Monday, June 4, 2018

Habakkuk Part 2

Most of us have a fear of falling. My dad used to say it’s not the fall that’ll kill you, just the sudden stop. Few of us would jump out of an airplane even with a parachute to control our landing. But the greatest fear is falling with no control. Some time ago, my cat got tangled in my feet as I walked across my deck. I felt helpless when I realized I was going down. I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t cushion the fall. All I could do was watch the planks get closer and closer as I anticipated the sudden stop. Falling with no control.

There are many life situations in which we have little or no control. Health, finances, marriage, kids, grandkids, parents, society, politics, culture, evil. Losing control or having no control to stop these situations produces the same anxiety as falling. We can’t stop the plunge into the abyss. We are trapped in the downward spiral, and the ground is getting closer and closer.
Imagine you are hanging from the edge of a cliff with a drop of twenty thousand feet. With no one there to pull you up, anxiety turns into panic. The only thing between you and falling to your death is your grip on the crevices of the rock. And that grip is losing strength.

But then, someone comes by and reaches out a hand. Do you take it or continue to trust your own grip? What if while reaching out to him, your other hand lets go? And panic freezes you. But letting go is your only hope.
At what point do you accept the hand and release yourself from the anxiety of trying to control your situation yourself? Once you take the hand, the burden from hanging off the cliff is no longer yours but the one’s in whose hand you have placed your trust.

Habakkuk opens with: this is the Oracle which Habakkuk saw. Oracle: burden
He saw the problem. He described it in a variety of ways: violence, iniquity, wickedness, destruction, strife, contentions, law is ignored, justice isn’t upheld, the wicked surround the righteous and justice is perverted. The problem became his burden because he saw no solution.

His world was in a freefall and the ground was getting closer and closer. What does he do? He actually challenges God for answers. God why are you silent? Why don’t you see what’s going on? He fell into the common trap of letting how things appear change what He knew about God. Just because God is silent doesn’t mean He can’t see what’s going on. Frog with no legs can’t hear.
Then God answers him: Hab 1:5 Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days—you would not believe if you were told.

When we look at the situation, we only see the problem. When God looks at it, He sees the solution. When we look at God, instead of the problem, we will see the answer.
Luke 18:27 "The things that are impossible with people are possible with God."

We think, because we are limited, God is limited. Who places the limitations on our situation? God doesn’t. So here’s Habakkuk’s first lesson in faith: stop judging how things look and realize God has a plan.
A man stopped to watch a little league baseball game. He asked a boy in the dugout what the score was. The boy responded, "Eighteen to nothing—we're behind." "I'll bet you're discouraged." "Naw, we ain’t discouraged, Mister." the little boy replied, "We ain’t even got up to bat yet!"

Habakkuk, why are you discouraged? I’ve been working on this problem for centuries.
Hab 1:6-11 "For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that fierce and impetuous people who march throughout the earth to seize dwelling places which are not theirs. They are dreaded and feared; their justice and authority originate with themselves. Their horses are swifter than leopards and keener than wolves in the evening. Their horsemen come galloping, their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swooping down to devour. All of them come for violence. Their horde of faces moves forward. They collect captives like sand. They mock at kings and rulers are a laughing matter to them. They laugh at every fortress and heap up rubble to capture it. Then they will sweep through like the wind and pass on. But they will be held guilty, they whose strength is their god." They suit my purpose for how I choose to handle correcting my people.

When Sennacherib, King of Assyria, invaded and took the Northern Kingdom captive in 722 B.C., Hezekiah was king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. As soon as Sennacherib had conquered Israel, he turned against Judah. Hezekiah cried out to God who told him:
2Kings 19:32-34 'Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, "He will not come to this city or shoot an arrow there; and he will not come before it with a shield or throw up a siege ramp against it. By the way that he came, by the same he will return, and he shall not come to this city,"' declares the LORD. For I will defend this city to save it for My own sake and for My servant David's sake.'" Then it happened that night that the angel of the LORD went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home.

