Monday, March 30, 2020

Habakkuk's Hymn of Faith - Hab 3:16-19

Hymn of Faith

Habakkuk 3:16-19

 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.

Introduction:This in our third Sunday under the COVID-19 Pandemic, the second Sunday that I am preaching to an empty church and through the internet. I’m sure that all of us are getting tired. We are tired of the uncertainty. One news story tells us we are overreacting another tells us we are going to see millions of people die. One report says young people have nothing to worry about, the next that people in their 20s and 30 are catching it and dying. The President would like to see things returned to normal by Easter, while the congress seems to be taking advantage of the pandemic and forcing us to pay for that have no relationship to the immediate needs of nation. The worse thing, is the one reality that no one is disagreeing about, a plague has once again swept the globe, like something from mediaeval times and man seems powerless to prevented it. The uncertainty of what will happen and dwelling on the worse case scenarios can bring despair and hopelessness.
            How should God’s people deal with all of this? How did God’s people in the past get through much worse plagues, politics and pain? The book of Habakkuk, just 3 chapters long has one of the most powerful responses to hopelessness and uncertainty ever written. It can be our own strong response of faithfulness in our own present time of Pandemic panic.


We know nothing of the prophet Habakkuk, who wrote the book other than what is in the book that bears his name. He probably wrote around 612 BC, just as the great Babylonian power that would rule the entire middle East was just beginning to rise and dominate the region.

The book of Habakkuk is a running dialogue with God, a series of questions about evil in the world and God’s people. 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. Habakkuk 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 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 ask God, the Babylonians are far worse in their sin than the children of Israel. 

In chapter 2 God 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 the 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 and God’s glory and power.  It is then that he writes the "Hymn of Faith" that is the theme of our sermon this morning.

Fruit Failed  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.  Everything they count on to sustain themselves will be gone when the Babylonians arrive like a plague and destroy their nation's wealth, prosperity and food supply.

The punishment for Israel’s sin, their apathy and their disregard of God will cost them everything they hold dear, everything they had put their trust in, in place of God, will be gone. And they will be utterly powerless to stop that coming judgment.

In Our Own Loss

You know, none of us are prophets, we can't see as Habakkuk did, the problems and the catastrophes that are coming our way.  I'm glad I can't, it would almost be a double test of faith, once when I saw it coming then again when it struck and I had to live through it.  Yet I don’t have to be a prophet to know that this world is filled with sin and evil, that terrible things happen to good people. That it wouldn’t take much for any of us to be wiped out financially or have our health fail.
Whether I am willing to see it or not, there will always come times in our life when we are left with nothing, no resources, no finances, no way of seeing our way through with what we used to be able to depend upon. Will you be able to cope with life when life becomes a daily struggle and uncertainty is a constant element of living?

Listen, If you know God, if you are His Child,  the you “walk by faith” as Habakkuk has declared and the answer is yes, yes you will deal with the struggles and the uncertainty and much more. You are prepared for it by your faith in God and His working in your life through the difficulties. You have learned to put you faith not on the things of this world but upon the character, love and promises of God.  That faith will make all the difference.

The Psalmist said it this way in Psalms 46:1-5  God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.

As a believer, a child of the King, I have a different perspective through faith. I see things from here to eternity, and that viewpoint keeps me moving from faith to faith.

Illustration: For up there.

A preacher from years ago used to tell this story, when asked the question we are asking this morning. He said, "I have a friend who during the depression lost a job, a fortune, a wife, and a home, but 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?' asked my friend. The workman said, 'Do you see that little opening way up there near the spire? Well, I'm shaping this down here so that it will fit up there.'

That is our perspective of faith. We are being shaped down here for our heavenly home up there. Trials, pain and sorrow are just the some of the tools that God uses to do that shaping. In our faith we knows this and that faith will bring us through this.

Transition: Being fitted down here through adversity is not automatic in depends on doing what Habakkuk did next in verse 18.

