Habakkkuk 1.1-11 Disturbed...by God
March 14, 2010 Series: Habakkuk
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Habakkuk 1:1–1:11
Habakkuk Wk2 – Habakkuk 1.1-11
March 14, 2010
WHERE ARE WE? We’re in the ever-popular book of Habakkuk for the next couple of weeks. To find it, just open to the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, and go back four books. FYI - The first five books of the O.T. are called the Books of the Law, also known as the Pentateuch. The next twelve books are considered the Books of History, ending with Esther. The five books of Job through the Song of Solomon are often called Books of Poetry or Wisdom. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel are considered the Major Prophets, while the final twelve books are called the Minor Prophets, of which Habakkuk is one. WHAT IS IT ABOUT? The Talmud, which is a central text for Judaism full of rabbinic discussion on law, history, and ethics records the remark of one rabbi that, “Moses gave Israel 613 commandments, David reduced them to 10, Isaiah 2, but Habakkuk to one: the righteous shall live by his faith.” Our study is about a man, but also you and I, trusting that God knows what he is doing ESPECIALLY when we don’t like it.
WHO IS HABAKKUK? Very little is known about Habakkuk himself beyond legends—his named possibly means EMBRACE---and personally I want to hug the guy. Why? Because he records his conversations with God, conversations he probably hoped would remain private. What your private “talks” with God sound like? Mine are colorful AND private! Chapter 2.2 records Habakkuk’s “Uh…oh” moment when he is told by God to write down what he sees and hears. He knows that, in order for anyone to understand God’s responses, he’ll have to write down the complaints he first made. Books like Habakkuk build my faith because they show that the “heroes” of the Bible were not always very heroic super-Christians with invincible faith. Scriptures THAT record the unedited realness of men, how they feel, what they do, what they don’t do, STRENGTHEN my faith because they often mirror my faith. This week I was thinking about the disciples and how they recorded their own stories to magnify God’s glory—which typically results in magnifying their own brokenness. Can you imagine Doctor Luke, committed to detail, asking the disciples questions while he put together an accurate record of their time with Jesus:
- James, John, let me get this straight—so you wanted Jesus to call down fire from heaven to BBQ some Samaritans who rejected Jesus (Luke 9)
- Peter, just so I have it right, you denied Jesus 3 or 4 times? (Luke 22)
- Peter, when exactly did Jesus call you “Satan”? (Matt 16.18)
- Paul, you just held the clothes while they stoned Stephen…right? (Acts 7)
Habakkuk speaks the questions that, everyone thinks, will make them sound FAITHLESS—but I wonder if they in fact demonstrate GENUINE FAITH. Habakkuk simply writes what he sees sin doing to the world, and he asks God why he hasn’t done anything. It doesn’t take much to see our world is broken. And many people use that brokenness to deny that God, if he exists at all, cares or deny that God has the power to do anything. Unlike most of the world, and many professing believers, Habakkuk doesn’t deny or accuse God—he complains THROUGH PRAYER in the midst of doubt. And though God is never surprised, he certainly surprises Habakkuk in his response. READ HABAKKUK 1.1-4
The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.
Verse 1 The “oracle” that Habakkuk saw
In verse 1, the King James version translates the word for “oracle” here as BURDEN. Without question, there is a weight to the message and vision God shares with Habakkuk. In this message, God tells him his plans and while we might believe that knowing how things play out in life will bring us comfort, in truth, the weight of God’s plans are almost too much to bear. Though the great LIAR Satan tempted our first parents in the garden telling them “They would be like God”, there is nothing like God. God is eternal, HE has always been and will always be; God is perfect in all his ways, in his justice, love, goodness, mercy, grace, beauty; God is independent, He is outside of time, seeing all things past present and future, He is enver surprised, he never forgets, and he is always controlling all things for His glory which IS our Good; He cannot be measured, contained, controlled, or changed. He reveals what he chooses to reveal, and leaves a ton to mystery. Isaiah 55.8-9 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Here, Habakkuk complains because of how he sees the story playing out, and God gives him a peak at the next chapter…and it terrifies him.
Verse 2 -4 Habakkuk’s Cry
2 O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
3 Why do you make me see iniquity,
and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
4 So the law is paralyzed,
and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
so justice goes forth perverted.
The State of Judah
Habakkuk LOVES God and it pains him to see God’s People sinning. He is writing about Judah, the southern kingdom. He is writing near the death of Josiah—the most loyal of all the kings in David’s line to God. Josiah ascended to the throne when he was only eight years old, but it wasn’t until about 16 that God lit a fire in his heart According to the Bible, in the 18th year of his reign, when Habakkuk was probably a teenager, he proceeded to repair the temple at Jerusalem that had become rundown. In doing so, the high priest discovered a papyrus of the Pentateuch—the law of God. When it was read to him, the king was convicted and moved to renew the covenant with God—it was a time of national revival as they began to celebrate Passover again and devote themselves to God. BUT as soon as Josiah died, it was clear that the reforms were only on the surface as the people of Judah reverted to their evil ways. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel describe this age in detail and it continued until the fall of Jerusalem. This is not the first time Habakkuk has prayed because of the evil and corruption he sees in Judah. In asking, “How long”, it is probable that Habakkuk had to wait for the Lord’s answer for some time… But God has said and done nothing, it seems. SOUND FAMILIAR?
