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Habakkuk Speaks Today 2

Category Articles
Date November 26, 2002

The way of knowing more of God lay in a renewed determination to move closer to God. If he is gong to comprehend more of God he has to get as close as he can to God. This is good procedure

by David Carmichael

[At the annual Revival and Reformation Conference held in Swanwick November 18-20 2002 David S. Carmichael gave three stirring messages on the preaching of the prophet Habakkuk. He has been the minister for twenty years of the Abbeygreen Church of Scotland congregation in Lesmahagow over 20 miles south of Glasgow.]

Habakkuk 2:1-3 [Message 2]

Slowly but surely through this prophecy Habakkuk moves from distress to delight. The book is a kind of spiritual biography. Nothing was happening in the answer to his prayers, but God had been giving him counsels telling him that he was going to act, would send in the Babylonians. It was not the thing that Habakkuk wanted as he was constrained to contemplate the perfections of God.

Now Habakkuk has moved on from being the worried prophet to being the watching prophet. He still wanted a deeper understanding of God. The way of knowing more of God lay in a renewed determination to move closer to God. If he is gong to comprehend more of God he has to get as close as he can to God. This is good procedure. The church today is moving further away from God and his word, while Habakkuk shows us the best way to live during dark days. There is always a deeper intimacy with God attainable.

i] This relationship was a loving position.

Habakkuk speaks of, "My watch or my watchtower." In other words, he had a special place where he was alone with God, away from distractions where he could focus himself on God. He knew something of the ministry of God to his soul there. There once was a day when a regular talk was given on ‘Quiet Times’ in student meetings, encouraging deeper thought on Holy Scripture and prayer. Such talks have largely disappeared, but Habakkuk had a loving place where he could have communion with God. We cannot do that by delving into books. In communion with God we learn every day how great and glorious a God he is, and we are fired by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We need to cultivate these intimate moments.

ii] It was also a looking position.

"I will look to see what he has to say to me." What are we to do today to be regularly in a looking position, and make it a beneficial experience? It is not enough to tell God about our problems. We must find him for ourselves a God of grace, mercy, love and power, for that is what he really is. God increasingly fills our horizons. Our problem is seeing only problems and not looking beyond them to God. We need to know the continuing reality of being alone with God. Habakkuk with determination would climb above his problems. He could not understand all that God said he was going to do but what he did understand was that God was trustworthy and almighty. He would look to God for answers and help. God must be in our minds and we must do what Habakkuk did, and ascend to the watchtower and look for God to work in our minds. The glimpses of his grandeur lift us up. Too much focusing on the dilemmas of life from the limited vantage point of our own intellect will only make us forget our God. Take your requests to God and see his hands move out. A child falls and then they cry and look for their mothers or fathers coming. They are held and stroked, and they feel better. That is what we must do, look to God on his throne and his hand outstretched saying, "There, there." Even when we are sitting under the truth of the ministry of God let us have prepared for it before we enter the watchtower of worship. Then the word will open him up to us. We need to have looking positions in our lives.

iii] It was also a listening position.

"I will look to what he will say to me." We will listen out for his voice, for to do otherwise would be to play into the hands of the devil himself. The churches are frenetic in their activity running from one to another while they should be listening out to God. What does he want us to hear? We must bid adieu to our own reasoning, says Calvin. We must listen out to God and his wise words. How does the Psalmist put it? "I will listen to what the Lord will say." The one thing certain is that God will speak. The professing church gave up listening to the word and the prophets. It ceased listening to the men who loved the word of God. "We don’t want it," man says. Adam and Eve in the Garden had no interest in the word, preferring to listen to the serpent’s words. The professing church today says the same thing: "God is a God of love." A ‘gentle’ word is what they want – though the ship is sinking and the building is on fire and a more urgent tone is needed. The world mocks us evangelicals for saying we harangue men when we tell them they must go to Jesus Christ.

Who cares if the world thinks we are irrelevant? I cannot tone down the word of God because God saves through his word. The power is in his word. We have to press it home to men and women. There have been occasions when I have preached with one person in mind and yet that person has been untouched with the word I preached while someone totally different has been. It is by preaching, in good old-fashioned Bible exposition, that God saves men. What an impact there would be if there was once a Biblical exposition from the Scriptures by an Archbishop.

