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Habakkuk - Introduction

March 7, 2010 Series: Habakkuk

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Deuteronomy 6:20–6:24

Habakkuk Wk1 – Intro

March 7, 2010

Sam Ford

 

Deuteronomy 6.20-24  20 “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ 21 then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. 23 And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. 24 And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day

 

Habakkuk & History

We are beginning a five week series on the book of Habakkuk.  Yes, that is a real book in the Bible but it’s probably not the first book you probably turn to for devotions.  Most of us will probably be hard-pressed to even find Habakkuk squished in-between the ever-popular and regularly preached books of Nahum and Zephaniah.  Why did we choose Habakkuk?  There are a lot of books to choose from, 66 in all, 39 in the Old Testament, and 27 in the New, written by 40 different authors whose resumes include peasantry, philosophy, professional fishing; writing history to love songs.   The truth is I chose Habakkuk because I love its rawness.  It doesn’t record just prophecies of God’s servant; it focuses on his conversations with God—his prayerful complaints about a world in chaos, about evil out of control, about “good” people suffering while “bad” people prosper—and in the end, it records his SONG as an expression of faith in a God who doesn’t is there and who is in control of everything.

 

The passage in Deuteronomy 6 may seem like a strange place to begin an introduction to the book of Habakkuk.  Prior to this passage in Deuteronomy, Moses re-teaches Israelthe 10 commandments, and then proceeds to explain how they are the way to life, AND how they must be passed on to their children as they enter the land.  What they do must be taught, and Moses assumes the children will want to know why they do it.  He charges them to teach them the HISTORY—the story behind the stuff.   This passage represents the spirit of where I want to go today as an introduction to the book of Habakkuk.

 

Faith & History

The truth is without history, this book and our faith makes little sense.  Our very faith is sourced in the history of the gospel—an act within time and space history.  As Christians, we have to care about history because if you don’t—then you invariably end up focusing on your own work today INSTEAD of what Jesus did 2,000 years ago on the cross.  It matters if Jesus really existed, it matters if he lived a life we can emulate, it matters if Jesus really died, it matters if Jesus really rose from the dead.  BUT even understanding cross requires that we understand the events that led up to it.  When trying to explain the cross to his two disciples on the Road to Emmaus, Jesus gave them a lesson rooted in history.   

 

LOST & History 

History gives us correct context and, context of yesterday ensures correct understanding for today. Generally, our approach to Scripture today s often led by, “What does this mean for me today?”  While this is a good question to ask, it is not the FIRST question to ask.  If we do, we will wrongly twist the Scriptures to our understanding, even if that is NOT how they were understood by those they were written to.  It would be like coming into a novel at chapter 12 and trying to make sense of the entire story without having read it.  Consider the TV SHOW LOST.  There are many people who watch the show, but most of the fans have watched it from the beginning.  If you were to start watching now at Season 6 Episode 7, you would most likely hate or at least misunderstand the show.  You could certainly appreciate something from an “episode”, you would gain some information, maybe even learn something, but your understanding of the show would be woefully flawed.  A “fake fan” is even more pathetic not being a fan to begin with.

 

The Old Testament

The same goes with Habakkuk…we need to understand the historical setting, the circumstances, the author, and the author’s purpose, before we can ask what this means for you and I today.  And if Habakkuk is just one chapter on the ONE STORY of GOD, then what God did BEFORE Habakkuk will inform what he did IN Habakkuk, so that we can understand what he is doing RIGHT NOW.  What we see is a God who is about one thing…HIS GLORY.  And he makes much of himself in the most radical, crazy, unbelievable, unpredictable, nothing-is-impossible, always demonstrating that he is in control so that men cannot boast.. 

So in 35 minutes or less I am going to give you a survey of 35 books of the Old Testament—prepare yourself, this is going to be like drinking from a fire hose.

 

Creation

The story begins with a perfect God who creates.  In six days, God creates everything visible and invisible by speaking it into existence.  He does not create because he has to or because he needs something.  He is love, and he creates out of an expression of his very nature.  He doesn’t create just a world, he creates a world that is beautiful and in his own words, good.  He also creates men and women whom he says are very good.  Man is given a job to build and cultivate and protect, to bring ORDER to CHAOS while his bride his given the job to help him and bring BEAUTY to ORDER.  By chapter three, we read about the villain in the story, Satan a fallen angel, how he tempts man and God’s moral law is broken.  Mankind, the one’s charged with building a God glorifying culture choose instead to destroy their world, their relationship with God, themselves, and each other.  But God is in control, this is His story, He wrote it.

