Minor Prophets

Over the last few weeks we’ve been doing a series on the Minor Prophets.  Tonight was our last night, looking at the book of Habakkuk:

Habakkuk lived at a time when society was shaken by violence.  As Judah and Jerusalem had sunk deeper into disobedience towards God and his requirements, so the fabric of national life had begun to come apart at the seams.  The prophet lived and spoke in the inexorable build-up to the invasion of Judah and ultimate destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians – in the year following the reign of Josiah when Jehoiakim succeeded as king in 609BC.

Josiah had been a just king (cf. 2 Kings 22:1-2), ruling and administering justice in the spirit of Israel’s covenant law: ‘He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well’ (Jer. 22:16).  Jehoiakim inherited none of his father’s qualities.  He exploited his subjects for his own aggrandisement and had no concern for justice and mercy (2 Kings 23:36-37).  Those who held subordinate positions of power in the land – governors and judges – took their cue from him.  The result was widespread oppression, injustice and violence.  There was no hope of redress except in God: and God did not seem to be taking any action to vindicate his own law or indeed his own character.

When Jeremiah challenged Jehoiakim about his corrupt ways, he spoke with characteristic vigour: “You have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practising oppression and violence.”  (Jer. 22:17)

Habakkuk, a contemporary of Jeremiah, directs his passion and despair at God himself, rather than at the king.  In this sense he is an unusual, if not unique, prophet in the Old Testament.  We are given profound insight into the prayer life of the prophet and, in the process, his whole relationship with God becomes public.  It is a moving and challenging experience.

Habakkuk burned with zeal for God as much as, if not more than, with pain for the people.  He poured out his heart to God in prayer, rather than (or before) pronouncing doom on the guilty.  He was moved by the offensiveness to a holy God of people’s sins, not by any personal sense of injury or rejection within himself.  He was concerned equally for the people’s violation of both tables of the law – the first three commandments covering responsibility to God, the remaining seven covering responsibility to family and neighbours.

Habakkuk is still relevant to us today because beginning with his own situation, he found himself articulating timeless questions – about the problems of evil and the character of God, about the apparent pointlessness of prayer and impotence of God, about the oppressiveness of unrestrained violence and the silence of God.

The dilemmas and traumas are timeless, but so is the overwhelming power of violence.  Our own societies today, over 2,500 years after Habakkuk and Jeremiah, are being torn apart by violence of all kinds.  The violence of war is now reproduced, in a dangerously sanitised filter, in our own homes through television.  At any one time, we are told, there are between 25 and 30 wars being fought around the world.  But it is not so much the prevalence of war, in whatever format it touches us, that has turned our societies into theatres of violence.  Violence seems to have taken hold of so many aspects of our lives – on our streets and in our schools, making it, at times, a dangerous place to walk alone in the city or at school.  Violence in the home has become widespread – by husbands to wives, by parents to children.  To all this must be added the psychological and verbal violence, which may stop short of being people up, but is only one step away from it.  There is road rage, mob violence, drunken mayhem, gang warfare, drug-induced assault.  In the words of Salman Rushdie: “The barbarians were not only at our gates but within our skins.”

Like Habakkuk we live in a violent world, like Habakkuk, we need to reach the place where we can quietly say, “Though … yet I will rejoice in the Lord” (3:17-18).  But, like Habakkuk, we need to start where he begins in his dialogue with God: How long …?  Why …? (1:2-3).  To assert the former without starting with the latter is glib and slick.

Isaiah had a vision of someone yet to come, the one we call the suffering servant of the Lord, who would attract to himself all the violence inherent in human nature.  It would, Isaiah said, be visited on this man in appalling suffering, “although he had done no violence” (Is. 53:9).  Only by such an act of atonement could the reality of human violence be finally and fully resolved.  Then, in the ultimate perfection and peace of the new Jerusalem, “Violence shall no more be heard in your land.” (Is. 60:18).  Because violence is noisy as well as destructive, its termination will spell peace, perfect peace.  But, like Habakkuk, we must make the journey from here to there.  As we enter into the prophet’s experience, we shall trustfully be strengthened to keep pressing onward and upwards.

Godly conversation

Habakkuk 2:2 (MSG) “And then GOD answered: “Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run.”

I don’t know about you, but I really wouldn’t want to write down my private conversations with God for everyone to read – especially not in “big block letters so that it can be read on the run.” But praise God that Habakkuk wrote it down because it is a reminder to me of the practicality of the Bible. It is the Living Word of God that is useful to me even after thousands of years since it was written.

