Lord, Send Revival!

// August 11th, 2019 // Sermons

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series Habakkuk Sermon Series

Today is Sermon #6 in “The Just Shall Live by Faith” sermon series… You can listen online or download it and listen later…Lord, Send Revival…based on the book of Habakkuk.  Next Sunday, August 18th we conclude this short summer sermon series.  And then, Lord willing, on August 25th our son, Jerel will be here to bring the Word and share an update on their ministry with Youth for Christ in Central Alberta.  Today we will be looking at the first two verses of Habakkuk chapter 3.

If you remember back to the first sermon…when Habakkuk started this book he was feeling the weight of his nation’s sin – he was in the Pit of Despair.  He begins by wrestling with the will of God.

But, he climbs up higher and higher until he is standing on the watchtower, waiting for God to answer.  After hearing God’s Word and seeing God’s glory, it’s like he has been set free – he’s like a young calf.  Ruth and I find considerable pleasure seeing the young calves as we drive around the countryside.  They are so full of life, bouncing around, no fears or concerns, just a world to explore and a life to live.  In 3:19, Habakkuk wrote, “…he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”  That’s what God can do with our burdens and cares.

You need to know, Habakkuk’s circumstances had not changed, but he had changed!  Habakkuk was now walking by faith, not by sight!  He was living by the promises, not explanations!

It’s not easy to climb higher in the life of faith, but who wants to continually life in the pit of despair?  Like Habakkuk, we must honestly talk to God about the things that trouble us – our difficulties – we must pray, we must meditate on God’s Word, and we must be willing to experience fear and trembling as the Lord reveals Himself to us.  But it will be worth it as we reach new summits in our faith-walk and discover new opportunities to grow and serve.

So, this begs the question, “What took Habakkuk from the pit to the summit?”  We will find that it is the same spiritual disciplines that Christians today can use to get out of a sense of hopelessness in a corrupt and evil post-modern society:  prayer (calling on God and communing with Him), vision (practicing the habit of seeing things from God’s perspective) and faith (giving our troubles over to Him because He is truly the only One capable of dealing with them).  That is the outline for chapter 3, but we will limit ourselves to the first 2 verses…

The focus is on praying for the work of God.  This chapter has been called “a prayer psalm”.  Some Bible scholars believe it was used in the temple worship in Jerusalem.  There are several of the Psalms that were used for this purpose in worship.

  1. 1 reads: “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet” – the actual prayer is found in verse 2, but v. 1 sets the stage. Notice the next part of the verse, “…according to Shigionoth.”

This title “Shiggaion,” is only used one other time – that is in Ps. 7.  I can’t determine with absolute accuracy what it means, but most of the commentators agree that it probably means “a psalm with music expression of strong emotion”.

In comparing this chapter to a psalm, notice that 3 times – after v. 3, v. 9, and v. 13 – you have the word “Selah” – something you find often throughout the book of Psalms.  All that little phrase means is:  a short, musical pause.  You also pick up on the musical and psalm-like nature of this chapter from the last part of v. 19 – where it says: “To the choirmaster with stringed instruments.”

In other words this was a setting, a musical setting to describe the way that this Psalm that Habakkuk had written…the way it ought to be played and performed.  The Amplified Bible translates this word Shigionoth:  “set to wild, enthusiastic, and triumphal music.”

So, it seems like Habakkuk chapter 3 is a song of vibrant praise!  Ponder that for a moment:  Is this the Habakkuk that we have been studying over the past few weeks?  We’ve seen him as the prophet who is full of questions, asking God:  “What are You doing in Your world and among Your people?  Why are You raising the Chaldeans to come against Judah?  Why are You picking a more evil people than Your own people to judge them, and to chastise them?  Lord, what are You doing?”

With a huge burden on his shoulders he questions God’s ways and His works.  But in this beautiful chapter, we encounter Habakkuk, after he has seen what God is doing in His world and God has revealed to him that the just shall live by faith.  Habakkuk responds by singing a Psalm of faith – that, in the middle of all his sorrow, in the middle of all the depravity of his nation and their pending consequence…he will trust his God.

No doubt Habakkuk had written this Psalm for the people who would be going into captivity in Babylon.  He had written this Psalm to stimulate these people’s faith and to bring them to prayer.  And, face it, the only answer in any situation in this life is to turn to God in prayer!

We need to notice that Habakkuk is a changed man?  He’s no longer questioning God, but he’s trusting God!  It’s not simply because prayer changes things – which is true, prayer does change things – but more importantly:  Prayer Changes People!

The prophet is praying to the Lord – he no longer feels a need to argue with the Lord.  We can learn from that – when we are at a crossroads in our walk with God, when we feel like He is not hearing us, when we feel He has done us wrong, when we are in a conflict with Him – we should be that convinced that God is God, that God is Sovereign, and that God can be trusted to work things together for my good, that the final outcome of our struggle with the Lord should bring us to a deeper intimacy with Him. 

