Hymn 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.
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.