O Lord, How Long

Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Habakkuk 1:1-11 | June 7 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
June 7
O Lord, How Long | Habakkuk 1:1-11
Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

O Lord, no doubt we have heard from many voices this week. We have heard from the pundits. We’ve heard from our friends. We’ve heard likely from cable news, talk radio, the newspaper, podcasts. We’ve heard from politicians, sports stars, celebrities. We’ve heard from a torrent of voices online this week. We give thanks whenever those voices have been necessary, helpful. And yet now, O Lord, we need to hear from You. We need to hear from You in Your Word. So my prayer is, with John the Baptist’s, that I might decrease and Christ would increase, and our prayer together is that we would have ears to hear just what You want to say to us. It’s easy to listen to any sermon with ears for someone else. Give us ears to hear what you would have to say to us. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Our text this morning comes from the Old Testament prophet, near the end of the Old Testament, Habakkuk. H-a-b-a-k-k-u-k. Habakkuk. If you want to say Habakkuk, or Habakkuk, or put your emphasis on some other syllable, you’ll be right.

Habakkuk chapter 1, verses 1 through 11.

“The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.

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.

Look among the nations, and see;
wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
that you would not believe if told.
For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans,
that bitter and hasty nation,
who march through the breadth of the earth,
to seize dwellings not their own.
They are dreaded and fearsome;
their justice and dignity go forth from themselves.
Their horses are swifter than leopards,
more fierce than the evening wolves;
their horsemen press proudly on.
Their horsemen come from afar;
they fly like an eagle swift to devour.
They all come for violence,
all their faces forward.
They gather captives like sand.
At kings they scoff,
and at rulers they laugh.
They laugh at every fortress,
for they pile up earth and take it.
Then they sweep by like the wind and go on,
guilty men, whose own might is their god!”

I had originally planned, several months ago, in what seems like a different universe, that during the month of June I would preach on 2 Corinthians chapter 8. I haven’t done a series on generosity here and was going to look at four sermons from 2 Corinthians 8 on generosity and we were also, as part of our vision plan, were looking at a capital campaign and trying to launch that in the second half of this year, and so all those plans were going to come together.

And then coronavirus hit and we weren’t going to be doing a capital campaign anytime soon and so I decided to preach on Habakkuk for four weeks in June and thought with everything going on with the virus, surely this book, which has to do with suffering and where is God and does God hear us even in hard times, this will be a good book for us. I had no idea. None of us had any idea that something would overtake coronavirus in the global news.

And just even reading these 11 verses, you could hardly pick a passage from Scripture that sounds more relevant and immediate to our current moment. Violence, the law, injustice… I didn’t plan this week to do Habakkuk, I planned a month or two ago, and in the Lord’s providence this is what He has for us this morning.

But, of course, how this passage seems and sounds relevant to you may depend upon who you are and your background and the current situation you are in. And so I imagine that a black person in America may hear these words and rightly appropriate them, and perhaps hear in them a cry of protest. Perhaps even look at the second half of verse 4 and not only for African Americans but for all of us, shocked, grieved by what happened in Minneapolis, “The wicked surround the righteous,” and have images of life being put out in wickedness.

I heard recently from a black friend of mine who said when this all started 10 days, 2 weeks ago, “I’m angry and I’m scared.” He probably speaks for many, many of us.

And if you’re a business owner or a homeowner that has been destroyed by looters or by extremists, then you’re going to appropriate these verses in a different way. Not necessarily a mutually exclusive way, but you’re going to hear something in here about lawlessness and violence and Lord, where are You?

I talked to a friend in Minneapolis last week who said his grocery store was gone, his bank was gone, his post office was on fire, everything around him was literally in smoke.

Or suppose you’re a police officer, trying to keep peace, preserve order, and on a good night you may have people throw rocks at you, curse at you, express their wish that you would die. You may read this passage about injustice in a different way.

And I know the difficulty that many of us feel and certainly anyone in a position of leadership, a pastor, for example, feels is that to speak to any of these circumstances and to try to show sympathy and express empathy where there is injustice and where there is suffering, can immediately put one in a precarious position, because what the world would have us do is have a zero-sum morality, and you cannot be on my side unless you are against them. You cannot speak and sympathize and cry out for me or people like me unless you are against them, whoever “them” may be.

The Gospel shows us a different way.