The conflict is done, the sincere – Thy will, not my will – praying has become Habakkuk’s reality.  And the next thing we need to notice is that when prayer is real it should turn in praise and worship, like it did for Habakkuk.  There are 3 reasons why he prayed…first:

1) He prayed because he had heard God speak.  I wonder how often God speaks to us but our lives are too busy, too noisy, we are too “in charge” doing all the talking and none of the listening…so that we miss what God is saying to us.

Some of your translations use the word “speech/report” – the Greek word used is shema – it refers to something heard – a sound, a rumor, an announcement.  In the context of this passage it refers to what God had told Habakkuk earlier – particularly going back to ch. 2:2-3 – about the vision that he was supposed to write down and keep visible for all to see.

For Habakkuk, knowing the will of God should have motivated him to pray, “Thy will be done!”  Not because He liked or approved of what God was going to do, but because He believed God is always right in whatever He says and does.

The same should go for us…when we cry out to God for or about something that really is burdensome to us, and we sense God is answering our prayer in a way that we really didn’t want; our faith in Him – in His character, His attributes, His Sovereignty, His unconditional love, His absolute justice – our faith in Him should cause us to respond in such a way that it is clear that we believe God is God and that He is fully within His rights to do whatever He deems best for me and for my burden.  We should get to the place where we can say with our Lord Jesus, “Not my will, but Thy will be done!”

The same God who ordains the outcome – the end result of all things – this same God also ordains the means that will bring us to the end.  And, prayer is an important part of this “means”.  In James 4:2 we read, “You have not because you ask not”.

Have you noticed that when you and I hear and understand God’s Word the fringe benefit of this “hearing” is increased faith in the heart of the child of God?  Rom. 10:17 says, “faith comes by hearing”.  And further, without faith, we can’t please God (Heb. 11:6), and we can’t pray effectively.  In Mark 11:22-24 Jesus told His disciples to “Have faith in God” – then He told them that by faith they could tell a mountain to be thrown into the sea and it would happen.  He ends v. 24 by saying, “I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.”  What a promise!

God’s Word and man’s praying must always go together or else our praying might become zealous enthusiasm without the knowledge of truth.  Evangelist D.L. Moody once said, “I used to think that I should close my Bible and pray for faith, but I have come to see that it was in studying the Word that I was to get faith.”

Habakkuk prayed because He was overwhelmed by God’s splendor.  Look at v. 2 – “I stand in awe of Your deeds…”  He had seen a vision of the greatness of God, as recorded in v. 3-15 – which we will look at next week, Lord willing – and this vision left him weak and helpless (v. 16).  All he could do was cry out to God.

Many people have the idea that getting to God in a deeper way is an easy and enjoyable experience – but when you look at several of the OT saints you get to see a different picture.  Moses trembled at Mt. Sinai when God have him the Law.  Joshua fell on his face before the Lord (Josh. 5:13-15), and so did David (1 Chron. 21:16).

The vision of Christ’s glory on the Mount of Transfiguration left Peter, James and John with their faces on the ground and filled with terror (Matt. 17:6).  And, when the apostle John encountered the glorified Christ, he fell at Jesus’ feet as a dead man (Rev. 1:17).

Warren Wiersbe had a plaque in his study with a quote from A.W. Tozer on it:  “To know God is at once the easiest and the most difficult thing in the world.”  God certainly has the ability to reveal Himself to us, for He can do anything; but the problem is that there are not very many on earth who are ready to meet Him.

God doesn’t go around revealing Himself to those who are superficial in their seeking for Him.  He doesn’t just want us to add Him to our syncretistic list of objects of worship so that we can have all the bases covered.  He doesn’t want us to use Him merely as a status symbol, a good-luck charm, a bragging-rights object, or something to be taste-tested without a deeper commitment!

James 4:8 says it very plain:  “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  We are the ones who make it difficult to get to know God better.  Our hearts are all over the map – we experience moments of being on fire for God and then times when we drag ourselves through the muck and mire of the ugliness of what this world has to offer.

In Is. 66:2, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “…this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”  And, Ps. 119:120, in The Message read, “I shiver in awe before you; your decisions leave me speechless with reverence.”  Then, secondly…

2) He prayed because He wanted God’s Word to succeed.  God had told him that He was “working a work” (1:5), and now the prophet prayed that God would keep that work alive and cause His work to prosper.

What God was doing wasn’t the work Habakkuk would have chosen, but he accepted God’s plan and prayed, “Thy will be done.”  When Habakkuk prayed for God’s work to stay alive, he was also praying that his own faith might grow and mature.     

