James Boice said “Habakkuk is a profound book that explores deeply into the mysteries of God.” It’s insightful because it raises deep questions about the workings of God in History. Why God does what He does, why He does it in the way He does it, and why He sometimes does nothing. The summary statement to the mysteries of God for the Christian is found later on in this letter “but the righteous shall live by faith.” Hab 2:4. Habakkuk had a problem, because he witness a time of renewal and revival followed by a time of spiritual decline. And it’s through his cry we see God answering his prayer, but not in the way Habakkuk hoped. God answers His prophet with news that is devastating to the ears to hear.
Why? God is going to send a people group who exceed the wicked scale from 1 to 10 to and instant 11. This is not what Habakkuk was hoping for when he prayed to God at the opening of His letter. No one, not even Habakkuk saw this coming. And to top it off God is going to use these wicked people to discipline the people of Judah for their own rebellious and sinful behavior. Habakkuk’s cry could be considered the same cry that one might have over the state of the visible church in Canada and around the globe. The lack of theology and bible teaching; watered down gospels and nominal Christianity. The narcissistic me-centered worship that seems to trump genuine worship for the glory of God and His saving grace. We know the church isn’t perfect, but this is happening in Canada. And because this is happening around us, we pray and ask God to do something to renew the church to be a light for His glory. So you wait…..and God responds, He is going to destroy the church by sending an invasion of unbelievers. We would protest and argue that this isn’t right! We would interlock our arms with Habakkuk. And say “Why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he? (v13) We all have asked or thought this question at one point in time in our lives.
We encounter this on a personal level as well. You lose your job because a person “who has it in for you” misrepresents something you have done. Why did God allow this very bad person to succeed? You are sick and doctor misdiagnoses your care so that you get worse. Why has God allowed this to happen? Your faced with great disappointment though a death in the family of someone close, a breakup of a marriage or engagement, a failure to get into the right graduate school. Doesn’t God care about my future plans and why should someone who is not even a Christian have it good while I lose out? This is where Habakkuk is in his life. Are you there to this morning?
Is Habakkuk or yourself lost and without any hope at all because you feel this way? No, he is a doubting prophet who cannot see “the forest for the trees.” We need to understand this is not the first time God had used such a method to correct His people in spiritual discipline. We read in Isaiah 10:5 “Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury!” Do see that? The Assyrians is called the rod of God’s anger. God used the Assyrians like a whip in order to discipline the Northern Kingdom. And after God was done using the Assyrians He judged Assyria for her owns sins. The question remains though! How can a holy God use a sinful nation to accomplish His purposes?
The simple answer is that
He is God and we are not.
He is sovereign and we are not.
He is transcendent and we are not.
He is holy and just and we are not
We need to understand with Habakkuk’s second question that he is asking! (v12-v13) “Are you not” (v12) is not an indication that leads us to believe that Habakkuk is denying the God of the bible. See there is a huge difference between someone who doubts over someone who doesn’t believe at all. The person who has unbelief is a person who is rebellious against God. Unbelief is a habitual refusal to accept what God says and does. Unbelief is an act of the will, while doubt is born out of a troubled mind and broken heart. We saw that at the beginning of this letter “How long shall I cry..” (v2)
See!Doubters question God and may even debate Him, but he or she will never abandon the truth that is before them, despite not liking what God says.
A prime example of this is found in the life of Thomas. Don’t think for a second that he never loved the Lord, he might have doubt about events and certain things, but he never stops loving the Lord. Unfortunately like every human heart he had a natural tendency to doubt at times but he was willing to die with Christ. We read in John 11: 16 “So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." Lazarus is dead and they have to travel to Bethany a place they are not welcomed; and that could lead to imminent death. But none the less Thomas was willing to die with Jesus not because he gave up, but because to be separated from Christ is far worse than dying alone. John MacArthur said this about Thomas in how he felt for the Lord Jesus in his book “Twelve Ordinary Men”
“The thought of losing Christ paralyzed him.”
When Jesus spoke of eternal things or future things Thomas, was where are you going? You can’t leave us, we all stick together and if we stick together we will die together.” There are two occasions of Jesus appeared in the upper room after His death and resurrection. The first time Thomas is nowhere to be found; maybe it’s because after hearing Jesus died he felt helpless, confused, rejected and forsaken. Exactly how a pessimistic person feels about an undesirable outcome. This was a man who was crushed for his love for Christ. Theologians say that Thomas was side by side with John, in his love and devotion for Jesus. This why Jesus appeared the second time to correct his broken and doubting disciple because He loved Thomas with an everlasting grace. We read “Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe." Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." John 20:24-29
We get to witness this wonderful account so that we can to can trust in God’s plan despite the outcome. We see the same thing with Habakkuk here in his letter, a confused man who has moments of doubt because we are not God. Why does Habakkuk display moments of doubt and not unbelief?
Habakkuk acknowledges that God is eternal. (v12)
Everlasting or eternal refers to endless past, unending future.
God has no beginning and no ending and He knows both the beginning and the end.
God is the creator and sustainer of the universe and beyond.
God is the one who spoke everything into existence.
God is the one who is self-sustaining and transcendent over everything.
God is sovereign and in complete control.
Since God is eternal, there has never been a time when He did not exist. Isaiah 44:6 says "…I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. God is self-existent and the uncaused cause of all things Isaiah 43:13 we read “Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?" The Bible says, "In the beginning God." The God we worship is the God who has always been.
