God at Work!

// August 18th, 2019 // Sermons

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series Habakkuk Sermon Series

Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy and Ruth Graham… You can listen online or download it and listen later…God at Work…was the Honorary Chair for the National Day of Prayer in the U.S. some 5 years ago.  In her address to American Christians, she said:

“Please be assured there is no other agenda in this initiative. This is not about promoting anything or anyone. This is all about calling God’s people together to pray, before it’s too late, and judgment falls on our nation.”  I feel the same way about our beloved Canada.

  • Our nation is in trouble!
  • Evil is running rampant in our world.
  • Jesus must be glorified in the lives of His followers.
  • We are in desperate need of the Holy Spirit to fall on us.

In your bulletins is an insert telling of a day of Fasting & Prayer in Calgary, on Aug. 31stRiseUp Canada are calling Christians from across this land to gather together to pray.  A gathering like this took place in Ottawa last October, and now they have planned one for Calgary.  I’m guessing it will be a lively gathering, as some of the organizers are from Pentecostal churches, but I would encourage you to attend, if you can.

We must pray for God’s mercy while we can, because judgment is coming!  People cannot mock God forever, you cannot ignore Him or pretend He doesn’t exist, you cannot do as you please without inviting judgment from on high.  There is a time when judgment comes…we need to know that.

This sounds very much like the prophet Habakkuk.  God had told him clearly:  “Judgment is coming!”  Habakkuk has moved from fear to faith. And, as I said last week – nothing has changed in the nation of Judah or in the outlook of what was about to happen.  Babylon was still going to march through the land to destroy, devour and take captive.

But, Habakkuk has changed on the inside!

Chapter 1-2 contain a lot of bad news; but in chapter 3 Habakkuk is full of good news.  He ends his prophecy with hope and praise.

In these verses we find Habakkuk’s prayer – he prays a Biblical prayer that is honest, desperate…the kind of prayer God answers.  In essence, he is praying, “Lord, do it again, in our day and in our time.”

Because I lived in the Saskatoon area during the Great Revival in 1973, I feel the same way…”Lord, do it again!  Pour out Your Spirit on Your people once more!  We live in a dry and thirsty land, we live in a time when the church and the world that surrounds the church, is in desperate need of spiritual renewal!”

The words of an old spiritual song read:

“It’s me, it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.

Not my brother, not my sister, but it’s me, O Lord,

Standing in the need of prayer.”

My greatest challenge/threat to revival is the man I see when I look in the mirror.  And, that is why we need to pray for God to begin revival in us personally.

After his prayer – v. 1-2 – Habakkuk has a vision of God.  Theologians call this a theophany.  That is merely a fancy term means a visible manifestation of a deity – an appearance of God on the earth.  God revealed himself to Habakkuk in a dream/vision – v. 3-15.

This vision is God’s reply to Habakkuk’s request – like God saying, “Have you forgotten who I am.  You’re talking as if I can’t hear you.  As if I don’t have any power.  Let me show you who I am because if you understand who I am, you’ll be able to sleep at night.”

In these verses Habakkuk recounts God’s activity in the past.  He focuses on the Exodus, the time in the wilderness, and the crossing of the Jordan River.  It was during this time that which God repeatedly worked spectacular miracles for them.  When God shows Habakkuk all these things, He is saying, “Have you forgotten what I did for you in the past?”

When you read through the Bible, do you secretly wonder if God can do it again in today?  The answer:  He’s God!  He can step into history any time He wants.  If God did it before, He can do it again!

Habakkuk learned three things as he broke through the doubt barrier#1/ Habakkuk is confronted by their God – v. 3-7

Memory is a wonderful thing, but memory can be a burden or a blessing.  If you remember bad things in the past, they can trouble you.  But even remembering good things in the past can be troublesome, if you have fond memories of what used to be or you realize that you are not what you know you should be today.

But, memory can be a blessing, because you can look at the amazing ways that God has moved in your life, where God has touched you in a time of need, and you can rejoice over past blessings, even learning from them and getting renewed by the memory of them.

In v. 3 we read these glorious 2 words: “God came” – that in itself is worth celebrating.  But, in my study I discovered the word used for “God” is the word “Eloah” – from which we get the name Elohim.  It means “God, the Holy One”.  The emphasis in this verse is that God is absolutely holy.

“God, the Holy One, came from Teman…and Mount Paran”.  Teman, geographically speaking, is in the land of Edom – which is between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Elat –the northern tip of the Red Sea.  Paran is a mountainous desert area west of Edom in the Sinai Peninsula – the area being referenced in Habakkuk’s vision was where the Israelite nation travelled when God delivered them out of the land of Egypt.

So, God is showing Habakkuk a map – not just any map, because it’s like God Almighty, the Holy One, steps onto the map.  Habakkuk sees God in all His glory, in all His power, being manifested to the nation of Israel as He delivered them from Egypt and gave them the law at Mt. Sinai.

