Tonight, at church, we are hosting a parents’ night out which means that we get the kiddos. We have over 80 kids signed up. The program is called Kids’ Jams. I am excited. We have a fun night planned. We are going to study Habakkuk.
What do you do when bad things happen? Some people blame God. Others lose hope. While still others try to “fix” the situation. What if none of those help, then what do you do? Habakkuk has the answer for us.
I. Habakkuk’s initial response
Habakkuk responded to bad situations the way that most of us do.
2 How long, O LORD, will I call for help, And You will not hear? I cry out to You, “Violence!” Yet You do not save.
3 Why do You make me see iniquity, And cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; Strife exists and contention arises. (Habakkuk 1)
Habakkuk is upset with God. He cries out to God in anger because of the difficult circumstances of life. It seems that Habakkuk had been crying out to God and there seemed to be no answer. He begins to wonder if God is actually listening. As a pastor, I have counseled many, many people who say things like what Habakkuk said. We have this notion of God, that He is a genie in a bottle that waits for us to ask so that He can grant our wishes. Many people do not realize that God is sovereign. This means that He is in control of all things, both the good and the bad. He is working His will to accomplish His purposes in the midst of human history. There is an overarching plan that God has and we get to be a part of it. They best thing that we could ever do is to understand God’s plan for human history. Once this plan is understood, even when bad things happen, you will know what to do. In Habakkuk’s case, he was upset over the violence that he saw all around him. The same is true today, even for the people who do not know God. They see the violent state of the world around us and it bothers them, as it should. Habakkuk is upset because it seems that He is not rescuing people, the way that He has promised He would. There are some who use this current state to blame God because of bad things happening and to excuse themselves for not following Him, claiming that if He were a benevolent being, He would intervene whenever people desired, as a personal genie. God remains silent while Habakkuk asks. While venting, Habakkuk reveals the root of the people’s problem. This is a very practical piece of advice. The more you let people talk, and actually listen to what they say, they will reveal the root of the problems in their lives.
II. The root of the problem
Habakkuk gives some insight to us about the root of the problems within his society.
4 Therefore the law is ignored And justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore justice comes out perverted. (Habakkuk 1)
The people had already turned their backs on God. Blaming Him for the current situation is misleading and useless. He did not turn away from them. They had already turned away from Him. This is the root of the problem. What Habakkuk and the people were experiencing were the results of their choice to turn away from God. They ignored the Law of God which was the law of the land. Because of this, justice lost its place in society. Evil began to dominate society. The laws of the land get perverted and evil is presented as good and good is actually presented as evil. I don’t know about you, but, this reminds me so much of our modern society. We live in an age when people have turned their backs on God. We have removed God from public life. We want to isolate Him to houses of worship. Then, we are shocked when the consequences of those choices hit us like a freight train. Justice has been perverted in our modern society. We live in an age when everything is relative. What was once embraced as good is now being cast as bad. What were once things that were hardly mentioned in public because of the shame involved, have now become elevated to “virtues”. As the old saying goes, “you have to sleep in the bed that you make for yourself”. If there is anyone to blame for the current mess that our society is in, it is ourselves. Blaming God does not make any sense. We made choices and now have to live with the consequences. Habakkuk learns some bad news from God once He does answer. Remember, Habakkuk asks for help. God’s answer is that things are bad and that they are going to get worse.
5 “Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days – You would not believe if you were told. (Habakkuk 1)
This is not what we usually expect to hear from God. We like answers that tickle our ears and we like for people to tell us what we want to hear, even if it is not the truth. God does not work this way. He is interested in fixing the root of the problem, not just putting a temporary bandaide on the problem and pass the buck on to the next person. Habakkuk is shocked by the answer.
6 “For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, That fierce and impetuous people Who march throughout the earth To seize dwelling places which are not theirs. (Habakkuk 1)
God is going to allow things to get worse for the good of the people. It works in the Habakkuk’s life. It does not work in everyone’s life.
18 “What profit is the idol when its maker has carved it, Or an image, a teacher of falsehood? For its maker trusts in his own handiwork When he fashions speechless idols.
19 “Woe to him who says to a piece of wood, ‘Awake!’ To a mute stone, ‘Arise!’ And that is your teacher? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, And there is no breath at all inside it.
20 “But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.” (Habakkuk 2)
Some people will turn to their idols in a time of need. An idol is anything that you love/trust in/serve more than God. In difficult times, some people trust in their money, that it will save them. Others trust in the idol of their prestige and power. Still others trust in themselves. These are all idols that cannot save us. Only God can save us. God is there, according to verse 20, and He will rescue if people will turn to Him. Let’s find out what Habakkuk learns about God and about himself from this experience.
III. Habakkuk’s new understanding of God
Like all of us, Habakkuk had a sin nature and he was prone to fear just as we are today.
16 I heard and my inward parts trembled, At the sound my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones, And in my place I tremble. Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, For the people to arise who will invade us. (Habakkuk 3)
Habakkuk’s gut instinct was to fear. He trembled because he knew that things were going to go from bad to worse. This is a natural reaction. Habakkuk does not allow fear to paralyze him. He decides to walk in faith instead of fear. This is the key. Fear and faith cannot coexist in the same place. We either give in to fear and don’t walk by faith or, we chose to walk by faith and our fear is driven away.
18 Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
19 The Lord GOD is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, And makes me walk on my high places. For the choir director, on my stringed instruments. (Habakkuk 3)
Habakkuk chose to trust in the Lord for his rescue. He realized that God was not going to remove the storm but, He was going to help Habakkuk walk through the storm and survive. Habakkuk chose to glorify God in the midst of difficult circumstances. He chose to depend on God’s strength and not on his own strength. Habakkuk was not fooled by idols. He kept God as number 1 in his life. In fact, Habakkuk decided to write some praise songs to be sung to and about the Lord, even as the enemy was on its way to destroy. Do you trust the Lord in this way? He has promised to work all things, both good and bad, for the good of those who trust in Him. Are you going to be one of those who walks in faith instead of fear? Are you going to abandon your idols in order to make room for God and His goodness? May the Lord help us learn to trust in Him in the midst of the storm!