Fear Forsaken 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”
Now this is not foolhardiness, nor is it a joy based upon wishfulness 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 genuine, because his joy was based on something more lasting than the oldest fruit 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 was built upon on the everlasting, loving and faithful God of Israel and in Him there was a joy deeper than the depths of life’s worse sorrows.

My Joy In What?

To stand as Habakkuk and so many other heroes of the faith, I must know what  my joy is 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 amount of money I have in the bank, my job, or my health?  Are these the things that my joy is securely structured upon?

For many that is their hope, the sum total of their faith, that life will be okay and they can coast through it with no real problems or pain. Yet we all know that is not life, that is not reality. Troubles always come, health fails, money doesn’t last. That is real life and we must find a way of dealing with that reality.

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 a paradox? They were going to see their teacher and friend arrested, mocked, beaten and crucified and Jesus warns them of this but he tells them over and over about 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 for us 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.

Their joy and if I am willing, my joy is a gift given to us all from the Lord.  That joy was 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 cynicism, our fear and disappointments, I think the Lord is asking us, “Where is your faith? Where is your joy? It not in things out there. Your joy, your faith is right here in me.”

Transition: Let’s look at Habakkuk’s final statement, the ending to his hymn of faith.

Faith Fortified 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, Swifter, 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 declares that in God he will find the strength to stand and the surefootedness to run and climb higher and higher.

He says God will make me to walk upon my high places. There may be dark valleys but in God’s strength, he can run up the mountain trails to the high and bright places where God will lead him.
Habakkuk didn't deny the troubles around him, but he would not let the troubles deny the joy of knowing God. He understood that God would use the trial to make him stronger to stand, swifter than the enemy and place him on 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?
Can we understand that the troubles you may be going through are going to be used by God to make you stronger, swifter and place you higher? Can you see that if you will sing the hymn of faith, the sorrows of this world will bring you closer to Himself?

The way you deal with trouble is also a measurement of your relationship and knowledge of God.  If the difficulties rob me of my joy and bring me to bitterness and emptiness it means that I really don't know God as I need to know Him.

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.”

They 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 a time of turmoil and panic.


Can you sing your own hymn of faith this morning? If you could see all the hard times that were coming down the days and years ahead of you, could you 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, this world will continue to spin in its uncertainty, but He will not change, or fail.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Psalms 23 Christians: Lesson 6 To the Tablelands

23rd Psalms Christians: Going Places with God
Lesson 6 To The Tablelands, Psalms 23:5

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Thou preparest a table

          In our last lesson we listened as David, reflected on the life of sheep and relationship with the shepherd they traveled  from the winter feeding grounds through the dark valleys towards the cool high mountain pastures. The journey was dangerous yet it was also the time when the sheep and the shepherd grew closer, as the sheep drew close to the shepherd for comfort and protection.

Now in verse 5 the valley trip is over, the flock has ascended to the high mountain pastures and now they look out upon the "table" spread before him.

Phillip Keller write, "So it may be seen that what David referred to as a table was actually the entire high summer range.

Though these may have been remote and hard to reach, the  energetic and aggressive sheep owner takes the time and trouble to ready them  for the arrival of his flocks.

Early in the season, even  before all the snow has been melted by spring sunshine, he will go ahead and make  preliminary survey trips into this rough, wild country.  He will look it over with great care, keeping ever in mind its best use for his flock during the coming season.

Then just before the sheep arrive he will make another expedition or two to prepare the tableland for them.  He takes  along a supply of salt and minerals to be distributed over the range at strategic spots for the benefit of the sheep during the summer. The intelligent, careful manager will also decide well ahead of time where his camps will be located so the sheep have the best bed grounds. He goes over the range carefully to determine how vigorous the grass and upland vegetation is. At this time he decides whether some glades and basins can be used only lightly whereas other slopes and meadows may be grazed more heavily.

He will check to see if there are poisonous weeds appearing, and if so, he will plan his grazing program to avoid them, or take drastic steps to eradicate them."

Stephen Haboush also writes of this same verse, "What, then, is the "table" that: the sheep speaks about? It is the pasture ground that the Shepherd prepares for his sheep in advance of their coming.

