I was thinking this morning as I was considering what the coming day would hold and I decided that I like wearing a watch. I think I’ve worn a watch every single day since I was a senior in high school. By a show of hands – how many of you like to wear a watch in some shape or form? I had bet I would have some like-minded watch-wearers here. I like wearing a watch but I sometimes wonder if it is a product of my sinful condition. Let’s think about it for a second. Sure, wearing a watch can be innocent. I use it to keep track of time; I use it to be aware of the passage of time so I know what’s coming next on the schedule, what’s next in this plan of mine. That’s perfectly fine, but I’ll tell you what else I do. If I’m sitting in class and the professor starts to drone or goes over the allotted time period I definitely start looking at that watch. See, by then things are not going according to my plan. Sometimes at the store they don’t have enough cashiers and I start looking at my watch. Think about it – when you are waiting at the doctor’s office and the time for your appointment comes and passes by without your name being called, how do you feel?
I know these are fairly benign situations, but I think they show our tendency as humans to plan. We want things to happen according to our schedule. Well, what happens when things don’t? What happens when the world continues as it has been for all time? We question. We question just what exactly God’s hand is in all this. In Romans 8 it says that for those who love Him, God works all things together for good. So what’s the deal, what is God’s plan? This is the question that Habakkuk deals with. Where exactly is God and what is He up to in everything? In our texts today we see that THE MYSTERY OF GOD’S PLAN IS REVEALED TO US IN CHRIST.
(I. As evil goes seemingly unchecked we ask, “How long?”)
(II. God’s plan for us is in Christ.)
“How long, O Lord?” Those are some of the opening words of Habakkuk. Habakkuk writes during the time where the Assyrians are in control of the northern kingdom of Israel and Babylon is brewing in the East. You’d think that with Israel under foreign control because of their trespasses and Babylon rising that the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas would be repentant and return to the Lord their God. But in fact, they do the exact opposite. By and large, the inhabitant of Judah repeat to themselves, “We are the children of God, we worship at the temple of the Lord,” while they wrong their neighbor. Habakkuk writes, “Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.” (Hab. 1:3-4)
Habakkuk sees that each man is out to get his own way. Each person has their own plan to get what they want when they want it. If that comes at the cost of someone else – so be it. The wicked surround the righteous to do want they want. They take advantage and persecute the faithful children of God. Those who are strong take from those who are not. “The Law is paralyzed and justice never goes forth.” Part of the problem was that there were many who thought that as long as they outwardly only worshipped the Lord, everything else was excusable. Their “faith” became a safety blanket they threw over their heads as they did all sorts of unspeakable things beneath it. Habakkuk writes that justice goes forth perverted. He had in mind those who championed justice, but with their hands behind their backs. They sought to help the downcast, but only on a surface level and only to help themselves. “How long, O Lord?”
Habakkuk wrote these words telling of the situation of his time, but also to remind us that the world we live in is no different. Just as selfishness was the name of the game then, so is it now. Just as people wanted the world to work according to plan then, so do they want it now. In fact, we live in a world that seeks increasingly to fit everything according to its plan. To see this you have to look no further than the local pharmacy. The world asks, “Does having a baby not fit in your plan? Here, we can help you fix that.” It’s even called Plan B. If plan A is to have the baby according to God’s plan, what does that make Plan B? If the emergency contraceptive doesn’t work, the world offers plenty other options to get your life back to the way it was. This is just one example; there are others. Seeing the world the way it is makes us want to ask, “How long?”
Sometimes though, don’t you get tired of waiting and wondering when it’s all going to end? Wouldn’t it be great if we could just end all the evil in the world ourselves? We could take over society and remake it in our image and according to our Christian plan. Sometimes we get tired of God’s plan and start thinking about our own. How many of us have told ourselves, in thought if not in word, that we are ready for Jesus to come back, but it would be great if He would come back before this…But seeing as how we are here, now we ask, “How long, Lord? What is Your plan?” What does Scripture say God’s plan is?
“How long is this going to keep going on, Lord? When will your plan come to fruition?” Habakkuk asks as he takes his post as watchman. He does not ask in unbelief as the English could sometimes seem, but he asks when God is going to do just as He has promised to our fathers from of old. The Lord responds, “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end – it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” (2:2-3) God has Habakkuk write down the vision that he has seen. It’s the same vision that all the prophets before him had seen – The Messiah. The Anointed One of God who would come to die and rise to remove the great chasm of sin between God and man. God has Habakkuk write His plan down so that everyone could see it.
The Apostle Paul writes these words to Timothy in our Epistle reading, “[God] saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose (plan) and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” (2 Tim. 1:9) This means that God has had a plan us, for you and for me, since even before time began. Those times when we think that the world is out of control and that things just happen according to no plan is just our old sinful nature trying to exert itself over God’s Word. Well then, if God has a plan, what is it? Paul continues, “[His own purpose] now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” (1:10) God’s divine plan, His eternal purpose has been realized in Christ Jesus our Lord. His plan for you, His plan for me, and His plan for the entire world is that it be brought to faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins by the preaching of the Holy Gospel.
This is why God had Habakkuk write down the vision on tablets, why He inspired men to pick up the pen and write of His salvation, and why He continues to call men today to shepherd His flock by preaching and administering the Sacrament. This is all according to His plan of salvation for all creation, and not according to anything that we do. Sometimes we pull out our watches and wonder if God is ever going to really get around to finishing His plan. St. Peter writes, however, that, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9) Thus, today we give thanks for God’s gracious plan for us in Christ Jesus. Through baptism we are made the righteous who live by faith and no longer those whose souls are puffed up. We wait for the return of our Lord and the resurrection of all the saints more than watchmen for the morning.
Fellow redeemed in Christ, when things start to go long I start to look at my watch and wonder when I will get to move on with my life. When things go wrong in the world I am tempted to wonder just what exactly is the plan in all this. Then I remember that I live not according to my plan but according to His. He who called us through the Gospel to faith in Christ Jesus is faithful. He has revealed His plan to us in the Son of God who took on flesh. Through Him we proclaim with King David, “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress.” (Ps. 62:1-2) And though time passes and life in this world continues on against my planning, I will stick with His and, “I shall not be greatly shaken.”