V. 2 Violence!
Habakkuk is consumed with grief and disturbed by the sin he sees in Jersualem, and he asks God, WHY DO MAKE ME SEE IT? Injustice is easy AND natural to ignore—its everywhere. (BEGGERS JON AND TONY) Sometimes we only see injustice through child-like eyes.
I believe that, without revelation, without God opening our eyes to the brokenness around us, we will go on in our indifference. Habakkuk is compelled BY GOD to see the violence. Everywhere he looks he sees crime, injustice, poverty, and corruption—the situation is intolerable! And though the effects of sin is overwhelming, even more intolerable is God’s silence. Habakkuk wants to know WHY? There has to be a reason, God, WHY you are not answering? Maybe if you tell me your great cosmic reason THEN MAYBE I’ll be at peace. Sadly, when Israel first asked for a King, God warned them that this would happen. 1Samuel 8.18 records God’s warnings about a human king finally saying: 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
V. 3-4 Law is Paralyzed
And in God’s silence, sin and injustice is flourishing—THINGS ARE NOT RIGHT. When a community ignores standards of right of right and wrong, men become a law unto themselves and TRUE JUSTICE is paralyzed. Habakkuk is watching God’s own people, WHO HAVE THE LAW OF GOD, live unlawful lives. When he says THE WICKED SURROUND THE RIGHTEOUS, he is talking about the people WITHIN ISRAEL. There are more “CHRISTIANS” acting sinfully, then there are “CHRISTIANS” who love God. The community is ruled by idolatry. The one nation of OLD TESTAMENT CHRISTIANS, set apart to worship God, are just as good OR better at sinning than the world is! God’s own people fight, file lawsuits, pervert justice—the right way to do things.
Does injustice bother you?
Habakkuk watches the depravity of man first hand, the same way we watch it today in HDTV. With a “CLICK” you about divorce, all kinds of addicts, rape, murder, child abusers, abusive parents, abusive spouses, identity theft, fraud, corrupt CEOS while corrupt lawyers, politicians, and businesses leaders find as many ways possible to prove that the “glove doesn’t fit” someone even though everyone and their brother knows it does. I began to research all kinds of INJUSTICE statistics to prove the corruption of our own day. It’s not difficult to find all kinds of numbers about wicked men doing unjust things everywhere.
BUT Habakkuk is burdened by what is right in front of him…AM I. FOR US, what we see is not on TV but right across the street, next door, in our neighborhoods and city. Much like Habakkuk’s day, God’s people in our day are VERY sinful but also very apathetic toward injustice. Occasionally, we can pretend to care about God’s justice by sending $25 to a kid in Ethiopia, or texting $10 bucks to Haiti as we are moved by disaster. What of the injustice right in front of us? I realize, we can’t always FIX IT, but WHEN was the last time we cried out to God because of what we saw? When was the last time we wept over the sin we see? Until we are so moved by brokeneness, we will never understand Habakkuk.
The Lord’s Answer
God answers Habakkuk’s cry, but in a way that he did not expect:
5 “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.
6 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.
7 They are dreaded and fearsome;
their justice and dignity go forth from themselves.
8 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.
9 They all come for violence,
all their faces forward.
They gather captives like sand.
10 At kings they scoff,
and at rulers they laugh.
They laugh at every fortress,
for they pile up earth and take it.
11 Then they sweep by like the wind and go on,
guilty men, whose own might is their god!”
V. 5 You WON’T BELIEVE ME
In His response, God does not disagree with Habakkuk about his assessment of his own people—they are sinful. He informs Habakkuk that he is working and this his plan is unbelievable. God begins his response with GET READY, LOOK AROUND, WONDER, BE ASTOUNDED, YOU’RE NOT GOING TO BELIVVE IT. What would you expect at this point? Don’t we always expect POSTIIVE answers to prayer? We cry about our finances, God’s answer HAS to be more money. We cry about our addiction, God’s answer has to be immediate and total freedom forever. We cry about our relationships, God’s answer has to be changing that other person! How many answers do I dismiss because they don’t meet expectations?
V. 6-7 I’M RAISING UP the CHALDEANS (Babylonians)
GOD SAYS, I’m using NO…allowing, NO… I’m RAISING up the Babylonians to judge this sin you see. Huh? Habakkuk probably expected God to raise up another king like Josiah to lead the people, he certainly didn’t see this coming?