And what are the "enemies?" The foxes, wolves, bears, and serpents. Palestine being a mountainous country, the wild beasts have not even yet been entirely destroyed.

Shepherds must contend with the wild beasts in protecting their sheep, as I can testify from personal experience. What did I do when I saw a wolf coming to attack the sheep that belonged to me? How did I feel when I saw a wolf? The queerest sensation would run up and down my spine. I think the hair on my head would stand up,. but though fright froze me and tremors shook me, I never yielded to the wolf a single inch of the ground that I stood on. I would call my two dogs, pat them on the back, and tell them to charge. They usually would sense and see the wolf before I would and they would give me timely warning. They would set up a fierce barking and angry swishing of their tails as soon as they perceived the lurking danger. These dogs were father and son. Seeing the wolf, the younger dog would rush ahead and entice the wolf away from the rocks and boulders to an open space.  When he had succeeded in this the fight began. Thereupon the older dog would run around them in corkscrew fashion, with the speed of a racehorse, all the time coming closer to the wolf in the center. The older dog continued his circular run until he had reached the point of vantage he was after. Then he stopped quite suddenly. A thrilling sight as he stood there, ready for the decisive leap! Every muscle of his body was strained to a superlative effort. The muscles became so knotted that you could see them bulge on neck, shoulders, and legs. What a friend such a faithful dog is in a crisis such as I am describing! From his youth he had been a friend.  Many a time he protected me. There have been occasions when but for him my life would have been at the mercy of some prowling beasts. And once more he was ready to do the utmost for me now that he stood alone between those fangs and the lives of those, including  myself, in his care, Now the supreme moment had come, the moment that should determine whether he would live or give his life in the struggle.

It was  the climax of the occasion, the crisis of the battle that moment when he strained his every muscle for the stupendous leap. As he stood there ready for the leap, I watched him tense with emotion. Upon his efforts depended the safety of the flock and perhaps my own life. Spellbound, I awaited the moment that was to bring the decision. How the eyes of our defender  gleamed! Like a twin torch they signaled defiance to the marauding denizen of the wild. The open jaws disclosed teeth as sharp as needles. A last bark, short, shrill, sharp, and with a sure leap he landed on the body of the foe. With unerring instinct he found the artery that harbored the life blood of the beast, and the next moment it lay on its side, forever deprived of power to prowl and prey. Need I point out that it was a joy to me to watch such a struggle and to witness such a victory. All honor to the faithful dogs!"       

Jesus, our Shepherd, made preparations for us

Just as the real shepherds above and David, Our shepherd has made preparations for us.  Read John 14:1-5 to see some of these. 

Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” Where was Jesus going immediately after this night?
He was going to be Mt. Calvary and the cross to be crucified in our place

Considering the crucifixion that Jesus had in mind, how did He prepare us a place?
By His death on the cross, he paid the price for our sin,  and then through His resurrection He proved His power over sin.

What is meant by a place and many mansions, that Jesus prepared for us by His sacrifice?
A dwelling place not really a mansion.  (See John 14:23 same word "mone" in Greek is here translated abode.) We are to abide with Jesus forever this is much better than any mansion could ever be.

Are there other preparations which God has made for my "table?"
The Bible, the church, family, friends, health this list is endless.

Thou anointest my head

At this time, in the high mountain ranges, summer is in it's fullest bloom.  There is plenty of forage in the pasture prepared by the shepherd. Yet it is at this very time that the sheep often are plagued by small but annoying problems.  If these irritants are not dealt with the sheep become discontent and unhappy.

Both Keller and Haboush speak of oil that is carried by the shepherd to anoint the sheep during this time.  The oil is used to heal wounds, skin diseases and also to ward off insects from the sheep's nose and eyes.    The shepherds care of his sheep this way prevents their become too annoyed and upset to forage or rest.

The Comfort of the Holy Spirit

The Lord’s care of us as His sheep also involves dealing with those things which can irritate, annoy and even hurt us by preventing us from feeding and resting.