It’s interesting that in the middle of the verse, the word “Selah” has been inserted.  What God is saying is this: “Habakkuk, you need to remember that your God was also their God!  That your God was the God who came from Teman and Paran, who took you out of Egypt, out of slavery, out of bondage.  Remember, that He was the God that delivered you…Selah”.  That’s a musical pause – the people who were listening or singing this Psalm would stop for a moment and would consider the words they had just uttered.

I think that is a good thing to practice – when the word of God is read, sung or preached we should not be thinking of all the stuff that is going on in our lives…but, just for a few moments after the God’s Word has been shared we should quietly sit before God and listen/meditate to hear what He has to say to us.  Two things they need to see:

  1. i) First, God’s Glory – in the second part of v. 3: “His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.” God reminds Habakkuk of when they had received the law of God from the hands of Moses – when they received the law, glory covered the heavens.  There was a canopy of praise that came over all the Israelites at Mt. Sinai for what God had done.

Do we pray like Moses prayed?  “Lord, show me Your glory”.  John 1:14 reads, “…we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  Do you want God to be visible in your life, in your personality, in your walk and in your work?   We need to first see God in our Lord Jesus Christ – for Christ is God in flesh – Jesus is the express image, we see God’s glory in Him.  If you want to get to know God study the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will know God.

When you’re going through troubles, like the Judah facing Babylon, when there are trials in your life, when your life is rocked by temptation, by selfishness or even by illness – when a storm blows into your life – that is when you need to hold onto the glory of God!  Secondly…

  1. ii) They saw God’s Power – v. 5: “Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals” – he’s thinking about Egypt, the plagues, the children of Israel in the wilderness, the desert, murmuring against Moses and against God. God is in control of even those things, and Habakkuk would see that same glory and that same power again.

God is reminding him that one day He will deliver them.  In v. 6, he pictures God standing to measure the earth – the length, breadth and height, of it, and he sees that one day God will judge them with His righteous judgment.

In his vision, Habakkuk sees God looking at the nations, destroying them with one look.  The mountains and the hills – symbols of everlastingness – they trembled and were scattered.  The essence of the vision – nothing can stand before God, whether people, nations or even nature!

  1. 4 says, “His brightness was like the light…” – the holiness of God was so great, His power was so awesome. That was why Moses had to cover his face because of the glory of the Lord was too much for him!

Our thoughts of God are so far short of all He is!  It’s like comparing a candle with the sun.  Human language could never do justice to describing our God.

He uses pictures we can understand to describe something words cannot ever fully describe.  In Scripture, whenever you see God described as having hands, feet, eyes, or a mouth – you need to know, God is Spirit, He is not built like us.  This kind of language is meant to help us understand what God is doing, where He is going and so on.

The description is of God’s power emitted in all directions.  He is powerful everywhere – His power is universal, all-encompassing, in control of everything.  At the end of v. 4, “and there he veiled his power” – He was so powerful that when He was showing and revealing His glory to Moses on Mount Sinai, He had to hide His power because Moses couldn’t take it!

  1. 6 ends with: “His were the everlasting ways”. What God has done in the past, He will do in the future! Notice, v. 7, Habakkuk sees the strength of other nations trembling in affliction – all things are subdued by God.  What a comfort this brings to us.  No matter how awful things look in our world, God is bigger, stronger and will be victorious in the final outcome!  Secondly,

2/ Habakkuk was presented with our God – v. 8-15

In v. 8 the passage changes – Habakkuk no longer recounts God’s work among them in the past, he now addresses God in prayer about what He did.  In this way, he acknowledges that the God of the past is the God of now, the God of the present!

He asks: “Lord, are You angry against the rivers?” – he’s referring to the power and presence of God that opened a path in the Red Sea and again later a path in the Jordan River, for the people to cross over, as an act of salvation.

  1. 9 states that God will defend His people, He will come to their rescue, not because of their goodness or worthiness, but because of God’s promise. We can rest on the promises of God!

In the middle of v. 9, another “Selah” – it’s like those walls of water around the people of God were lifting their hands in praise to the Almighty that made them.  The worshipper is encouraged to stop and ponder our amazing, awesome God!

  1. 10 – the earth and nature are personified to show God’s great power and judgement. V. 11 – speaks about the time the sun and the moon stood still for Joshua and his troops to defeat the Amorites.

This tells us that God delivers His people, using nature, intellect and miracles.  V. 12 continues this thought – God was acting with the sovereign purpose of salvation!  He will deliver His people, He will save His own!  And, v. 13 tells us how – He saves by His anointed.  The Hebrew word for anointed is “Messiah”; the Greek word for Messiah is “Christ”; and, the word for salvation – used 2 times in v. 13 – is the Hebrew word “Yeshuah” – which is “Jesus”!  He delivers His people with the anointed Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Notice the verbs used in v. 13-15:  You came out…You crushed…You stripped…You pierced…You trampled.  This is what God did. He gets all the credit. We can see two things very clearly here:

  1. The utter defeat of those who oppose God.
  2. God’s determination to do whatever it takes to deliver His people.

Why is it necessary for us to know this?  Because many people have not found a God big enough for their problems.

