In the Meantime - Week Six "Woe!"

In 2006 a judge in New York granted Jose Luis Espinal's request that his name be changed to Jesus Christ. Espinal stated that his reason for wanting the name change was simple:  He wanted his name to match who he really believed he was on the inside.  Since he firmly believed that he was living like Jesus Christ, acting like Jesus Christ, thinking like Jesus Christ and speaking like Jesus Christ, he felt his name should be Jesus Christ. 

There's kind of a perverse logic there...but there's a problem.

He isn't Jesus Christ. 

Several years ago a story broke in the news about a man named Werner "Jack" Genot, a politician in a small town, who was also a war hero.  Genot had dozens of medals, a couple of Purple Hearts, citations, and awards.  He had several uniforms he wore to special occasions that were festooned with his medals and ribbons.  He was honored on Veterans Day events, was a regular speaker at patriotic programs and easily won elections to his city council seat.

There was one problem.

Genot had never served in the military.  It was all a lie.  He had purchased the uniforms, ordered the medals, faked the records and the citations and for several decades he passed himself off as a hero.  A veterans group discovered problems with his claims and the official records and confronted him about it.  For several years he denied there was wrongdoing, and his community came to his defense.  But finally, he broke down and admitted everything.

He said that he wanted to come clean because the years of lying had caught up with him, and he wanted to be right with God.

And he got caught.

It's funny how so many of us work so hard to appear as if we are someone else.  Sometimes it starts when we begin to tell ourselves that all we need to find a true life with true happiness is to change our name, create an identity, buy something expensive, get a better job, fix our relationship, find some purpose in life...

Should I keep going?  And to make matters worse, our uncertain times add to our desperation.  We have less money, less hope, more stress, more problems and we're running out of happy thoughts.  There's not a single one of us who would turn down the chance to live a better life if it was offered to us.

Here's the thing... it is being offered to us.   

This week our study in Habakkuk centers on what it means to truly live the life that God intends for us to live.  Here's the take-away in a nutshell:  True Life Requires A True Lord.   Trying to find true life on our own isn't working, we need some Jesus.

In today's passage, God continues to answer Habakkuk's complaints.  Last week we explored how God told Habakkuk about the amazing things that were about to happen.  Redemption was coming, and Habakkuk might miss it if he wasn't careful.

Now we continue by picking up where left off as God declares to Habakkuk that not only does he need to be expecting some redemption, but he also needs to know who's in charge...of everything.  So God unleashes some warnings about those who refuse to acknowledge his Lordship. 

It's almost as if God is saying, "If you don't believe that I am going to do these things, then you'd better buckle up, pal...it's going to be a bumpy ride." 

Read Habakkuk 2:5-20

Verse 5 of this passage uses the phrase "greedy as the grave," (because the grave is never "empty") to describe the unrighteous--in this case God is referring to Babylonians directly and indirectly with all those who do the very things that the Babylonians do.  What are those things?  Well, let's dig in...

Each of the warnings that are issued here begin with the word "Woe!"  I don't think we use this word enough.  It's a good word and one that deserves some resurrection back into our usable lexicon.  God is pointing out what it looks like when people don't have a life with a true Lord. 

Verses 6-8 begin with "Woe to him who piles up stolen goods..."  This kind of person wants riches without work.  Our culture is full of get rich quick schemes.  The most honored and lauded people in our culture are the ones who started a company, sold it to a bigger company before it could threaten the bigger company and then became gazillionares.  We celebrate people who win the lottery.  We pay individual athletes more than the GDP of some developing countries. 

Verses 9-11 begin with "Woe to him who builds a house with unjust gain..."  This kind of person pursues success without humility.  These are the people who think they deserve better, and desire better above all else. This is the person who steps on his co-workers to the top, is a terrible boss, an unscrupulous business owner, a cheater on a test.

Verses 12-14 begin with "Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed..."  This is the person who uses their power without mercy.  They delight when they can lord it over someone that they are stronger, wealthier, higher up on the corporate ladder.  They don't care about the less fortunate, the broken and the lost.

Verses 15-17 begin "Woe to him who gives drink to their neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk..."  This is the person who achieves victory without honor.  They are not gracious or grateful.  They love it when they can get one over on someone by gossiping and discrediting them. 

Verses 18-19 begin with "Of what good is an idol carved by a craftsman," then say, "Woe to him who says to wood, 'Come to life!'"  This is the person who worships without God.  They put their faith and trust in everything but God.  They trust their strength, their own power, their intellect, their ability to purchase happiness, their success. 

Then there is verse 20, which is the answer to the "Woe's"

"The Lord is in his holy temple, let all the earth be silent before him."

This is both a warning and a lesson.  God demonstrates that the punishment will fit the sin.  Those who steal will have their stuff get stolen.  Those who achieve success without humility will be made low.  Those who use power without mercy will be shown no mercy.  Those who achieve victory without honor will be shamed.  Those who worship without God do so at their own peril.

But in the end, God is in control, on the throne and Lord.  So be quiet.

I heard this story many years ago, it seems that Alexander the Great was receiving his generals and military leaders after a great victory.  A young man was brought to him who was accused of desertion.  It seems that he had become frightened at the battle, which had been his first.  He had not run away, but had frozen in fear and not advanced with the army.  The punishment for such a thing was death if Alexander so willed it.  As he looked at the young man, Alexander pitied him.  He issued a pardon with a strong warning that the young man would never show cowardice again.  The grateful young man promised with all his heart that he would never disgrace the great king again.  As the young man started to walk away, Alexander asked him his name.  "Alexander, " the young man replied, smiling and lifting his chest.  The great king's face grew red as he rose to his feet.  "Either change your name," he bellowed, "or change your ways."

What does true life look like when we have a true Lord?  I think it's when we realize that we either need to stop calling ourselves Christians, or begin acting like one.

When Jesus is Lord of our life we find riches in poverty, success in failure, power in powerlessness, victory in defeat and we learn what it means to worship God with all that we are.

Does your life look like it has a true Lord?  Does mine?

True life requires a true Lord.  That Lord is Jesus.  Make him Lord of your life, and begin to truly live.

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