Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Study in Habakkuk Pt. 1

There was a blackout in NYC in July of 1977. It happened after businesses had closed for the evening and owners had gone home. Looting and vandalism were widespread, hitting 31 neighborhoods, including the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Possibly the hardest hit were Crown Heights, where 75 stores on a five-block stretch were looted, and Bushwick, where arson was rampant with some 25 fires still burning the next morning. Thirty-five blocks of Broadway were destroyed: 134 stores looted, 45 of them set ablaze. Thieves stole 50 new Pontiacs from a Bronx car dealership. In Brooklyn, people were seen backing up cars to stores, tying ropes around the security grates, pulling the grates away and then looting the stores. 550 police officers were injured overnight and 4,500 looters were arrested. How does a blackout change the law: do not steal?

Thus far this year, 187 people have been murdered in Chicago. 601 were killed last year. Isn’t there a law against that?

Thus far this year, over 13,000 people in America have died as a result of a DUI accident. Isn’t driving under the influence against the law?

Thus far this year, 2200 accounts of theft have occurred in just the Greenspoint area of Houston. Isn’t there a law against that?

Friday, a week ago in Sante Fe, 8 students and 2 teachers were killed by a fellow student, 13 more students and adults were wounded. Everything he did to commit that crime was against the law. Yet he still destroyed the lives and families of so many.

After a moment of silence for Sante Fe at an award show, Kelly Clarkson said what many seem to agree with. She said: “I’m so tired of a moment of silence. How about a moment of action.” That sounds responsible but the action many have in mind is imposing more restrictions. The problem is, every crime committed violates some restriction.

The need is transformation. A transformation of society, politics, leadership, communities, schools, families but especially individuals.

When the Nation of Israel came out of Egypt, they had no workable society. They had been living within the Egyptian culture for 400 years. They were a blend of Egyptian thought, practices and religious culture, and had no defined system for worshipping God. All they had were stories of how God had worked in the lives of their ancestors. They had no Scripture to help clarify who they were as God’s people. So God had to set them apart by laying out a structure for them to live as His people. He gave them 10 Commandments. The first four told them who they would be before Him: No other gods, no idols or images, people who respected the name of God and honored the Sabbath day.

The other six commandments were to create a society for the mutual benefit of all within it. Where people honored their parents, didn’t kill each other, preserved the sacred bond of marriage, didn’t take what didn’t belong to them, told the truth and didn’t think so much about what other’s had that they might be tempted to take it as their own.

One day a young lawyer came to Jesus to ask Him which of all the laws (there were over 613 by then) was the most important.  

Matt 22:36-40 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

There is a key word Jesus used to tell there is something that makes these commandments work. Obviously its not writing them down, etching them in stone, displaying them for all to see. The word is depend. Depend means, for the commands to work, they needed a powerful motivation. That motivation was love.

If I don’t love God with all my heart, soul and mind, I will not limit my worship to only Him, or refrain from having idols and images that capture my heart. Neither will I hold the name of God to the highest honor, or set apart a day to draw into Him.

Until I care about others as much as I care about myself, I won’t respect them, their stuff or their lives.

It is not having restrictions, rules, commands or laws that make us civil. It’s having the right motivation to obey. Without love I will not honor of God or respect others.

Matt 24:12 Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold.

That’s one of those catch 22 issues. What keeps lawlessness in check is a society that loves God and neighbor. When that love grows cold, lawlessness increases. When lawlessness increases, people’s love grows cold. It is the tipping point of the scale.

Is there a connection with violence and removing God from our schools? Is there a disintegration of morals in our society because we have no higher reason to be good than what keeps us out of trouble? Is the anti-Christian movement that is so blatant in politics driving us away from the only One who can preserve us. Has the denial of the principles upon which our nation was founded changed who we are?

Think about Jesus’ message to the church in Laodicea: Rev 3:14-17 To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked…

What was their problem? They had lost their passion for God. Their burning hot love for Him had gone room temperature. Going room temperature means adapting to the temperature surrounding them. Add cold to hot and you get lukewarm. Instead of influencing society they had allowed it to influence them.

1Tim 4:1-2 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars, seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron,

What is the faith some will fall away from: the faith that demonstrates righteous.

2Tim 3:1-5 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.

Because their primary motivation in life will be love of self instead of love of God and others, they will violate every command God gave for a society to operate justly.

So, what’s the source of the problem for school killings, thefts, murders, DUI’s, adultery, jealously, moral decay, relative truth? We have taken God out of the mainstream of life and relegated Him to a building. The California state legislature right now is seeking to ban the Bible from public expression. If the proponents get their way it will be against the law to mention, read or use the Bible in public or to express one’s faith outside of a church facility. In their opinion God is the problem and must be removed from society.

I have imagined the fulfillment of later day prophecies all my life but never imagined I’d see them with my own eyes. Without a transformation, we can only spiral further down.

Habakkuk experienced this in his own time. When things had deteriorated so much, God had to bring an end to life as His people knew it. Prophets had long prophesied about this destruction that was coming, the reason for it and what to expect.

