051-00752 Habakkuk 1:12-2:20
I. When in the presence of authority, the best policy is to remain silent and speak only when spoken to.
A. When we lived in Kazoo, Bryan became involved in Little League baseball.
1. Baseball was a sport he really enjoyed and he was good at it.
2. He discovered that the league he was in was the same league in which Derek Jeter played as so began the life of a Yankees fan.
3. Jeter had written a book and Bryan had been given a copy of this book for Christmas one year.
4. It just so happened that Derek Jeter was going around to book stores to sign his books. So I took Bryan down to the Barnes & Noble to meet Mr. Jeter and have him sign Bryan’s copy of his book.
5. What excitement. Bryan had so much he wanted to say to this hero of a baseball player.
6. So when we finally got in front of Derek, this great shortstop and skilled hitter, Bryan stood silent in awe. He couldn’t think of anything to say.
B. It is natural for us to become overwhelmed with awe when we stand before those who are great talents and have accomplished significant things.
1. Such silence is a matter of deep respect.
2. There are other times that this kind of respect is warranted.
3. For instance, if you have ever had to go to court as a plaintiff or defendant or even a witness or a potential juror, the proper respect is to remain silent until spoken to.
a) Those who cannot remain in such silence do not know their place.
b) They are not submissive to the authority of the situation.
C. The same is true of those who approach the throne of God.
1. Yes we are friends of Jesus and yes we are children of God.
2. But neither of these conditions permits us to approach God or Christ or even the Holy Spirit without the respect and submission they deserve.
3. We are taught that through Christ we have access to the Father. But such access does not come without knowing our place: he is the creator, we are the created; he is the Father, we are the children; he is the savior, we are the saved.
II. Habakkuk was made a prophet. But he knew that a prophet had boundaries with God. He could speak with God, but his speech, even when questioning, was with respect of place and status before the Almighty.
A. Last week, Habakkuk asked God how long he would tolerate the lack of respect, the lack of obedience of the wicked in Israel who sought only their personal gain and power.
1. And God answered Habakkuk by revealing his plan for the future.
2. He was raising up a nation, the Babylonians, who would become his instrument of judgment on the ungodly.
B. But Habakkuk has a follow up question. And respecting the LORD, he asks his question, a legitimate one. He begins his prayer, though, with humility and confidence.
1. Habakkuk addresses God using three names which reflect his confidence in who God is.
a) God is the LORD, Jehovah, the one who is from everlasting to everlasting. God is the one who is constant, the same when he acts as when he speaks. This is the God who says “let there be” and it is so.
b) God is “my God,” Israel’s God and he has proven repeatedly that Israel is his chosen people, loved by God who is their God.
c) God is the Holy One, the one who is pure and who cannot stand evil; who will not permit the wicked to consume the righteous.
2. This God in whom Habakkuk trusts is the God who gives him ultimate confidence: We will not die.
a) Habakkuk remembers the words of Deuteronomy and the Psalms, Deuteronomy 32:4 He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.
III. Habakkuk’s confidence in God raises a huge question, though.
A. How can such a God, the Rock of Israel, the faithful and Holy One stand to watch such an evil nation such as the Babylonians succeed in destroying God’s chosen people without some kind of intervention?
1. Habakkuk 1:13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?
2. How can the righteous be made to suffer with the unrighteous?
B. This is not an easy question. I am constantly asking this question of God.
1. Why do bad things happen to good people?
2. Why do those who are loving, caring, respectful, and pure have to endure those who take advantage of them, those who cheat and steal and rape and murder?
3. Knowing who God is it just doesn’t seem right.
4. The God who Habakkuk has described just doesn’t seem to be com-patible with the judgment God has proclaimed upon the wicked in Israel.
5. God has chosen one ungodly nation to judge his own people who are also ungodly.
C. Habakkuk graphically illustrates the issue.
1. He says that the Babylonians are like fishermen who use hooks and nets to catch their fish, and after they do, they worship the hooks and nets as if they were gods.