I love how this book starts out. “The problem as God gave Habakkuk to see it.” Isn’t funny that the focus here is on how Habakkuk saw the problem and not God? We definitely see things differently than God does and there is where the challenges come. I believe this morning we could change that phrase to, “The problem as God gave (Insert your name) to see it”.

The problem as I see it is…

  1. 1.    God isn’t listening to me.

When things aren’t going like they should, I’m quick to let God know. The problem begins because God doesn’t seem to want to hear what I have to say.

God told Habakkuk to write this down during the time near the death of King Josiah. Remember that King Josiah was the best King of Judah since the days of David. King Josiah had repaired the Temple, found the Book of Law, began celebrating Passover, etc…  Things were going well in Judah; but after a while things began to start slipping spiritually. As soon as Josiah died, it was clear that the Nation of Judah was going back to their evil ways quickly and things were getting bad. Habakkuk was most likely a teenager during the reign of King Josiah and had heard the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesying about what was going on; and yet no one seemed to care. I’m sure this wasn’t the 1st time Habakkuk had prayed to God about this mess; because he asked, “GOD, how long do I have to cry out for help before you listen? How many times do I have to yell, “Help! Murder! Police!” before you come to the rescue?”

The problem as I see it is…

  1. 2.    God isn’t looking at what is going on.

Not only is God not listening to me “tattle” on everyone; but He must not be seeing what is going on either. It’s like God has turned a “blind eye” to the situation. Habakkuk was seeing the same problems in Judah that we are seeing today.
“Why do you force me to look at evil, stare trouble in the face day after day? Anarchy and violence break out, quarrels and fights all over the place. Law and order fall to pieces. Justice is a joke. The wicked have the righteous hamstrung and stand justice on its head.”

  • There is violence.
  • God’s Word seems ineffective.
  • Life is unfair. Injustice prevails.

The problem as I see it is…

  1. 3.    God isn’t doing His job

That’s a bold statement isn’t it? Let’s be honest- Sometimes it seems like God is on vacation. Habakkuk thought that, I’ve thought that, and I’m sure that you have thought that before also.

So what do we do when it seems that God isn’t listening, looking, or doing His job? God gives us a simple answer in Habakkuk 2:4b: “The righteous will live by his faith.”

Let me remind you this evening that we don’t see the big picture like God does and there will be many times that we are just going to have to simply trust God. When we don’t think God is listening- He is. When we don’t think that God is seeing what is going on He is. When we don’t think God is working He is.

Disagreeing with God

“Look around at the godless nations. Look long and hard. Brace yourself for a shock. Something’s about to take place and you’re going to find it hard to believe. I’m about to raise up Babylonians to punish you, Babylonians, fierce and ferocious– World-conquering Babylon, grabbing up nations right and left, A dreadful and terrible people, making up its own rules as it goes. Their horses run like the wind, attack like bloodthirsty wolves. A stampede of galloping horses thunders out of nowhere. They descend like vultures circling in on carrion. They’re out to kill. Death is on their minds. They collect victims like squirrels gathering nuts. They mock kings, poke fun at generals, Spit on forts, and leave them in the dust. They’ll all be blown away by the wind. Brazen in sin, they call strength their god.”

What? Habakkuk was asking God for justice, but not this way. He didn’t mean for God to answer his prayer by destroying the Nation. Isn’t interesting in how God does things so opposite than how we would do it? In fact, God tells Habakkuk, ”Brace yourself… Something’s about to take place and you’re going to find it hard to believe.”

God tells him that He is going to use the Babylonians to serve justice against His people. You must understand this morning that the Babylonians were some of the most brutal people to ever live on this earth. They would do things like have contest to see who could skin the captured enemies alive the fastest. They would cut the heads off of kings and rulers of the cities they conquered and put them on poles alongside of the roads entering into the cities.
Let’s just be honest, sometimes we disagree with how God does things.

When you disagree with the way God answers your prayers, then you should consider…

  1. 1.    Who God is

Habakkuk 1:12 (NIV): “O LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, we will not die. O LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgment; O Rock, you have ordained them to punish.”

God is…

  • Eternal. God has always been around. He knows what happened in the past, He knows what’s happening now, and He knows what will happen in the future. He can see the big picture that we can’t.
  • Personal. Notice that he says, “My God”. There is the key- Is God your God? Just knowing that He is the only true God isn’t enough. He wants to be your God. He is personal- Not just some God that got things going and went on vacation. He cares.
  • Holy. That means “to be set apart”. He is different. He isn’t like everyone else. He is perfect. He is just.
  • Lord. The word “Lord” means “boss”. He is in control. He knows how to do things. He will direct us in the right direction, if we will simply follow Him.
  • The Rock. God is immovable. He is secure. He doesn’t change. He has a plan; and it will work.

