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God, Where Are You?

October 6th 2013 by VicarCalvin Kapels

When difficulties happen in life, it can be easy to cry out "God, where are you?" It can seem that God is far away, that He is hidden from us. But that is far from the truth. Listen or read Vicar Kapels sermon to find out more...

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Proper 22C -"God, Where are You?"-Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4-Date Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father Amen. Habakkuk. Out of all of the names of prophets in the Bible; Jeremiah, Isaiah, Micah, Daniel, Joel why doesn’t anyone name their child Habakkuk? Maybe I can talk my wife into that for our daughter’s name, Habakkah. No? It doesn’t take a prophet to know what my wife is thinking right now. But there is something beautiful in the name Habakkuk. It means embracer, one who embraces another and takes him in his arms.
Our sermon text is from the first verses in Habakkuk where it seems that Habakkuk isn’t quite embracing God’s actions. In the second verse of the Book, we hear Habakkuk cry out, “O Lord , how long shall I cry for help and you will not hear?” To help put into perspective Habakkuk’s question to the LORD, I am going to put 1500 years of history in a one minute summary to catch us up on why Habakkuk would ask such a question. Starting with Abraham, the LORD promises to bring out of him a great nation, His own chosen people. The LORD raised righteous leaders; Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and then Moses who led the people out of Egypt out of slavery, and then Joshua who led them into the Promised Land. The people want a king, Saul becomes the first King, and he didn’t work out, so the LORD raised up David and the Kingdom of Israel came into power. Then David’s son Solomon became king and the kingdom of Israel experienced the most power and prosperity that they ever would. However, that didn’t last long, Solomon’s son Rehoboam took over and the kingdom split in two; Israel in the north and Judah in the south. It didn’t take long for Israel to fall away from the LORD to idol worship and the Assyrians took them off to captivity. Judah lasted a little longer, experiencing the rule of good kings and wicked kings that either brought them back to worshipping the LORD, or caused them to turn from the LORD and worship other gods.
The Lord’s chosen people have suffered during their long journey. A journey that has caused them to ask “Where are You God?” “Where are You God, as your people are slaves for the Egyptians?” “Where are You God, as your people wander in the desert, yearning for the Promised Land?” “Where are you God as our kings turn from You and lead Your people to idolatry?”
God is with them, He is constantly watching over them and using righteous prophets and kings to bring His chosen people back to Him in repentant faith. God embraces His people through the good times and the bad.
Enter Habakkuk. Habakkuk was a prophet during King’s Josiah’s reign, the 16th King of Judah. King Josiah, along with the prophet Jeremiah called the whole nation of Israel back to worshipping the LORD. It appeared that the Israelites were back on track, but King Josiah was killed in battle, his sons took over and the people were led back into idolatry. Habakkuk has been living on this rollercoaster of the Israelites denying the LORD, then repenting and turning toward the LORD, then only to have them fall into a downward spiral away from the LORD once again. That is where we pick up Habakkuk asking for God’s help. Why God are You letting your people act like this? Why is sin and the results of sin going unpunished? Why God do these evil people prosper, why does destruction and violence continue and why are Your righteous followers of God being surrounded and oppressed by the wicked? When, God is your justice coming?
“God where are You?!?!?!” Our questions can often sound like Habakkuk’s. “God where are you?” If there is such an all-powerful, mighty and loving God where is He when all these bad things happen to people? Where are you God as a tornado tears through a town, destroying lives? Where are you God as children die of starvation and suffer from malnutrition? Where are you God when there are Christians being killed in Egypt and across other nations in the world? And for a lot of people, there are times when we just don’t understand what God is doing.
Even though we see how God is constantly with His people and is in complete control throughout the whole Bible, at times we still ask, “God, Where are you?” I just lost my job, “God where are you? My marriage is in trouble, “God where are you?” I have been struggling and battling this disease, “God, where are you?” Maybe some of us have already been through those times and are still wondering “where were You God” when my loved one was dying? The problem isn’t in questioning God, in fact God welcomes us to come to Him in every trial, trouble, praise, and thanksgiving. The problem is when we don’t faithfully follow God despite not always knowing why God does things. The problem is doubting that God is still in control, doubting that God is still with us when the sin and troubles of this world leave us crying out “Where are you God?” I spent some time asking, “God, where are you”. My Junior year in high school, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. For a year and a half she battled the disease, the bad days when the cancer seemed to be winning the battle, we were left feeling hopeless. It was during those days I asked, “God, where are you?” The day that God called her home I was playing in the Nebraska State Basketball tournament. Our team just won the semi-final game and we were headed to the championship game the next day. I walked out of the locker room where my aunt was waiting for me and told me we need to get home