God You Are Not Hearing Me!

// June 10th, 2019 // Sermons

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series Habakkuk Sermon Series

Today we start a new sermon series…You can listen online or download it and listen later…God You Are Not Hearing Me …based on the 5th last book of the OT – the minor prophetic book of Habakkuk.  There are 2 categories of books of prophecies in the Bible – Major & Minor Prophets.

These two titles are not intended to say that some are more important than others – major and minor are merely in reference to the length of these books of prophecy.  The longer books- 5 of them – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel and Daniel are the Major Prophets; and the remaining 12 books – Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi are the Minor Prophets.

Over the past few years, I have preached through Amos, Jonah and Malachi.  There are similarities in many of these books, but these prophecies were not given to the same people, or directed towards the same nation.  Some minor prophets are described as pre-exile, some during the exile, and some after Judah and Israel were taken into exile.

The books of Hosea and Amos were written to the nation of Israel.  Lamentations, Micah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, Zephaniah, and Habakkuk were all written to Judah.  Nahum and Jonah’s focus is on the nation of Assyria; and Obadiah was prophecy on Edom.  Daniel & Ezekiel were written during the exile to Babylon; and then, after they came out of the land of Babylon, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi are particularly addressed to the city of Jerusalem itself.

This gives you a bit of a background to the context of this book among the other books of prophecy.  Now just a brief look at the geography of these books of the Bible.  Under King David and also his son, Solomon’s reign, the Jewish people were all one nation.  But, after Solomon, the nation was split in 2 – the 10 northern tribes were Israel and the 2 southern tribes were Judah.  The book of Habakkuk was written to the kingdom of Judah, the 2 southern tribes.

Within the whole of the OT, we find that the Israelites had three main enemies.  There were the Edomites – the descendants of Esau the brother of Jacob; there were the Assyrians, and there were the Chaldeans who were actually the Babylonians.  The prophet Obadiah was given a message from God proclaiming doom to the nation of Edom.  Nahum delivered the message of doom to Assyria.  And Habakkuk delivers a message of judgment and doom concerning Babylon.

This prophetic book is a lament, a weeping Psalm – it’s not a public address: Habakkuk didn’t preach this to the nation of Judah.  As you read these 3 chapters you discover that this little book is a discourse, a dialogue, a speech, a debate between the prophet and God.

Just to create the setting for this series – it’s good to determine the time period of this book.  Habakkuk was a contemporary of Nahum, Zephaniah and Jeremiah – he lived during the reign of Kings Josiah and Jehoiakim.  The Chaldeans (Babylon) was a continual threat – Nebuchadnezzar had defeated Egypt in 605 BC and was now threatening Judah.  Jeremiah had predicted this and it happened from 605 to 586 BC.  He came from Babylon and went right through eventually to Jerusalem – he destroyed the temple, and the children of Israel and Judah were taken to the land of Babylon for 70 years captivity.  This little book is written just before that happens.

Habakkuk knew the Scriptures well, he was a competent theologian, and had great faith in God.  His name means “to embrace” or to “wrestle” – in this book, he does both.  He wrestles with God concerning the problem of how a holy God could use a wicked nation like Babylon to chasten the people of Judah, and then by faith, he embraces God and clings to His promises.  Habakkuk also wrestles with the spiritual decline of the nation and why God didn’t do something about it – he desperately wanted to see a revival among his people, and God wasn’t answering his prayer.  Does that sound at all familiar?

This book can be split up into three parts – corresponding with the 3 chapters.  Ch. 1 – deals with a burden; ch. 2 – a vision; and ch. 3 – a prayer.  Ch. 1 – wondering & worrying; ch. 2 – watching and waiting; ch. 3 – worshiping and witnessing.  This whole book is about Habakkuk’s journey of faith – that should resonate with us.

The fathers of the Reformation referred to Habakkuk as the grandfather of the Reformation.  Notice Hab. 2:4 – the key verse – “the just/righteous shall live by faith”.  This verse is quoted in Rom. 1:17, Gal. 3:11; and Heb. 10:38.

We’re going to look at ch. 1:1-5 today.  So, in the Hebrew Bible the book of Habakkuk is actually entitled: ‘The Burden Of Habakkuk’ – the ESV reads, “The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.”

A modern-day Christian myth that needs to be thrown-out is – when you trust Jesus with your life, you get rid of all your problems.”  That is a lie!  You don’t get rid of problems, but you have Jesus with you 24/7.

There are three things I want us to notice from these five verses.  #1 – a man – the embracer of God; #2 – a burden – the silence of God; #3 – a hope – the promise of God.  So, first,

#1) A Man – the Embracer of God – v. 1

We don’t know much about the man – where he was born, who is family was, what tribe he was from or, where he lived.  But, as I said, his name means: ‘The embracer of God’.  One who embraced God, one who hugged God tight and clung on to God.

Bible scholars suggest that he was well-known among the people of his day and for this reason he didn’t feel like he had to lay out his credentials as a prophet of God.  This is the only book in the Bible where he is mentioned.

