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The Answer

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Habakkuk 2:1-5

I.       Introduction

A.    Waiting or Godot

1.      Written by Samuel Beckett in 1952 is a play set in two acts.

a.       Main characters, nicknamed Didi and Gogo meet at a desolate roadside place to meet up with Godot later on that night.

b.      Reason is not given to us as to why they are waiting for Godot, but several times they remark how much their life will change once he shows up.

c.       In the meantime, they engage in many mini-conversations about boots, bladders, belts, poetry, slavery and God.  All these conversations are meant to emphasize the agony of waiting.

B.     Waiting can be hard

1.      The outcome is in doubt

a.       You don’t know if your blind date is going to be as good looking as your friend described.

b.      You don’t know if your bride to be is actually listening to her father as he tells her it’s not too late to run.

c.       You don’t know what the doctor will say when he calls with the test results.

d.      Imagine being one of the 14,000 members of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO who’s senior pastor and president of the 30 million member National Association of Evangelicals just resigned from both of these positions to make way for an investigation to look into the allegations of a prostitute who said that they had a 3-year relationship. You don’t know what going to happen to your pastor or to the church.

2.      Feel helpless because you don’t have control or don’t understand what’s going on.

a.       We all like to have answers or reasons

C.     God wants to help us in our waiting.

D.    Transition

1.      This is what He’s done for Habakkuk

a.       When Habakkuk asked why God wasn’t doing anything (1:2-3), God answered He was, and God told Habakkuk that He was raising the Chaldeans (1:5-6).

b.      Habakkuk didn’t understand this because Chaldeans were wicked and were destroying the people that God had created (1:14-15).

c.       Raising wicked Chaldeans seemed to go against God’s character of holiness (1:13).

d.      Habakkuk was having hard time understanding, which made the waiting difficult.

II.    Exposition

A.    Habakkuk watching (2:1)

1.      This is where we find Habakkuk in 2:1; watching and waiting.

2.      God answered Habakkuk’s first question with a “look and see” answer (1:5), so Habakkuk does exactly that.

3.      He positions himself at a prime viewing point in order to get the best view of God’s response.

4.      Note that Habakkuk fully expects God to answer.

5.      Yet, I don’t think Habakkuk was all too excited about what God was going to do.  He fully believed God would answer, but I believe he was a bit anxious about it.

a.       Like the first day at a new school or new job, or the first time you put $20 worth of fireworks under a bucket with a brick on top.

b.      You’re excited for it to happen, but at the same time you’re backing up and taking cover.

c.       Habakkuk is looking to see what God will reply, but he’s fully expecting something negative.

1.)    Better word for “complaint” is “rebuke”

2.)    Already getting his defense ready.

d.      Why anxious?  Habakkuk has been hitting God pretty hard.

1.)    He’s told God that He didn’t care that people who loved Him were suffering.

2.)    That He wouldn’t save them.

3.)    Even worse, that He couldn’t save them.  Why else wasn’t He acting?

6.      Question of theodicy.

a.       Theodicy is a defense of God’s goodness and justice in light of the existence of evil.

b.      Job was the first person to really wrestle with this.

1.)    He cried out to God that it wasn’t fair that all his belongings, possessions, servants and children were taken from him.  What kind of God would allow this to happen?

2.)    He took God to task and told Him that he wanted a little face time to get some answers.

3.)    Remember what happened?  God showed up and gave Job a little face time.

4.)    God answered Job out of a terrifying whirlwind and basically said to Job, “What idiot is questioning Me?  You want answers?  First give me some answers!” (38:1-30)

5.)    Then God proceeded to remind Job which of the two was God, and which wasn’t.

6.)    Perhaps Habakkuk was thinking about this and was waiting for his rebuke, waiting for God to come after him in the same way.

B.     God instructing (2:2-3)

1.      What does God tell Habakkuk?  That this answer is going to be very important, so write it down clearly and plainly so that everyone will read it.

a.       It seems Habakkuk dodged a bullet.  Instead of being angry with Habakkuk, God simply tells him to write down God’s answer.

b.      Why?  So all can see it and be sure.  When things would start to get tough around them, they could go back to the tablets to see God’s answer written down.

2.      God underscores the message’s importance by telling Habakkuk not to worry if it seems like it’s taking a long time to fulfill.  It will definitely come to pass.

3.      The language of surety is overwhelming: it won’t fail, it will certainly come, it won’t delay, it has an appointed time.

4.      We’ve already talked about the fact that we don’t like to wait. 

a.       God is instructing Habakkuk, and all those who would read the words of this vision, including us, that this will not be done on our timetable, according to our desires.

b.      This is a work of God that will be done in God’s way on Hs timing.  Our job is to wait expectantly for it to happen.