When you disagree with the way God answers your prayers, then you should consider…

  1. 2.    Who the real enemy is.

Habakkuk 1:13-17: Habakkuk declares Who God is and then he begins to play the “comparison game”. You know- That game where you compare yourself to your enemy? That game where you tell God how bad the enemy is and how good you are compared to them?

I would ask you to examine what is about the enemy that you hate so much?

Is it…

  • Their rebelliousness?
  • Their selfishness?
  • The fact that they seem blessed?

Are you upset about what the enemy is doing or are you jealous of how it seems like their life is better than yours?
When you disagree with the way God answers your prayers, then you should consider…

  1. 3.    Who you are.

Habakkuk 2:1-4 (MSG): “What’s God going to say to my questions? I’m braced for the worst. I’ll climb to the lookout tower and scan the horizon. I’ll wait to see what God says, how he’ll answer my complaint. And then GOD answered: “Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision-message is a witness pointing to what’s coming. It aches for the coming–it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time. “Look at that man, bloated by self-importance – full of himself but soul-empty. But the person in right standing before God through loyal and steady believing is fully alive, really alive.”

Maybe, just maybe, you’re the problem. Ouch! The rebelliousness and selfishness that you notice in your enemy may be the things that you are really struggling with in yourself. The reason you are upset with God is it seems like He is blessing them for the same thing that He is punishing you for.

You can’t fix other people; you can’t change other people; but you can change yourself. How do you change yourself so that when God answers your prayers, you don’t waste all of your time complaining instead of thanking Him for listening, answering, and doing?

You change by…

Running to the tower.

The watchtower in a city was a place of protection where men could see what was going on. Habakkuk was going to a place where he could focus his attention on what the Word of God would be. He was in a quiet and safe place.

If we are going to change, then we must go to God in prayer quickly. We need to stop waiting until there are no other options. We need to go to a place where we can actually focus on God. We may need to turn off the phone, unplug the door bell, etc…
You change by…

Waiting on God.

Once you get to your quiet place, then you need to shut up and listen. We need to learn how to meditate upon the Word of God. We need to stop trying to fit God into our schedule and allow our schedule to fit into God’s plan.

You change by…

Writing it down.

While it is important for us to write things down physically so that we can remember; I’m talking about writing them down in our minds and hearts.

When God talks to us through His Word; talks to us through the circumstances; talks to us through other people; etc… then we need to make it important enough that we remember it in our minds and hearts.

Sometimes we disagree with God’s answer because we have simply forgotten how He always takes care of us. We forget that God knows best.

Isn’t it interesting how we get mad at God when He doesn’t seem to be paying attention to us; but when He does answer our prayers, we don’t like how He does it? The bottom line is we are hard to please.

God wants us to follow Him – He wants us to trust Him – He wants us to grow stronger in Him – but, God isn’t going to make us do anything. He gives us the opportunity to choose between following a God Who is an eternal God, a personal God, a holy God, and a dependable God; or following our enemy who is rebellious, selfish, and a destroyer of anything that is good. You decide.
Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

When you really look at things, there is only 2 roads we can take in life: the road that leads to life or the road that leads to destruction. God shows us the benefits and the consequences to our decisions; and then allows us to decide. It’s like road signs they are given to us so that we will know the law and what potential dangers are ahead. You have to decide whether or not you will heed to the signs.

A sign that indicates that you are on the road that leads to life is… (Habakkuk 2:4-5)

 

Your faith. Faith is trusting in something that your senses can’t pick up on. Faith is doing things without being able to know the outcome. Without faith it is impossible to please God; but the opposite holds true- The reward for your faith, trust, and dependence upon God is that you will please Him.
A sign that indicates that you are on the road that leads to life is…

Your righteousness. That means to be right. Jesus said that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled.  A sign that indicates that you are on the road that leads to life is…

Your humbleness. To be humble means to lower yourself, to realize that you are nothing. The Bible tells us that if we will humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord that He will lift us up.  A sign that indicates that you are on the road that leads to life is…

Your love for others. This is a key point- We are told to love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. We are then told to love your neighbour as yourself. How do we love God that way- By obeying His commands and loving others.  A sign that indicates that you are on the road that leads to life is…

Your desires. What motivates you? What is your priority? These things will show what’s important to you. The Psalmist tells us that, “God fulfils the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them (Psalms 145:19 NIV)”.