As I was preparing the thought hit me – could it be that God wants us to see that the only thing that really matters, is not where you’re born, not what family you are from, not what religion you are, not what letters are after your name – but all that matters is that you know your God.

Habakkuk was the embracer of God.  In this book of prophecy, he embraced God in prayer, he embraced God in faith, he embraced God in his walk day by day, in his witness, in his preaching and in his daily living.

To all of you who are God-embracers today, know this – if you embrace God, and if you seek Him, and cling to Him by faith and in prayer, God will cling to you, God will hold you, God will come close to you.  As God’s teaches, “draw near to God and He will draw near to you”.  O that we might be known as one who embraces God!

  1. 1 says, “The oracle/burden that Habakkuk the prophet saw.” Just because we embrace God doesn’t mean we are burden-free. I wonder if Habakkuk had a burden because he was so close to God that he started to see and feel things from God’s perspective.  It’s like God was imparting to him His feelings, His convictions, what He thought and His viewpoint of the nation of Judah at that particular time.

The Hebrew word ‘burden’ is the word ‘massa’.  The OT has several words for burden, but ‘massa’ means ‘a load, cargo’ – something that has to be lifted from one place to another.  It’s the Hebrew word that is used of the Levites when they carried the Ark of the Covenant – they had a burden that they must bear.

In Deut. 1:12 and Job 7:20, this word is used as a burden of the soul – as if the burden that they bear is a responsibility.  Something that they have been given, not to harm them, but a responsibility given for them to take care of – they are responsible for it.

The problem in Habakkuk’s day was simply that the people of Judah couldn’t see the real situation, but Habakkuk saw it and it became a burden for him.  The people were willing to be quiet and turn the other way, but Habakkuk couldn’t and wouldn’t!  He couldn’t, because the burden of God was burning in his heart…he couldn’t stand to sit and watch…he just had to speak!   For him to know the truth and not share it – to have a burden, or to see something, and not do something about it in the eyes of God would be a travesty.  So, Habakkuk received a vision from God and this vision caused him to speak.  Secondly…

#2) A Burden – the Silence of God – v. 2-4

  1. 2 in NLT reads: “How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen! ‘Violence is everywhere!’ I cry, but you do not come to save.  Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight.  The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.”

What was Habakkuk’s burden that was burning in his soul?  The silence of God.  God won’t even answer him!  Why is God silent?  

Can you relate to Habakkuk’s burden?  He was praying that God would come to the nation of Judah, the Southern Kingdom.  He looked at his own people and saw them sinning without measure; he saw how the nation was sinking into sin.  He saw this and he cried for God to come – to deliver them, to save them, to even judge them, to do something!  But, all he could hear was the deafening silence from heaven!

What a burden that must have been for him to bear.  He was the Lord’s prophet, and if the Lord’s prophet can’t even get a word from the Lord – if God won’t even answer him, what does that say about God?  God, why are You silent?

Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zephaniah all lived at the same time as Habakkuk – they all prophesied to the same situations – no wonder we read that Jeremiah was the weeping prophet – he wept for the sins of the nation.

They were all burdened because of the people’s wickedness.  They identified social sins, religious sins, political sins, evils in Judah that you could not conceive.  They had abusive leaders that filled their pockets with ill-gotten gain from the people, they robbed them and extorted from the poor.  They built cities at the price of human lives.  They used strong drink to get people into loose living and sexual immorality.  There was idolatry within the nation – we will see this in the weeks to come.

But, Habakkuk, the holy man of God, had a heart after God, and because of this God showed him in this vision/in this burden, how he felt.  And so, Habakkuk became so burdened that he cried out to God:  “Lord, help this rampant evil to stop!  Save Your people, O Lord!”  But all he heard in his quiet place, was silence!

If that wasn’t enough, there was the burden of history – no doubt he could remember hearing about a king called Josiah.  Before King Josiah there many evil kings, but he brought in religious reforms and had utterly shattered Baal worship.  He went through all the cities, and the towns, and the countryside, knocked down their idols and their groves and their worshipping places on the hills.  He killed the prophets of Baal…what a man Josiah was!

King Josiah then rebuilt the temple.  As he repaired the temple, Hilkiah found a book – the word of God – the OT Scriptures, the Pentateuch, Genesis to Deuteronomy.  He opened it and read it to King Josiah, and Josiah was gloriously changed and desired to be obedient.  But, it wasn’t just enough that he had come to the knowledge of the truth, he wanted the whole nation to join him.

King Josiah brought in reforms and urged the people of his day to turn to God and to worship God, but sadly Josiah died at the hands of Pharaoh Neco.  The hope for their nation seemed to be dashed.  Their dream vanished, they thought God was moving, that God was restoring His truth to the nation – and all of a sudden it is all finished!

After this, Pharaoh Neco rose up and made Josiah’s son, Eliakim, the king.  He is the king during this prophecy.  He proceeded systematically and devilishly to turn and reverse all the godly reforms of his father.  He was a godless dictator, robbing the people of wealth, he built a huge palace for himself.  He panelled the walls with the most expensive cedar and studded the palace with jewels.

