Is God faithful? A few weeks back, via some glitch with our song presentation software we found ourselves singing, “Is God faithful?”
The answer is, of course, a resounding “yes, God is faithful” as a multitude of songs proclaim. Yet the question mark chimes with our experience. There is indeed much in our world and lives that leaves us questioning God, pleading for his help and pondering his inaction.
We live in a post-holocaust, post-genocidal world where disasters and war are livestreamed into the palm of our hands, continually. So, we cannot claim to be innocent or ignorant about injustice and violence. Evil in our world cannot be attributed to the hands of a good God but despite our prayers and protestations we do not see the intervention of God as we would desire.
Add, to these external circumstances, our internal propensity to be insecure, suspicious and untrusting and we have optimal conditions for strongholds of fear and distrust in God to form and fester in our souls.
So how do we foster confidence in God’s faithfulness?
That’s worth thinking about before Sunday.
The revelation of Jesus that upturned Paul’s life on the road to Damascus led him to re-evaluate and reinterpret his own Jewish heritage. He came to realise that the story of God’s devoted faithfulness to Israel, recorded in the Old Testament, was a story that led to a great climax in the coming of Jesus; Israel’s Messiah and the world’s true King. All that God had promised was yes, and amen, in him. Jesus was the proof and fulfilment of what was prophesied and promised. God is the promise keeper.
So, when Paul comes to describe what God has done in his letter to the believers in Rome, he shows them that the roots of their faith are deeply embedded in the soil of Israel, that they worship God because he has remained faithful to what he promised.
Specifically in Romans 1:16,17 Paul tells them to read Habakkuk and quotes Hab. 2:4
“The righteous will live by faith”.
Actually, Habakkuk is misquoted by most bible translations (not by Paul). What Habakkuk actually says is “the righteous will live by faithfulness”.
Faith is what I have, faithfulness is what God is. Believers live because God is faithful.
Paul’s point is that the strength and quality of my faith is not what counts; what counts is what my faith is grounded in.
I spent one happy afternoon 10 years ago floating around Sunderland harbour learning how to anchor a boat. The answer, should you ever need it, is that ultimately the quality of the ground into which you are anchored is more important than the strength of your anchor itself. A smidgeon of faith in a reliable God is far more powerful than a massive faith in not much at all.
That’s Paul’s point: our faith is grounded in the bedrock of the faithfulness of God.
Habakkuk found this to be true, discovering it as he openly and vigorously protested at God for the injustice he saw around him. (Hab. 1:2,3)
God answered Habakkuk, not with an intervention to make his circumstances easier but, with a promise to act decisively to right injustice, to rectify wrong and to defeat evil once and for all. (Hab. 2:2-4) That moment, Paul reminds us, came with the death and resurrection of Jesus.
God has been faithful to his promise, intervened and acted to bring the story of his loyal love to the final outcome and has acted decisively and completely to put the world right. Yet the story is not over. We wait on God completing what he began through the cross and resurrection to bring all things under Christ’s rule. So, like Habakkuk, we are called to wait until this appointed time, so that, like Habakkuk, we would learn to trust in the faithfulness of God and say:
though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.