While we can see all of the wonderful blessings of following God, we also have to see the consequences of not. We see in our text that God punishes sin. God wasn’t punishing the Babylonians because of the fact that they were Babylonians. He was punishing them because He is a just God and He cannot look upon sin.
In Habakkuk 2:6-19, God gives them 5 warnings. Many of the Bible Translations use the word, “Woe”. These are warning signs of being on the road that leads to destruction.

A sign that indicates that you are on the road that leads to destruction is…  (Habakkuk 2:6-20)

Your greed. God warns us to not try to gain things at the expense of others. We can lose those things just as fast as we gained them.  A sign that indicates that you are on the road that leads to destruction is…

Your selfishness. God warns us to not just think of ourselves and build for ourselves. Your selfishness will be found out.  A sign that indicates that you are on the road that leads to destruction is…

Your treatment of others. God warns us to not try to get ahead by destroying other people. The consequences of storing up things on this earth; (regardless of what happens to others) is you will get your reward here on this earth. Jesus told us to store up our treasures in Heaven.  A sign that indicates that you are on the road that leads to destruction is…

Your guidance of others to do wrong. God warns those who lead others into wrongdoing that they are trying to behave as a god and He will destroy them.  A sign that indicates that you are on the road that leads to destruction is…

Your putting everything else ahead of God. You can choose to make whatever or whoever your god, but there will be no life in that. Eternal life comes only through Jesus Christ.

God is telling us to decide. He has given us the benefits of following Him and the consequences of not. I believe that today, God is saying, “Shut-up and really think about what you are going to decide”. You decide.

Who do you think you are? You think that you can just go to God because you want to? Do you think God owes you something? He created you! He died for you! He arose from the dead on the 3rd day for you! He doesn’t owe you a thing!

We walk around as Christians telling God what we don’t like about His creations, His people, His Church, His stuff, etc. Why God? Why put up with us? Why die for us? We have the audacity to believe that we can just walk up to God and do our thing. We are spoiled brats, acting as if we don’t belong to God but that He belongs to us on our terms.

Maybe God hasn’t heard you because you don’t belong to Him. The only prayer that God hears from a lost person is, “God forgive me for I am a sinner.” As sinful people, we cannot approach a perfect God on our own. God cannot look upon sin.

Habakkuk 3:1-2a (NIV): “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth. LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.”

This prayer was on “shigionoth”. The best definition I could find of “shigionoth” is that it was a song of triumph based on ignorance- “I don’t understand, but I will praise anyway.”

In order to approach God, you must be…

Humble: Do you realise who you are going up to? You are approaching the Creator of all things and the Saviour of the world. Until you realize how dirty and terrible you are in the presence of a perfect God, He can’t do anything with you. You must be humble and realize that you can’t do it on your own. You must have God taking care of things for you.  Once you have humbled yourself before God, then you must…

Focus: Have you heard about what the Lord has done? Have you heard how He changes people’s lives? I stand in awe and amazement of what God does. That’s what worship is- Focusing on Who God is and what He has done.  Once you have humbled yourself before God, focused on Him, then you can…

Pray: “Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah”

What should we be talking to God about? Habakkuk helps us get started.

Pray for…

  • Renewal. Christians- Maybe you haven’t been spending time with the Lord like you should be. Maybe things aren’t right. Maybe you haven’t experienced the peace and joy of the Lord like you should be. You need renewal- Revival. You need to start fresh.
  • Mercy. When God is angry with us, I pray that He shows mercy and grace to us. I’m so glad that He doesn’t give me what I deserve, (that’s mercy); and I’m so glad that He has given me what I don’t deserve, (that’s grace)- Through Jesus Christ.
  • Salvation. God heard, God saw, and God came. He responds to the cries of His people. Temnan and Paran describe the campsite of the Israelites at the base of Mount Sinai, the mountain where they gathered after the Exodus from Egypt. This is where God met His people in all His glory. This is the God who descended on the mountain with fire, who covered it with thick smoke and a sky full of lighting. This is the God whom, when He spoke caused the mountains to shake and the people to tremble. This is the God of our salvation.

The word “Selah” is found at the end of this passage. It means to pause and consider. That’s what we are going to do this morning. Pause and consider what God is saying to you as you approach Him.

Chris
cskidd1983@gmail.com
Married to the amazing Sarah and raising Jakey, Daniel, Amelia, Josh & Jonah in our blended family. Passionate for Jesus, social work & sport.

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