First Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
Good morning and welcome to the Ministerial Alliance program here on KLMX radio. Iím Bryan Kimsey from 1st Baptist Church in Des Moines and this week weíve been looking at 5 of the so-called "Minor Prophets". Theyíre called minor because their books or their times were shorter than the Majors, but thereís nothing minor about their messages. In fact, Iíve found some very illuminating insights in their writings, especially in todayís prophet- Habakkuk. Yesterday, I commented on the brevity of Nahumís contribution, but I was surprised to find that Habakkuk is also one of the shortest books in the Bible. I have gotten quite a few examples from Habakkuk and use several passages from there over and over in my sermons and messages. Now, with Godís blessing and grace, weíll take a look at the writings of Habakkuk and see what mysteries they illuminate.
Habakkuk has several main themes, but the primary one is probably the question of "Is God in control of history?" That is, does God directly control events or does He simply react to them like a firefighter trying to put out fires? Along with this question, we see Habakkuk experiencing a growth in faith, and we see the proper focus of our prayers. Letís look at the text. It starts off with Habakkuk lamenting the injustice that he sees in the world:
The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw. O LORD, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, "Violence!" And You will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, And cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; There is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless, And justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgment proceeds. (Habakkuk 1:1-4 NKJV)
Probably many of us can relate to this plea of "How long?!" Godís response is interesting and probably not what most of us would want. We might want revival or renewing of justice, but God has other plans:
"Look among the nations and watch Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days Which you would not believe, though it were told you. For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, A bitter and hasty nation Which marches through the breadth of the earth, To possess dwelling places that are not theirs. They are terrible and dreadful; Their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves. Their horses also are swifter than leopards, And more fierce than evening wolves. Their chargers charge ahead; Their cavalry comes from afar; They fly as the eagle that hastens to eat. "They all come for violence; Their faces are set like the east wind. They gather captives like sand. They scoff at kings, And princes are scorned by them. They deride every stronghold, For they heap up earthen mounds and seize it. (Habakkuk 1:5-10 NKJV)
Here we find part of the answer to the question of "Is God in control of history?" Not only is God prophesying that the Chaldeans will overtake Jerusalem, but Heís taking the credit for raising them up in the first place. He says so plainly in v. 6 "For indeed, I am raising up the Chaldeans". An interesting point here is that God is using a nation more sinful and wicked than Israel to punish them. You might think that God would use a people more righteous than them in order to show them correction, but thatís not the case. Heís going to use wicked people to punish His own and He furthermore is raising up those people, in their wickedness, to accomplish His purpose.
Habakkukís response is educational. He says:
Are You not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O LORD, You have appointed them for judgment; O Rock, You have marked them for correction. You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, And hold Your tongue when the wicked devours A person more righteous than he? Why do You make men like fish of the sea, Like creeping things that have no ruler over them? (Habakkuk 1:12-14 NKJV)
He starts by first acknowledging Godís holiness and in doing so, proclaims that Godís judgment is right. Then, and only then, he asks some honest questions- "why do you make men like fish of the sea?" In other words, why do you create man just to destroy him? Habakkuk doesnít ask this question arrogantly, like a little child stomping his feet and demanding an answer, but does so in humility as we see here:
I will stand my watch And set myself on the rampart, And watch to see what He will say to me, And what I will answer when I am corrected. (Habakkuk 2:1 NKJV)
Heís not only willing to be corrected, but seems to expect correction.
