Minor Prophets Major Messages #3: Message of Faith
When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops. Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.
Habakkuk was written at about the time of Jeremiah and a few years before the time of Daniel and Ezekiel. As you can see on the timeline. It was written just as the Chaldeans were beginning to be a threat to the welfare of the nation of Judah. The book of Habakkuk is a fairly unique it that it is a running dialogue with God, a series of questions about evil in the world and God’s people in the midst of that evil. In the first two chapters, the prophet speaks with God about evil and its punishment. In chp 1 he asks God why he tolerates the evil and sin of the Jewish nation. "Hab 1:2 O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!" God then tells him that the Chaldeans, the fierce world conquerors, are coming as punishment for just that sin. Habakkuk then questions if the cure is not worse than the disease. Surely he asks God, the Babylonians are far worse in their sin even than the children of Israel.
In chapter 2 God the instructs Habakkuk that once he has used the Chaldeans to sift his people, to separate the faithful from the hypocrite, the true from the false, he will also deal with the Babylonians as well. It is in this chapter that God gives to Hab the OT verse most quoted in the NT, chapter 2 verse 4 “Behold, his soul, which is lifted up, is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith." This is theme of the book of Habakkuk, "The just shall live by faith."
Finally, in Chapter 3 Habakkuk takes his eyes off himself, his people and the Babylonians and puts them directly on God as he writes a psalms. It is here that he writes a "Hymn of Faith" that is text of our sermon.
Introduction: A man was having a great many problems and troubles related to stress in his life. Finally, he talked his wife into going with him to the doctors office. There he had a full check up and in-depth interview with the doctor. After the checkup, the doctor called the wife into his office alone. He said, "Your husband is suffering from a very severe disease of the nerves, caused by unrelenting stress both at home and in the office. Now you can’t do much for the office stress but you can do something at home. If fact, if you don't do what I’m going to tell you to do, your husband will surely die very shortly."
"So, each morning, get up extra early and fix him a healthy breakfast. Make sure you are always pleasant, do all you can to help him get into a good stress free mood. Next have him come home for lunch. Meet him at the door and take his shoes and put his slippers on him, have his relax in the recliner and nap while you fix him a nutritious meal. When he comes home at the end of the day, have a wonderful dinner waiting for him as he walks in. Don’t complain about your day or any problems you might have had as this will only add to his stress. On the weekends, don't burden him with chores. You go ahead and mow the lawn, work on the house or fix the care instead of asking him to do these things. He has too much on his agenda at work. Most importantly be willing to meet all your husband’s needs. Whatever it is no matter how trivial it might seem, if he asks for it then you need to do it.
If you can do this for the next 10 months to a year, I think your husband will regain his health completely."
On the way home, the husband asked his wife, "Well, what did the doctor say to you?" She looked at him and replied, “He said you're going to die," she replied.
How do you deal with difficult times? How do you make it through the troubles that the future will bring? Habakkuk saw utter desolation and yet his book ends with one of the strongest statements of faith found anywhere in God’s word.
Failed Future -Habakkuk 3:16-17
When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops. Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
Israel’s Sustenance Gone
Habakkuk sees the future of Israel and he is filled with a terror so great that it makes him physically ill as he sees a future where all that Israel counts upon fails.
Everything they look to sustain themselves will be gone when the Babylonians Army arrive like a plague and destroys their nation's wealth, prosperity and even food supply. Today we talk about smart bombs that limit collateral damage and drones that only hit and kill the few individuals they are sent to kill, but it was not so in the time of Habakkuk, nor for most of history. Warfare was total warfare when defeating the enemy meant the total destruction of the army but also the people, the fortified cities and land itself. People who didn’t even know the name of the king or they nation the invaders came from would die by the thousands.
All this desolation was punishment for Israel’s sin, rebellion and utter disregard of God. Their ignoring of God and rebellion against God will cost them everything. Their freedom, the nation they had known, their families, and their lives would be destroyed. Habakkuk sees the future in his vision and it is complete desolation.