Now, our passage is from Habakkuk, chapter 1. And it is not to suggest that all experiences of injustice are equal. Certainly, they are not. But if you live long enough, at some point you will, or have, or this moment presently are, experiencing injustice and you resonate with a passage like this, “O Lord, how long?”

Justice is the central theme. We see it in verse 4, “justice never goes forth, justice goes forth perverted.”

There are lots of things in life to make one sad or frustrated or unhappy, but there are few things and maybe nothing that provokes such anger, often righteous anger, and indignation as a sense of injustice. You can see it in the face of the thousands, millions, of protesters. Some have been rioters, but most of the protesters, at least during the daytime, have been peaceful. You can see it in their face.

You can see it in your kids. Not with this particular incident, if they’re young, but you know this. No one has to teach you as a human being to be upset about injustice. You know, a child gets blamed for something that wasn’t his fault or two siblings both get in trouble when one started it and the only reason they were wrestling on the ground is because that person had the other sibling there and they both just get sent to their room.

Or you’re ordered to do a day of chores and your parents don’t see the work that you did yesterday and now you have to do everything that everyone else didn’t do yesterday.

All sorts of little things, but you, you see this. You see it in your life. You could all tell stories, again not to say they’re all of equal pain or import, but you all have them.

Sometimes if you don’t have many of them, when you have those feelings of injustice they almost surprise you by the intensity of the emotion.

I’ve been blogging for over 10 years, for some reason, and one of the first incidences I had as a blogger… It was eye-opening when I started, and I quickly realized, “uh-oh, somebody, there are people actually reading this. I need to think through what I’m saying.” And I had a pastor in a different side of the theological spectrum from me, and he was upset about something I had said and he reached out and found my e-mail and was really accosting me over e-mail and somewhat naively I was trying to help, and he said, “Well, what did you say?” and so I said, “Well, here,” I found the audio of whatever talk I’d given and I typed it up, and said “Here’s exactly what I said” and then the next thing I knew that was on his blog and a call for something or other that I had done wrong, and what was so, oh, wrestling it, I had e-mails from this man to me with cursing and with language that would not acquit him well in the public eye, and then went out and seemed to be the better part of the moral argument, I thought, “That’s, ugh, not fair.”

Years ago I had a journalist write some story, I don’t know why, there was something about me in it or something I had said, and part of the story said that I had refused to offer any comment or to talk to him and it turns out that he had sent an e-mail to my assistant and my assistant hadn’t gotten in that day yet and I hadn’t gotten the e-mail. I never said anything about anything, I never received an e-mail, tried to explain it to him. But, little things, little things.

But the point is I found myself in those moments, which are relatively insignificant, feeling this profound sense of, “I just want everyone to know this is not fair.”

There is almost nothing in the human spirit we feel as strongly as that sense of injustice, and no doubt you have your own stories and many of them, most of them, would be more serious than that.

Now to be sure, because we feel something strongly does not mean we are feeling something accurately. We’ll hear about that tonight. There are works of the flesh, there is indwelling sin. It’s possible to cry out in indignation and for that to be a sinful response, or to be a disproportionate response. Again, we all, if you have children, you’ve seen many times when children are crying out with a great injustice and there’s no injustice at all.

And yet, to cry out for injustice can be a righteous cry. It can be a reflection of how God has wired the universe, how God has wired us, and what God is like in Himself. Shall the judge of all the earth do right? He is a God of supreme, unalterable, unending justice.

You look at verse 1: “The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw,” or if you’ve studied this book or have a study Bible, you may see that it says that word “massa” can be translated “the burden,” the burden that Habakkuk the prophet saw. There is something that is weighing upon him.

And we live in days that feel weighty, heavy, and we see this expressed in Habakkuk’s words. It’s one thing to be treated unfairly, but then perhaps there’s recognition of it, even if it can’t be undone, if something is done, and you know, the teacher makes a mistake in grading your paper and the grades are already in and you can’t change it, but acknowledges it and everyone says it, you know, that’s something.

It’s another when injustice happens and it seems like no one sees it, or those who see it don’t seem to care, or you’re powerless to do anything about it. Or even worse, if it seems like the ones who are doing it get away with it and get ahead because of it. And then the ultimate level of pain and injustice is to feel like God Himself does not see or does not care. That’s what Habakkuk is going to express on some level.