Some years later, Hezekiah became sick and near death. He prayed and God restored him. A Babylonian delegation came to celebrate his recovery. He showed them all around Jerusalem and all the riches in the Temple.
2Kings 20:16-18 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, "Hear the word of the LORD. Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and all that your fathers have laid up in store to this day will be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,' says the LORD. Some of your sons who shall issue from you, whom you will beget, will be taken away; and they will become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon.'"
The fulfillment of this prophecy was scheduled 115 years down the road. But even to Hezekiah it was too far away to worry about. And with the strength of Assyria, who’d have ever thought Babylon could become this powerful?

But in 605 B.C. the Babylonians defeated Assyria and Egypt at Carchemish in Syria and became the dominating world power. This was the same year Nebuchadnezzar entered Jerusalem and took the first group of captives away.
But before that first raid on Jerusalem, here is God telling Habakkuk what’s going to happen. And how does Habakkuk respond? In disappointment.

Hab 1:12-13 Are You not from everlasting, O LORD, my God, my Holy One? Will we not die? You, O LORD, have appointed them to judge; and You, O Rock, have established them to correct? Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You cannot look on wickedness with favor. Why do You look with favor on those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they?
God, we want help, but not like Your plan for providing that help. Can’t You come up with a better solution?

Are we called to live by faith or preferences? Can we trust God or must we maintain control? Can we let go of the ledge and take His hand? Habakkuk is getting his second faith lesson in what it means to trust God: stop trying to control things we have no control over and place yourself and your burden into God’s hand.

One of the greatest statements of faith was scratched into the wall of a German concentration camp during WWII.
I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining.
I believe in love even when I don’t feel it. 
I believe in God even when He is silent.

Isa 7:9 If you will not believe, you surely shall not last. So what will you do, Habakkuk?
Hab 2:1 I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; and I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, and how I may reply when I am reproved.

Guard post – a place of waiting: spiritual preparation for hearing from God
Ps 27:13-14 I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD.

How do I see the goodness of the Lord? I wait for Him in confidence for what He is going to do. Not having a word from the Lord is not the time for action.
Prov 29:18 Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained…What’s the difference between operating without a vision and operating with a vision.

A vision – understanding something by faith we cannot see with our eyes. It is the realization God is in control, which provides restraint. If we don’t envision God is in charge, actively engaged in our situation, we will try to take control. We are unrestrained in our efforts to manage the unmanageable. What restores the restraint?
2Co 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us…The ability to recognize by faith that God is causing all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are the called ones, those called according to His purpose. Rom 8:28

Faith requires us to trust God in that place between problem and solution. So, Habakkuk went there on the rampart and waited until God spoke.

Hab 2:2-3 Then the LORD answered me and said, "Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run. For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay.
The answer is coming. It will arrive on time. Whose time? God’s time.

Author George Bernard Shaw once visited sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein in his studio. Noticing a huge block of stone standing in one corner Shaw asked what it was for. “I don’t know yet. I’m still making plans.” Shaw was astounded. “You mean you don’t start until you have a plan for your work. Why, I change my mind several times a day!” “That’s all very well with a few pages of a manuscript, but not with a four-ton block of stone.”
God may work for centuries preparing for a moment that takes only a few minutes. So what is Habakkuk to do while God works all this out? Hab 2:4 Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith.

Habakkuk’s third faith lesson: Don’t worry about the details of My plan. You trust me. That’s how the righteous get through difficult times. They keep their eyes on Me. They take My hand and let go of wherever else they may have placed their confidence in. Never allow your doubts to overtake your faith.
Heb 10:35-38 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. FOR YET IN A VERY LITTLE WHILE, HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME, AND WILL NOT DELAY. BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH…

1.       The greatest challenge we will ever face is trusting God in impossible situations.

2.      When we have made up our minds there is no hope, we have minimized God to being less capable than we are.

3.      It is only when we let God be God can we discover His power, purposes and plans far exceed our fears, doubts and concerns.

4.      Trusting Him—living by faith—is not only a great idea, it is who we are to be—people who live with complete confidence God will accomplish what concerns us.

5.      To doubt His activity in our lives is to deny His love for us.

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