Habakkuk’s struggle produced within him, a great joy of faith, because:

  1. i) He took his eyes off the circumstances in his life;
  2. ii) He submitted his circumstances to God in prayer, by faith;

iii) He patiently waited for word from God regarding his request;

  1. iv) When the word was revealed, he accepted it/he claimed it – and his anxiety disappeared.

That’s what happens when we let God be God in the middle of our tough stuff!  And, #3…

3) He prayed because he wanted God to show mercy.  He agreed with God that the nation of Judah deserved to be chastened, and that God’s chastening work would work out for their good, but he asked that God’s heart of love would reveal itself in mercy.  Habakkuk acted somewhat like Moses when he interceded for the nation at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 32) and Kadesh Barnea (Num. 14).

From our vantage point we can see that God did show mercy to the Jews, for He preserved them in Babylon and then permitted a remnant to return to their land and establish the nation.

All of us from time to time become discouraged about what is happening in our land.  It really bothers us that we have no abortion law in Canada.  We are quite agreed that homosexuality is an abomination; and that in God’s eyes, all the gender confusion and change from what is normal must be filling up God’s cup of wrath.  And, how easy it is for some people to go on mass killing sprees, even doctors with assisted dying.  All of these things are an abomination, but we need to know that God’s Word says: “If you hear My Word and disobey it” – that is also an abomination.

So, in our church, in our family and in our own lives, we need to take time to pray and seek God’s mercy.  From his prayer in v. 2, we see that Habakkuk prayed in faith, he had heard the report of God so he understood who God is, he had great fear of the work God was doing, but he pleaded for mercy.  If you get nothing else out of this morning, get this – Habakkuk prayed – “O Lord…revive Your work; in the midst of the years, make it known; in wrath remember mercy.”

The word revive means “to renew, to revive again, to regenerate, to put life into once more.”  The same word is used twice in Gen. 7:3 – speaking of the birds that went into the Ark – God said there needed to male and female “to ensure their survival on Earth”.  That same word is used again in Genesis 12:12, dealing with preserving life – “putting life back into dead bones!”

Habakkuk said:  “Revive thy work.”  What is His work?  He was talking about the work that God had promised in chapter 1:5-6.  By faith, Habakkuk has now turned from despising what God was going to do and instead he is thanking God for the work he had once despised.

Habakkuk is asking God to revive His name, His reputation, among His people.  “Lord, even though Thy people are into the very depths of hell – metaphorically speaking – in their iniquity and their sin and in their blasphemy, even in the midst of their trouble: revive them!  Do something for Your own name.”

A phrase in v. 2 reads:  “in the midst of the years – this is based on the promise that God was going to deal with His people until the judgment was completed and they would be revived.  In Ezra 9, we read that there would be a small amount of people that would remain faithful to God.

Think about this – If the Jewish nation had been wiped out because of their sin we would not have seen Christ and no Savior would have been born.  Even though Habakkuk couldn’t see how it would turn out, bur for that reason God had him pray:  “Revive Your work in the midst of the years” – from Abraham to Christ.

Then, “In the midst of the years make it known”“Whatever happens to Israel and Judah, let not Israel’s God be forgotten!”  Whatever happens to the church – the body of Christ, oh, please God, let Your name be vindicated!

At the end of the verse he prays:  “In wrath remember mercy”.  As a reconciled, saved, child of God – in the middle of all our sin our only hope is the mercy of God!

As the people of Judah were taken into captivity, as the city of Jerusalem was demolished, as the temple was destroyed, and there was starvation, and the bodies littered the streets – Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, in the midst of it all was crying out to God and still could say:  “It is because of the Lord’s mercy that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not” (KJV); the NLT reads: “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.”  

Lord, send revival to our land, to our church, to my life! 

Why is there no revival?  There is no revival because there is no prevailing prayer.  There is no revival because we fear men but the fear of the Lord is missing.

Where is the courage of Elijah, who showed up the prophets of Baal with a demonstration of the power of God?  Or, Gideon, who knocked down the high places, the idols – for God?  Where is that kind of courage today?

Further, there’s no revival because there’s a void of holiness among the people of God today.

 

Evangelist Gypsy Smith, was asked:  “How do you get a revival in your life, in your personal life?

He said:  “Kneel right where you are and take a piece of chalk and draw a circle right around you”, and he said, “Ask God to bring revival into that circle and stay there on your knees until God revives your soul.”

I believe God is calling the church – the body of our Lord Jesus – every believing man and woman, to diligently seek His face.  Are we ready to pray the Habakkuk prayer – “Lord, revive Your work in the middle of the stuff of this life.  Lord, in the middle of what You have allowed to happen in our lives and in world, in wrath – remember Your mercy!”

Let’s pray…

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