  • If you had a bigger God, you wouldn’t worry as much.
  • If you had a bigger God, you could be stronger in crisis.
  • If you had a bigger God, you would be less tempted to compromise.

#3/ This is Habakkuk’s God – v. 16-19  We come to the end of this book. 

  1. First, there is acceptance: “Yet I will quietly wait…”  Quietly wait for God to work it out!

This is Habakkuk’s way of saying, “I get it, Lord. The Babylonians will attack us and then you will judge them. I will wait for that day to come.” As it turns out, Habakkuk likely didn’t live long to see the fall of Babylon some 70 years later.  Habakkuk’s words mean, “Message received.”

He comes to realize that God was his God!  His body trembled, his lips quivered, his self-righteousness was seen as rottenness in his bones and his legs started to shake.

When we realize who God is – even though we know how sinful we are and how far short we fall of God’s requirement – we still can say what v. 16 says, “Yet I will quietly wait…”

He’s talking about the coming day of trouble for Babylon, but we all face days of trouble in our future.  Maybe you are in it right now!  A day that shakes you to the core of your being.  Just thinking about it can make your body start to tremble, a sick feeling in your gut, your lips start to quiver and your legs become very unsteady.

  1. Second, there is commitment. 17-18 show us what faith looks like when life tumbles in around us:

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

The word “rejoice” literally means to jump/dance for joy.  But how is this possible?

Habakkuk has described a total economic meltdown.  Ancient Israel was an agricultural society.  If you ran out of figs, olives, grapes, grain, sheep, and cattle, you were in big trouble.  This isn’t just a random list.

What if your investments disappeared?

What would you do if all your earthly valuables are wiped out?

What if your children end up in jail?

What if you lose your job, your farm, your livelihood?

What if your safety net disappears?

What if you run out of food?

What if you can’t pay your bills?

What if your loved ones never come to Christ?

What if the doctor calls to say, “Its terminal”?

What if your spouse dies and you are left alone?

What if Canada is taken over by a foreign power?

What if you lose your job because you are a Christian?

What if you end up in jail for your faith?

What then?

In 2013, Matthew David Warren, the son of Rick & Kay Warren committed suicide.  Rick Warren is the pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California and the author of the book The Purpose Driven Life.  In July of 2014, on Matthew’s 29th birthday, Kay used Hab. 3:17-19 to state:

I shout it to the watching universe: I will rejoice in the Lord; I will be joyful in God my Savior. My heart remains wounded and battered, but my faith is steady.  God is faithful to his promises of rebuilding and restoring the ruins.  Could you say, “Yes, Lord,” when the dearest thing in life was taken from you?

Too many Christians have a God of the good times.  They serve God and love him and praise him when all is going well.  But what will you do when hard times come?  If all you have is a God of the good times, you don’t have the God of the Bible.

Sometimes the fig tree does not bud.

Sometimes there are no grapes on the vine.

Sometimes the olive crop fails.

Sometimes the fields produce no food.

Sometimes there are no sheep in the pen.

Sometimes there are no cattle in the stalls.

What do you do then?  You can get angry with God or you can give up on God altogether.

Or you can choose to believe in God anyway.  Often we mistake faith and our feelings.  Faith isn’t about my feelings, much less about my circumstances.  Faith chooses to believe when it would be easier to stop believing.  Habakkuk said, “I will wait patiently” and “I will rejoice.”  He found new strength in the midst of desolation. Faith chooses to believe.

The last verse of Habakkuk is often overlooked:  V. 19 – “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.”

The phrase “my feet” speaks of our journey through life.  In the Holy Land, you can see deer scampering on the barren hills near the west side of the Dead Sea.  The deer are sure-footed where the rest of us would slip and slide and fall.  If you know the Lord, he will give you stability in the slippery moments of life.  He will give you grace to stand when otherwise you would fall apart.

As the book of Habakkuk ends, nothing has changed on the outside.  The people of Judah have still forgotten God.  Violence still reigns in Jerusalem.  The wicked still oppress the righteous.  And the Babylonians are still God’s appointed instrument for judgment.  Hard times are coming and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

Nothing has changed!  Except this.  Habakkuk has changed on the inside.

We all come from different situations.  Some are happy, some are sad.  Some are healthy, some are sick.  Some are excited about the future, some face dark clouds of uncertainty.  But if we know the Lord, if God is our Savior, we can still have feet to tread on the heights in the worst moments of life. We can stand when others fall around us.

The former president of Wheaton College used to tell the students, “It’s always too soon to quit.”  That’s a good motto for us as we wrap up our study of Habakkuk.  We are all in one of three places:

1) You’re coming out of confusing times.
2) You’re in confusing times, or…

3) You’re about to enter confusing times and you just don’t know it yet.

Pastor John Piper wrote, “You’ll never know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.”  And when Jesus is all you have, then and only then will you discover that Jesus is all you need.  That’s the real message of the little book of Habakkuk.

Let’s pray…

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