I Am Emptied
None of us are prophets, we can't see as Habakkuk did, the problems, the catastrophes that are coming our way. I'm glad I can't, it would be a double test of faith, once when I saw it coming then again when it finally came. Yet I don’t have to be a prophet to know that this world is filled with sin and evil, that terrible things do happen to good people. I don’t have to be a prophet to know that our nation is traveling down a path just as destructive as the path Israel was walking when the Babylonian army invaded. We as a nation have forsaken the foundation of the Bible, Christianity and morality that God could bless us through. We have become a nation of sinful, selfish, soulless sycophants. Even worse than Israel, who mixed their paganism with their worship of God, we have as a society thrown off all pretext of a higher power and only worship ourselves.
Doesn’t Romans chapter 1 sound like it is describing the political and moral depravity of our present world?
Romans 1:22, 24-28 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, …Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator… For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, … And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; (things which should not to be done.)
The people of Habakkuk’s time may have looked back at their history, their army, their great walled city of Jerusalem, their fields of grain and orchards of olive trees and thought they could withstand whatever the future would bring, but they were wrong, deceived by their own prideful sin.
We may look at our history, our military might our financial resources and think our future is secured but we are as vulnerable as Judah. Trillions of dollars in debt, torn by civil strife and with a deadly moral illness that is consuming the lives of our leaders, our churches and our children. Without a change, without a turning back to God, our future is just as desolate as the one Habakkuk saw in his vision.
Even if I ignore what is happening to our nation, my own personal life could be rocked by catastrophic illness, accident or loss.
Whether I am willing to see it or not, there can come times in our life when we are left with nothing, no resources, no finances, no way of seeing our way through. What we used to be able to depend upon is gone, lost or taken from us. My grandparents lived through through the Great Depression of the 1930s when there was no work, no paychecks and for many no food. It did happen and unless things change, it can happen again. Whether it is nationwide of just in my own life. How are you going to deal with that reality? How do you prepare for it?
Illustration: For up there.
A preacher years ago told this story, when asked the question we are asking this morning. He said, "I have a friend who during the depression lost his job, his savings, his home and even his wife, but he tenaciously held to his faith, the only thing he had left.”
One day he stopped to watch some men building a stone church. One of them was chiseling a triangular piece of rock. 'What are you going to do with that?' the man asked. The workman said, 'Do you see that little opening way up there near the top? Well, I'm shaping this down here so that it will fit right up there.' Tears came into the man’s eyes as he saw something greater than his sorrow and
loss down here.
To make it past our failed futures, to overcome our personal places of desolation and loss, we need to see the same thing the broken man in the story saw. We need the same kind of faith that he and Habakkuk had as he wrote the next lines of his own hymn of faith.
Transition: and what a line he wrote. Look at verse 18.
Forsaken Fear - Habakkuk 3:18
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
Joy In The Lord
Habakkuk, despite all that was happening and all that was going to happen says, “I will rejoice” In fact he doesn’t just state it he sings it.
Now this is not foolhardiness, nor is it a joy based upon wistfulness or some kind of a foolish denial of the facts of life. Habakkuk’s statement, "I will rejoice in the LORD (Jehovah) I will joy in God” shows why this was a true as the harshness and pain he saw coming. It was real, it was true because his joy was based on something more lasting than the oldest orchard in Israel, more protected than any cattle in the stall. His joy was based upon God who never fails and who never quits. His foundation for rejoicing is on the everlasting, loving and faithful God of Israel and in Him there was a joy deeper than the depts of life’s sorrows.
Joy In What?
What is my joy built upon? What do I rejoice in? Is it the circumstances of life? Is it the absence of difficulties, sorrows or trails? Is it the lack of trouble? Is it the amount of money I have in the bank, my job, or my good health? Are these the things that my joy is built upon? For many of us that is our hope, that is the sum total of my joy, that life will just be okay and I can kind of coast through it with no real difficulties. Yet we all know that trouble always come, health will fail, money can’t buy happiness and in fact it often buys just the opposite.