He brought the religion of Egypt –their gods into the very holy place of Jerusalem in the sight of God.  He took the book that Jeremiah had written, warning of the judgements of God that would come on the nation if they continued in their sin, he ripped it up into little bits and he burnt it!

In Jer. 22:17-19 we read what the Word of God says of this man:  “But you! You have eyes only for greed and dishonesty! You murder the innocent, oppress the poor, and reign ruthlessly.”  Therefore, this is what the LORD says about Jehoiakim, son of King Josiah: ‘The people will not mourn for him…He will be buried like a dead donkey— dragged out of Jerusalem and dumped outside the gates!”

That is exactly what happened.  He died and no one mourned for him. He was dragged into the street and thrown on the rubbish heap of Jerusalem – because he dared to bring into Judah the sins of his father Manasseh, and filled the streets of Jerusalem with innocent blood!

This is part of what Habakkuk got to see.  He saw the wickedness of the political system, the religious system and the economic system.  He had seen the wickedness of royalty and this awful man Jehoiakim.  Habakkuk turns to God, and two times in v. 2 we read that he cries to God.

The first word used – ‘shama’ – simply means a “call for help”.  He calls out: ‘God, help us!’  The second cry in v. 2 is the word ‘zaaq’, which means to ‘shout/shriek/scream’!  Imagine the sense of desperation – Habakkuk sees all of the things going on and he starts out calling for help but when God doesn’t answer – Habakkuk doesn’t give up…the word used implies he screams out to God!

As he prayed about the wickedness in the land, Habakkuk became more and more burdened and wondered why God seemed so indifferent.  Have you ever felt like that?  Have you cried out to God?  Have you wept as you prayed?  Have you fallen on your face before Him?  Have you, like Habakkuk, ever screamed at God?

Have you ever like the heavens are brass, that God’s not hearing, that your prayers are bouncing off the very throne of glory and not getting to the heart of God?  Is God silent in our nation and in our province – evil and wickedness go unchecked and righteousness is misconstrued as homophobic?

Is God silent in His Church today – many in our world see the church as being unnecessary – the Biblical values outdated – is God just sitting by silently as we cry out to Him?  Is God silent in our homes – Lord, why do good things happen to bad people?  Lord, why are so many of Your people dying of cancer?  Lord, why are Christian marriages under such attack today?  Why, Lord?  How long, Lord?

  1. 4 reveals the basic cause – the nation’s problems were caused by leaders who would not obey God’s standard! That sounds familiar!

And for this reason the law is paralyzed and justice can’t win out.  The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted!  Does that ever sound like Canada in 2019!

The rich bribed the courts, as they exploited the poor, the courts were crooked – there was little hope in sight.  The very law of God has lost its power because godless people are in charge and influencing society.

We need to see the despair in Habakkuk’s heart.  He is a man who embraced God, is burdened by God and now says – “God, why would You give me a burden like this if You’re not going to answer my prayer?”

On Jan. 23/96, Pastor Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas House of Representatives.  This is what he prayed:

“Heavenly Father, we come before You today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and Your guidance.  We know Your word says:  ‘Woe to those that call evil good’, but that’s exactly what we’ve done.  We’ve lost our spiritual equilibrium.  We have inverted our values. 

  • We confess that we have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your word and called it moral pluralism.
  • We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism.
  • We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.
  • We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
  • We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.
  • We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
  • We have killed our unborn and called it choice.
  • We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.
  • We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.
  • We have abused power and called it political savvy.
  • We have coveted our neighbour’s possessions and called it ambition.
  • We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.
  • We have ridiculed the time-honoured values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, oh God, know our hearts today.  Try us and see if there be some wicked way in us. Cleanse us from every sin and set us free.”

Our Prime Minister apologizes to various people groups for wrongdoings from centuries ago, but I have not heard him apologize to God and ask for forgiveness for sins he and this nation have committed and continue to commit, against our God.

I believe that when God is silent in our generation and in our lives, He is wanting to perfect the burden that we carry.  He will answer…in His time.  Thirdly…from v. 5:

#3) A Hope – the Promise of God – v. 5

Listen to v. 5 from the NLT – The LORD replied, ‘Look around at the nations; look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.’”

Imagine what was going on in Habakkuk’s mind as he heard God’s promise.  In Acts 13:40-41 Paul quoted this verse when preaching to Jews in Antioch of Pisidia.  Paul says that the great work that Habakkuk spoke of, is found in Acts 13:38 – “We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins.”

The embracer of God who moments earlier had screamed to God, was now in awe at the fact that the Sovereign God is at work in the nations.  The work of Jesus on the cross is still the greatest source of hope for the nations!  The fact that our Saviour was made an offering for sin at Calvary, and that God brought all the judgement of unrighteousness upon Him….that is the true source of hope!

So, are you burdened by what you see happening in our world?  Embrace Him and let Him minister hope to your soul.

Do you sometimes feel like God isn’t hearing you?  Tell Him!  Embrace Him!

Don’t just look at the world around you, but look at what God told Habakkuk: “I am doing a work in your day”.  Praise God, He’s doing His work even today!

Let’s pray…

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