In the Meantime - Week Five

This Sunday I'll be continuing the sermon series that I'm preaching on the book of Habakkuk entitled "In the Meantime."  This week we'll be focusing on Habakkuk 2:4,  the key verse for the book---a verse that is used by the Apostle Paul to help Christians understand their new life in Christ.

 Before I dig into the Scripture I need to share something first so that we can all get on the same page.  This is what educators would call "getting into learning mode."

I read a story this year about a group of IT workers in a New York business who always pooled their money and bought Mega Millions New York State Lottery tickets together.  There were eight workers altogether, and they'd been buying tickets faithfully for a long time.  It seems that one of the group decided that he wasn't going to participate on one particular week.  When his buddies asked him why he didn't want to kick in for a ticket, he told them "I don't feel lucky this week."

The winning ticket for that week's $319 million jackpot was one of the tickets the group purchased.

But they only had to split it 7 ways instead of 8.

Can you imagine what that guy must have felt like?  What if you were married to someone who came home with that story.  "Uhhh, hey.  I have something I need to tell you, and you'll probably want to sit down and let me remove any blunt objects from within your reach."

What would you say to this person?  What could you say?

Here's the thing... what we'll be learning from this passage of Scripture in Habakkuk is that redemption happens in God's time, in God's way and sometimes the timing and the manner of God's redemption is just unexpected.  You have to be paying attention or you'll miss it.

Why do you think that Jesus was always telling his disciples, "Let anyone who has ears, hear this."  That's an ancient way of saying, "Shut up and listen!"

I used a strange title for this sermon: "Blowin' in the Wind."  You might remember the song from the 1960's with the same title.  It's a Bob Dylan song that has been recorded by Joan Baez, Peter, Paul & Mary, the Hollies and probably a few other bands along the way.  For some reason as I read Habakkuk 2:1-4, I couldn't shake the tune and the following line of the song from my head: 

"The answer is blowin' in the wind...."

Jesus once told a would-be disciple that the Spirit of God is like the wind and the Spirit blows where it wants to blow.

Those moments of redemption that we mentioned just a bit ago?  Those jackpot moments?  If you're not paying attention, you'll miss them because they show up unexpectedly, and when they do, you have a choice to embrace redemption or let it blow right by you.

You see, God's plan for redemption begins with a choice. 

Habakkuk 2:1-4
1 I will stand at my watch
   and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
   and what answer I am to give to this complaint.
The LORD’s Answer
 2 Then the LORD replied:    “Write down the revelation
   and make it plain on tablets
   so that a herald may run with it.
3 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.
 4 “See, the enemy is puffed up;
   his desires are not upright—
   but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness

What we find here in this text is Habakkuk waiting for a response (verse 1).  I like how he tells God that he's going to wait.  "Yeah God.  I'll just be over here.  On the ramparts.  Waiting. Take your time."

God does answer in verse 2 of the chapter when he delivers a vision for a revelation.  The imagery that is used in verse 2 is of a runner or a herald who has been given a message and has to run with it to deliver it.  The literal Hebrew translation is "pants toward an end."  It was kind of a colloquialism from the ancient world that Hebrew speakers would have gotten without all of the extra imagery that is thrown in our translation.

In verse 3 God says that the revelation will happen in the "appointed time."  The Greek translation of this is kairos, which is a different understanding of time.  This is God's time.  It's a redemption moment.  A glimpse of the kingdom of God.

Let's recap this a bit... God says that the time of redemption is coming, and the time of redemption is going to be full of revelation, and the time of redemption is going to be pregnant with the kingdom of God. 

So what are we supposed to do in the meantime?

Verse 4 is the key to Habakkuk.  "See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright---but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness."   This verse has also been translated, "The just shall live by faith."

The Apostle Paul picks this up and extends it to the Christian life in Romans 1:17 when he writes: 

"For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

In the Jewish tradition this little verse in Habakkuk packs a huge punch.  The Talmud reveals that in this verse all of the 613 commandments that are found in Leviticus are wrapped up in one sentence.

So what does it mean?

First, we need to understand the word "righteousness."  Lots of people like to think that this has to do with leading a holy, upright life.  A person who keeps the rules, so to speak.  That is part of it, but to make that the sum total of what "righteous" means doesn't do justice to the text itself.  In this context "righteous" means that you are ready to fulfill the demands of a relationship with God through faithfulness.

And "faithfulness" means placing your whole life in God's hands despite all of the fear, the guilt, shame, sin, circumstances, trials or tribulations that surround you.

It means making a choice when the wind of redemption blows---when that moment arrives and you see it, and know that you can choose it.

You see, God takes human activity and human decisions very seriously.  We need to understand that God's ultimate plan for redemption of all the earth is going to happen, and we're moving toward it.  Our decisions or lack thereof aren't going to thwart God's plans.  So we can't delay redemption.

But we can hasten it, I think.   When we begin to embrace those redemption moments instead of letting them blow by us... When we choose wisely...  the kairos is visible and the kingdom of God comes a little more into focus.

We can also miss it when it's happening if we're not paying attention, or we can miss out on it altogether by refusing to embrace it.  We do get the chance to decide if we will live under blessings or cursings---whether we will choose life or death.  

My wife and I have known each other since we were 13 years old.  We dated all through high school and were together until a bad breakup our freshman year of college.  That breakup lasted five years.  We were still in love with each other, but had traveled life for so long apart that the idea that we might one day travel together wasn't even a possibility in our minds.

But all that changed one night that could have never happened.

My wife decided to try to call me on a whim, but she didn't know where I lived or what I was doing.  And she didn't have a number for me.  It was the five year reunion of our high school graduating class that year, and she had heard that I wasn't doing all that well in life.

So she called my mom.

Of course my mom gave her my phone number, and she called me that night.  I just so happened to be home alone when she called.  I had four other roommates who were all gone for some reason, and I was taking a nap before I went out to meet friends later that evening.  We had one of those old fashioned answering machines that had cassette tapes, and that you could listen to the voice message while the person was leaving it.  My roommates and I never answered the phone until we knew who it was and that we wanted to talk to them.  So as I was sleeping, I heard the phone ring in the other room and the answering machine pick it up.

Then I heard her voice.

I thought that I was dreaming at first.  But then I realized that I wasn't.  I sat there for a second in my bed not really believing that I was listening to Merideth--my Merideth--on my answering machine.  And then I ran to the phone like my life depended on it, and snatched it off of the receiver before she could hang up.

As it turns out, my life did depend on it.

She was about to married in three weeks.

We talked for three hours that first night.

And even longer two days later.

After she had dumped the fiancee.

Six months later we were married. 

20 years and three boys have passed, and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't thank God for the fact that redemption blew threw our lives that night all those years ago, and that we were awake enough to see it and hear it.

And brave enough to embrace it.

God's plan for redemption begins with a choice.  Will you make the right one when the kairos moment comes, when the redemption wind blows through you life?  Will you miss it? 

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