Okay God, I’ll Watch and Wait!

// July 21st, 2019 // Sermons

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series Habakkuk Sermon Series

In His Word, God has given us a picture… You can listen online or download it and listen later…Okay God, I’ll Watch and Wait!…to help us understand our relationship to Him – it’s the picture of the shepherd and his sheep.  And in man’s typical independent nature, we are inclined to ask, why do the sheep need a shepherd?

In Is. 53:6, we read that all we like sheep have gone astray.  We know sheep wander wherever they will – without a shepherd they will follow every whim, every distraction.  Sheep need a shepherd and it is a shepherd’s job to guide and care for his sheep, to protect them from harm, and to bring them from one place to another.

And, that is how the Lord Jesus is for us.  To see a picture of a shepherd turning on his sheep, is an awful picture. To see one who is meant to care, one who is meant to comfort and protect – to see them turn on the objects of his protection and hurt them, is something quite awful.

Abuse is always a terrible thing – when a parent or other adult abuses a child it makes us angry.  Or, when a defenseless baby is put to death, or a senior is abused, we see it as injustice.  All abuse is disturbing, but when the one who is meant to love, protect, nurture and care for another….when that one does the opposite of what they are supposed to do, the majority of people agree that it is absolutely wrong.

That is the picture that we get out of the book of Habakkuk.  He had some questions – his first question related to the burden he was carrying – he was concerned with the violence and immorality that was running out of control in the land of Judah.  So, he got on his knees and cried out to God, “Lord, why won’t You do anything?  Why are you turning a blind eye to all the injustice and unrighteousness in our land?”

And, as he cried to God, his burden increased – because there was no answer coming from heaven.  But, in v. 5 we find the great promise – God says: “Look and see the world around you; at this moment I’m doing a work in your days, that you wouldn’t believe if told!”

Last week we looked at this great work that God was going to do.  God told him that he was going to raise up the Chaldeans – another name for the people of Babylon – he was going to raise them up to come against the nation of Judah.

Habakkuk’s dream for his nation is dashed to pieces…and we he responded to God, “Lord, not that!  They are a more wicked people than we are…you can’t use them!”

To Habakkuk it was as if the Shepherd was smiting the sheep.  As if their heavenly Father, their God, in all His displeasure, anger and wrath, had turned on His own children; it was like God Himself was abusing them.

Habakkuk was absolutely stunned.  V. 12 brings us to a 2nd question – another complaint.  It seems that Habakkuk went from questioning whether he had misunderstood what God had said to wondering if he didn’t really know who God is.

Have you ever done that?  God, did I hear You correctly?  And then, at some point, do I really know who this God is?  Do I know for certain that He loves me, how much He cares, that He’s concerned about my life?  Have you been there?

All this frustration and confusion in the faith of this prophet, now leads him to explore his God.  Do we know God?  Do we have a solid understanding of how He works?  Are we familiar with His principles, His characteristics, His attributes and the way He speaks and acts?

When you study the religions of the world you quickly realize that humans do not transcend their religion – their view of God.  People become like the god of their religion.

As I pondered some of these things, I wondered how many Christians today know enough about God that if they were to strive to be like Him, they would know what that would look like.

I read that A.W. Tozer had an old rug in his study that he had purchased for $2.00.  Every morning, he would lay it out, and from 8:00 till noon he would lay on his belly and simply adore God!  He didn’t ask God for anything, he simply laid down before Him without uttering a word – and worship his God – a creature before his Creator.  Do we know our God?

As far as Habakkuk is concerned, the answer to his first question was no answer at all.  In fact, it just created a bigger problem – it made God look like He was not consistent.  How could a holy God use a wicked nation to punish His own people?

In these verse, I want us to notice 3 things…first:

1) God’s Holiness – v. 12-13 – Habakkuk focused on the character of God, like Jonah did when he disagreed with what God was doing.

  1. Campbell Morgan wrote, “Men of faith are always the men who have to confront problems.” If you believe in God, you sometimes wonder why He allows certain things to happen. But, we need to realize that there is a difference between doubt and unbelief.

Warren Wiersbe wrote, “The doubter questions God and may even debate with God, but the doubter doesn’t abandon God.  Whereas, unbelief is rebellion against God, a refusal to accept what He says and does.  Unbelief is an act of the will, while doubt is born out of a troubled mind and broken heart!”

Habakkuk’s argument with God is a short course in theology.  He started with the fact of the holiness of God.  The Babylonians were far more wicked sinners than the people of Judah – how could God use evil, idolatrous Gentiles to discipline His own chosen people?

No doubt they deserved discipline, but couldn’t God find a better tool to accomplish His purpose?  Would this mean the end of Judah?  Habakkuk concludes, “No, we shall not die” (v. 12).  God had purposes to fulfill through the Jewish nation and He would preserve His people, but they would experience painful trials.