Jesus talked about this in the book of John chapters 14 -16. As the Lord was preparing his disciples for the most difficult time they would ever endure he uses the word joy 7 times. Isn’t that incredible? They were going to see their teacher and friend arrested, mocked, beaten and crucified and Jesus warns them of this but he tells over and over again their joy.
John 15:11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
John 16:20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.
And not only did he speak of joy for his disciples but also our joy today. Look at …
John 17:13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they (that’s you and I) might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
The disciples joy, and if I am willing, my joy is a gift given us from the Lord, Himself. Joy not dependent on anything in this world but upon the eternal and unfailing God of eternity.
Illustration: When Jesus had calmed the storm he then asks the disciples, "Where was your faith?"
He did not ask them why didn’t they have faith, he asks them where their faith was. Where could their faith be found? Their answer should have been, “Our faith is in Thee.”
In the midst our depressions, our quitting, our cynicism, our fear and disappointments I think the Lord is asking us, “Where is your faith? Where is your joy? It is not in things or in possessions. Those will fail, but your joy and your faith should be right here in me.”
Let’s look at Habakkuk’s final statement, the ending to his hymn of faith.
Far Reaching Faith - Habakkuk 3:19
The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.
Running Stronger, Running Higher
Habakkuk after looking at the coming desolation of Israel, the war, the ruin the loss then looks to his God, he looks to Jehovah and declares that in his God he will find strength. Not only strength but he also says, “He will make my feet like hinds feet.”
Hinds are a type of gazelle and it is an animal that when it runs from a predator will often leaps high into the air.
He also says of God He will make me to walk upon my high places. Judah and Habakkuk may have to go through the dark valley of that bleak future, but in God he would run up a mountain to the high and bright places where only God could lead him.
Habakkuk didn't deny the troubles around him, nor the future that was coming but he would not let those things deny the joy of knowing God. He understood that God would use the trial to make him stronger, swifter and send him to higher ground.
Look how it was stated by another prophet of God in Isaiah 40:30-31 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Running Away or Through?
How will you deal with the pain, sorrow and difficulties of life, that we all will face? Will the negative things of this world beat us up or lift us up? Will they make us run away or will we find what is needed like Habakkuk and instead of running from them run right through them?
When David had been through all his troubles and strife and God had brought his through he wrote in Psalms 18:29 For by thee I have run through a troop: by my God have I leaped over a wall.
David in the power of his God ran through and we serve the same great God. The troubles you may be going through can be used by God to make you stronger, swifter and send you higher? Will you sing like Habakkuk and David your own hymn of faith, knowing that sorrows and pain can only bring you closer to Jesus, closer to the one who love you and has promised to never leave or forsake you?
Let me give you the testimonies of a some other followers of God.
Oswald Chambers was a missionary and a chaplain during WWI. He died in Egypt caring for the British troops. Oswald Chambers, "The Christian is hilarious when crushed by difficulties for he knows the situation is ludicrously impossible except to God."
Quote from Nehemiah, the man who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem by telling the people to hold a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other. After they had finished and withstood the opposition, the people were told, "The Joy of the Lord is my Strength."
Brother Lawrence was a poor man who became a soldier to be able to eat, He was wounded and then entered a priory in France to work as a cook and later as a the man who repaired the other monks sandals. He said this, “I know not how God will dispose of me. I am always happy. All the world suffers; and I, who deserve the severest discipline, feel joys so continual and so great that I can scarce contain them.”
These knew God and in the knowledge of God they found joy and strength and through Him an escape from the pain and suffering of this world. He gave them the ability to leap for joy in the midst of sorrow and to know the peace of walking the high places even in the midst of loss.
Will you sing a hymn of faith this morning? If you could see all the hard times that were coming down the days and years ahead, would you still rejoice? Would those harsh realities make you stronger, swifter and drive you higher or would they destroy you? The difference for you is the same that made the difference for Habakkuk, Isaiah, Oswald Chambers or the old wounded soldier and cook Bro. Lawrence. The difference is knowing and trusting God. Difficulties even catastrophes are coming but God is always right here. Put your faith in Him today and sing your own hymn of faith.