2. Martin Luther makes clear what Habakkuk means by this picture: “These hooks, nets, and fishing nets are nothing more than his great and powerful armies, by which he gained dominion over all lands and people, and brought home to Babylon the goods, jewels, silver, and gold, interest and rent of all the world… He who boasts of a thing, and is glad and joyous on account of it, but does not thank the true God, makes himself into an idol, gives himself the glory, and does not rejoice in God, but in his own strength and work.”
3. The great Hebrew commentators Keil and Deliztsch write, “[The Babylonian] rejoices over the success of his enterprises, over this capture of men, and sacrifices and burns incense to his net, i.e., he attributes to the means which he has employed the honour due to God.”
4. Such words cut me to the quick.
a) They force me to ask how often I have taken credit for my so called accomplishments.
b) They make me see how I applaud myself in my skills and abilities; how I too idolize my talents as if they were my own not gifts of God.
D. At this point, Habakkuk does exactly who is appropriate: “I will stand my watch…I will look to see what he will say to me.”
1. Stand in silence.
2. Wait for the Lord.
3. He will answer but we must wait for it.
4. He is the authority, the Supreme Judge, the Almighty God. He does what he pleases, when he pleases, how he pleases.
5. We can do no more than to wait before him in silence.
6. To do anything else would be to presume an authority greater than God. We cannot demand from God; we present our case and then wait for God to respond.
IV. And God does respond. And the response he gives to Habakkuk comes in three parts.
A. First, God says that his ultimate judgment will not be immediately fulfilled.
1. “The revelation awaits an appointed time.”
2. Just because we do not see the immediate consequences of evil acts does not mean that God’s judgment is mere threat with no real action.
3. “Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.”
4. It is as David wrote, Psalm 37:1-2 Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.
B. Second, God reaffirms the ultimate truth that seems so hard for Israel to grasp: The just will by faith.
1. The unrighteous one is the one who is “puffed up.”
a) The unrighteous is the one who trusts in himself.
b) The unrighteous is the one who is proud.
2. But the righteous know their place.
a) The righteous know their God.
b) He is the God who created them.
c) He is the God who called them into being.
d) He is the God who watches over them, who protects them, who blesses them.
e) This theme echoes throughout the Bible: The just shall live by faith.
f) There is no other way to live. All other solutions end in death.
C. Finally, God confirms what he has said by declaring five WOES upon the Babylonians; those who will be used to judge the wicked of Israel will likewise be judged for their wickedness.
1. These five woes can be summarized quickly under two categories of sin.
2. The first three woes refer to the insatiable appetites of the wickedness.
a) If you can remember back to our study of the Seven Deadly Sins you will recognize the character of appetite: the more you feed it the more you want.
b) You will also remember that appetites themselves are not evil, but the lack of control is the killer.
(1) An appetite for possessions results in theft; increase by taking what is not yours.
(2) An appetite for power results in oppression and violence.
(3) An appetite for prestige results in unjust treatment of others.
3. The last two woes refer to Pride.
a) Pride that needs to build up self and ego by crushing others.
b) And Pride that replaces God with self; that sets one’s self up as god; most simply put, Idolatry.
4. Serious reminders of life without faith; life without respect for God; life without love for God and others.
V. So what is the conclusion to Habakkuk’s question?
A. “The Lord is in his temple; let all the earth be silent before him.”
1. The Lord reigns.
2. Let all his subjects then acknowledge his rule.
3. Let all his people know their place, faithful or unfaithful, submissive to God or rebellious before him.
4. And let all stand silent for there is no defense any of us can make on our own account before the throne of the King.
B. The Lord is in his temple.
1. He has invited us all to come in before him.
2. He has invited us to stand before him.
3. And he has provided the means by which we can answer his invitation.
C. The Lord is in his temple.
1. No matter how things look to us;
2. No matter how we feel about things;
3. No matter what we like or dislike;
4. We are called before him.
5. To love him.
6. And to be loved by him.