C.     God revealing (2:4-5)

1.      Habakkuk’s last question to God (1:17) was essentially, “Will they always get away with what they’re doing?”

2.      The first part of God’s answer is to take a good look at the proud Chaldeans and their leader.

a.       Because of their pride their souls within them are not right.

1.)    They follow after their own lusts and desires. 

2.)    They are not godly desires, but base, human, fleshly desires.

3.)    1:7 says that their sense of justice and authority originates from within themselves.

4.)    They say, “I want what I want, when I want it, how I want it.”

b.      He is greedy

1.)    His greed consumes him so that he is never satisfied with what he has, it is never enough.

2.)    He is like death – there will never be a point where the grave will cry out and say, “I’ve had enough!  From now on no more people die!”

3.)    His greed knows no bounds, it goes into all areas of life and into all the nations and people groups around him. 

4.)    Everything he sees or thinks about, he wants for his own, and he will step on or destroy anyone who attempts to get in his way of pursuing his own agenda.

3.      God goes on to say in vv. 6-20 that the Chaldeans will get theirs, at the appointed time.

a.       In fact, Jeremiah, who was ministering at the same time as Habakkuk, told the nation that they would go into captivity for 70 years (Jer. 25:8-12), and that at the end of the 70 years, God would punish their captors and destroy them.

b.      The book of Daniel records this day in chapter 5.  Check me on that.

4.      The second part of God’s answer is to live by faith.

a.       God also comforts Habakkuk by saying that even though the wicked will be punished, the righteous will live through this terrible time.

b.      Remember, what was Habakkuk complaining about?  How can a good and holy God allow the wicked Chaldeans to prosper and devour your chosen people Israel?  He was questioning God’s ability to deliver them and wanted to know exactly what He was planning to do.

c.       What was God’s answer?  Don’t worry about Me, or about the Chaldeans.  Worry about how you are living.  Habakkuk wanted details and descriptions, God gave him directions.

d.      God is promising that those who are truly His, and who obey His commandments will make it through this time by focusing on Him.  And we know that this is true

e.       A great example of this is Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  Three men who probably heard God’s message to Habakkuk.

1.)    Just as they were about to endure a very serious trial – being thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to worship an idol, they said, (read Dan. 3:16-18).

2.)    That’s great faith.  “Our God is able to do it.  But even if He chooses not to, we will still keep our focus on Him and obey His commands and not worship idols.”

3.)    What happened?  God showed up and saved them in the fire so that when they came out their hair and clothes were not even singed.

4.)    That is living by faith.

III. Points to Remember

A.    What will help us wait?

B.     Trusting in God’s literal Word

1.      Habakkuk took God at His word, and when God said “Look and see”, Habakkuk did just that.

2.      Too many people want to spiritualize or allegorize the Bible to either try to make it easier to understand or to try to explain why bad things happen to good people.  The result is more confusion than clarification.

a.       One of the more famous allegorizations is of Augustine’s commentary on the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

b.      He associates every object, phrase and action with something else in order to give it a deeper spiritual meaning.

c.       For example the Good Samaritan represents Jesus, the waylaid man, Adam, the thieves were the devil and his angels, the oil, the comfort of good hope, the inn represents the church, the innkeeper, the apostle Paul.

d.      What we end up with is a complicated story about sin and salvation instead of an answer to the question, “Who then is my neighbor?”

3.      Illustration:  It’s like planning to go on a vacation.  You pull out the map with directions on it, but instead of looking at mileage, turns, states and exits, you interpret them to a context of how to invest your money in the stock market: what stocks, how much and how long.  Nothing good will come of it – you will lose your money and you will never get to your destination.

a.       When the map says go 200 miles and exit, we need to do just that.

b.      When God says, “it will certainly come”, or “live by faith”, or “I will never leave you or forsake you”, or “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” or “For by grace you have been saved through faith”, He means just that. 

4.      God asks us to trust in the Word that He has delivered to us, even when it’s difficult to understand or believe.

C.     Understanding that there will be judgment

1.      We believe in the promise of a future judgment, because we have seen Him fulfill His promises of the past.

a.       God promised destruction for the Chaldeans and about 60 years later it came, just as God said it would.

2.      One of the promises God gives us regarding the future is that there will be judgment for all of us.  All of us here will stand before the throne of God and be judged according to one standard: are we righteous.

a.       This happens at the Second Coming of Christ.

b.      For some of us we will be granted eternal life because we have accepted God’s free gift of righteousness through His Son Jesus Christ.

c.       For others of us, we will have no answer.  We will try to offer up our good works, our good ideas, our good intentions, our good personalities in the hopes that God will be impressed.  He will not.  He will say, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  I cast you worthless servants into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

3.      This day will most assuredly come, but we don’t know the day nor the hour.  Only God knows that and has appointed that time for us. 

