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The Unexpected Plan of God

Habakkuk: From Complaint to Confidence  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction

Last week we began a new series on the book of Habakkuk. We talked about how timely of a book this is because Habakkuk is trying to understand and see how God is working when there is so much evil and wickedness in this world.
And sadly, this past week, we were once again reminded of how evil and wicked this world is through the sad and tragic events of Uvalde, TX. It is easy to cry out with Habakkuk and ask God, How Long until You do something?
Everywhere we turn, whether its another shooting, or the outbreak of war, or the evil and wicked rebellion towards God even among those who profess to be followers, we wonder, how is God working through this.
We saw last week that it is alright to cry out to God. In fact, God invites us to cry out to Him. Just don’t turn away from Him because as we will see today, He is going to answer Habakkuk and us. This doesn’t mean we will get all the answers we want, but we will see that God is not silent and He is not blind to what is going on around us.
Read Habakkuk 1:5-11
Habakkuk 1:5–11 (ESV)
“Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.
For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation,
who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own.
They are dreaded and fearsome; their justice and dignity go forth from themselves.
Their horses are swifter than leopards, more fierce than the evening wolves; their horsemen press proudly on.
Their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swift to devour.
They all come for violence, all their faces forward.
They gather captives like sand. At kings they scoff, and at rulers they laugh.
They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it.
Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!”

I. Open Your Eyes to the Work of God Around Us

A. God does see the evil around us.

God first wants Habakkuk to look around and see that God is not silent or inactive, as he complained.
It is easy to look at the evil circumstances in this world and overlook God’s hand of providence and care in the midst of those situations.
So God tells Habakkuk to look and see. This means to truly and intently look around and pay attention to what is going on. To not miss any details and to consider and think on what is truly happening.

B. God is at Work Among all the Nations, not just Habakkuk’s

Habakkuk’s complaint is a bit short sighted as God is not just the God of Israel, but He is the God of the whole earth. God is working among all the nations, seeking to bring glory to Himself and working all things out for the good of all His people throughout the world. We cannot just zero in on the evil that is immediately around us, we must open our eyes to how God is at work throughout the nations.
Psalm 24:1 (ESV)
The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,
God wants Habakkuk to know that He is working, even though it doesn’t seem like it there in Israel. God is working among the Chaldeans and He has brought forth the punishment Assyria deserved for their wickedness and their destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
Ex. Daniel Webster Whittle (p. 44 in John Currid, Habakkuk)
Daniel Webster Whittle was a major in the Union army during the American Civil War during the 1860s. He later became a well-known preacher of the gospel, and he often related how he became a Christian during the bloody conflict between the States.
He said: When the Civil War broke out, I left my home in New England and came to Virginia as lieutenant of a company in a Massachusetts regiment. My dear mother was a devout Christian, and parted from me with many a tear, and followed me with many a prayer. She had placed a New Testament in a pocket of the haversack that she arranged for me.
We had many engagements, and I saw many sad sights, and in one of the battles I was knocked out, and that night my arm was amputated above the elbow. As I grew better, having a desire for something to read, I felt my haversack, which I had been allowed to keep, and found the little Testament my mother had placed there. I read right through the book — Matthew, Mark, Luke, to Revelation.
Every part was interesting to me; and I found to my surprise that I could understand it in a way that I never had before. When I had finished Revelation, I began at Matthew, and read it through again. And so for days I continued reading, and with continued interest; and still with no thought of becoming a Christian, I saw clearly from what I read the way of salvation through Christ. And then a most amazing event happened in this prison hospital.
While in this state of mind, yet still with no purpose or plan to repent and accept the Saviour, I was awakened one midnight by the nurse, who said: ‘There is a boy in the other end of the ward, one of your men, who is dying. He has been begging me for the past hour to pray for him, or to get someone to pray for him, and I can’t stand it. I am a wicked man, and can’t pray, and I have come to get you.’
‘Why,’ I said, ‘I can’t pray. I never prayed in my life. I am just as wicked as you are.’ ‘Can’t pray!’ said the nurse; ‘why, I thought sure from seeing you read the Testament that you were a praying man. And you are the only man in the ward that I have not heard curse. What shall I do? There is no one else for me to go to. I can’t go back there alone. Won’t you get up and come and see him at any rate?’
Moved by his appeal, I arose from my cot, and went with him to the far corner of the room. A fair-haired boy of seventeen or eighteen lay there dying. There was a look of intense agony upon his face, as he fastened his eyes upon me and said: ‘Oh, pray for me! Pray for me! I am dying. I was a good boy at home in Maine. My mother and father are members of the Church, and I went to Sunday School and tried to be a good boy. But since I became a soldier I have learned to be wicked. I drank, and swore, and gambled, and went with bad men. And now I am dying, and I am not fit to die! Oh, ask God to forgive me! Pray for me. Ask Christ to save me!’
Whittle got on his knees and prayed earnestly for the boy, and the boy pressed his hand as he pleaded the promises. When he got up from his knees, the boy was dead, yet Whittle believed he had his attention fixed on Christ when he died and that he had trusted in the Saviour. And right there at that very hour, Whittle himself got down on his knees and came to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Over the years, Whittle the preacher was overheard saying, ‘I was the second person that I led to Christ.’
Currid, John D. WCS Habakkuk: The Expectant Prophet (Welwyn CommentarySeries Book 35) . EvangelicalPress. Kindle Edition.

