Habakkuk 1:12-2:4,9-14
February 5, 2017
St Paul’s Anglican Church

“The Just Shall Live by Faith”

The subject of this morning’s Old Testament Lesson is Faith…

How many of us ever met our great great grandparents? Not many, I suspect.

Yet we believe they existed and walked this earth, for you and I are here today… We believe… we trust… we have faith… that we came from their loving union and are thus shaped in some manner by their genetic makeup.

There is an expression which we have all heard: Seeing is believing. But there is much in life we cannot see… and yet we still believe…

You and I, for example, were not in Belgium on June 18, in the year of our Lord 1815 (over 200 years ago), when the French commander, Napoleon Bonaparte, lost his final battle to the Duke of Wellington – a famous battle known to us as the Battle at Waterloo. Yet we believe it happened!

You and I have never seen an atom… a proton… an electron… a neutron – yet we believe they exist by the trillions and quadrillions… and we have a healthy respect for them, for we have seen the monstrous power they can unleash!

When we board a 747 bound for Europe, a flight that extends thousands of miles across deep, frigid ocean waters, none of us can say we saw first-hand the fuel in the tanks… yet we had faith it was there!

Most people have never physically seen a bacterium… or a virus… but we all surely believe they exist…

Faith is an important aspect of everyday life.

Since God cannot be seen (for He has not a body like men) He has graciously revealed Himself to mankind at many times… and in many places… and in many ways – always with a view toward the establishment of faith in Him as a loving Father!.

In the Old Testament, He revealed Himself through the inspired Word of Moses… and the prophets… and the poets. He further instituted meaningful elements of worship – object lessons, if you will – to promote and to explain this Faith.

Six-hundred years before the coming of Jesus Christ, the Prophet Habakkuk was brought onto the scene by the LORD as “His man” in a terrible hour of national crisis and severe judgment upon His people. For they had rejected the Faith and the God Who had given the Faith… and had wandered into unparalleled apostasy. The chronicler tells us their behavior fell below that of the nations He had driven out of the Promised Land 800 years earlier…

Habakkuk carried a terribly heavy burden for the LORD…

And he asked the Almighty for divine enlightenment: ”Why are the wicked not punished for their wickedness?” God replied, telling him that swift judgment was approaching. He was raising up a fierce people known as the Chaldeans – ruthless… merciless… whose horses were swifter than leopards… who were fiercer than wolves at dusk… who laughed at fortified cities as they built earthen ramps to allow final entry… They would advance like the desert winds and gather prisoners like sand…

This then led to a second probing question – a greater quandary on the part of Habakkuk – for which he again sought divine illumination… Why? Why are you going to use the Chaldeans? How can a righteous God use such a profane – and much more wicked people – to judge and punish His Own? God replied that their proud conquerors… would in turn be judged themselves…

As Habakkuk saw the land stripped of its people… stripped of its remaining Levites and priests… stripped of its young and old… stripped of its men and women… stripped of its gold and silver… stripped of its sacred articles used in worship… the temple demolished and burned… the land lying in great ruin as the haunt of jackals… he was led by the Ancient of Days to make one of the great observations in the Bible:

The just shall live by faith.

The Hebrew word translated by the English term “faith” in chapter 2 (verse 4) e-mu-nah’ – which means firmness with the sense of stability! And this makes sense because at the root of our lives we find a basic governing presupposition! And this faith forms the firm and stable foundation for our entire world-and-life view!

As this dear prophet watched all aids to Faith disappear… evaporate… vanish… As this faithful prophet saw the tide of calamity wash away the Temple sacrifices and all associated prescribed rituals… the teaching ministry of the Levites… …indeed, the entire nation floating off into the distance with the receding Chaldean tide… he reached out and was given a great discovery by the LORD:

The just shall live by faith.

I once read the account of a man imprisoned in the death camps of Germany over seventy years ago. And I remind you that not all who perished were exclusively Jews… Among their number were also many Christians…

This man’s parents… his brother… his wife… were sent to the death camps and to the gas chambers…

He never knew from one moment to the next if his path would lead to the ovens… or if he would be amongst the “saved” who would be forced to shovel the ashes of the ill-fated… One day, he was placed in solitude – in humiliating nakedness – and he discovered that all he had left upon this earth was his faith in God

The just shall live by faith.

Faith is everything! Jesus often told those He healed, “Your faith hath made you whole.” That is something worth considering! And to the Twelve, He asked, “Where is your faith?”

The just shall live by faith.

We now complete the Epiphany Season and leave the Magi behind… moving into Pre-Lent. And we are given to understand that Faith was perhaps their greatest assets!

What else would have impelled them upon seeing a strange star in the heavens to leave everything behind and embark on a thousand-mile journey to find a Newborn King? Faith moves mountains!

True Faith always finds Christ! Faith emulates Christ! Faith serves Christ!

The just shall live by faith.

World without end… Amen.

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