This is a unique book because in most of the prophetic literature, you have the prophet speaking on behalf of God to the people. But Habakkuk begins speaking on behalf of the people to God. There is a deliberate structure in this book. You can see it perhaps even with the headings in your Bible, before verse 2, “Habakkuk’s complaint,” and before verse 12, “Habakkuk’s second complaint.” So we have two complaints.

And then beginning in chapter 2, verse 6, your Bible may have a heading “Woe to the Chaldeans.” There are five “woes” to the Babylonians, and then in chapter 3 Habakkuk’s prayer there is a closing psalm, or prayer, of confidence in the Lord.

So there are two complaints, five woes, and a closing psalm or prayer, and that’s what we are going to look at over these four weeks.

What is going on historically the prompts Habakkuk to utter his complaint? Habakkuk ministered sometime between 612 B.C., that’s when the fall of Nineveh, remember Nineveh is the great city of the Assyrians and they are the superpower in the region that wiped out Israel, but Assyria gives way to Babylon, the Chaldeans, and the Babylonians are going to be the one in 587 B.C. who will wipe away Jerusalem and Judah, the southern kingdom.

So likely sometime after 612 B.C. when Nineveh falls to the Chaldeans, and certainly before 587 B.C., Habakkuk is ministering, and we can narrow it a bit further, and it’s probably at the very end of the 7th century, so around 605 B.C.

He speaks of God raising up the Chaldeans. So the Babylonians are not at the height of their power, but He’s raising them up, which would put us at the end of the 7th century B.C.

Remember, there was reform and revival under Josiah. You read about it in 2 Chronicles chapter 34 as Josiah rediscovers the law of the Lord and purges from their midst the foreign cults and restores true worship and brings worship and the feast to Jerusalem and destroys the high place. It’s a great era of reform and revival. But Josiah dies in 609 and with the death of his leadership, the nation begins to slide again into greater sin and immorality and it is the beginning of the end, and a series of weak, puppet kings who will eventually be overtaken by the Babylonians.

Habakkuk ministering in this time, likely after the death of Josiah, is no doubt eager to see the Lord bring about the days of Josiah again, where there is a reverencing for the law of God, where there is a reformation of piety, there is a renewed obedience. He’s looking for these things and instead he sees injustice and violence.

Look at his complaint in verses 2 through 4. He asks two questions: How long and why? Verse 2: “O Lord, how long,” verse 3: “Why?”

And really, aren’t those the same two questions in times of crisis, in times of injustice, in times of suffering, that people ask, whether God’s people or any people, they ask, “How long? Why?”

The Lord Himself asked how long, in Exodus, in Numbers, when the people continued to complain and grumble before Him, He asked the question “How long am I to put up with you?”

The saints in Revelation chapter 6, the martyrs under the throne cry out “How long until our blood is avenged?”

It’s a universal cry of the human spirit in the midst of wrongdoing and unrighteousness, “O, Lord, how long? Why?”

The cry of verse 2 is like Job’s cry in the midst of his suffering. Job 19:7: “Behold I cry out, ‘Violence!’ but I am not answered; I call for help, but there is no justice.”

It’s important to note Habakkuk is crying upward. That is, his cry, his complaint, is toward God, and that’s the right direction. It’s not a complaint sinfully about God.

We saw this in the book of Exodus. There is a difference between grumbling and groaning. God was not happy when the Israelites grumbled: “Why don’t You give us food? Why are You like… ” They’re grumbling to Him. But there’s groaning, lament, pain at the beginning of Exodus chapter 2. He hears their cries, He sees their predicament and their pain, and He knows and He then acts. There’s a difference between a grumble and a groan.

Habakkuk is giving a groan. He’s not just complaining about his predicament, “Lord, I’m having a bad day.” Now he himself maybe or maybe was not directly oppressed. We don’t know if he counted himself among those who were facing injustice, but certainly he sees it in the land. He’s grieved that the law of the Lord is so flagrantly despised.

You see verse 4. The Law, the Torah, and this tells us that the complaint is not about outside forces. You might read verses 2 and 3 and think Habakkuk is complaining because a foreign nation has come in and they are routing Jerusalem, and God’s not doing anything about it. But no, his complaint is about his own people. Their own disregard for the law of God. The wicked here are the corrupted citizens of Judah.

So Habakkuk issues a protest.

