Meaningful Life in Mean Days

See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright-but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.

–Habakkuk 2:4 NIV 

 

Sunday we continued in the series in Habakkuk “Meaningful Life in Mean Days.” Clouded with the storm debris of sin and brokenness, this world can be a difficult place to live. Regularly we are stung by the bite of our own disobedience. Arising from the depths of sick hearts, we pull from our Lord’s reign bearing the pain of the strain. We see sin and its results pillage humanity. Violence in once safe streets, unthinkable atrocities overseas, divorces, abortions, cancer, car accidents…blech. This world heaves with brokenness. Yearning becomes honesty’s expression. How can this be? Cavernous hearts reverberate “This ought not be!” testifying of eternity. We know, in some creased crevice of the soul, what could be. Imagining a life free of the storm falls well within human imagination, or at least we like to think it does. We know because it was once true. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31a) This is God’s world, God’s work, in God’s universe. He, the Holy and Righteous One, has Creator-rights here and everywhere. He does all things well. God made this world and everything in it good.
 
So what happened? Sin.
 
We find ourselves in tension between God’s perfect promises and the stinking spoilage of this world. Habakkuk stood there too. He cried out at the godlessness of God’s people in chapter 1. God answered with Babylonian judgment. An answer that just perplexed the poor prophet further! The armies of Babylon would only exacerbate the rancid context of the kingdom of Judah near the end of the 7th century B.C. If Habakkuk could not put hope in improving circumstances, where then could he look? How could he and we live in such mean days?
 
First, only God’s truth can bear the brunt. There is no truth without God, and only with Him can one make any sense of the world. God’s reply to Habakkuk in chapter 2 begins with “revelation” (NIV) or “vision” (ESV). To face the stormy tension a bedrock foundation is necessary. Without truth, the storm prevails. Without maturity in God’s revealed truth one becomes “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” (Eph. 4:14 NIV) Disregarding what God says lifts the anchor of faith and wisdom, which clings to Christ, and subjects us to the pounding, plundering waves of nihilism, relativism, and fatalism. God, as creator, tells us the why and how of this world. This world exists by His will for His glory. We are meant to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism 1:1) Even our fallen world cannot be dislodged from His identification and purpose. God’s revealing of truth in creation and redemption is reliable because He
gives it to us. Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” God’s word to and through Habakkuk is trustworthy because He is God.
 
Second, when God promises, He promises Himself. The Triune God revealed in Scripture is not an aloof deity who orchestrates the events of earth as a giant IBM supercomputer. Instead, “he is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:27b NIV) There is a definitive connection between God’s word and God Himself. Because of God’s character He cannot lie. His communication is always trustworthy and true, consequently when He promises to His people He doesn’t just promise action, He promises Himself. In Habakkuk 2:3 reads, “For the revelation awaits an appointed time it speaks of the end and will not prove false though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” The ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint (LXX), uses the masculine pronoun instead of the neuter which makes verse 3 read “though he linger, wait for him; he will certainly come and will not delay.” This reading is picked up by the writer of Hebrews in chapter 10 verse 37, “For, ‘in just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.’” God’s promise to Habakkuk and to all of His people in this broken world in all ages isn’t just that acts and events will come, but that He Himself will come! This is seen in the extravagant, loving incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has not left us bound in this dark world, He has come to rescue and redeem!
 
Third and finally, living in mean days requires faith. Famously, Hebrews 11:1 defines faith, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Faith is inherently future-oriented (“what we hope for”), and not based upon observable evidence or context (“about what we do not see”). Faith provides the necessary “in spite of” to press through the haze of this sinful world. More than that though faith operates uniquely in both conversion and the Christian life. Faith coupled with repentance (turning from sin) comprises conversion. Repentance is the negative (moving away from sin), and faith is the positive (moving toward Jesus Christ). Both are necessary and important. So important that the first words of Jesus’ earthly ministry centered on these elements: “’The time has come,’ he [Jesus] said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’” (Mark 1:15 NIV) To be righteous before God means that God considers us legally in right standing. This is a position that we, as sinners (breakers of God’s law), cannot attain by our good works. We are made or declared righteous by faith alone in Jesus alone. This is such good news!! By trusting in Jesus, who He is and what He has done. God counts us righteous in Him. We are given the righteousness of Jesus Christ. This means that good works are done not to achieve something in God’s sight, but instead are pursued because of who we are as followers of Jesus. Faith in Jesus Christ is both the avenue of right relationship with God, as well as, the necessary expression of that relationship. “The righteous person will live by his faithfulness.” Without faith in Christ Jesus we have no hope. But with faith we know the One who “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” (Eph. 1:11)
 

The sin-induced brokenness around us makes it impossible to see. If we rely on circumstances and context we will fall into despair. Faith plants the feet of our soul deeper. We stand on the truth of God’s promises in Jesus. He has clung to us in grace, and we cling to Him in faith. Attached to Jesus we move with confidence in a cloudy world, knowing that He has come and He is surely coming again.