by Pastor Red
Habakkuk 2:4 "Behold, his soul is not puffed up. it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith."
We have this notion that we live in dangerous times. The daily news, no matter if we read it off paper or a screen, hear it on the radio, or watch it streamed to us on tablets or over television, paint for us a picture of a troubled & scary world. But, is the world really more dangerous now than it has been in the past?
In the 1500's, when Martin Luther walked the earth, he knew that the world was not a safe place. He was right. Many babies never lived to see their first birthday. Without fridges or freezers, food spoiled quickly & often, & people often just ate the half-spoiled food, cooked a little longer, rather than waste it. Water, even from the deepest wells, was often suspect, & rarely clear, clean, & cool. The common diseases we consider just nuisances were deadly. The flu could, & did, wipe out large numbers of people. And without simple antibiotics, simples cuts & punctures led to infection, lock-jaw, septicemia, gangrene, & death.
That was just day-to-day life; I haven't even brought into account the looming threat of the Muslim Turks who had stormed into Europe as far as Vienna before being repelled. They could invade again at any time. But if the Turks were too far to be a threat, the Christian princes, earls, & dukes were always having arguments that led to minor wars throughout the countryside. And these small wars did not care how many innocent civilians were killed in the conflict.
Along with all of those very real dangers, the people were also deathly afraid of the devil & all of his minions. The priests constantly warned the people to be on their guard against witches, demons, warlocks, & any kind of ghost or specter. If is from this time that we get all of our best horror stories of witches & ghouls. Yes, this was the time that gave birth to the Brothers Grimm, Hansel & Gretel, & especially, Vlad Tepes' Dracula.
It is easy to see then that one lone Augustinian German monk would be so worried for his life, both physical & eternal, that he would spend years searching for protection from God. He would begin by trying to win God's constant concern & affection by driving himself to exhaustion through fasting, prayer, & self-abuse. When those disciplines did not bring any true assurance, Luther poured himself into Scripture to find any source of comfort in his troubling & scary world.
While studying the entire Old Testament, in preparing to teach it to younger students, Luther found this small verse in the prophet Habakkuk. This is the verse that Luther stated was the key that unlocked heaven for him.
Its simple words immediately broke through the chains of doubt & fear from his heart & mind. This verse made what he had read before clear, that God gave His children the gift of faith, & by that gift of faith, free from Christ, we have life, now & eternally.
What he had not heard in all the Psalms, Luther got from this verse. All of the blessings & wonder that come from Christ funneled to him through this verse. Habakkuk, the often forgotten prophet with the funny name, was the chosen voice that brought comfort & clarity to the man who led the great reformation of the church. Grace, mercy, & peace today are ours from the words "the righteous shall live by his faith." And because that faith is a free & certain gift of God through the life, death, & resurrection of Christ, we need not fear the world any longer. No warrior prince, no crazed Muslim Turk, terrorist, or ISIS combatant can take away our life in Christ. No distant war, or local skirmish between the neighborhood drug cartels can take away our eternity with God. No cancer, syndrome, or contagion can separate us from our Lord & Savior. And especially no new great preacher, teacher, or spiritual leader or guru can come between us & the love & adoption that Jesus won for us on the cross.
We live in scary times. But the Father & His Son, who hold us close to themselves, are a lot scarier than anything that seeks to hurt & destroy us. If you need proof of that, here's another small verse: "Little children, you are from God & have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." (1 John 4:4).