 

Abraham, Issac, and Jacob

So, lest eat of the tree of life and remain in their brokenness, out of love, God “unpredictably” sends Adam and Eve out of the garden INTO CHAOS with the promise of a savior who will one day be born.  From there, we see Adam and Eve produce sinful kids, leading to more sinful people, and finally world full of sinful culture.  Completely disgusted, God chooses a 600 year old man named Noah and tells him to build a big old boat, fill it with two of every animal, because it is going to rain—something that has never happened before.  It does.  And through a flood, God wipes the world clean, only to see sin resurface in the one sinful family that God chose to save. The descendents of one of Noah’s boys then try to build a city-state dedicated to their own glory called Babel (Babylon).  Evil once again reigns.  In judgment, God confuses their languages and scatters them throughout the world because, this is God’s story. 

 

What was going to be a nation now is nothing as God proves himself to be a God of wrath.  In the midst of the chaos, God proves himself also to be a God who saves.  He does not leave men to wander in their rebellion but pursues them knowing if he does not, man will NEVER seek to glorify Him which is the whole POINT of the story.  So, by grace, God chooses a pagan guy named Abraham from the same city of Babylon and tells him he’ll make a God-glorying nation out of him.  God promises him a son through which this nation will come, which causes his wife to laugh because they are both old, they have no kids, and their sleeping in separate beds. Abraham trusts God and, BUT because God’s seems a bit slow, Abraham and his wife wrongly decide to ‘help him out” and sleep with his servant.  After his servant gives birth to a son from whom the Islamic nation will be born, the son of Promise comes along named Issac, who eventually has a son named Jacob (whose name is changed to Israel), who eventually has 12 sons/tribes one of which is named Joseph.  And throughout the lives of these men, God reveals himself as the God who is never surprised, never NOT in control, using sinful broken people (as there are no other kinds), always orchestrating the darkest of situations for His glory and ultimately for the joy of His people.  This is God’s story.

 

Moses

After Joseph, God really gets crazy.  As a demonstration of his sovereignty, and maybe his sense of humor, God uses an 80 year-old fugitive turned Shepherd named Moses to lead the next chapter in the story, talking to him through a burning shrubbery.  The Exodus is the story Joseph and his 11 brothers who, now enslaved in Egypt, are supernaturally saved by God.  Like a Hollywood disaster film on a cosmic scale, God frees his people from slavery and brings them a huge body of water called the Red Sea. As the greatest military in the world is bearing down to decimate them, Israelites cry, Moses prays, and God says, “Sit back and watch how I work for you.”  You know the rest of the story.  Through the Sea, Moses leads them to the base of a great Mountain called Sinai to worship.  There he meets his people in what amounts to a wedding.  It is a pattern that God repeats throughout the Old Testament where God is seen as--rescuing a people for Himself, out of an impossible situation,  freeing them from their bondage, and , bringing them to a place worship to REVEAL HIS GLORY to the world.   Like a husband giving his vows, in love God gives his Word.  He charges His bride, His people, to adhere to their vows that they might live long lives full of blessing AND warning them of the consequences for breaking their vows.  Unfortunately, it didn’t take long forIsrael to begin sleeping with other nations and worshipping other gods.  In Jewish terms, the Book of Numbers is known as the “Rebellion in the Wilderness”.  It follows the Israelites wandering for 40 years as God refuses to allow the sinful generation to enter the Promised Land.  In short, he plans to kill everyone off in judgment for their disobedience, AND start over again with a new crew that He will love. 

 

Joshua

By the end of Deuteronomy, Moses gets to catch a glimpse of the Promised Land of Canaan from the top of the mountain but fails to lead Israelinto it because of his disobedience.  He dies and his executive assistant turned General Joshua, one of two guys who didn’t die from the previous generation, is chosen to lead a new generation of people in conquering the land God promised.  The book tells the story of this great conquest under Joshua’s leadership beginning with tearing down the walls of a great city of Jericho with some flutes and trombones.  We watch as Israel goes out into battle and God does most of fighting.  In short, God cleanses the land from sin through these slaves turned warriors.  Led by God, they take possession of the land and thus fulfill the promises given to Abraham and Moses.  Like their FIRST PARENTS, they are commanded to build a god-glorifying culture with God and His Law at the center.  But like their OWN PARENTS, they believe something apart from God will make them happy and they follow the false god’s of the Canaanites who they failed to destroy completely as God commanded.  