Now you can protest for things that are wrong. You can protest for things that are good. To protest is by itself neither inherently good nor bad. Remember, we are Protest-ants. Now that’s not a name that we originally came up with ourselves, kind of like the Puritans didn’t say “Let’s call ourselves Puritans.” No, that’s what people called them when they didn’t like them: “Oh, you’re Puritans.” Same with the Protestants at the, I think it was the Diet of Speyer, were called, these are protesting the abuses of the Catholic Church, protesting the failure of the Catholic Church to preach correct doctrine, and so they were called “Protestants.”

So here Habakkuk is protesting that justice is not carried out. He says, in verse 4, the law is numb, it’s frozen. And despite what else this says, yes, the cold does bother us anyway. The righteous can appeal to their rulers, to their courts, but in Habakkuk’s day he says they’re not getting justice. And the result is the wicked surrounding the righteous, justice going forth is perverted, the law is paralyzed. Things are not working the way they’re supposed to be working.

We need laws. When laws are paralyzed or when laws are carried out unjustly, or when laws are abandoned, there’s destruction. Earthly laws may need to change or be reformed, but the removal of law, the disregarding of law, leads to disaster. That’s what Habakkuk sees. The law is paralyzed and there is chaos and there is disorder. No restraint. No sense of decency. The righteous suffer.

Habakkuk is giving complaint not just for himself, but inspired by the Spirit, giving voice to a universal human cry. When the righteous would look and say “I see sin around me” and there are public consequences for sin, violence, destruction, strife, contention, verse 3, to Habakkuk it looks like the wicked are winning, the righteous are losing, and God is nowhere to be found. It seems like “God, You don’t hear, You don’t save, and You don’t do anything. Why? How long?” is Habakkuk’s cry.

Well, the Lord answers. And the Lord answers in a way that surely must have been shocking to Habakkuk. The Lord does not remedy the injustice they see. He warned them of this, 1 Samuel 8:18: “You will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen and the Lord will not answer you in that day.” He warned them what would happen. They want to be like all the other nations with a king.

So notice the Lord does not make it better, but He does not rebuke Habakkuk, either. He is not in the short-term remedying the injustice, but neither does He say that Habakkuk’s complaint of injustice was mistaken. Rather, He says I am doing something about which you do not yet know, and about which you cannot fully understand, verse 5.

There are four plural imperatives here to make this point absolutely clear: Look, See, Wonder, Be astounded. Okay, do I have your attention, Habakkuk? I hear your complaint and I want you to look and see and wonder and be astounded, because I have something planned that is utterly going to shock you. You’ve seen the Lord’s wonders, you’ve seen His power, but now the Lord says here is a different kind of awesome wonder. I will reveal My holy character this time not in salvation but in judgment.

Now we will see throughout this book that the Babylonians are a wicked people. Chapter 2, there are a series of woes upon these Chaldeans. Verse 11, they are called “guilty men.” Their day of judgment will come. He’s not excusing the Babylonians for their wickedness. In fact, evil always has in itself the seeds of its own destruction. If you conquer a people with greed, with cruelty, with arrogance, those vices will not make for a lasting movement or civilization. But in the near-term, God says the Chaldeans will be my instrument.

There’s a great book by Paul Tripp, Instruments in the Hands of the Redeemer and it’s talking about us and how God uses us to minister to others and bless others, and it’s a wonderful book.

We don’t think, however, that wicked people can be instruments in the hands of the Redeemer. These wicked people are, they were going to do His bidding. They, they had no intention of it, they were not absolved of their evil, but God had a plan. Their sinful violence would be the means of God’s righteous vengeance.

Look at how Babylon is described, verse 6: The whole nation, “the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation,” as a people they’re described. That’s, that’s their national character.

Verse 7: “They are dreaded and fearsome.”

Earlier in verse 6: They “seize dwellings not their own.” They’re taking people’s property that does not belong to them.

Verse 7: They are proud, they memorialize themselves, that’s what it means, “their justice and dignity go forth from themselves.”

The Lord’s not saying they’re really just and they really have dignity, He’s saying their supposed justice and dignity goes forth. They’re claiming for themselves what they do not rightly have.

They’re a fearsome people. Verse 10: “They scoff.. They laugh.” They are not afraid of anyone. “They pile up earth and take it.”

