Author Topic: The Minor Prophets: Habakkuk  (Read 31 times)

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The Minor Prophets: Habakkuk
« on: July 01, 2020, 04:10:27 PM »
Habakkuk
Study One
What Kind Of God Do You Believe In?

David Wails, James Furlong, and Joe Bennett. Innocent victims of an unprovoked attack in a public park, only a week or two ago. Three young men, leaving distraught and heartbroken families, whose words ring out to every single human being: "They were kind, caring, loving, and never hurt anyone". Their names will soon be forgotten; replaced by another victim, in the wrong place at the wrong time. The question asked in all such cases is always the same: "Why does God allow bad things to happen to "good" people, and good things happen to "bad" people? Is God unjust?" This is the question the prophet Habakkuk posed direct to God almost 3,000 years ago. It will continue to be asked until the world ceases, with the majority of people believing in the existence of God, but having no personal relationship with Him; He is no longer considered the God of all nations, of blessing, of compassion. Yes, He made the world, but He is no longer involved in the day-to-day running of it.

Background:
Habakkuk prophesied at the same time as Jeremiah, during the reign of Jehoiakim. Though Judah had been freed from the tyranny of Assyria; following the fall of Nineveh (612BC), Egypt had defeated Judah at Megiddo (see 2 Kings Chap 22-24), and had set up puppet rulers on the throne (608BC). The Babylonians subsequently defeated Egypt (605BC), leaving Judah at the mercy of the Chaldean forces for the next 20 years. Although God's law had been re-discovered in the temple at Jerusalem (621BC) (see 2 Kings 22:v8), the reformation of the nation under King Josiah didn't last; within 3 months of his passing, the people had turned back to sin, oppression, and idolatry (see 2 Kings 23:v31-v37). The true church, responsible for telling the people about God, was in decline; retreating instead of moving forward, and having no influence whatsoever upon the people. Into this backdrop, Habakkuk was commissioned by God to prepare the people for the Chaldean invasion and occupation.
The foundation of God's law is RESPECT (love):
1. Respect for God
2. Respect for self
3. Respect for other people
4. Respect for nature/animals
5. Respect for property
6. Respect for parents
7. Respect for human life
8. Respect for marriage
9. Respect for authority

All of these, the inhabitants of Judah had violated and defiled. Seeing this moral and spiritual decline, the prophet pours out his heart, and cries to God in his anguish: "Why do the continuous sins go unpunished? Why aren't You doing something about it? All around is violence, iniquity, grievance, theft, strife, and contention. HOW LONG, LORD?" (v1-v4).
NB: It is to be noted here, as mentioned in our earlier study of Micah, that God longs to talk, and is always eager to discuss and debate issues with mortal man (what a privilege). Therefore, interrogationary prayer is welcomed, providing it comes from sincerity of the heart or depth of the soul. Unfortunately, all too often, when wronged, we fly into a rage (carnal passion), more often by injustices done to us personally, rather than those done to God.

We now see the Lord's reply:
"Look closely, Habakkuk, and be astonished; because I'm going to do something that your own eyes won't believe. I have seen all the evil and wickedness that you describe, and I've already set something in motion, but you've missed it; because you've only been looking at your own nation. You need to see the bigger picture, take a world view, watch the nations" (v5).

NB: This verse was quoted by the Apostle Paul to the Jews at Antioch; referring to the establishment of the "Heavenly Jerusalem", inclusive of all nations & peoples.

"I am raising up against Judah the most fearless, cruel, ruthless, and barbaric nation on earth - the Chaldeans who, undaunted trample and plunder all lands, who act without any moral restraint, and are a law unto themselves. They are swift and daring; hungry for spoil, and have no regard for nobility or external splendour. They laugh to scorn all who offer any resistance , and mock fortified cities; breaking down their strong walls with ease. Their strength is their god; they exalt themselves more and more through war, violence, and destruction. Furthermore, Habakkuk, you will be an eye-witness; for IT WILL HAPPEN IN YOUR DAY" (v6-v11).

God's justice doesn't always appear when we feel it should, but the justice and character of God cannot be separated; His righteousness dictates that He will always punish sin.

We will break off our first study here.

Read again these verses and consider:
1. Where do you stand regarding the 9 foundation points of God's law?
2. When is it right to use interrogatory prayer?
3. How would you answer the question: "Should God's punishment for sin be immediate, transparent, and the punishment fit the crime?"
4. How can scripture enable you to see "the bigger picture"?
5. In our previous study, we looked at God's dealings/judgment of a nation's sin, and how the example of Israel past should impact on our own nation's moral and spiritual behaviour today. How does/should God's punishment of a nation differ from His punishment  upon an individual?


