Habakkuk: An eye opener for Luther

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This past Sunday, our first scripture reading was Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4. Habakkuk is a short book of the Old Testament, telling the story of a profit by that name. The book begins as a lament against evil in the world and God's apparent complacency about it. This is followed by God's answer to Habakkuk. It is in this book that Martin Luther found the basis of his convictions — the basis for our Lutheran faith.

As a young monk, Martin Luther wrestled mightily with a sense of guilt, convicted by God's laws. Somehow, he found no solace in the writings of Paul, which he especially studied and taught. He came to see the New Testament books and the Gospels as further conviction of his unworthiness. One day, Luther was reflecting on these words written in Habakkuk 2:4. "Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith." It was the answer for which he had been searching.

Luther's son wrote of this eye opening moment:

“As he repeated his prayers on the Lateran staircase [This is a staircase in Rome that supposedly had been in Pilate's palace in Jerusalem, and were therefore made holy with Jesus' footsteps. It was often climbed on hands and knees in penitent prayer, with an indulgence received at the top. -Paul K.], the words of the prophet Habakkuk came suddenly to his mind: ‘The just shall live by faith.’ Thereupon he ceased his prayers, returned to Wittenberg, and took this as the chief foundation of all his doctrine… . Luther himself said of this text, ‘Before those words broke upon my mind I hated God and was angry with him because not content with frightening us sinners by the law and by the miseries of life, he still further increased our torture by the gospel. But when, by the Spirit of God, I understood those words – “The just shall live by faith!” “The just shall live by faith!” – then I felt born again like a new man; I entered through the open doors into the very Paradise of God.”

This week's lessons, Gospel and sermon were about the wonderful gift of faith. Thank God for this gift, the life it brings and the community of faith we share at Heart River and throughout the world.