Habakkuk Speaks Today 3
The world scoffs, Where are the signs of his coming? Show us your God in our day! "Christ will come in judging power and come when he is least expected."
by David Carmichael
Chapter 2. The Prize of the Waiting Prophet
There is a multi-dimensional prize from God. The Lord is determined to communicate to Habakkuk and to us an assurance-producing word. We have a trustworthy guarantee from God. Sin and the evil it breeds all around us will be dealt with. That is the message of which God wants us to be assured. It contains a warning truth for the unbeliever and a winning truth for the believer saved from sin.
Habakkuk is left in no doubt that after the people of God are destroyed the Babylonians themselves would in due course be brought to their knees in defeat. Their sins would not go unpunished. There is much in this world of ours that perplexes us as we witness its social disintegration and spiritual decline. Ours is a distressing day but the fact remains that we can experience spiritual energy in this world. God can revive and send us back with a message that can thrill us. God speaks to us through his word continually to build us up in the faith. Elijah declared the day of God’s judgment to Ahab, one man serving the living God. "You only see me, but I am surrounded by the hosts of God." God who never sleeps is always wisely and winningly at work in history, his Son to exalt and his people to save. To know this truth and cleave to is to know a growing inner peace. We are not alone. God is with us and for us. It is easy for me to say it, but to live in the reality of it is so important. We need to tap into that. We do question God in our folly, Indeed, certain signs of God’s judgment on the world are needed and would be appropriate. The world scoffs, Where are the signs of his coming? Show us your God in our day! "Christ will come in judging power and come when he is least expected." As we make our way though history we must trust God more and more. His will is constantly being done. What a comforting thought. The depths of comfort are all the more evident in the words that came to the waiting prophet.
1. The Prize of Truth as God Speaks to us of His Grace.
The truth presented to us has a couple of elements.
i] Truth about living.See the context of v.4. What we have here is a stark contrast drawn up by God between unbelievers and the righteous who are living by faith. There are exactly two ways of living. There are only two possible styles. We are numbered amongst the one or the other. There is nothing about the worldlings that is attractive. They stink of death in the nostrils of God. They are as dead as dead can be. Men and women in Christ are gloriously alive, full of the spirit of God and they live by their faith. There is no middle ground with God. You are either the one or the other. It is as stark as that. In our conversation as we introduce the fact then we have to say to them, Let me tell you about him. You try to win their souls. There is a God who has judged them and they need to flee to Jesus. It will make us universally unpopular but we have need to save a soul.
What is God telling the unbeliever? There is pride at the root of Babylonian life as they say, "We can take the world with our strategies. Who will ever ever stand against us?" They are self-sufficient and arrogant men. They were lost men, and pride was the grounds of their living. The sinner denies the existence of God and denigrates his existence. He is far from upright in his living. His thinking is permeated by evil. His living knows nothing about truth and righteousness. His living is empty and so he follows all the latest fads driving on by having more and more of this world. There is an emptiness in human beings and Christians need to address that.
The believer lives in a wholly different way: the just live by faith (v.4) This is an enormously important statement. It is taken up and amplified in three different books in the New Testament, in Romans 1, and Galatians 3 and Hebrews 11 – ‘by faith’ they all lived. It is a vitally important truth. Trusting in God, and showing the obedience of faith thus the believer lives, and he is right with God. He is a new creation – all by the grace of God. One great temptation is this, that the longer the Christian goes on in the faith he thinks it was right for him to be saved. We forget that there was no merit in us at all when God laid his hand on us, and we ought never to forget that. We begin to imagine that we deserve to be saved. There were many of God’s people in Corinth yet unreached with the gospel, and Paul was exhorted to go and preach there that by their faithful response they might be found. You were once just like them, Paul told the Ephesians. We live by faith. Though the days are dark we will know of victory through the powers that assail us. Will he lose us ultimately? No, never. We are justified as we trust in this awesome God. We will have victory.
This is not triumphalism but biblical reality. We have the Christ who hung on the cross as our living Lord and Saviour. His enemies thought that they had ended him, and the world would move on, but God raised him from the dead and the Lord had victory over demons and death. He inspired his people, and they went into the world, and he turned it upside down, all through faith in Almighty Christ. The Babylonians will be brought down, God said, and Habakkuk believed it. After the word came to him he was a man full of confidence and conviction. The righteous shall live by faith. God is awesome and thrilling; he is speaking to us right now and he is telling us, "Live by faith." So we have truth about living. Sinners can live for the world or for God and they have to decide.
ii] Truth about Sinning.
Habakkuk declares the sort of sins that brings down death on Babylon. What we have is the course of sin being charted. The dismal end of the ungodly is before us in these verses. This section of Scripture, from vv. 6 ff. has been called a ‘taunt song’. In them there are five woes pronounced in which the calamities coming on Babylon are described. All that is evil is going to be judged.
In v. 6 there is the extortion of money from the poor. What is God speaking about here? Exploitation. Men and women are being taken advantage of for their own ends. People are sold pensions and policies for greed not for men’s good. Woe to you who exploit men
In v.9 men are described who make high profits their sole aim, even though this makes 100 men redundant. They throw men on the scrap heap. They take away all their resources. they They are agents of injustice. Woe to you, God says. We must tell business men and women Woe to you when they put people on the streets.
v.12 talks of those who use violence against people: "You have built your cities but your efforts will go up in smoke." They are kindling for the fires. In the church of Jesus violence is being done as men call themselves ‘prophets’ and they summon men to follow them. They and their glass cathedrals will go up in smoke
v. 15 drunkenness. The drinks industry is built on the backs of a broken homes, and ruined men and women. The government has announced that there are to be no opening or closing times for pubs. All day drinking in every pub faces us.
v. 19 the idolater. Greed, injustice, violence and seduction, and then, what this leads to – idolatry. This is the end condition when people turn from truth to believing a lie. God says, You are an idolater.
This is real prophetic ministry, and not the sort of claims to dreams and prophecies made by charlatans today. Habakkuk’s words are in contrast are full of clarity and light. Babylon was a dreadful nation worthy of the coming judgment of God. Think of many great nations seemingly invincible, and then they were no more – Egypt, Greece and Rome. Babylon was up there with the greatest in human history, but it fell too.
How did Habakkuk respond? He believed God, and he was right to do so
2] The Prize of Triumph as God speaks to us of his Glory (v.14).
Let the truth be known everywhere. Habakkuk and his fellow Jews would know that he was the sovereign God. The world is ruled by holy providence. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God. We are to be assured that the ultimate triumph of God will be revealed. The psalmist said that the earth would see the glories of Christ. This is coming for we have the guarantee of God. It is coming – what a stimulating fact. Remember it when we come to dark days. Take hold of the prize of triumph. Let the truth be known. Everything opposed to God will be destroyed and it will be the privilege of the Lord’s people that we will all be in the new Jerusalem.
3] The Prize of Trust as God speaks to us of his Government.
Habakkuk saw that this God would fill the earth with his glory. v.20 The Lord is in his holy temple, and so . . .
1. Let us be sensible before God. Sovereignly he rules over creation. His throne is established on high. Babylon and other like powers can do some powerful things on earth but no man or power can invade his temple. No man ever, ever, ever can topple that throne.
2 Trusting let us be silent before him. That is where he has brought us. We have discovered the grace of God, the glory of God and the government of God, the Lord is still in his holy temple. What a prize God gives to his people that God gives to those whose trust is in him truth be known triumph to be tasted and government to be received. He is in the temple and let all the earth to be silent before him.
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