God answers Habakkuk in chapter 2, telling him why this correction is coming. Hereís a sampling of that proclamation:
"Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith. "Indeed, because he transgresses by wine, He is a proud man, And he does not stay at home. Because he enlarges his desire as hell, And he is like death, and cannot be satisfied, He gathers to himself all nations And heaps up for himself all peoples. (Habakkuk 2:4-5 NKJV)
Because you have plundered many nations, All the remnant of the people shall plunder you, Because of men's blood And the violence of the land and the city, And of all who dwell in it. "Woe to him who covets evil gain for his house, That he may set his nest on high, That he may be delivered from the power of disaster! You give shameful counsel to your house, Cutting off many peoples, And sin against your soul. (Habakkuk 2:8-10 NKJV)
"Woe to him who builds a town with bloodshed, Who establishes a city by iniquity! Behold, is it not of the LORD of hosts That the peoples labor to feed the fire, And nations weary themselves in vain? For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea. "Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor, Pressing him to your bottle, Even to make him drunk, That you may look on his nakedness! You are filled with shame instead of glory. You also- drink! And be exposed as uncircumcised! The cup of the LORD's right hand will be turned against you, And utter shame will be on your glory. (Habakkuk 2:12-16 NKJV)
We should spend a lot more time on each one of these phrases, but letís look at the first one- "Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by faith." This phrase "the just shall live by faith" is referenced 3 times in the New Testament. Once each in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38. Itís therefore a very important verse. Think about it a second. How many people say they are Christians because they do this or do that? Because they go to church every Sunday, feed the poor, tithe faithfully, and so forth? Indeed, Christians should do these things, but the things donít make a person a Christian. What makes a person a Christian is whether or not they live by faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, is your faith in the things you do, or in the things that Christ did on your behalf? If you have any trust in your own works, then you are self-righteous. If you think that you were started in faith, but that your works are necessary to finish the deal, then Paul has something to say to you:
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1-3 NKJV)
I am pretty well convinced that Paulís point to the Galatians is a universal truth. People, having been set free from the slavery of sin and experiencing true spiritual freedom will tend to gravitate back toward slavery. They either set up increasing rules and regulations, which we know as "religion" or they actually go back to their sinful state because theyíre simply more comfortable there. I think this because of Paulís letter to the Galatians, but also because of the actions of the Israelites as they wandered across the wilderness. Although fed by Godís manna and quail and guided by Godís own light, they desired to return to slavery.
And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, "If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?" So they said to one another, "Let us select a leader and return to Egypt." (Numbers 14:2-4 NKJV)
What happens, then, is that a person is freed from slavery. They live for a time in a freedom that relies upon God and they experience Godís grace and mercy. Then, they start thinking about "the good old days" and the things they used to do. They can either return to these things, or they can turn against them. Both directions have their dangers. If one turns back, they return to slavery, usually a slavery that's worse than the one escaped from the first time. But another danger lies in the road for the person who fights against the former slavery, if that person starts taking credit for the resistance. Thatís where people start bringing out their accomplishments- "I go to church, I tithe, I donít look at pornography, I donít yell at my kidsÖI have accomplished something!" Thatís a dangerous position, because it is a self-reliance rather than a reliance on God. If one successfully fights against slavery, the victory cry should be "By the grace of GodÖ by putting on the armor provided to me by GodÖ by the accomplishments of Jesus Christ on the crossÖ these things were defeated." We participate, maybe even work hard at it, but the victory is not ours. It's a victory in Jesus to the glory of God.
All of this is what it means to say "the just shall live by faith." Now watch what Habakkuk has to say:
Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer's feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills. (Habakkuk 3:17-19 NKJV)
Thatís an incredible statement and Iím pretty certain that I couldnít make it. At least not right now. Think about it- though I may not have a house to live in, though I may not have food in my stomach, nor money in the bank, nor a vehicle to drive around in, nor any way to workÖ yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I canít say that. My relationship with God unquestionably and unfortunately revolves around my stomach, my bank account, and my personal happiness. Iím a spiritual wimp compared to Habakkuk. But, fortunately for me, my personal failings or strengths donít determine my standing with God. What determines my standing with God is faith in the atoning works of Jesus Christ on my behalf. Praise God for that! I am weak in trust, foolish, self-centered, lazy, and a million other things, but Jesus Christ claimed me and mediated the reconciliation between me and God Almighty. I have faith in that, and that alone.
How about you? Do you trust that Christ did these things or do you still trust in yourself? Consider.
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Forward to Zephaniah