How does God speak to us ? By means of his masterful words. We need to be alert when we come expectant. The word of God exposes our sin in order to bring us to our senses. It is able to educate our minds in those ways Paul tells Timothy – preaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. The word then can make us tingle with its power, sitting under the masterful Word of God. It trains us how to live and it can send us back into the world, for we have seen our God and are energised.

An English teacher told us this story many years ago in an attempt to get us to love Shakespeare. A travelling group of actors in the wild west was putting on in a saloon bar ‘Othello’ and the actor playing Iago was brilliant, so that a cowboy got up and shot him. The sheriff then shot the cowboy. On the actor’s tombstone was written, "Here lies the world’s best actor." On the cowboy’s tombstone was inscribed, "Here lies the world’s best audience."

God speaks by means of his mysterious ways. ‘What will he say to me?’ can be translated ‘What can he say IN me?’ Here is a word just for me. I am inspired by what he says. But God also uses the persuasion of outer circumstances. He is an expert doorkeeper, opening and closing by his will. So we need to listen to God and his word. The watch-towers of our minds are the places we look and listen. Notice though the tenacity of Habakkuk that he will stay there until he hears God speak. God loves that kind of tenacity. Why do people fall down in their faith? Largely because they do not go to the watchtower. I say to people in spiritual despair, ‘When is it the last time you prayed about this?’

iv] It was also a Learning position.

There are two responses. In v.2 Habakkuk is told to write it down, and in v. 3 to wait for a revelation to come to pass. He is to write and wait. Note the emphatic tone – "Write down the revelation!" Why?

A] God’s message is worth recording.

"Write down the revelation." They were to be protected words. They were not to be forgotten vague words. God wanted the words to be written down for the benefit of the ages. The jottings of some old man of many centuries ago are not here before us. We are being exposed to the given word of God. It was written down under the command of God. It is not a consultation; these are not conclusions about what God might have said; here was a Habakkuk, a man carried along by the Spirit of God. We are not to doubt the Word. Habakkuk wrote down what God told him. That word is not to be adjusted to the thoughts of today’s men. The power of God was seen in the words of Jesus spoken to a wind and a storm. The apostles saw it and they wrote it down. They were eyewitnesses of his majesty. If we can’t believe that then what is there to believe? The Holy Spirit has given us Scripture. How dare anyone destroy it.

"Write my words large for anyone to see," he says. That is, make the words conspicuous for anyone to see. There could have been signposts with the word ‘REFUGE’ conspicuously written for the man-slayer to know the way to a city of refuge. We need a word today written large. The God who has rescued us will not fail to speak to us. Why can’t people in the professing churches see it? Christians should be reading the Book and listening to God.

B] God’s message is worth believing.

It speaks of the future and man’s fall into oblivion. God knows what is going to happen. There is going to be a day of judgment. "I was once speaking in a camp, and, unbeknown to me a boy prayed telling God that if the preacher made an obvious mistake or a glaring error that night he would be saved. I preached that night and I said that goats would be set on his left and sheeps (sic) on the right. The boy was deeply impressed and cried out to God.

It is a faithful message (v.3) ‘The revelation will not prove false.’ He will do all that he has promised. I know that the church will be victorious.

It is a focused message – it awaits a promised time. God once told Noah of the flood, without supplying him with one drop of rain, but still the flood came. Amos warned the people that the Assyrians would come, and come they did. People say to us, "Where is this Day of Judgment that you people talk to us about?" It is coming in God’s appointed time.

It is a fruitful message. It produces peace of mind, confidence in living and blessedness of heart. Everything is God-ordained and to the vindication of the people of God. Because it is written large in the pages of Scripture.

God is pruning the church, and closing down many congregations. Not necessarily bad things in themselves. The Bible, and not keeping every church building open, is all that matters, Faithful obedience today until Jesus comes, and then he will gather us to himself and we will reign with him

God’s message is worth telling. Share it with your next-door neighbour, just where they are, and share it with them. Let us not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a message worth telling. Our God is great and mighty. Why bother with the Bible? That was the subject given me by the TSF in Scotland, and unusually I told them they should bother with it because it works and I regaled them with stories of people converted by the Bible. I believe that God blessed them by that simple message.

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