4.      Our responsibility now is to watch and wait in faith, and be confident that Day will come.

D.    Acting on God’s Word

1.      Read James 1:25

2.      We must live by faith

a.       This truly is the heart of the message, in fact it is the focal point of the entire book.

b.      Every aspect of this book hinges on this little parenthetical statement buried within verse 4.

c.       This statement is so important that the Jewish rabbis said that even though Moses gave them 613 commandments in the Torah, Habakkuk condensed them all down to one: “The righteous shall live by his faith.”

3.      These seven words are worth unpacking further.

a.       It has already been mentioned previously that this phrase is quoted three times in the NT.  Each time it is quoted the emphasis as to why it is quoted is different each time, so that by examining all three contexts we get a divine commentary on this little sentence.

b.      The first quote is in Rom. 1:16-17 (read).

1.)    The theme of the book of Romans is God’s righteousness.  God’s righteousness tells us that all who have sin will be punished, and that those who do not

2.)    On our own, we are far from righteous – we are guilty of sin and fall short of God’s glory and righteousness (3:10)

3.)    However, we can become righteous; declared innocent, by accepting the gift of God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus (3:21-22).

4.)    This is the only way we can become righteous, and this was the way Abraham was given righteousness, by His faith in God (4:1-3)

c.       The second quote is found in Gal. 3:11 (read).

1.)    Galatians helps us to understand how we are to live.

2.)    Paul opens the letter rebuking the Galatians because they so quickly departed from the true gospel and started living differently (1:7-8).

3.)    Paul also rebukes the apostle Peter because he chose to live different ways in front of different people, which is hypocrisy (2:14).

4.)    Paul then says of himself (read 2:20).

5.)    Finally he reminds the Galatians that they were running well (5:7), and that they needed to get back to living life according to the Spirit (5:16, 25).

d.      The third quote is from Heb. 10:38.

1.)    Immediately after this quote we have a wonderful definition of what faith truly is (read 11:1).  It is an assurance and fervent conviction in the promises of God.

2.)    This is what the list of people in Hebrews 11 represents: men and women who endured extremely difficult times because they held on to their faith.

3.)    The author comments in 11:38 that the world was not worthy of these people because of their great faith.

4.)    12:1-2 says that we have them today as examples to encourage us when we get down or when times get tough (read).

4.      It can be said that these seven little words have changed the world.

a.       In the early 1500’s a German monk understood God’s righteousness as something that kept him at a distance from God, because of the presence of sin in his body.

b.      He would deny himself food and water, go without sleep, go without adequate clothing in winter and spend hours in prayer and confession to try to purge the sin from himself in order to become righteous.

c.       When he first read Rom. 1:17, Martin Luther said, “I hated that word, ‘the righteousness of God,’ by which I had been taught, according to the custom and use of all teachers…[that] God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner.”  He could not live by faith because he was unrighteous.

d.      Later, in his studies in the Psalms and back in Romans, he said that God opened his eyes: “At last meditating day and night, by the mercy of God, I…began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith…Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open.”

e.       Because of this new understanding that righteousness comes by faith and not by works, Luther broke with tradition and started what we call today The Reformation, of which we are a part.

5.      Luther was able to see this great truth and to withstand the threats and attempts upon his life because he took God’s Word literally and used it to help him live.

IV. Conclusion

A.    At the beginning we talked about Waiting For Godot

1.      We left the two main characters doing just that on the side of the road.  Before the first act closes, Didi and Gogo receive a note that Godot will not come today, but most certainly will come tomorrow.

2.      The first act ends with this exchange of words, “Well, shall we go?”  “Yes, let’s go.”  And the stage direction of “They do not move.”

3.      Curiously, the play ends in exactly the same way.  They receive the notice, agree to leave, and then do not leave.

B.     They refused to act even though the note told them that there was no point in waiting.  Why not?  They didn’t want to believe the note.  They wanted Godot to show up so badly that they let their desires and wants override the clear, literal message of the note.

C.     Waiting can be hard.  They outcome of what we’re waiting for can be in doubt, or we just don’t like not knowing what’s going on.

D.    God helps us in this by reminding us in His Word, that He alone is sovereign and that He promises to bring judgment on the wicked at the appointed time. 

1.      We know the outcome.  We trust that God will do what He promises because He has in the past. 

2.      Because of this, we respond rightly – living a life of faith regardless of the people and the circumstances around us.

3.      Habakkuk understood this and was able to say at the end of the book, “I will wait patiently for these things to come to pass, and I will rejoice in the Lord.”  May we do the same.

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