United Presbyterian Church of West Orange


Date: October 30, 2022

Sermon Title: “Make It Plain”

By Minister Kimberly Braxton

Focus Scripture: Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4


Make it Plain


Good morning. This morning’s sermon comes from the book of Habakkuk. Now Habakkuk is from a division of books in the Old Testament called “The Minor Prophets” Now we all know who the Major Prophets are – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. These prophets always seem to take center stage while the minor prophets are kind of pushed to the margins. To put it another way when reciting the books of the Old Testament the minor prophets are the ones that get blurred together. Like the LMNOP of the alphabet. Hosea! Joel! mumble mumble mumble Malachi! However, don’t overlook the minor prophets. Their clarion call and is just as relevant as the majors. The only difference between the substance of the message of the minor prophets and major prophets is length of the message. While the Book of Isiah comes in at 66 chapters and Jeremiah who is responsible for his book and the book of Lamentations for a total of 57 chapters. Minor prophets’ books are shorter for example the book of Haggai is only 2 chapters while the book of Habakkuk where our message is coming from this morning is a mere 3 chapters. However, before we even get into the text I want to make the first point of the lesson - - It is not the size of you contribution that determines your significance. Do not judge your contribution to the Kingdom of God based on its size. Every little thing matters and is a part of an overarching narrative that finds its origins with God. We all have a role to play in the Kingdom of God and the size of your mission does not determine its significance.

Looking at the text it will help us if I provide a little background for you. Habakkuk is thought to be a contemporary of Jeremiah.


And his target audience was Judah. Habakkuk lived in Judah during the reign of Jeholakim. His ministry began between the fall of Nineveh (capital of Assyria – Pop quiz which minor prophet had a word for the city of Nineveh? Answer: Jonah) and the Babylonian invasion of Judah in 586 BC.  Now Jeholakim, ruler of Judah, was not a good King. In fact in 2 Kings 23:35 we get a glimpse of the king’s leadership style. In order to pay Egypt their tribute as a vassal state he taxed the land and extracted gold and silver from the people. And in Jeremiah 22:7 it states, “your heart are set only on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion.” Finally 2 Kings 23:37 sums up his reign got succinctly, “And he did evil in the eyes of the Lord, just as his predecessors had done.”


And it is in this corrupt environment where Habakkuk’s ministry begins and it sounds a lot like what we are living through in our present age. A time where the wicked elude justice; where greed and capitalism have over run our culture, violence has become prevalent, the environment suffers and our rugged individualism has caused us to neglect the needs of our neighbors. Like Habakkuk we are a people calling out to God asking, “Don’t you see what is going on?” Verses 3-4, “Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. 4So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous-therefore judgment comes forth perverted.”


How many times can you impeach and indict a former president and nothing ever happens? 4The law becomes slack and justice never prevails.


The Flint water crisis and some 8 years later the former governor responsible for the decision to switch the water supply to the Flint River as a cost cutting measure is only facing two counts of willful neglect of duty that could lead to up to one year in prison and up to $1,000 in fines. That’s it?!? 4The law becomes slack and justice never prevails. And as a result justice comes forth perverted. Violence in the streets, gun violence in our schools, and political officials and their families threatened and attacked in their homes.


And Still…

In the face of all this wrongdoing - - The law is slack and justice never prevails.


In his day Habakkuk wanted to know why the wicked in Judah were not being punished for their sins. In the same way WE are crying out to God wondering when justice will prevail? Wrestling with the question of how can a righteous God allow injustice to go along unchecked? This prophet is actively wrestling with a question that plagues us today, “Why do the wicked prosper?”


And as we take a look at this morning’s passage from the lectionary it is an excerpt from the narrative. And I encourage you to read the entire book of Habakkuk this week. But spoiler for you… God does answer the prophet and He lets him know He is raising up Babylonian to come to Judah to execute judgment. And Judah will be destroyed.


Whoa wait. What? So MORE wicked people are gonna prosper?? Umm, Lord.. I have more questions…


How long do we need to wait before justice is served on ALL the wicked and the laws that have been established in the land are enforced equally regardless of wealth, class, race, and sexual orientation. How long must we endure unequal treatment under the law? How long will you allow corruption and perversion of justice to take the lead. How Long? As a Christian we wrestle with this tension all the time. Knowing that God is sovereign, and every good and perfect gift comes from Him. And yet….


Well, I won’t be before you long this morning but before I leave UPC I want to leave you with a vital piece of insight that we can all learn from and implement from Habakkuk. When facing situations like this - - when it appears that the wicked are winning and that God has turned a deaf ear to our cries for justice I want you to meditate on the second half of Hab chapter 2 verse 4. The righteous will live by their faith. The NIV translates this verse as “but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness”. For the people living in Habakkuk’s time it meant that no matter how wicked and corrupt the king was, how total the destruction that Babylonian brought on Judah if you kept to the Mosaic law, and stayed faithful to the covenant you would live. Your faith would sustain you through all the difficult seasons of life. What does that mean for us?

This phrase “the just, the righteous will live by faith” is quoted three times in the New Testament (Rom 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb 10:38).


What does this look like for us today. How can we implement this into our lives now? It means that no matter how the situation looks, what circumstances surround you you are called to be faithful. You should not give up hope in the eternal promises of God because God is faithful to deliver.




He said, in Jeremiah 1:12, “he watches over his word to perform it” and in Isaiah 55:11 “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”


God has promised to be with us always, to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and He’s called us to put our hope, our faith, and trust in Him and His ability to deliver.


In closing I want to bring your attention back to our pop quiz this morning – Eariler in the sermon I reminded you that Jonah was the prophet to Ninevah who preached destruction to the city. And remember Jonah had a complete meltdown when the people repented and God relented. However, the Word was spoken and all those years later the Assyrian empire was destroyed and replaced with Babylon.


Stay faithful. As He is faithful.

Stay Hopeful. Because He is the One you can put your Hope in.

And stay watchful. Chapter 2 verse 3, “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.”

Let me make it plain - Stay faithful.