Habakkuk is acknowledging that God is holy (v12)
“O LORD my God, my Holy One” is a personal response to who God is in all His glory. “Holy” refers to God’s majesty and perfections. There is absolutely no sin or evil thought in God at all. His holiness is the definition of that which is pure and righteous. As Hannah prayed in 1 Sam 2:2 “There is no one holy like the LORD, indeed, there is no one besides thee.” R C Sproul said in his book “The Holiness Of God”…”The bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that He is merely holy, or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love; or mercy, mercy, mercy; or wrath, wrath, wrath; or justice, justice, justice. It does say that He is holy, holy, holy that the whole earth is full of His glory. That’s why Habakkuk says in (v13) “you are purer eyes than to behold evil,” What Habakkuk is saying is that God is so HOLY, He cannot under any circumstance look upon sin and not do anything about it. God’s hatred towards sinning sinners is severe read Psalm 5 in its entirety. In Psalm 5 the bible says “You hate all evil doers.”…“The Lord abhors (detests, find them repulsive) the bloodthirsty.” (v5-v6).
Does God hate sinners? Yes…look to the cross!
Does God love sinners? Yes…look to the cross!
This is what the gospel is all about! That a holy God who cannot look upon your evil sinful behavior and do nothing about it. Sin is cosmic treason against a holy and sovereign God. The most violent expression of God's wrath and justice is seen where? In the Cross. Jesus Christ became sin on our behalf so that God could look upon a repentant person like you and me and declare us to be His beloved children. Saved from the wrath we deserve through unmerited grace and love. See! Habakkuk was confused to why God would allow such unholy sinners to overtake His people. And it’s through this confusion Habakkuk still acknowledges God as holy, holy, holy.
Habakkuk is acknowledging that God is unchanging. (v12)
“O Rock” this literally means “Mighty Rock” This is a great picture that describes God as an unchanging rock that is stable, strong, large and unmovable. Moses penned these words “He is our Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He.” Deut 32:4. This is a beautiful description of our unshakable God who is sovereign over the universe. God is in complete control; and He is not biting His fingers out of nervousness wondering what’s going to happen next. God is a God of order, not chaos, and through all the loud noise and things happening around us God is doing His will. Despite how Habakkuk and how we might see our present day situation. We need to embrace that truth because this is where we find our comfort in the middle of the storm. Realizing that God is allowing things and doing things for our edification and ultimately for His glory. Again Paul reminds us of this truth “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Rom 8:28
What are we supposed to glean from this letter so far as we live in trying times of today’s present world system? God is a God of promises and truth and He has “Appointed” this time for Habakkuk as He has appointed this in our lives today. (v12) “Appointed” means “found, fix, establish, lay foundation” this was all part of God’s perfect plan for the people of Judah as it is for me and you today. It’s through the chaos and all the business of life that we need to rest in a holy God who is everlasting and unchanging and from eternity past becuase He has ordained this in your life. God promised from the beginning that He would send a Savior, a Sacrifice for sinners….He did! God promised that we could have eternal life through repentance and faith in His Son….He did! God promised He would come back again and reclaim what is rightfully His one day….He will! Why do we know this to be true? His word is truth! For the bible told me so. And the promise God made with Jeremiah would apply to Habakkuk if the nation would listen. Jeremiah penned these words “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." Jer 31:33-34. All God asks of the Nation is to repent of their disobedience and wickedness and embrace the love and truth found in the promises of God. That simple principle still applies today for our generation and the next.
Habakkuk is really struggling with this plan that God has ordained for the people of Judah. And we do at times in our Christian walk! Why? Sin is a universal problem….Rom 3:23 “All have sinned.” God is transcendently holy and He hates sin with flaming passion. God is eternal and unchanging and will never turn a blind eye to sin…..Heb 4:12 says we will “stand naked” God is just and He will judge sin according to His perfect will and timing.
Understand! Sometimes it’s present as we see in this letter of Habakkuk. Sometimes it’s post-poned. Peter said this “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9. Sometimes it’s final. John said “And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Rev 20:12-15
God is not unaware of your shortcomings and He surely isn’t unaware of your weaknesses. Look at (v14-v15) Habakkuk uses the analogy of the fishing industry. The Babylonians are the fishermen who entice and lure their prey to grab hold of what they are offering, and then they take their prey captive. Just like today with the technological and entertainment persuasions of this postmodern world keeping people occupied and busy so that they don’t focus on Christ. If you don’t believe me! Look back on this past week the time you spent studying God’s word, prayer and fellowshipping with the saints. Not saying doing other things is wrong, but they are, if we are spending more time in them instead of God’s word and being with God’s people. If our lives are not a daily pursuit after God’s own heart then we are susceptible to allure away by the bait of this world.
Sin is an accuser and enticer to fallen people of any age. The nation of Judah was trapped by habitual sin and wickedness. And Lord used the Babylonians to chasten God’s people back to His caring, merciful and sovereign arms. Despite the doubt we all feel from time to time! We always need to come back to this moment (this portion of Habakkuk’s letter) and recognize that God is God and we are not. Recognizing that God is holy, eternal and unchanging and He knows exactly what He is doing in the life of the nation and in your life.
How do we know this to be true in our lives? When God withholds His justice and wrath we are receiving something amazing and undeserved.We are receiving grace.
Thank you R C Sproul for your ministry! GOD IS GOOD