So this is the military technology of the day. How do you get into a fortified city? Now you don’t have planes, you don’t have choppers, you don’t have long-distance missiles. You have earthen works and you have the mechanism whereby you can bring huge amounts of earth to build up a ramp so that you and your army can breach the top of the wall.

“Then they sweep by like the wind and go on,” verse 11. Probably speaking about high-scaling ladders that you would use to breach the city’s defenses.

In other words, these warriors are outfitted with the latest technology. No wonder they scoff at all comers.

And lest we are apt to think anything good about the Babylonians, their final designation is given in verse 11: “Whose own might is their god!” They think their godlike with their powers and their ability. And they’re anything but, because God, the real God, is using them for His own purposes.

Babylon was oblivious to what the God of Israel was doing. Babylon thought they were going to be on the top of the world, and they were for a time. But they were proud and they were arrogant and all along they were but a tool in the Lord’s hand to wield wherever and however He wished.

So that’s Habakkuk’s day. What about our day? How should we apply this complaint? What a fair application, because it’s easy to take a passage and it has the word “justice” and then say whatever I want about justice or injustice, but that’s not being a faithful pastor or preacher. What’s, what’s, what’s, what would God have us to know and to learn from this passage?

Let me just give you two things as we close. How should we apply this complaint and the Lord’s response in our day?

Number one, Remember. Remember that God is doing something that may be utterly hidden from us.

I don’t watch a lot of TV shows, but I hear from people that, you know, binge watch these shows or get into them and they, and I know Lost was like, that was like 20 years ago when that thing came out, so that’s how behind I am. But, you know, shows like that and people would say, “Oh, it was great” and they’d spin out all of these different storylines and all of these things would unravel and people would be really into it, what’s going to happen? And then usually you get to the final and it doesn’t all come together. Well, you didn’t really answer that question, that really never got fixed, and I’m not quite sure what that side plot was really about.

Don’t think that the story God is writing is like that television show. God knows the end from the beginning. He has all of our days written in His book before one of them comes to pass. He will tie together all of the loose ends. History follows a divine plan and a divine timetable. We are trained to follow it in, well, it used to be 24-hour news cycles, now it’s like 24-minute news cycles, and sometimes 24-second news cycles. We are wrapped up in what is happening this second, moment, instant…

God has His own timetable, and the thing He wants Habakkuk and the people of Judah to hear and to wonder and to be astounded, is that the way they see things is not always the God sees things. And what they think is happening is not always what God has happening.

And so let us remember that history follows a divine plan and a divine timetable, and that ultimately it is all related, just as Habakkuk was, you know, this is making way for the coming of the Messiah to redeem God’s people, for the establishment of God’s kingdom. If you were here when we studied Daniel on Sunday evenings you saw that all of these great kingdoms that are going to be for just a moment in God’s eye and then go, and the one that will last forever is God’s kingdom.

So we’re right to care about our nation, right to even have a sense of belonging to different groups, be it race, ethnicity, politics… Yeah, we’re people who associate with others… Just so long as we remember that the thing that God is doing in the world, the great work of God in history, is not about this country, not about any country, it’s about God’s kingdom, it’s about the rule and the reign of Jesus Christ. All things are working together for the good of the Church and for the glory of God’s name. Remember.

Second: Repent.

One of my professors in seminary always had this line. He’d say, he was the president of the seminary, he’d say “I’m neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I do work for a non-prophet.” Well, it’s true. I’m not a prophet, not a son of a prophet, so I don’t know. I haven’t, I’m not Habakkuk. I’m not an Old Testament prophet. I haven’t received a word from the Lord to explain everything that is going on in these days.

But here’s what we do know from history and from God’s Word, is that God is a God of salvation and of judgment.

There’s a book by Steven Keillor. He’s a, has a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota, a historian. Actually, Garrison Keillor’s brother, believe it or not, because the book is called God’s Judgments: Interpreting History and the Christian Faith. And what Steven Keillor argues in this book is that in interpreting history and interpreting our present moment, and this book was 10 years ago, that we often leave out the category of God’s judgment. Now let me hasten to add there’s some dangers with the sort of approach he takes. The danger often comes in the specifics, so in this book he tries to give some specific reasons, specific reasons God was judging America in 9/11, and I don’t find them all convincing. So the specifics get to be very murky.

We also have to be aware that America is not Old Testament Israel. God did not establish a national covenant with America like He did with Israel, so He does not deal with us in the same way.

