God and his order for life.
3. And the effect then, and now, of such heinous behavior is devastating.
a) The law of God is paralyzed. It has no power or meaning. So many abuses and perversions of the first and second commandments to love God and neighbor make everyone skeptics and distrustful which is the opposite of the commands.
b) Justice does not prevail. Today it is not totally gone but true justice generally surprises us and those who call for justice on behalf of all people, especially the poor and oppressed, are attacked by principles of self-interest and fear of socialism.
c) The wicked surround the righteous. In other words, the just are outnumbered and manipulated by the unjust.
4. This is the burden Habakkuk felt for himself, the people of God, and God’s own reputation and glory.
a) So Habakkuk makes his plea to God.
b) How long do the righteous have to put up with such evil?
c) How long will you shut your eyes to the injustice?
d) How long do we have to cry out to you to do something?
e) Are you listening? Do you care? Can’t you deliver us?
III. And God does give Habakkuk an answer to his prayer.
A. He does not chide Habakkuk for what we might perceive as a moment of doubt or a lack of faith.
1. He says, “Look, watch, and be amazed.”
2. Ooooo! Something’s gonna happen!
3. It’s something God’s gonna do so it must be pretty good!
4. Be patient, watch and you will be dumbfounded, flabbergasted, completely bowled over.
B. Here is what God says he’s gonna do.
1. I’m raising up the Babylonians.
a) Wait a minute! The Babylonians? These are the most feared, ruthless, powerful, violent and ungodly people in the world.
b) The Babylonians deride kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at a city’s defenses, they are so overwhelmingly powerful.
c) These guys are even worse that your own people.
d) We may be in a mess, but not that big of a mess.
2. “I told you you would be amazed.”
3. They may be a law to themselves. They may be selfish, prideful, and evil.
4. But… Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV) “…my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
5. No matter what anyone thinks, especially the Babylonians themselves, I am the sovereign of all the world; I am the king of all nations; I am control of every situation; and I’m going to have my way.
6. God does see. God does hear. God does care. And God is doing something about it.
IV. So why the delay? Why don’t we see what’s going on? Why doesn’t God give us a preview of what is to come so we don’t have to get so frustrated?
A. 2 Peter 3:9-10 (NIV) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
1. God has a purpose even in his waiting, even in his allowing evil and injustice to apparently rule the day.
2. But remember: watch and see and you will truly be astonished.
3. What appears to us as indifference and apathy; what appears to be impotence and weakness is not really what is going on.
4. God is – present tense – doing something about it even if we do not have eyes to see and ears to hear.
5. And quite frankly, even the most devout will most likely be able to see what God is doing.
B. Paul gave a sermon that refers in its conclusion to Habakkuk.
1. Acts 13:14-41 (The Message) From Perga the rest of them traveled on to Antioch in Pisidia. On the Sabbath they went to the meeting place and took their places. After the reading of the Scriptures—God’s Law and the Prophets—the president of the meeting asked them, “Friends, do you have anything you want to say? A word of encouragement, perhaps?” Paul stood up, paused and took a deep breath, then said, “Fellow Israelites and friends of God, listen. God took a special interest in our ancestors, pulled our people who were beaten down in Egyptian exile to their feet, and led them out of there in grand style. He took good care of them for nearly forty years in that godforsaken wilderness and then, having wiped out seven enemies who stood in the way, gave them the land of Canaan for their very own— a span in all of about 450 years. “Up to the time of Samuel the prophet, God provided judges to lead them. But then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul, son of Kish, out of the tribe of Ben-jamin. After Saul had ruled forty years, God removed him from office and put King David in his place, with this commendation: ‘I’ve searched the land and found this David, son of Jesse. He’s a man whose heart beats to my heart, a man who will do what I tell him.’ “From out of David’s descendants God produced a Savior for Israel, Jesus, exactly as he promised— but only after John had thoroughly alerted the people to his arrival by preparing them for a total life-change. As John was finishing up his work, he said, ‘Did you think I was the One? No, I’m not the One. But the One you’ve been waiting for all these years is just around the corner, about to appear. And I’m about to disappear.’ “Dear brothers and sisters, children of Abraham, and friends of God, this message of salvation has been precisely targeted to you. The citizens and rulers in Jerusalem didn’t recognize who he was and condemned him to death. They couldn’t find a good reason, but demanded that Pilate execute him anyway. They did just what the prophets said they would do, but had no idea they were following to the letter the script of the prophets, even though those same prophets are read every Sabbath in their meeting places. “After they had done everything the prophets said they would do, they took him down from the cross and buried him. And then God raised him from death. There is no disputing that—he appeared over and over again many times and places to those who had known him well in the Galilean years, and these same people continue to give witness that he is alive. “And we’re here today bringing you good news: the Message that what God promised the fathers has come true for the children—for us! He raised Jesus, exactly as described in the second Psalm: My Son! My very own Son! Today I celebrate you! “When he raised him from the dead, he did it for good—no going back to that rot and decay for him. That’s why Isaiah said, ‘I’ll give to all of you David’s guaranteed blessings.’ So also the psalmist’s prayer: ‘You’ll never let your Holy One see death’s rot and decay.’ “David, of course, having completed the work God set out for him, has been in the grave, dust and ashes, a long time now. But the One God raised up—no dust and ashes for him! I want you to know, my very dear friends, that it is on account of this resurrected Jesus that the forgiveness of your sins can be promised. He accomplishes, in those who believe, everything that the Law of Moses could never make good on. But everyone who believes in this raised-up Jesus is declared good and right and whole before God. “Don’t take this lightly. You don’t want the prophet’s sermon to describe you: Watch out, cynics; Look hard—watch your world fall to pieces. I’m doing something right before your eyes that you won’t believe, though it’s staring you in the face.”
2. Paul takes from Habakkuk’s vision the challenge to see what is staring us in the face.
a) It is hard to believe. It is easy to miss.
b) But those who can’t see or refuse to observe what God is doing will only see their world falling to pieces.
C. Hebrews 11:1 (The Message) The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.
1. Faith is not a confidence in what is illogical.
2. Faith is not a need to test and prove things empirically.
3. Faith is the gift of seeing what is right before our faces.
4. Faith is the assurance that no matter what we experience in this world, in our bodies, God has promised to make things right through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.
5. Faith is the guarantee of the promise of God to end injustice and to let righteousness, love, and peace reign.
V. Shout, for the blessed Jesus reigns // His word and Spirit still prevail // While angels celebrate His praise // And saints His growing glories hail