Let's go back to John 14.  This time read verses 16-17. 

What does this passage tell me about how God will deal with the irritants in life?
He will send the comforter to indwell me.

Who is the Comforter?
The Holy Spirit.

What is the Greek word for comforter and what does it mean?
The Greek word is paraclete and it means comforter, strengthener, advocate.  Literally it means "one called alongside to help."

Look at only a few of the ways the Holy Spirit helps us.

Means of Help
John 14:26
teach, cause to remember
John 16:13
guide into all truth
Romans 8:26
makes intercession
Romans 15:13
all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope
Galatians 5:22-23
Fruit, love, joy, peace etc.

The Bible clearly and emphatically tells us that the Holy Spirit indwells us and me as the Bible says and I still find myself irritated, anxious and worred so much that I cannot rest or feed from God’s word, What could be the problem?  How could the following scripture relate?

Read Ephesians 5:18-20.
If I do not yield myself to the working of the Holy Spirit, I cannot enjoy the comfort He brings.  If I allow myself to be filled with anger, bitterness, gossip, etc.,  I am like the person Paul warns not to be filled with wine.  I am allowing myself to be controlled by something other than the Holy Spirit.

My cup runneth over.

Stephan Haboush has an interesting story that explains the meaning of "my cup runneth over."
  In your familiarity with the Psalm, have you ever gotten any meaning from the above statement? Having its origin in the East, let us see what light can be had therefrom. Let me tell you a story from which I hope you will get the meaning of "my cup runneth over."

A pilgrim, having a very dear and intimate friend in a distant country, visits him. Upon his arrival, this pilgrim, though in a strange land, finds the gates and doors of the palace of his friend open and the friend standing expectantly with open arms to welcome him to his bosom. The pilgrim is refreshed wonderfully; the dust of the long and tedious journey is washed away, and he is made to feel at home. He did not dream of The wealth or of the great possessions of his friend, or of the beauty that he saw in every nook and corner of the magnificent palace. Years before by way of accident he had made the acquaintance of this friend but he had had no idea that the latter had such wonderful possessions. The modesty and the spirit of humility and the unusual graciousness of this friend upon their first meeting led the pilgrim to believe that he was poorer than himself. But now his eyes were open to the greatness of this wonderful friend. Every conceivable thing was lavished on the pilgrim. From the hour of his rising to the hour of his slumber he was entertained royally, for nothing was left undone to make his stay the richest experience of his life.  Every wish, and every want was fulfilled. The time of parting came. The pilgrim was to return to the land of his home.

How will he express his appreciation to his wonderful host? If he offered gold and silver his friend would feel insulted, for he was vastly richer than the pilgrim. Would the mere words  "thank you" or "much obliged" be sufficient to express his sincere appreciation of the wonderful hospitality? How, then, should he express his gratitude? The pilgrim, while visiting his friend, learned many strange customs. Time after time there came to his ears this expression: "Mamnonok-Kateerang." But what did it mean? Every time this was said by a departing guest there came a look of complete gratification upon the face of his friend and host. Upon inquiring, he learned it was the supreme expression of appreciation among true friends in the East: "My cup runneth over."

In the above story Jesus is our host and we would be the guest. All we can say as thanks is "My cup runneth over!"

We as guests at the table our shepherd has prepared should be overwhelmed by the graciousness and generosity of our shepherd.  Read the following verses and list the blessing or gift which is ours through Jesus Christ.

Blessing or Gift
John 14:27
John 15:5
John 15:11
John 15:12
John 15:27
John 16:13
John 16:20
Others ?


Consider also this list of God's blessing in the life of His sheep. 
He has given me...
Love that can never be measured.
Life that can never be finished.
Righteousness that can never be spotted.
Peace that can never be destroyed.
Rest that can never be disturbed.
Joy that can never be faded.
Glory that can never be clouded.
Light that can never be dimmed.
Happiness than can never be saddened.
Strength that can never be weakened.
Wisdom that can never be baffled.
Supply that can never be exhausted.
Truly My Cup runneth over.