II. Know that God Is in Control

A. The Chaldeans or Babylonians are Gaining in Strength

Before this time, the Assyrians were the power in the region and God had used the Assyrians to destroy the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
But now, the Chaldeans (Babylonians) are rising up and growing in power. Babylon will come through and capture Nineveh, the Capital of Assyria, to secure their power base in this region of the world. And God describes the Chaldeans as a very ruthless power.

B. This growth is due to God’s Sovereignty to Raise them up

What we learn from God’s response to Habakkuk is that they are growing in power because of God’s choosing. v. 6 says - “For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation.”
We learn that God is in control of history and the rising and falling of empires. We see this throughout the pages of Scripture as well.
Daniel 2:21 (ESV)
He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding;
God is the Sovereign Lord who is working throughout the entire earth and throughout all of history, working for His glory and for the good of His people.
What does Sovereign mean? God is on His throne ruling over His creation and working out His will on the earth according to His good and holy purpose.
Job gives this same image in Job 12:23
Job 12:23 (ESV)
He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away.
Isaiah 40:15 , 17
Isaiah 40:15 (ESV)
Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.
Isaiah 40:17 (ESV)
All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.
John 19:11 (ESV)
Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
Romans 13:1 (ESV)
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
Now, Paul is not saying that every authority is good, but that God sets up every authority.
We also want to remember, that God does not cause the evil that come from evil men in power.
He may raise them up, but each person is responsible for his or her own evil choices. But God, knowing who they are, can use what they do to bring about His good and holy purposes.
So, we see that God is never out of control. God is always in control, even though there are evil things that happen apart from what He desires, He can allow and even use the evil and despicable acts of men for His good purposes.

III. Trust that God Can Bring Good from the Evil Actions of Men

A. The Babylonians are an evil nation which are responsible for their own evil

God is not blind to the evil and wickedness of the Babylonians. He even spells it out for Habakkuk who they are and what they are going to do.
Now it is important to be sure to read down to the last half of chapter two where God is going to speak judgment over Babylon, for while He is going to use their willful rebellion against Him, He is not going to turn a blind eye to their rebellion. They will be held responsible for their actions even as God is going to use their actions for His own glory.