Hab 1:2-4 How long, O LORD, will I call for help, and You will not hear? I cry out to You, "Violence!" Yet You do not deliver. Why do You make me see iniquity, and cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; Strife exists and contention arises. Therefore the law is ignored and justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore justice comes out perverted.

Habakkuk was writing as a prophet in the early stages of his calling. He saw the deterioration. He saw that the righteous had been beaten down by the wicked. He saw lawlessness increase as people’s love grew cold. Justice that is to hold a society together was perverted. And he didn’t have a personal word from God to help him understand why this was going on and what God was going to do about it. All he saw was the evidence his nation had lost the desire for God.

How did they get there?

Brief history: In the days of Samuel, the people had wanted to be like the other kingdoms and have a king over them instead of God. God told Samuel to anoint Saul even though they were rejecting Him as being their King. David followed Saul and established the glory of the Kingdom being under a man but led by God. Solomon took over after David and began to pollute the nation by disregarding God’s instructions of not marrying foreign women. Why was that a problem? They brought with them a worship of pagan gods. Solomon not only did this but flaunted it, ending up with 700 wives and 300 concubines. He polluted the purity of singular devotion to God which affected the nation from then on. The nation divided after his death. The Southern Kingdom called Judah was led by Rehoboam and the Northern Kingdom called Israel was led by Jeroboam. Judah remained fairly faithful to God but Israel’s unfaithfulness began immediately.

1Kings 14:7-10 Go, say to Jeroboam, 'Thus says the LORD God of Israel, "Because I exalted you from among the people and made you leader over My people Israel, and tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you--yet you have not been like My servant David, who kept My commandments and who followed Me with all his heart, to do only that which was right in My sight; you also have done more evil than all who were before you, and have gone and made for yourself other gods and molten images to provoke Me to anger, and have cast Me behind your back—therefore behold, I am bringing calamity on the house of Jeroboam.

But more so: 2Kings 17:22 Then Jeroboam drove Israel away from following the LORD and made them commit a great sin. The sons of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them.

Jeroboam not only compromised his own life, but drove the people to disregard God and worship pagan gods instead.

Ps 135:15-18 The idols of the nations are but silver and gold, The work of man's hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; they have eyes, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear, nor is there any breath at all in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them, everyone who trusts in them.

Instead of becoming like the God who made them, they were becoming like the idols they worshipped. You can understand God’s frustration.

The result was the Assyrian captivity in 722 B.C. that dissolved the Northern Kingdom. Okay, but Habakkuk was in Judah. How did this affect them?

Because the Northern and Southern Kingdoms were all the same family of the Children of Israel, there was cross-pollination that polluted the hearts of the kings and people.

In the later days of Judah, there had been a string of kings who followed Jeroboam’s legacy. That string was broken by King Josiah who returned the nation to God. But when he died, his son Jehoiakim became king. The summary of his life is: 2Kings 23:37 He did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done.

Which brings us back to Habakkuk. It was Jehoiakim who was the king when Habakkuk wrote of his distress over all that was going on around him. Jehoiakim’s disregard for God opened the window of evil. Habakkuk saw it everywhere.

Jeremiah wrote of Jehoiakim: Jer 22:17, 21 But your eyes and your heart are intent only upon your own dishonest gain, and on shedding innocent blood and on practicing oppression and extortion. I spoke to you in your prosperity; but you said, 'I will not listen!' This has been your practice from your youth, that you have not obeyed My voice.

Then God enacted the fulfillment of all He had had prophesied against Judah. 2Kings 24:1-3 In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant for three years; then he turned and rebelled against him. The LORD sent against him bands of Chaldeans, bands of Arameans, bands of Moabites, and bands of Ammonites. So He sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the LORD which He had spoken through His servants the prophets. Surely at the command of the LORD it came upon Judah, to remove them from His sight…

Remember the Billboards of messages from God? Don’t make me come down there! God judges evil harshly. Even in the lives of His children. Not for revenge because they have forsaken Him, but for correction to restore them to fellowship.

The result of God’s actions has always been with reason and purpose. Isa 17:7-8 In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel. He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made, either the Asherim or the altars of incense. 

When things have gotten so far away from God’s design, the only way back is transformation, renewing ourselves to who He is and what He expects. In the day of destruction, historically, men have seen the futility of life without God and looked to Him again. It’s time for America to do the same.

So, here’s Habakkuk, looking at things crumbling around him, turning His attention to the Lord and asking God when He is going to do something about it. Ever been there? Next week, God will tell Him His plan and Habakkuk won’t like what God’s going to do.

  1. The complexity of creation demands a creator.
  2. The God who created also created the structure under which all that He created can live.
  3. In Society, for that structure to work, there must be acknowledgement of and accountability to the God who designed it.
  4. Without having God as most precious and holding others in high esteem, rules and restrictions have no motivation other than the conscience of man.
  5. If that conscience is seared, man will be highly irresponsible, loving himself first and foremost to the neglect of God and others.

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