Track 1: I Will Stand at My Watchpost
The Prophet Habakkuk was frustrated. He was discouraged. He complained to God:
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous–
therefore judgment comes forth perverted. (Habakkuk 1:2-4)
He believe there was no justice. God was slack in punishing the wicked while righteous people were being oppressed.
Have we ever felt the same way? We become discouraged because people seem to be getting away with evil and nothing is being done about it, Though discouraged, Habakkuk had not yet lost hope. He would wait upon God to see if he would eventually answer his complaint:
I will stand at my watchpost,
and station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me,
and what he will answer concerning my complaint. (Habakkuk 2:1)
Habakkuk was an intercessor. He would wait, but he would also be praying concerning the situation. The Apostle Paul wrote:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
Intercessory prayer require some effort on our part. We must learn to be patient. We must learn to trust God.
God has called each one of us to be intercessors. It can be a lonely assignment. More often than not, it does not bring instant results. We need to pray earnestly, from the heart. God needs our earnest prayers. The psalmist wrote:
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning. (Psalm 130:1-6)
Waiting of the Lord means more than just exercising patience. It also means serving the Lord. He needs our attention. He needs our faith and hope.
God answered the complaint of Habakkuk this way:
Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so that a runner may read it.
For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will not delay.
Look at the proud!
Their spirit is not right in them,
but the righteous live by their faith. (Habakkuk 2:2-4)
God’s timing is not always our timing, but his timing is perfect. We must not lose faith in the justice of God. His justice goes beyond our idea of justice. From today’s appointed psalm:
Your justice is an everlasting justice
and your law is the truth.
Trouble and distress have come upon me,
yet your commandments are my delight.
The righteousness of your decrees is everlasting;
grant me understanding, that I may live. (Psalm 119:142-144)
Let us not become so discouraged that we live like those who do not believe in the justice of God. Today’s Gospel reading tells of Zacchaeus, a tax collector. He knew what he was doing was wrong, but when he came into contact with Jesus he found hope that things could change. Because Jesus accepted him, he decided to make amends for his misdeeds:
Zacchaeus said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:8-10)
God’s justice includes mercy. His justice is for more than today alone. His justice is eternal.
Track 2: Come Let Us Reason Together
Through the Prophet Isaiah, God complained concerning the shallowness of his chosen people. Though they observed the appointed festivals and paid lip service in their worship of God, this had little bearing on their daily life. God required much more from them. He demanded much more:
When you stretch out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:15-17)
In his psalm of confession, King David expressed what he believed God was looking for:
You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities. (Psalm 51:6-9)
David understood that he needed God’s help in order to change. God asks a lot of us, but is he unreasonable?
In today’s Gospel reading we learn of a chief tax collector, Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was anxious to know who Jesus was:
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. (Luke 19:1-6)
Why would a notorious sinner be happy to welcome Jesus? He saw something in Jesus that he did expect to find. He saw something that the grumblers failed to see:
All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:7-10)
What did Zacchaeus see in Jesus? Let us return to today’s reading from Isaiah. God said:
Come now, let us argue it out,
says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be like snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
I like the way the King James Version puts this: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord.” God is exacting but he not unreasonable. He wants to work with us.
The psalmist wrote:
While I held my tongue, my bones withered away,
because of my groaning all day long.
For your hand was heavy upon me day and night;
my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and did not conceal my guilt.
I said,” I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”
Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:3-6)
Confession is the beginning. God also wants to take us a step further. If we are willing, he will cleanse us, he will restore us, and he will give us a fresh new start. This is what excited Zacchaeus. Before Jesus could ask him to repent, he was ready ready to make amends for his sin.
Are we stuck today in some habitual sin? Perhaps it is a sin that we seem not to be able to overcome. In fact, alone, we cannot overcome it. The good news is that God wants to overcome for us. The Apostle Paul wrote:
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:7-21)
Do we understand the true nature of God. He is forgiving, he is restorative, and he is our deliverer. “Come, let us reason together,” he tells us. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow.”