Well here we are on week 11 of our series, Major Messages from the Minor Prophets which of course means that we are on the second last of our books, Zechariah
Well actually no we’re not because of circumstances within my control although it is 11 weeks since we began this series, I am actually only on our 8th of the 12 books which means that today we are looking at the book of Habakkuk
To begin with this morning I want you to take everything you think you know about Habakkuk and throw it out, that is probably only 2 things
The first thing is that his name contains 3-k’s H-a-b-a-k-k-u-k
Now the second thing I’m talking about is one of the most misused scripture verses in all of the Bible which I’m certain you have heard misused although you may not have known it was from Habakkuk
I’m talking about which says,
“Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.
Wow that verse makes for great preaching, I could preach my entire Habakkuk sermon based on that verse and that verse alone, and many preachers do
The problem is that any such sermon is complete bubkiss because, as we will see in a few minutes, this verse is neither a good thing nor should it be taken out of context as such
But to understand that allow me to set up the context of Habakkuk for you
Habakkuk’s ministry took place somewhere around the year 600 B.C. give or take a few years and he was preaching at the same time as the much more well known Jeremiah while Judah was still enjoying its final bit of prosperity from the time of King Josiah who died in 609 B.C.
But to truly understand what is going on we need to back up about 100 years
You may remember me talking about King Hezekiah who was a Godly king and brought about reform to the nation of Judah
Well after he died in 696 B.C. his son Manasseh took over the throne and unlike his father, he did not do what was right and in fact led Judah into a state of sin
You can read about it in
Manasseh ruled for 55 years, longer than any other of Judah’s kings and when he died in 642 B.C. his son Amon became king and he picked up right where his father had left off ()
Amos was so wicked that he was killed by his own people and, at the age of 8 years old, his son Josiah became king
Now Josiah was a bright spot in Judah’s history because in spite of his youth , at 16 years old God stirred his heart and he began to lead the country in reform
And when he was only 20 he began to purge the nation of all idolatry
But perhaps his greatest feat was when he was 26 and he began the restoring of the temple ()
It was during the restoring of the temple that the workers discovered the book of the law
Can you imagine that, for hundreds of years the book had remained “stored” in its spot in the temple and hadn’t been opened to be read in generations
Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king. When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes.
Josiah took to heart the words of the law and instead of leading his people in evil he led them in holiness and repentance and he reigned for 31 years before he was killed by Pharaoh Neco of Egypt
His son Jehoahaz took over from him and although he only reigned for 3 months before being hauled off into captivity by Pharaoh Neco, the moral, and spiritual decline of Judah was swift and wide spread
After removing Jehoahaz, Pharaoh Neco made another of Josiah’s sons king, that was Jehoiakim
Jehoiakim was so evil that when those in the palace who still had a moral and spiritual compass tried to speak to him and warn him, he would have them put to death
Now this brings us to the prophet Habakkuk, he had been there during the reign of Josiah and had seen the transformational power of God’s Word with his own eyes and he saw the results that it brought to the nation
Now he was seeing the exact opposite happening and despite preaching until he was hoarse, nobody was listening
Everyone had turned their backs on God and the king had left no doubt on which side of the fence he was standing
Before I go any farther, does any of this sound vaguely familiar?
I’m not talking about the historical story of Judah but rather the modern day equivalency of said story here in our own nation of Canada
God has truly blessed us as a nation and as individuals and yet the Word of God has been systematically removed from every element of society, our leaders are corrupt and anyone who dares try to point out the sin that is rampant is belittled, berated, and even persecuted
There is no longer any tolerance for the things of God and as His spokespeople we find ourselves in the same place that Habakkuk did
The King wouldn’t listen, the people wouldn’t listen and so Habakkuk took the only recourse he could, he took his complaint to God, 2 complaints actually
That’s what causes his book to stand apart from the others, it is not a sermon or message directed to the people but a prophet complaining to God and God’s response
Seeing as we are in a similar scenario as think we can probable learn from the dialogue between him and God so let’s begin by looking at complaint #1
The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received. How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.
Let me paraphrase, ‘God why have you allowed things to get so bad?’
Habakkuk had preached until he was blue in the face and not only did things not get better they got worse and so he asked God why He was allowing it
Have you ever prayed such a prayer? Or perhaps you wanted to but you didn’t want God to strike you with lightening so you just thought it you didn’t actually pray it
Habakkuk was so fed up with the way that things had become that he lashed out at God, and that’s okay, God can handle it when we lash out at him Job did it, David did it, Martha, the sister of Lazarus did it
When you are frustrated, tell God, he can handle it, in fact He can understand it
You don’t think he was just as frustrated as Habakkuk?
Well I can assure you that He was cause look at His answer
“Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own.
I told you that was not the great news that we always use it to be, in essence God says to His prophet, You want me to do something? Oh I am going to do something! I going to do something the likes of which has never even been considered before. Something SO massive that even if I told you, you wouldn’t believe me.’
He then goes on to explain how He is going to use the Babylonians to carry out His justice
Which brings me to another conclusion, don’t ask for God’s intervention unless you are willing to accept His intervention on His terms
Like the old proverb says, ‘Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it’
That brings us to Habakkuk’s second complaint, because he didn’t like the answer that God had given to his first complaint
Lord, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, you will never die. You, Lord, have appointed them to execute judgment; you, my Rock, have ordained them to punish. Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?
I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.
‘But God, why them? I mean, aren’t you better than that? I’m not moving or doing another thing until you answer me’
Allow me to share with you another truth that is so often lost on us in the arrogance of our humanity, He is God and we are not!
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
I don’t always understand the way that God works and it’s pretty safe to say that when I do understand how He works, I’m probably wrong
In arrogance and stubbornness we can choose to believe otherwise but the answer will remain the same, He is God and we are not!
And we might not like it but sometimes we just don’t know the answers and even if we knew them we couldn’t comprehend them anyway
God overlooks the presumptuous nature of Habakkuk’s complaint just as He so often does with ours and He answers him
Then the Lord replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness—
Habakkuk things will happen just as I have decreed them to happen because man has become so full of Himself that he will not listen, and it’s only going to get worse as time goes on. But as for you, you don’t need to worry about my judgement as long as you live your life in faithfulness to me
The original NIV translated verse 4, “but the righteous will live by his faith”
The author of Hebrews words it this way for these last days in which we live
For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
So Habakkuk hears God’s answer and takes it to heart and in chapter 3 demonstrates for us all how we should respond when we are faced with the omnipotence, omniscience, holiness, truth, immutability etc. of God
Habakkuk breaks out into a prayer/song of praise declaring the greatness of God
Let me just give you the beginning and the end and you’ll see what I mean
A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth. Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.
I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. 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, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
There is a lot that we can learn from this little book of Habakkuk but if there is only going to be one thing that you take away from this message this morning let it be that very last verse I read,
Mark it and memorize it, make it your life’s mantra because “In this world you will have trouble” and you are not always going to understand why but no matter what comes your way declare just as the prophet declared, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.”