Daily Update #310
Pause: “The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake. Great is the Lord in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations. Let them praise your great and awesome name – he is holy.”
Psalm 99: 1 – 3
Reading: ‘See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright – but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness – indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples. Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying, “Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion! How long must this go on?” Will not your creditors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their prey. Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed land and cities and everyone in them.’ Habakkuk 2:4-8
Most of the second chapter of this book of Habakkuk reveals the Lord’s answer to the prophet’s complaint that, despite all the evil that goes on in the world, the Lord seems to be uncaring and inactive. Thankfully that is not the case, and in the verses we are looking at today we see part of God’s answer to this charge. As Ian mentioned yesterday, God’s plans for His world are both for the present time, whether that was hundreds of years ago for Habakkuk or for us today, and also for the end of time when Jesus will return and the new heaven and the new earth are established. The Lord sees everything, and those who ignore His ways, who practice injustice, wrongdoing, destruction and violence (1 v 3) may believe that they are getting away with it, but there is a price to pay. In the verses we are looking at today we see the first of the five “Woes” that the Lord pronounces upon ruthless Babylon. Here their greed for riches, fed by theft and extortion, is roundly condemned, and we see the promise that their apparent supremacy will not last. The time will come when those who have suffered at the hands of the Babylonians will themselves become strong, able to make their oppressors tremble.
In the first verse of today’s reading we see the key to this reverse of fortunes, a bracketed phrase which is quoted several times in the New Testament. “The righteous person will live by his faithfulness.” Although life is going to be tough at times, and it certainly was for the Jews at this time, we can all trust in a sovereign God who cares deeply for His people. We may not see our prayers answered in an instant; as we know, the Jews were in captivity for several decades, and at times they must have wondered if God did still care for them. But God never forgot them, and when the time was right the return to the Promised Land, and the rebuilding of the Temple, did come to pass. I am fairly confident that even in their despair the people of God continued to pray, continued to worship Him, even though they were far from home and wondering if their captivity would ever come to an end. We too are to remain faithful in our prayers and our worship, even when times get tough, trusting that God knows us, that He knows the desires of our hearts, and that He will never stop loving us.
We are all called to live according to the laws revealed in God’s word, whether we recognise that or not. Fairness, justice, honesty, faithfulness; these are characteristics which benefit all, which contribute to a healthy and profitable society where peace and love prevail. This may seem a bit like ‘pie in the sky’ when we look at the world around us, but thankfully there are areas, albeit on occasions small areas, where these good attributes come to the surface. Throughout this pandemic we have seen countless acts of love, generosity, self-sacrifice, faithfulness, by both Christians and non-Christians, and our hearts have been warmed as we have read or heard their stories. We are called to be ambassadors for Christ, the One who went about doing good, and as we seek to live “by our faithfulness” let us pray that others will see the love of Christ in us, and come to know Him too as Lord and Saviour.
Prayer: We thank you, Lord, for calling us to be your witnesses; grant us the courage and the love to be obedient and faithful to that calling. We pray that our lives may bear witness to your love shown in Jesus Christ, and that our witness may reflect your light in the communities in which we live and work, to the glory of your name. Amen Basil Naylor