Sunday, October 2nd, 2022

What God is Doing Toward You With His Word

17th Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 22]               October 2, 2022



1 For God alone my soul waits in silence;

from him comes my salvation.

2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress;

I shall not be greatly shaken.

3 How long will all of you attack a man to batter him,

like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?

4 They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.

They take pleasure in falsehood.

They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse.    Selah

5 For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,

for my hope is from him.

6 He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress;

I shall not be shaken.

7 On God rests my salvation and my glory;

my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

8 Trust in him at all times, O people;

pour out your heart before him;

God is a refuge for us.                                                                Selah

9 Those of low estate are but a breath;

those of high estate are a delusion;

in the balances they go up;

they are together lighter than a breath.

10 Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery;

if riches increase, set not your heart on them.

11 Once God has spoken;

twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God,

12 and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.

For you will render to a man according to his work.


In the Name of Jesus.


Find God in this world. How would you do it?


This world of injustice, of malice, of tearing people down, of terrible sickness coming to a little child—find God in this.


The Hurricane, families ripped from homes, without good water, no power, no internet, where’s God in this?


A worker losing his or her job not because of poor work, but for refusing to deny God’s institution of the marriage of man and woman, refusing to bow down to the prevailing ideology; a professor losing his classroom because he or she speaks truth; the liquor store owner watching the rioting mob burn his family business to the ground—find God in this.


We search, we use our intellect, our reason, we consider every angle to find God in all this we see around us—we find what?


We will find the God the world knows. We will find the God of retribution, the God angered over sin, dishing out justice in a sinful world.


In short, we find the God of Law.


That’s a problem. If he’s the God of Law, of retribution and vengeance, of what’s just, what’s right, of punishment to the sinner, then what do we do when God’s hurricane destroys the home of a family with three small children? Where’s justice in that?


Or when we see the rioting mob burn down a man’s liquor store because he won’t join their violent movement? Where’s justice in that? The little child suffering in the hospital. Justice?


When we find the God of Law and retribution by looking around our world, we will spend the rest of our days trying to explain how God works using evil when it sure doesn’t seem just to us, or how God strikes one person but not the next, when both are sinners.



Then we will find ourselves not only doing gymnastics in our brain trying to make God fit our logic, but also trying to explain how God is working in our lives.



What do you do when you’re trying to figure out how God works in your life, but all you can do is figure God out by the Law?


In our Old Testament reading today, we hear the answer from Habakkuk.


Habakkuk lives in an unjust world, too. He, too, sees innocent people suffer; sees mobs intimidating their neighbors with violence; sees politicians using violent mobs to their advantage.


So he speaks two words, two truths. The prophet first speaks of the problem with trying to figure God out by running God according to the Law.


O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see iniquity,
and why do you idly look at wrong?
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.

[Habakkuk 1:4]


That’s the first Word. The Word showing how God’s Law hits our sinful world, and our sinful lives. With the Law, all we can see, as the Apostle Paul describes it in Romans 8—is a world bound in futility, in bondage to death; a world groaning as a mother suffering the pangs of birth.


That’s the prophet’s first Word—Law. The Law showing us the God of retribution, and the whole world sees that god—all the manmade religions, whether Muslim or Mormon, New Ager or Atheist, everyone sees the god of retribution, even if they don’t call it that.


So Habakkuk speaks the second Word. The Word unknown by looking around our world. The Word unknown to our reason, our rationality, our efforts to try to make sense of what we see, the Word we cannot know by just piling up more and more knowledge about God, as if God is a mathematics textbook we need to study more.


Habakkuk speaks the second Word, the Word we need to hear. Proclaimed in the Church, preached to the sinner, taught in our families, spoken at the hospital bedside, delivered to every person in despair, this is the Word the Lord gives us to hear.


It is the Lord’s Word making the promise that he will save the sinner.


The promise is based not upon anything of the sinner, for if the sinner could take care of it, he wouldn’t need a promise from the Lord.


The promise is based on the faithfulness of the Lord. The Lord puts his Name on it. For the Lord to not keep his promise to the sinner would be for the Lord to tear down his own name.


The sinner will never know the promise by looking out into the world to figure out how God must work, never know it by reason or rationality. The sinner will know it only as the Lord speaks it to him, as the Lord has it preached so that sinners will hear the promise and hold on to it for dear life.


So for this second Word, Habakkuk starts with:

I will take my stand at my watchpost
and station myself on the tower,
and look out to see what he will say to me.


What he, the Lord will say to me, says Habakkuk. Not what the Lord will show me in the world, not what the Lord will let me figure out about him according to the Law, but what he will say to me.


Habakkuk is looking for a Word, a speaking, something the Lord will say into his ears—I need to hear a Word, Habakkuk is saying.


That’s the way a promise works. The promise is spoken, and the certainty of the promise depends on the one making the promise.


So the promise is different than what we see in our world.


What we see around us is the suffering, the injustice, the sin, the decay—we don’t need faith for that. You only need your eyeballs and your mind.


But a promise is not for eyeballs; it’s for faith:

Faith is the certainty of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

[Hebrews 11:1]


So the prophet Habakkuk, looking for God in this world of injustice, sin, and suffering, proclaims,

The Lord answered me [this]:

“Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets, …
If it seems slow, wait for it;
it will surely come; it will not delay.

Behold, [the unrighteous] soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,
but the righteous shall live by his faith.”

[Habakkuk 2:4]


That’s the promise. The righteous one lives not by sight, but by faith.


The righteous one is righteous not by works of the Law, but by faith in the promise.


The righteous one is made righteous not by being pushed and nudged and coerced into being a more righteous person, but by being declared righteous by the Word of God preached to him.


That is, the righteous one is made righteous by hearing.


As Paul says,

“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ … and how are they to hear without a preacher?”

[Romans 10:17,14]



It is all by the promise. By the Gospel of all sins forgiven. By the Word of grace preached to the sinner, making him righteous. By the Word heard by ears of faith.


So King David, the great sinner, but the justified sinner, ends the Psalm we chanted this morning, Psalm 62:

Once God has spoken;

twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God,

and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.

For you will render to a man according to his work.


To render to a man according to his work is rendering to the man of faith not according to his works of the sinful flesh, not his works under the Law, but according to his works lived in faith to the promise.


These works are not by sight, but by faith.


For David has extolled not his own works, which are rubbish to God’s eyes, but the Word the Lord has spoken to him through the prophet:

Once God has spoken;

twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God,

and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.

[Psalm 62:12]



When you’re trying to figure out what God is doing in your life, or in this troubled world, cover your eyes—they will only show you the God of retribution, of Law.


Open your ears. Hear the Word preached. Hear the promise declared.


The Lord sealed this promise to you by putting his Name on you in Baptism—your Lord will not depart his Name.


Your Lord hands this promise over to you in the Testament of his Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sins. Even in the face of your sin, especially in the face of your sin, your Lord will not break his promise.


Let your eyes look around at this world of Law.


But then let your ears hear the promise of Christ crucified for you. Faith comes by hearing your Lord speak that promise to you.


In the Name of Jesus.