soon. I ran into the living room where my mom had been laying in the hospice bed for the past two weeks, not moving, hardly breathing. My family was sitting around her bed and my pastor was there reading God’s Word. I remember the peace and comfort that was in the room as God embraced us through His Word. I went over to her, grabbed her by the hand, leaned over and said “I love you”, gave her a kiss, and sat down and waited. Within minutes, I felt my mom’s hand move up and she slowly sat up and raised her arms to the sky. It was like God was embracing her, bringing her into His arms. Then she laid back down, and took her last breath. Our pastor read another passage from God’s Word bringing us the hope and comfort found in the promises of God. The promise of new life for those who follow Him, and the promise that He will never leave us, that He is with us always. You could feel God’s presence in the room, His comfort, that through all the pain, suffering, and heart ache He is always with us. Just like He is here today. We are called to faithfully follow the Lord. To faithfully hold to His promises that He will never leave us or forsake us. To faithfully hold to God’s promise of new life found in our Savior.
So, we faithfully follow God. And that is what Habakkuk does. “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.” And we see as Habakkuk patiently and faithfully goes about his work, God answer’s him. Habakkuk 2:2-3 “And the Lord answered me: 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.” God is telling Habakkuk to write down those words so that all may read it and they may find comfort and encouragement in their times of trouble. God is still with them, His promise is still coming, God is true to His Word.
God’s promise, God’s answer for us comes in the form of our Lord and Savior Jesus. The answer is that we are never alone, we are never forsaken, the Lord does not forget about us no matter what the circumstances look like. Our question, “Where are you God?” is answered with Jesus asking the same question. As our Savior took our punishment on Him, He cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” Jesus wasn’t crying out to God asking why this was happening, Jesus knew why it was. It was to save sinners like you and me. Jesus was crying out, “where are you God?”, because it was at that point, as our Savior is on the cross, that He is completely alone left to die, and that is hell. Jesus took the punishment of our sins, Jesus took the punishment of our hell, took the punishment of being left alone.
It is His open arms that are nailed to the cross that embraces our sin and our punishment so that we will be forever embraced by our Heavenly Father. He took our place, so that we can live together in the life given to us through Jesus death and resurrection. The answer is the open tomb, with the angel embracing and welcoming the women to see the place where our Savior was laid, because He is not there, He is risen and He lives with His people. Jesus embraces and welcomes us into His family through our baptism, as He makes us His children and gives us new life. Jesus embraces and welcomes us at His table, when we come to communion with all the saints of heaven at the Lord’s table.
Jesus embraces us when the question of “where are you God?” turn into anger and doubt. Jesus brings us back to Him as we repent and ask for forgiveness and with open arms our Savior gives us forgiveness and strength to faithfully follow Him.
“God, where are you?” Who are we to question God? Who are we that God would answer us? And yet God does answer us, not because we are great, but because of His greatness and because of His love for His creation, His love for each one of us here. King David in Psalm 8 shows us this wonder, “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Like David, when we look up the heavens and look out on all of God’s creation it brings us awe and wonder. It is amazing that the Creator of all things has you and me to come to Him with our troubles; to come to Him with our praise and thanksgiving. It is amazing that the Almighty, All Powerful God cares for us, and is with us always. God is with us today, here in this building, He is with you, each one of us here is never alone, and God knows and loves you. He knows the number of days in our life, even before we live one of them (Psalm 139:16), and He knows the number of hairs on your head (Luke 12:7).
Jesus doesn’t leave us alone, He has given us His Church, the fellowship of believers that embrace and welcome each other. It is here at His Church where we hear His Word proclaimed, where we are brought into His family through baptism, where we receive His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. That is what is so great about being in Church here at Beautiful Savior, the warm welcome that is given every week when we come together to praise and worship God. Even when my family has come here to visit, they always mention how friendly everyone is. Embracing and welcoming one another, because Jesus brings us into His family and into His Church. We can be confidant, knowing that Jesus is always with us and that He brings fellow brothers and sisters of Christ into our lives to continue to embrace us in good times and in the bad times. We reach out to bring comfort to others, as we pray for others, and as we walk together in the faith, we hold strong to the promises of God, that He is with us always. Even though it can be a long, hard journey as we walk and grow together in faith, we live by faith, until Jesus calls us home to Him, embracing us in His arms with His comfort and peace forever.
“God, where are You?” Our Lord and Savior Jesus answers, “I am with you always, to the very end of age.” (Matthew 28:20) And now may the peace that surpasses all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

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