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18 FEBRUARY 1990

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

Scripture References:

Habakkuk 2:1-14
Matthew 18:21-35
1 John 3:18

Preparation Verse: (1 John 3:18)

Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

In recent days, all around the world, we have been seeing a demand for an end to injustice, and apparent some granting of these demands.

I say apparent because I also hear the rumblings of further injustices, and some of these comments are coming from the very people who are acquiring their freedom.

What we do in the will of God will last; and what we do not do as the Lord desires will eventually fail.

And as we go in, we need to remember that injustice is not only inflicted on our fellow human beings; it is also inflicted upon the animals and our environment.

All through Israel's history we have also seen the rise and fall of nations greater than Israel, who opposed Israel when she turned from God, and who themselves were destroyed when Israel repented and returned to serve the Lord their God.

The prophet Habakkuk questions why God uses wicked people to punish Israel and why this cycle happens; a question that many of us may also have.

And in the Book of Habakkuk, we have a series of questions and answers concerning God's dealing with Israel.

But before we take a look at these verses, consider what it is that God desired Israel to do and what the Lord Jesus reminded them and us to do in Matthew 22:36-40.

36. "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?"

37. And He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.'

38. "This is the great and foremost commandment.

39. "The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'

40. "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

Unless we love, we cannot truly fulfill any of the word of God.

But if we have true love, we fulfill it all.

All the things that go wrong in the world are the result of people not loving God; for if we truly loved God in this way, we would also love the whole of His creation, which includes each other, the animals, and the environment.

This kind of unconditional love is not passive, it must be expressed actively, for it can only be seen by God and and the people around us when we do everything in our power to live in God's heavenly will where there is no suffering or death, and protect the whole of His creation from harm.

Keeping this in mind, let's look at Habakkuk, chapter 2, beginning at verse 1, as he concludes his question to God about why things are the way they are:

1. I will stand on my guard post
And station myself on the rampart;
And I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me,
And how I may reply when I am reproved.

See how Habakkuk starts?

He doesn't walk away from the problems.

He stands firm as the watchman, waiting for God to answer him, and contemplating what he can answer God when He answers him.

We are to do the same. We are to pray to God for help against the injustice we see, and then to be ready to respond when we get His answer.

And God will answer us in the words of the Bible, or just as He did with Habakkuk:

2. Then the Lord answered me and said,
"Record the vision
And inscribe it on tablets,
That the one who reads it may run.

3. "For the vision is yet for the appointed time;
It hastens toward the goal, and it will not fail.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
For it will certainly come, it will not delay.

When we believe that God is telling us something to do, we are to write it down so that we will not forget about it and so that others will see it also, and respond, just as the writers of the Bible put down in print the words of God both for their own benefit and also for ours today.

We are encouraged to wait patiently for the Lord to solve the problems, and do what we can in the meantime.

God will answer us!

He continues with His answer to Habakkuk and us:

4. "Behold, as for the proud one,
His soul is not right within him;
But the righteous will live by his faith.

God sees the true intent of our hearts and knows the reason we do the things we do, whether they are for good or for evil.

We worry about problems, and we react over them in hostile ways, because we lack faith and trust in God, and because we lack love.

5. "Furthermore, wine betrays the haughty man,
So that he does not stay at home.
He enlarges his appetite like Sheol [Hell],
And he is like death, never satisfied.
He also gathers to himself all nations
And collects to himself all peoples.

People in powerful positions can affect the lives of those under them for good or evil.

When we do things against God's will, He may place someone over us, so that we might know what it feels like.

6. "Will not all of these take up a taunt-song against him,
Even mockery and insinuations against him,
And say, 'Woe to him who increases what is not his –
For how long –
And makes himself rich with loans?'

7. "Will not your creditors rise up suddenly,
And those who collect from you awaken?
Indeed, you will become plunder for them.

8. "Because you have looted many nations,
All the remainder of the peoples will loot you –
Because of human bloodshed and violence done to the land,
To the town and all its inhabitants.

God's answer refers to the Chaldeans and the nation of Babylon; and if we look at it closely, it could just as easily apply to this country and to each and every one of us.

And remember, as Habakkuk wrote, that this injustice extends beyond human bloodshed; it extends to violence done to the land (our environment), and to all inhabitants, which includes the animals.

Let's look at an example, which I strongly believe is one of our major ways of humans causing this kind of injustice, violence, and immorality:

The violence and suffering inflicted upon animals on factory farms, in slaughterhouses, and in laboratories.