GOD SAYS I’m raising up THAT…people. You know…THAT PEOPLE….THAT world renowned evil, bitter, fierce, hotheaded nation who are conquering everyone and marching over everything…to take care of the sin you see. Can you imagine what Habakkuk is thinking? How could God make things worse like this? AND just so you know how “bad” these people are, professor A. H. SAYCE, M.A.: “The kings’ cruelties were especially revolting. Pyramids of human heads marked the path of the conqueror. Boys and girls were burnt alive. Some reserved for a worse fate—they were impaled and flayed alive, they had their skin peeled back in front of their family. Then they were blinded or deprived of their hands or their feet or their ears. Some had their noses cut off while the women and children were carried into slavery. The captured city plundered and burned to ashes and all of the trees were cut down. How deeply seeded was the thirst for blood and vengeance on an enemy was exemplified in a carving on a wall which represent the king and his queen feasting in their garden while the head of the king of the Elamites hung from a tree above in plain view of all of the party guest.” THIS IS THE SOLUTION GOD? You’re going to bring evil? It doesn’t make it any easier, or any different, to say GOD ALLOWS this. He is “raising up”, purposing, that this bad thing will happen—to punish bad people. It would be akin to God raising up Tiger Woods to help you with your marriage problems or Bernie Madoff to help with your finances.
V. 8-11 They come for violence
GOD SAYS: Nothing will stop it;Judahis going to be punished. Habakkuk cried about people who pervert justice, now they will be judged by a people who make their own justice (v. 7). Habakkuk cried about a paralyzed people (v. 4), men who did nothing to pursue perversion, now they would be judged by men who were as swift as leopards, active as wolves, and fast like eagles. (v.8) Habakkuk cried about the violence he saw, now God will judge through men who come for violence (v.9). And, in the end, God says, THEY WILL BE HELD GUILTY (v. 11), but they will not be able to be resisted—THIS WILL HAPPEN.
A PICTURE OF GOD, FAITH, and ME
What we have here is a picture of faith that is disturbing, because it is in fact faith. Habakkuk is pushed into a place where God doesn’t fit in the nice little box he kept him in. God is radical, unpredictable, and utterly different than us. Without question, his faith is shaken.
1) DO YOU SEE IT? – Do you see the injustice in the world? Do you see the brokenness around you? Does it move you?
2) DO YOU SEE IT AS A SIN PROBLEM? Without question, sin is a problem for us, but it is not a problem for God. Do you the injustices in the world, either in your own life OR in the life of others, as an internal heart condition? Is the problem IDOLATRY or money, sex, a bad decision, etc. How you view the core problem will impact how you view the solution. It will direct you either to Jesus or another functional savior.
3) DO YOU PLEA TO GOD—especially FOR SIN THAT IS NOT YOURS. Do you plea to God about sin? Habakkuk did it right! Habakkuk was a “good” Christian. He loved God’s justice. Sin, corruption, ungodliness, suffering, disturbed him as it should us. He cries to God to help. “God, why aren't you doing anything???” And it seems, for a time, God says nothing. He prays again. God says nothing. You lose a job, some else loses their house, a loved one suffers, business is bad, kids are rebellious, and you do the RIGHT thing…you pray. Nothing. And things get worse. And you cry again, nothing. And you begin to believe that maybe, God isn’t there, he doesn’t care, he isn’t working.
4) DO YOU HEAR GOD SPEAK? – God is not silent. And though we may not hear an audible voice, God does speak to us to today. He speaks through preaching, through the priesthood of believers, but most assuredly through men like Habakkuk. This is not a dead book, but an active living profession of who God is. Perhaps we should preface every answer to prayer with, “I am doing something. It’s BIG. You won’t believe it. “
5) DO YOU BELIEVE TO WHAT HE SAYS—especially when you don’t like it? Unlike Habakkuk, God doesn’t always tell us WHAT HE is DOING, so like Habakkuk, we assume silence means he is doing NOTHING, especially when things don’t go the way we want and it starts to hurt us physically, emotionally, financially, relationally. C.S. Lewis wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.' What are you going to do with a “God” like that?” A God who doesn’t fit in your box, a God who you can’t control, a God who is not predictable, a God who is never surprised but always surprising, a God who plans for pain…BUT a God who says there is a reason its there, and to prove I care, I will enter into that pain with you, so that I might end all of it forever. That is the foolish good news of Jesus.
V. 12 Conclusion
Many of us are faced with the THOUGHTS of Habakkuk as God works, when we think---“ That’s not what I want you to do..that’s not who I though you were.” Disillusionment either propels us closer in our walk toward God or drives us away from Him. My prayer is that we follow the example of Habakkuk. Who, when filled with doubt, boldly asks another question, he asks several—not because he wants to get a better answer–but because he wants to KNOW HIM MORE. He wrestle with God…are you willing to tap out?