The prophet needed to remember 2 facts:

  1. a) God had used other tools to chasten His people – war, natural calamities, the preaching of the prophets – but the people wouldn’t listen.
  2. b) The greater the light, the greater the responsibility. Yes, the Babylonians were wicked sinners, but they were idolaters who didn’t know the true and living God. This didn’t excuse their sins, but it did explain their conduct.  The Jews claimed to know the Lord and yet they were sinning against the very law they claimed to believe!

Sin in the life of a believer is far worse than sin in the life of an unbeliever.  Wiersbe wrote, “When God’s people deliberately disobey Him, they sin against a flood of light and an ocean of love.”

Habakkuk reminded God that He was eternal, and therefore knew the end from the beginning and couldn’t be caught off guard.  He uses the picture of a “rock” – saying “O Rock” – to imply that our God is a mighty God, who had all the power and who never changed.

I like Deut. 32:4 – “He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is!”

When using the word “Rock” to describe God we get a grasp of God being immutable.  Immutable means that God is unchangeable – He is the same yesterday, today and forever!  Our God is the same today as He was when He led the Israelite people out of Egypt, as He was when Jesus our Savior walked on this earth and performed miracles, He is the same as He will be when we stand before Him in judgment.  He never changes, He is a sure foundation, He is a rock of refuge, He is immutable.

So, what about His covenants with the Jews?  What about His special promises?  As a holy God, He couldn’t look with approval on sin, yet He was “tolerant” of sin in the land of Judah and “silent” as the Babylonians prepared to “swallow up” (v. 13), His people!  Habakkuk wanted God to say something and do something, but God was silent and seemingly inactive.

We need to keep in mind that this was not merely a national problem to Habakkuk; it was not simply a theological issue with God…this was personal for him.  He cries out, “O Lord, my God, my Holy One” (v. 12).  The state of his nation and the international events of the day were affecting his personal walk with God, and this concerned him greatly.

We need to understand that this caused him to wrestle with these challenges, which in turn, caused his “faith muscles” to grow.  If you avoid tough questions, or if you settle for half-truths and superficial pat answer, you miss the opportunity to grow from these challenges.  But, if you face the tough questions honestly and talk them through with the Lord you will grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ.

Habakkuk knew deep down that God was righteous and that one day He would judge the Babylonians – they would face the consequence for their harshness against God’s people.  He knew, among all the sinfulness, among all the wrath of God, among all the threats of the Babylonians and their filthy, brutal ways…he knew that they belonged to God!

He knew that Judah and Israel were the chosen of God – that God had revealed to them in Exodus that they were a special, peculiar people – His chosen ones.  They were a people whom with God had made an unconditional covenant, He had given them His word that He would never leave them, that He would never forsake them – and if they wandered away, that one day He would bring them back to Himself.  Now that might have been difficult for Habakkuk to accept at this point – on the verge of trouble – but deep down he knew it.

The 2nd thing I want us to see in this passage is…

2) The People’s Helplessness – v. 14- 15

After presenting his case on the basis of the holiness of God, Habakkuk argued from the viewpoint of the helplessness of the people.  Judah could never survive an attack from the crude Babylonians.  To those people, life was cheap, and prisoners of war, were merely numbers that could be erased.  Habakkuk compares the people of Judah to fish in the sea that would get caught on a hook and sea creatures that could be trapped.

So, he asks, “God, how could You allow Your weak nation of Judah to be invaded by such a heartless and ruthless nation as Babylon?”  In the prophetic book of Jeremiah we read that during this time the false prophets were proclaiming throughout the nation of Judah, “It could never happen in Judah!”  But their blind optimism would very soon be exposed as being lies and false prophecy.

For 40 years, the prophet Jeremiah warned the people of Judah and begged them to turn back to God, but they refused to listen.  What Judah needed wasn’t great military strength – they needed to have obedient faith in their God.

It was still very fresh in Habakkuk’s mind that the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been destroyed by the Assyrians.  He saw what they went through and couldn’t get their great tragedy out of his mind.

Habakkuk’s problem was that he was asking the wrong question.  The question was not, “Why?”  It was not based on who was more righteous, because the Bible says, “There is none righteous, not one.”

It’s not a matter of who has sinned more than the other, but the fact that none are righteous.  And when God deals with the people on earth, He sees all of us as sinners.  God didn’t save you and me because we are better people than Charles Manson or Adolf Hitler – He saved us because we believed in Jesus, the only One who could deal with our sin.  He saved us because we repented of our sins and trusted in the Sinbearer!   The 3rd thing we need to see…

3) The Enemy’s Arrogance – v. 16-17

The prophet wanted to make sure to point out how the Babylonians lived and worshiped.  Their god was power – remember v. 11, and they trusted in the mighty military machine.  Everything in their path of destruction was in danger of being caught in their next.  They worshiped the gods of power and violence.  In ch. 2:4, Habakkuk will refer to them as being “puffed up” with arrogance and self-confidence.