The damage to our environment caused by the emissions and runoff from factory farms, stockyards, and slaughter houses.

But instead of having the Chaldeans come upon us as happened to Israel, we get most of our chronic diseases, and have our wealth siphoned off by the disease care medical and pharmaceutical industries.

And because the government subsidizes these animal agricultural businesses and our Medicare program, we have additional wealth siphoned off through higher taxes.

However, if we ate a plant based diet, according to God's creation intent, we wouldn't have any of these problems.

Isn’t this also a type of the "golden rule"?

If we do evil to others, we can expect evil to come upon us.

But if we do good to others, we can expect to receive good in return.

It really all boils down to love.

The Lord continues to reveal his answers to Habakkuk:

9. "Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house
To put his nest on high
To be delivered from the hand of calamity!

10. "You have devised a shameful thing for your house
By cutting off many peoples;
So you are sinning against yourself.

11. "Surely the stone will cry out from the wall,
And the rafter will answer it from the framework.

At the end of verse 10 there is a very interesting statement. It says, "so you are sinning against yourself."

What this is saying is that when we sin, we are actually sinning against our own souls.

Jesus gave us an excellent example of this in Matthew 18:21-35, where He tells about a servant who was owed money and also owed money himself.

As we look at these verses, remember that our sin is like a debt we owe and that we are unable to pay; but Jesus Christ paid the debt for us.

21. Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?"

Peter thought he was being generous with his offer to forgive seven times, but hear how the Lord answers him:

22. Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

What Jesus is saying is that we are not to put a limit on the number of times we forgive someone.

And I suppose that we are all guilty of violating this commandment at one time or another.

This is probably why Jesus gives us the following example:

23. "For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a certain king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.

24. "And when he had begun to settle them, there was brought to him one who owed him ten thousand talents.

This is a debt that is so large that it is impossible to pay.

Just compare it with today's standards:

Today, gold sells for about $5,000.00 a pound, a price which has been steadily going up.

There are about 100 pounds in a talent.

Therefore this debt is valued at $5,000,000,000.00.

So now what happens?

25. "But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.

26. "The slave therefore falling down, prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will repay you everything.'

27. "And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.

The lord of this land felt compassion for this slave or servant. This is justice. The man was unable to pay, and it would not be just to sell either him or his family.

Our modern bankruptcy laws offer a similar form of justice.

And this is the same form of justice that the Lord our God offers us when we repent of our sins. He accepts the payment of Jesus Christ upon the cross as payment in full.

If God does it for us, then we in turn should do likewise for others.

Let's see what this slave does:

28. "But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.'

Just so you can compare the sums of money owed, a denarius was equivalent to a day’s wages for a farm worker; and by today’s standards it would equal $40.00 to $50.00.

Therefore the most that this slave could have owed was $5,000.00, or just 1/1,000,000 of what the other owed.

29. So his fellow slave fell down and began to entreat him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.'

30. "He was unwilling however, but went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.

This person has no concept of justice or mercy, and has no love in him.

But what about the other people who saw what had happened? What are they going to do?

31. "So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened.

See, they didn't just sit back and complain among themselves; they did something about it.

They took their grievance to the one who they knew had shown compassion: the lord of the land.

If we do something to stop the injustice that we see, others will be encouraged to do the same.

But if we do not do this, then remember what we were told in Habakkuk 2:11 – that even the stones and rafters of this church will cry out to God for justice, and we will be considered as equal to the one who does injustice.

32. "Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me.

33. 'Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?'

34. "And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.

35. "So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."

This sounds like very harsh punishment, and it is; but if God did not punish those who don't repent and desire to do justly, then He wouldn't be just to those who do repent and bring forth their love as part of a changed and committed life.

If God treats the just and the unjust equally, then there is no reason to change; and there would be nothing but corruption: no justice and no love.

Part of God's answer to Habakkuk expresses this thought, beginning at 2:12.

12. "Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed
And founds a town with violence!

13. "Is it not indeed from the Lord of hosts
That peoples toil for fire,
And nations grow weary for nothing?

14. "For the earth will be filled
With the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,
As the waters cover the sea.

The knowledge of the glory of the Lord is love.

It is not the wonders of God's creation and anything that we may possess; it is love.

If we are filled with the love of God, then the evil that we have talked about today will no longer exist among us.

And if we are persistent and consistent in expressing our love, then our love will spread to others.

Then the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.