And yet the point that Keillor makes in the book, that I think is good for us to remember, is that we see all throughout the prophets that God judges nations and cities and peoples, just not Israel. He judges Babylon and Assyria and Nineveh and Edom and Moab. And the book of Revelation is at least in part about a coming judgment upon Rome.

I do not know how God might be judging us. I do not venture forth what He might be judging us for. But the Lord knows He has plenty of things to choose from.

And as you read history, one of the things that’s striking about the difference between our age and say the 18th century, is they were often having days of fasting and repentance and prayer, and inevitably the preachers would pray and plead with God and repent of their sins. And they would see in military defeat, or they would see in plagues, or they would see in the low waning spiritual existence of a country, they would see the Lord’s judgment and again there is a danger in that, to… We don’t have a divine, inspired interpretation to know what God is doing. But surely we’re missing something by not having the category at all.

And that’s why I say in this final point, Repent.

Remember in Luke chapter 13. Oh, why, Jesus, why did the tower of Siloam of fall? And why did, you know, Pilate do this with the Galileans? Were these worse sinners than other people? And Jesus skips right past that. He says, no, I’m not going to, you know, judge the merits and demerits of that sinner versus that sinner. What I’m going to say is you, too, should repent.

And when we are called to repent, let us repent not of other people’s sins, but of our sins. We all are prone to protest most loudly the sins that we see in others rather than the disobedience we find in ourselves.

It seems to me there are two dangers in this particular moment: One is the danger of self-deception, to think that racism isn’t a sin or that it couldn’t possibly be a sin that’s in my heart or your heart or embedded in our world, that’s one danger, to think that racism couldn’t be our sin. And the other danger is to think that racism is the only sin, and as long as we protest against that, then we’re justified.

Now you say, “Kevin, why are you talking about repentance when this is about injustice? On what grounds do you think that this is the application for us from Habakkuk?”

Well, my grounds for thinking so is because this is how Paul and Barnabas applied this passage. In Acts chapter 13, Paul and Barnabas are preaching at Pisidian Antioch. They’re not preaching to pagans, they’re preaching to Jews. They’re preaching to men of Israel, to children of Abraham, and they say at the end of their sermon in verse 38, “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed and everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about.”

And he quotes from Habakkuk: “Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.”

The message in Habakkuk was the Lord saying, “You want justice? I will give you justice. And the justice is coming upon you, for your sins. And will come from an unjust people, and they’ll have their day.”

Paul takes this same message, this same warning, and says “Don’t be like those in Habakkuk’s day, scoffers. Heed the warning of the Lord.”

And so Paul takes this word of immediate judgment from the Chaldeans and he interprets it as an eschatological judgment that will fall upon people lest they repent.

And so surely one of the take-aways from Habakkuk chapter 1 is just that: That you and I would search our hearts, as I’ve said before, I’ve found in my life it’s the one prayer that God always answers, often faster than I’d like, “God, show me my sin. What am I missing?” And if there is not a sting of conscience there, we don’t have to pretend to have sins that you’re not yet seeing or feeling or may not be there. But pray, “Lord, give me humility. Let me see and let me repent.”

And then we cannot stop there because Paul says that in His name there is forgiveness of sins, and later when they come back and say “keep speaking to us again,” we read that they spoke with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God. There is grace for sinners, there’s grace for the sin that you find in your own heart. We can be different people, we can be changed, God can be pleased with us. We don’t have to live with a pervasive sense of guilt and shame.

And so however you come to this passage, with whatever sort of injustice you are feeling, would you pray to the Lord that He would give you a humble heart, He would give you eyes to see? And perhaps this would be a good prayer for me and for all of us, because we’re prone to feel our own injustices first and to see other people’s sins first. Maybe ask the Lord to reverse that: Lord, would You help me to feel and to sense someone else’s injustice before my own, and help me to see my sin before theirs? And to know in both God’s grace and mercy.

Let’s pray. Father in heaven, there are many, many things that are hard and weighty and confusing in these days. Speak to us clearly, therefore, from Your Word. Make us a people ever fixed and focused on Christ. Give us the grace of Christ to know ourselves and to know our sin, and give us the grace of Christ to find freedom and forgiveness in it. We don’t know what astounding work You may be doing in our day, but give us faith to believe that You are doing something, and that it will be for good and for Your glory. In Jesus we pray. Amen.