It’s finally here: the Saturday dinner and service will be this Saturday, July 25! Dinner will be at 5:00 with worship at 6:00. Nursery will be provided but there is no “Sunday” school that evening. Please plan for this time together! We will not meet on Sunday.
But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,
“Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. –Hebrews 10:32-39
There is a verse in the NT that has a kind of celebrity status. The Apostle Paul uses it in two places: Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11. It is reportedly the verse that rescued Martin Luther from his unrelenting confusion and struggle in having the righteousness that God requires. And now here that verse is again in Hebrews 10:38, The righteous shall live by faith. Come to find out, it really isn’t a NT verse; it’s from Habakkuk (2:4)!
Habakkuk saw his world literally crumbling all around him. He had watched, prayed, warned—all the things that good prophets do—hoping that some of the people would listen and turn from their wicked ways. They did not and in swept the Babylonians who offered no hope for escape. Under such brutal persecution Habakkuk’s focus changes from warning to summoning people simply to wait and go on praising God in spite of the persecution and calamity surrounding them. I think of my favorite line in the venerable old hymn All Creatures of Our God and King, “Ye who long pain and sorrow bear: praise God, and on Him cast your care!” They long bore pain and sorrow, which they deserved. Habakkuk called them to cling to the God of Israel anyway.
On the one hand, there were those who thought they could manage it themselves, and on the other hand there were the faithful. He tells them to “Behold (look at) the proud. His soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” “Yet a little while,” He preaches, “and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith.”
This passage offer us the clearest indication yet of the situation for the original audience. From the outset they had endured terrible times like the Christians in Acts 8 or 1 Thessalonians 2. Paul himself had persecuted Christians early on. The original audience has lived through the plundering of their property and imprisonment already. It was bound to get worse. Why? Because once Jesus comes into the world with a Kingdom that is not of this world, conflict is going to arise with any powerful regime.
Like Habakkuk, the writer to the Hebrews calls on them to worship the One who has come, and to look forward to that which is promised, a better possession (another better in this book!). He calls on them not to throw away their confidence, but to endure instead. Most of all he calls them to live by faith in the midst of all that horrible persecution—to praise God and on Him cast their care by faith. That’s how the righteous live.
Of course they were out of step with the world because the gospel makes political claims. Of course we find ourselves out of step with the world because the gospel make political claims. The one who shrinks back is in danger of losing everything. Those who hold on in faith, as Jesus himself had promised, will gain their lives forevermore. And that’s the gospel.
Come hear it preached and enacted in the Supper this Sunday!