Habakkuk
Study Two
What Kind Of God Do You Believe In?

Habakkuk means "to wrestle", and we saw in our first study the prophet wrestling with God regarding His character and judgment. The prophet was looking through the wrong end of the telescope; having a narrow field of view, the Lord instructing him to look beyond, at the world as a whole. This is an important point to remember, as we look for signs of Christ's return. We concluded the last study with God pronouncing His judgment upon Judah's sin and hard-heartedness - He was bringing the barbaric Chaldeans!!
In total shock, the prophet completely changes his argument; from "Why aren't you punishing the iniquity of Judah?", he now says "You can't do that to your chosen people!!!" He had moved from judgment to mercy, and gives four reasons:

1. If You are everlasting, then your people must be everlasting also (v12).
2. If You are pure, You cannot look upon such evil. Therefore, this would be contradictory to Your nature (v13).
3. You are going to use an immoral people to commit an immoral act, upon a nation less immoral than themselves (v13).
4. They utterly destroy and leave nothing behind, and ascribe honour to themselves (v14-v17).
NB: Note here in v12 "WE SHALL NOT UTTERLY PERISH".

From these statements, a further three questions arise. IF we are created in God's image...
1. Should He not have a care for preserving all mankind?
2. Should not His paternal love be always evident?
3. Should He not prevent others from taking honour and glory due to Him?

God's character reveals that He will always punish sin, always save a remnant of true believers, will use something already evil to bring evil, and effect good, resulting in His honour being manifested.

Habakkuk, from initial anger and frustration > perplexity > doubt > despair > questioning God > wayward thinking > petulant; "I'm going up to the watchtower; to wait and see if you would dare to bring the Chaldeans!!".
NB: This verse could also be interpreted as: "I will rise above my own understanding; looking to the gospel, seeing what the Lord says through His word, before acting upon it in obedience".

The prophet is caught between selfish pride and humility. We should not attempt to reason things out ourselves, but ask the Lord for wisdom and understanding. His word should be sufficient to enable us to deal with any given situation we may find ourselves in. However, in times of tribulation, Satan comes knocking:
1. What will you do now?
2. Who will you listen to?
3. Are you certain of God's help?
4. What is going to be the likely outcome?

SEEK SPIRITUAL UNDERSTANDING THROUGH MY WORD - LIVE BY FAITH ALONE (see Hebrews 11:v1).
This is the reply to give both internal (own thoughts/presumptions) and external (Satan/world) assaults upon our faith, at times when God appears to delay, even for a moment, to fulfil His promises toward us, and relieve our suffering. Too often we immediately clamour and complain at His slowness or inaction.

BE PATIENT, EVEN IN TRIBULATIONS.

We will pause again here;  as there is a lot to consider. Please re-read the passage; reflecting upon your own responses to trials, setbacks, and disappointments, and God's subsequent dealings with you.


Habakkuk
Study Three
What Kind Of God Do You Believe In?

The most important aspects of life often have opposites: good/bad; truth/lies; right/wrong; Heaven/Hell;, yes/no; life/death; heads/tails; belief/unbelief etc etc. In our previous study, we touched upon the inward conflict of the prophet - pride against humility. Habakkuk's pride was hurt, and he was displaying all the characteristics:

1. Tunnel vision; only seeing things from his own perspective
2. A short view; focussing only on the here and now
3. He was doing all the talking
4. He wasn't in a calm and relaxed state
5. He had no firm anchor or certainty to cling on to
6. He was impatient and petulant
7. He only saw unrighteousness, sin, and death
8. He was behaving carelessly

However, the Christian should see things as God sees them; through His perspective. He should take the larger, and longer view; by faith in God's word, he should learn patience and long-suffering, remaining calm and content, having a surety in God's righteousness, leading eventually to the remission of sins, eternal life, and the knowledge that God will ultimately deal with sin. He asks: "What will happen at the end of the day?" THE RIGHTEOUS WILL LIVE BY FAITH (the Apostle Paul drove this message home throughout his epistles (Galatians 3:v11; Romans 1:v17; Hebrews 10:v38) - IF THE JUST LIVE BY FAITH, IT FOLLOWS THAT HE IS CONSIDERED JUST BY HIS FAITH.