In his mind he is crying out, “God, how can You honor them by giving them a victory over Your chosen people….the Jews and particularly, the nation of Judah?”

God was helping them “fill their net” with helpless victims from the nation of Judah.  And, the Babylonians were emptying their net by destroying one nation after another…look at v. 17 – it reads: “…mercilessly killing nations forever.”

Habakkuk could have said more about the terrible religious practices of the Babylonians.  They believed in a multitude of gods and goddesses.  Sorcery, witchcraft and demonic involvement were all an important part of their religion.  Their priests practiced divination and consulted omens – all of these kinds of things were prohibited by the Law of Moses.

And so, the more Habakkuk processed the whole scenario of what was about to happen, the harder it was to accept that God would use these wicked and ignorant people to conquer and capture the nation of Judah.

It would have looked absolutely hopeless and terrifying.  Lord, how can You let this happen?  It would have like the Babylonians, as they swept across the whole region…like God was letting them take territory and people away from God and allowing this godless nation to reward their false gods with their victories and spoils of war.

From Habakkuk’s perspective it looked like these Babylonians were merely padding their own coffers and praising themselves for what they were doing, but Habakkuk had difficulty seeing the bigger picture – these people didn’t even know that they were pawns in the hands of an Almighty God.

Throughout history, how often has this scenario been played out?  So often, from Alexander the Great, the former Soviet Union, Saddam Hussein and many others…they denied God, they prohibited belief in God and they swarmed across vast regions with their false doctrine and beliefs.  Most would forbid the name of God to be worshipped, and they set themselves up as a god, self-deifying, worshipping their own achievements.

And, I personally think that one of the greatest problems that Habakkuk had was that God was bringing upon them something that He had forbidden.  In v. 13, Habakkuk said, “You are pure and cannot stand the sight of evil!”

It’s like Habakkuk says, “God, You are so pure that You can’t look at the evil of these people!”  And yet, because God was bringing them into Judah, he and the people of Judah would have to look at them.  When I read this first chapter, I hear Habakkuk come right to the edge – he almost accuses God of neglect, abuse and cruelty.

You know if you are angry with God, or feel that He has been unfair or whatever…you might as well tell Him, because He knows everything.  But, never let your emotions push you beyond what you know to be true of God’s character!

As we look at our nation, at the state of the majority of people in this country, we could, like Habakkuk cry out, “Lord Your name is at stake! Your reputation is on the line!  What are You going to do about it?”

At this point, Habakkuk finished his defense and waited for God to speak.  Like a servant, he stood waiting and watching (2:1), wondering how God would respond to his complaint.  Listen to this verse, “I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guard post. There I will wait to see what the LORD says and how he will answer my complaint.”

A watchman was to be responsible, vigilant – he was to spot imminent danger.  The watchman had to be trusted, he could not love sleep and needed to be faithful to his commission.  Why did Habakkuk go up there?  He’s saying, “I’ve questioned God, I’ve argued with Him and now I’m going to sit here and wait until He answers!”

He didn’t stop believing, didn’t become cold-hearted against God – no matter how many questions he had as his faith was being put to the test – he remained steadfast in his resolve to trust in God!  His faith had to struggle with the problems of contemporary life, just like we do today, but he remained on fire for his God!  That’s what mattered.

God’s answer comes in ch. 2 – we will look at it in the weeks to come.  Before we to listen how Almighty God responds with an encouraging reply to Habakkuk, we need to take a moment to examine our own hearts.

  • Are you and I fully yielded to God and willing for Him to have His way with and with those whom we love?

There’s nothing wrong with wrestling with the problems of life and seeking to gain a better understanding of God’s will and His way of working in our lives.  But, we must always remember He is God and we are not!  We should not start debating with God and try to change His mind….because as we said last week, “His ways are higher than our ways!”  He knows what He is doing.  And, His plans are to prosper us and not to harm us – Listen to Jer. 29:11-12 – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.”

You can’t help but admire Habakkuk’s courage for being honest and for wanting to spare his own people from the hardship of the Babylonians.  We should want to be that courageous and passionate for our nation.

We need people in Canada today who will be open and sincere and so sold out for God that they will patiently wait for Him to answer.

Are you downhearted – discouraged?  Encourage yourself in your God! Press in to the Lord and remember that He died for you, His blood was shed for you and you are His.

Are you crying out to God – why, Lord?  Are you feeling broken because of the choices family members are making?

Are you feeling powerless and helpless because of the diagnosis the doctor has given?

Are you looking at our country…our society and feeling that it’s just a matter of time before our present society will implode due to the lack of moral and godly values?

Why God?  What is behind all of this?

Let’s pray…

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