B. God is using their own rebellious evil to bring His people back to Himself

Even knowing their wickedness, God is still able to raise them up and use them for His own purposes.
Now, we might be tempted to go two wrong different directions with this, as we even look at the current evil and wickedness in our own time.
We might say, because God is in control, God is accountable for and causes the evil in this world. Which, I hope we addressed last week, but in summary, I want to remind us that James 1:13
James 1:13 (ESV)
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
When God created this world, He did give Adam and Eve free will to either trust and obey Him or to turn from Him. And all of us since Adam have chosen to turn from Him in rebellion. Evil exists because we failed to trust God and obey Him. And if God were to completely destroy evil, He would have to destroy all of us because even if He were to destroy only the bad people and leave the good people, guess what, there would still be evil because even good people are evil. In fact, God did that already by sending the flood to wipe out the evil on the earth and leaving the only “blameless” family left. And evil still remained and grew from that family as well. So if God were to rid the world of evil He would have to eliminate all of us because none of us are truly good. We are all fully responsible for our own rebellion.
The second wrong way we might go is by saying, surely God can’t be in control because He wouldn’t willingly allow or use these things. While we might not be able to see how God can use these things for good, wouldn’t it be terrible to actually think that God is not in control and could not either stop the wickedness around us or somehow use it for His glory? If God isn’t in control, then evil could very possibly win against God and His people. However, a former pastor down in Greenwood where I came from was known for saying, “I’ve read the last page, and we win!” The only way we can have hope that God and His people win at the end is if God is in full and total control of what is happening even now. We may not understand what He is doing or why He is allowing certain things, and I definitely do not have any answers for the current evils of our day, but I do full heartedly believe that God is using them to further His Kingdom and His glory.

C. God can still bring good out of evil circumstances

So God is raising up the Chaldeans in order to bring His people back to Him. They will rise up and conquer the people of Judah to get them to wake up to their own rebellion and to draw them back into a right relationship with Himself.
Again, if this is hard for us to grasp, that’s alright, because we are going to see that Habakkuk is going to have another complaint for God after he hears this first response.
But as we will see, there will be a remnant of the people of Judah who will be strengthened in their faith of God and will become mighty witnesses for His glory. They will have the opportunity to see God work in a mighty way.
If we know biblical history, we will know from the stories of Daniel and Esther, that they will be able to be an influence over pagan kings.
If you are not familiar with those stories, I would invite you to go and read both of those books this week.
Through the ministry of Daniel, not only will Daniel be strengthened as a man of God because of the Babylonian captivity, but he and his friends will also provide a huge testimony to the kings of Babylon about the greatness and goodness of God, to the point that I believe both the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar and the Persian King Darius both became believers in the one true God. And the servant girl Esther becomes a queen in the court of Artaxerxes and has influence over him in such a way as to save her people from extinction.
The Jews, through the captivity, were becoming a blessing to the nations even in the midst of terrible circumstances. And who knows what other lives were impacted because of the faithfulness of obedient believers living in a foreign land. God is bringing good out of the actions of this evil people.
Of course, there is one other event, where God used the greatest evil this world has ever seen to bring about the greatest good this world will ever experience.
When God sent His Son Jesus, Jesus the perfect lamb of God, experienced the greatest evil and wickedness this world had to offer. The one who knew no sin experienced an arrest, false accusations, beatings and ultimately death upon a cross, one of the worst forms of death this world can give. This is the greatest evil because it occurred to the only truly innocent human who has ever walked the earth.
However, as we saw earlier, the authority that Pilate and the Jews exercised over Him were given to them by God Himself. So God was sovereignly working through the wicked actions of men to crucify His Son. Men were responsible for their wicked actions. However, God allowed and used those actions to bring about the kind of death that was required for the payment of sin, so that all those who would believe in Jesus, even those who were physically involved in killing Him, could experience forgiveness from sin and life everlasting in the presence of God the Father.
And God Himself experienced this evil against Himself! As we talk about God being in control and bringing good from evil, we must remember, that God is no stranger to the evil that we endure. He has personally experienced the pain and the heartache that this evil brings. So if we begin to wonder why God is doing something, we need to go back to the cross where God took on evil against Himself to defeat all evil!

Conclusion

While we can look back on many events and see how God brought good out of evil circumstances, it doesn’t mean we will always see how God is working. Sometimes we will never know exactly what God’s plan is on this side of eternity.
But because we know God is able and has brought forth good before, we know He is still working out all things for the good of His people even today, even if we can’t see it.
But in the meantime, while we don’t understand, keep crying out to God and be His hands and feet to those who are hurting. Let us weep with those who weep, knowing that, although God may be able to bring good out of evil circumstances, God also hates the wickedness in this world and is actively working to bringing an end to that wickedness. We need to pray for and be a shoulder to cry on for those who have experienced loss and pain and don’t seek to give a trite answer, but simply cry with them and seek God’s face together.
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