Verses 5-20 are collectively known as "The Five Curses", against the proud and greedy, and those who live by injustice and inhumanity. Up to this present day, twenty-one civilizations have fallen into oblivion; they are built, they rise, and then they fall (all of which, it is to be noted, takes time). As previously mentioned, Britain is currently on the downward slide (cursed are those that commit these sins, and you have done them).

Curse One: Taking what doesn't belong to you - robbery, theft, burglary, stealing, plunder. Those who are intoxicated by greed and power, never satisfied, using cruelty, violence and oppression to take other's possessions (like Nazi Germany, they have a desire to rule the whole world). Their judgment is that their sins will be returned upon their own head (v5-v8).

NB: the word "clay" (v6) has a number of different interpretations:
1. Those who have accumulated vast wealth don't wish to give any away; so they hoard it up and, in a sense, bury themselves under it.
2. Those who build for themselves great houses/palaces.
3. Their end is the grave; they bring death upon themselves.
4. Their wealth is a heavy burden to carry; playing on the mind, leading to fear, discontent, and enslavement.

Curse Two: Self-reliance - A mis-placed self-assurance and security, that dishonest gain will somehow ensure safety from any foreseeable calamity (eg: A man steals to provide for his children's future; in order that they will not need to steal themselves). The judgment is that their own conscience will condemn them (v9-v11)

Curse Three: Unrighteous living - Attempting to build a reputation by using violence and wickedness (employing slave labour for your own benefit). We should all be earning an honest living through hard toil, not by lies, corruption, or deceit. The judgment here is that everything built by exploitation, for personal gain, would be destroyed (v12-v14).

NB: It is to be noted here that the great civilizations of history have lost their fame and reputation (only the "Hanging Gardens Of Babylon" survive today), yet God's fame continues.

Curse Four: Taking advantage of other's weaknesses. The pretence of being friendly, and an ally but, in reality, desiring to bring down and debase. Using encouragement to lure others into the same wrongdoing  as oneself, or humiliating for personal enjoyment (eg: "Join me for a drink" or "We'll share the spoil between us") (see Psalm 137:v1-v4). The judgment is that your own baseness and depravity will be revealed to the whole world.

Curse Five: Idolatry & Superstition - Making one's own mental/physical image of God, and deliberately calling on them for guidance and aid (Yet, all teach lies and deceit - horoscopes, ouija boards, tarot cards, tea leaves, astrology, palmistry, mediums, fortune-tellers). The judgment is that those who put their faith in such will receive nothing in return (v18-v19).

We will end this study as we began; THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY SAVING FAITH. There is still a righteous God who rules, in spite of wickedness and evil practices in the world. He is now in His dwelling place (the Holy temple, His place of habitation, His sanctuary, within the heart of believers). THE EARTH WILL BE FILLED WITH THE GLORY OF GOD (v20). HALLELUJAH!!!

In Britain, God has given us the gospel in many different versions, freedom to worship openly, churches within easy walking distance, devout preachers, teachers, and evangelists, and more clergy than doctors. We used to be No.1 in overseas missionaries, and sending money abroad to further the spread of the gospel. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case and, therefore, we must ask the question: "How long will God continue to tolerate our iniquity? Will His love toward us diminish?".

Please re-read Chapter 2:v2-v20, and consider these contrasts: Internal/external; black/white; living/dead; existence/manufactured; speech/dumb; original/representation. In addition, reflect upon the historical fact that Babylon has gone from a "golden cup", full of riches and prosperity, to the "chalice" of God's wrath (read Jeremiah 51 & Daniel 4:v19-v32), and continue in heartfelt prayer for the salvation of this nation. Amen

I have decided to delay the following studies of Chapter Three; which is the prophet's prayer on reflection upon chapters 1 & 2, as it gives an opportunity for those studying this book to also reflect and meditate, and offer their own prayer as it suits. We will continue in 2/3 weeks time.
Thanks.

Today, we see many examples of self-centredness in our land. The congregation of hundreds of people attending illegal raves, totally ignoring social distancing requirements, then turning their frustrations on the police authorities through violent behaviour, and we ended our previous study with the questions: How long will God continue to turn a blind eye to iniquities, and would His love toward us ever diminish? The scriptures show us that there is not a deserving of mercy, but a hope for it.