 

Judges

The Book of Judges then records what happens after Joshua and his generation has died.  Their failure to do as God commanded now has its consequences – Judges 2.2-3 you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? 3 So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.  They continue to rebel, following after the false God’s of their neighbors.  The priests, charged with protecting the purity of worship, are barely mentioned in this book because they are failing to do anything at all.   It appears that God has given up on his people as he allows men to do “what is right in their own eyes”.   Yet, in the midst of the chaos, in the center of the failure and threat of the Canaanites, God is faithful.  He raises up an unlikely series of “broken men” called the judges—all for the purpose of His glory.  All of these unlikely “heroes” of their own sinful problems which demonstrates God’s glory BUT he even creates impossible situations so that he can be sure this is HIS STORY. Judges 7.2 2 The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lestIsrael boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ We see this pattern:   

1-     The Israelites sin by worshipping the false Gods

2-     The Lord gets angry as this violates the covenant

3-     The Lord hands them over to their enemies.

4-     The Israelites cry out to God for deliverance from their oppression

5-     The Lord raises up a military deliverer (judge) to rescue them

 

Samuel & the Kings

Like an idolatrous addict, the victories of men like Gideon and Samson were always short lived and Israelslipped into sin.  So, having denied their one true husband and King, Israelfinds itself completely devoid of God’s presence and glory because all the priests have failed to keep the worship pure.  And though the nation of Israel deserves judgment God once again shows grace in the most UNEXPECTED way.  He answers the prayer of a young barren woman, who cries out for a child.  Hannah, whose very name means grace, is blessed with a son whom she names Samuel and whom she dedicates to serving God.  GOD GOES OUTSIDE the “NORM” and Samuel is adopted into the priesthood under Eli whose owns sons are worthless jerks of priests, God raises Samuel to become a godly priest who faithfully leads and judges Israel.  In answering this prayer, God also answers the prayer of all Israel for a strong leader.  Unlike ALL the priests before him, he serves as a faithful representative of God to the people.  This is still God’s Story.

 

Eventually,Israelonce again rebels against God and His chosen leader Samuel.  Instead of God as their King, they covet the KINGS of other nations desiring a MILITARY KING to lead them.  Refusing to listen to Samuel’s warnings about Kings, the people cry out for a general ignoring any need they have to be led spiritually.   God grants their request, knowing the destruction it will bring, and assures Samuel that this is not his fault.  God then uses Samuel to choose a king to leadIsrael. 

 

A man named Saul is chosen as Israel’s first King.  He is publicly confirmed as ruler under THE KING, serving as the Lord’s anointed.  Like Adam, he is charged with being God’s representative, spreading God’s rule and building a God-glorifying culture.  But, also like Adam, he fails and God judges his rebellion by ripping the throne away and giving it to a young Shepherd who can kill lions, bears, and nine foot men with pebbles, named David.  God makes a covenant with him, promising David that from His throne will come one who rules forever—the true King, the true Messiah (anointed one), ultimately Jesus.  It is a time of great prosperity for the people.  And, though David rules faithfully, he also sins grievously.  He has an adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, a wife of one of his warriors, which not only results in the death of her husband, and many of his men, but is also causes violence to reign in his home for years.  Murder, rape, betrayal rise up in his family.  His own son Absalom chases David from the throne and into hiding, sleeps with his concubines on the roof of the palace, and eventually dies at the hands of David’s men.  God then proves that His Sovereign control is even bigger than our worst sins as Solomon is made King, the second son of Bathsheba his mistress turned wife. Again, we see God working in and through the brokenness and evil of man in HIS story for His glory.

 

Solomon is the most successful and wisest man that ever lived, under Jesus.  In his wisdom given by God, he builds a globally recognized kingdom where, according to the Bible Kings 4.34 34 And people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon,.  Solomon wrote thousands of proverbs, songs, and an amazing love poem.  He wrote the only book of Philosophy in the Bible, declaring that all that he had (and he has everything) was meaningless and all joy comes from living in the fear of the Lord.  Solomon eventually builds the first temple, a house for God, but fails to live in the fear he wrote about. In the end, he is attracted by foreign women and ultimately their gods.   

 

Kingdom Divided

When King Solomon died, the ten northern tribes refused to submit to his son, Rehoboam, and revolted. From this point on, there would be two kingdoms of Hebrews: in the north, Israel, and in the south, Judah.  For over 250 years various kings rose and kings fell in the North and South, some reigned as little as a month, others as long as 50 years.  Some were good, most were bad and led people into idolatry.

 

In the north, Israelwas more wicked than Judah.  Having been warned by prophets like Isaiah, in 722 B.C. the Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrians whose capital was the pagan city of Nineveh Godsent Jonah to.  The Assyrians were aggressive warriors.  Though God had protected Israelbefore, this time he gave them over (20 And the Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until he had cast them out of his sight. 2Kings 17.20)  BECAUSE Israel went after false gods and did not heed the warnings of the prophets.  The Assyrians scattered the 10 tribes throughout their kingdom and took over the capital of Israel, Samaria.  There they set up Assyrians Gods, false worship, and cultic practices.  It seems that evil was winning, but this was God’s story. 

 

Habakkuk

In the South, Judahalso saw good and bad kings. Eventually Judahbecame so corrupt that God allowed it to fall to the Babylonians who were conquering Assyria.  It is during these final years of corruption in Judah, that Habakkuk writes.  It is a time of GREAT MORAL CORRUPTION in Jerusalem.  He watches the injustices going on in his own nation, families being destroyed, justice pervert, evil winning, all while God seems to be silent.  SO HE PRAYS.  But his prayer is not typical, it is a complaint—a challenge to God about WHY he doesn’t appear to care or do anything.  Then God answers and tells Habakkuk exactly what he is going to do TO FIX IT…and his plans disturbs him.  In short, he says he is going to raise of an evil people, Babylon to punish the disobedience of Judah.  And Habakkuk responds, as we all might…I don’t like that plan.  To which God responds, HAVE FAITH, this is my story. 

 

Conversation with God

People don’t avoid preaching Habakkuk because it is obscure or strange.  They avoid reading and preaching this book because it brings us face to face with some VERY hard truths.  The key verse to this book is Habakkuk 2.4, “…the righteous shall live by faith.”   In short, this book is about FAITH.  It is organized around simple and raw conversations with God that we all have in one way or another—pushing us to a place where we either have to TRUST that God is sovereign or not—that God is in control or he is not—that this is HIS story that HE wrote for His glory, or we’re going to pretend its OURS and try to rewrite for our own glory.  In short, we are going to either live and breathe and walk by FAITH IN WHO HE GOD WAS, WHO GOD IS, and WHO GOD WILL ALWAYS BE; living by the conviction that despite what we see, despite the darkness, chaos or pain that he may in fact instigate,—he is at work for His Glory WHICH is my JOY.

 

Conclusion

At the heart of Habakkuk is the cross, though it came hundreds of years later.  Moral corruption, wickedness and injustice still flourished in Jerusalemas man named Jesus walked into town.   While some accepted the man from Nazarethas the Son of God, most rejected him as a rebel, a liar, or a nutjob.  Within a few days, he would be betrayed by one of his closest friends, publicly ridiculed as a false prophet, unjustly accused as a rebel by the authorities,  beaten, broken, and ultimately killed—THOUGH HE WAS THE SON OF GOD.  From all appearances “SIGHT”, evil had triumphed.  I imagine the disciples confused, wondering why God was silent. How could he let the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer? BUT GOD HAS ALWAYS MADE BEAUTY FROM ASHES, MADE THE IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBLE, MADE LIFE FROM NOTHING, ALWAYS WORKED TO HIS GLORY.  And, Three days later, the tomb was empty. The resurrection of Jesus is God’s own proclamation that that he is never far off, that he is always in control and that evil will never triumph. 

 

This is how God works for His glory.  If we live by sight, that which is dark in our lives,  our brokenness, our weakness, our struggles, that which appears foolish, that which feels unjust, that which is foolish or evil,  will never give us hope—it will crush us.  BUT, if we walk by faith in the cross—we know that those are the very tools of God’s grace that we might glorify Him:  1Corinthians 1.26-31 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”