In our initial study, God centred on the human MIND; dealing with Habakkuk's anger, frustration, doubt, and despair. In the following study, His focus was on the human WILL; instructing the prophet to listen and wait. Here, in chapter 3, the emphasis is on the human HEART.

Faith is always displayed by the exercise of prayer and, in this chapter, we see Habakkuk's faith come shining through; a blazing light in the darkness of human circumstance. His petulance and agitation has disappeared; replaced by humility and praise.

Immediately, at the beginning of his prayer, the prophet is aware of his guilt against the Lord: pleading for mercy above judgment, and humbly requesting a display of God's power (v2). The following verses depict His majesty, character, and attributes: "God came from Heaven" (DEITY); "His magnificence covered the Heavens and the Earth, displaying His goodness" (AWESOMENESS) (v3); "His brightness shone" (SPLENDOUR); "He had overwhelming strength" (POWER) (v4) (NB: Horns can be interpreted as strength, lightening, sunrays, or uprighteousness). "Before Him went the law" (WISDOM); and "Lightening went out from His presence" (JUDGMENT) (v5). "He apportioned the earth" (DESIGN/PURPOSE); and "drove out heathen nations" (HOLINESS). "His ways are everlasting" (ETERNAL) (v6). (Here, the prophet gives examples of God's power; in changing the forces of nature, using the same force He uses to bring people to a saving knowledge of the gospel (the power of salvation to all who believe)). "Was it a display of His wrath against the waters, when He parted the Red Sea and Jordan river, to lead His people across? No, it was to demonstrate how far He would go to save His people, according to His covenant promises" (FAITHFULNESS) (v8-v9). (NB: Verse 9 has over 100 different interpretations, though the main consensus is that of God fighting, and gaining victory for His chosen people).

PAUSE AND CONSIDER

"You split the earth with rivers; through earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. All the heavenly bodies remain fixed, as bolts of lightening flashed across the skies (AUTHORITY OVER NATURE) (v10-v11). "In anger, You scattered heathen nations; for the salvation of your people; destroying their pride and self-confidence" (AUTHORITY OVER NATIONS) (v13); "Vast armies, from fortified cities in Egypt came after us; anticipating an easy victory. But You brought us safely through the Red Sea" (LOVE) (v14-v15); "When You told me your intention of bringing the Chaldeans, my stomach churned, my whole body shook with fear, and I wondered if I would remain steadfast in faith when this mighty tribulation came to pass?" (v16); "However, looking at the whole picture, I conclude that even though I'll know great suffering, I'll still rejoice in the Lord, the God of my salvation; for He is my strength, and will enable me to outrun troubles, live uprightly, and enjoy a closer walk with Him in peace" (ALL IN ALL) (v17-v19).

A Christian should always desire to learn the truth and, as such, needs to listen and submit to God's word, and be prepared to change our own longstanding opinions ("Habakkuk, what are you doing up here on the watchtower? You should be down below; preparing the people for the hardship to come"). He lives in the tension between his present state and his future hope (though his focus should always be on the latter). Listen and learn, understand who God is? (His character/attributes), the God of history, and the God of your life (past and present), things you take for granted, His continuing mercy upon those who are a burden on your own heart, His covenant promises, the lengths He will go for your benefit, and His own name's sake. Ask and pray without doubting; believing that He will freely give without compromise; having faith in His present activity, despite the appearance to the contrary.

Our own emotions and circumstances can rob us of a right view of God. When we look upon worldly things, there is nothing permanent to make glad the heart; no encouragement by sight; for we see only desolation, misery, suffering, ruin, brokenness, hatred, and dissatisfaction etc etc. We need to place our dependence upon the Lord, waiting patiently in faith and prayer for Him to act on our behalf. When God's chastisement meets us outwardly, we need to remember who God is inwardly (THE GOD OF MERCY< GRACE< AND LOVINGKINDNESS). His anger is always toward the right people, at the right time, in the right place, and in the right way. Ours is not (we may have endured a bad day at work, go home, and take our frustrations out on our families - the wrong people, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, in the wrong way.

Finally, did you notice, as you read through Habakkuk, what had transpired to the prophet? He had been baptized with the Holy Spirit!!! (they will see visions and dream dreams). Please re-read this little book, and ask yourself: What am I going to do with this heavy burden I carry?

I pray that your study of Habakkuk will lead to a closer walk with God. It may profit you to compile a list of God's past blessings upon your life, when there seemed no hope of a successful outcome.

Our next study will be on the prophet Jonah, commencing mid-August.

 

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