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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:Habakkuk 2: God's Uncertain Prophet Cries Out Again
Text:Habakkuk 1:12-2:5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2022-01-20
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

NOTE: THIS IS A PM LITURGY

Reading: Isaiah 10:1-25

Text: Habakkuk 1:12-2:5

 

GOD’S UNCERTAIN PROPHET CRIES OUT AGAIN

  1. He is Confused by the LORD’s ways

  2. He is Comforted by the LORD’s answer

 

1. Psalm 106: 1, 3, 5

2. Psalm 10: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7

3. Hymn 65: 1, 3, 4

4. Hymn 2

5. Hymn 5:1-4

 

Words to Listen For: corrupted, infinite, gasping, staircase, snow

 

Questions for Understanding :

  1. What are the two things we have to remember when we express our frustration to God?

  2. What are you supposed to do with your doubt?

  3. What are the stories that Habakkuk seemed to forget about God saving His people?

  4. What seems  so strange about Habakkuk 2:1?  Why does it actually make sense?

  5. What does it mean to live by faith?

 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Congregation of Jesus Christ,

What’s better, knowing or not knowing?

If someone could tell you your future, and you would know...not just all the joys waiting for you, but also all the challenges...would you want to hear about it?  When you hear the truth about what is going to happen, knowing that you can’t do anything to change it...would you want to know?

Imagine being on a late night hike.  You start in the evening, hoping to see some beautiful sunsets, maybe over the water, and then, before you know it, the beautiful colours of the sunset are traded in for inky blackness.  It’s hard to see the trail in front of you, until, in the distance, you see a lamppost.  You fix your eyes on that light in the distance and, as you start moving towards it the night slowly starts to become light.  And even though moving from darkness to light is a good thing, the light begins to illuminate things that you would rather not see.  There is a pile of garbage, weird nocturnal insects...and you may wish you were in the clean inky blackness once more.

This is how Habakkuk must have felt.  We heard last week that he had been pleading with God for a long time.  Desperately wanting answers from the Almighty.  He was fumbling around in the dark, not really knowing what was going on...why God was silent.  But then, when God finally answered, His answer was not what Habakkuk expected.  His answer wasn’t quite what the prophet wanted to hear.

At first Habakkuk didn’t understand why God didn’t speak to him.  And now, Habakkuk isn’t understanding what God said.  How can THIS be the solution?

GOD’S UNCERTAIN PROPHET CRIES OUT AGAIN

  1. He is Confused by the LORD’s ways

  2. He is Comforted by the LORD’s answer

Habakkuk is Confused by the LORD’s ways.

Our prophet hasn’t quite gotten to the point of unwavering faith...but we can already see growth in Habakkuk.  We can see growth in the way that he starts his prayer.

Last week, Habakkuk’s prayer was a frustrated, exhausted sigh.  It was a sigh that amounted to “Help me!”  Or even… “Why aren’t you helping me?”  And some of you wondered if Habakkuk sinned in speaking to God this way.  Did Habakkuk sin with being presumptuous, calling God to account…?

We don’t know.  We do not see God calling Habakkuk out for particular sins here...Habakkuk does not sacrifice for his sins at the end of the book.  But we always have to be careful when we express anger and frustration to our God.

Because there are two things that are true.

  1. God knows our hearts.  He knows our frustrations, whether they are with Him, with ourselves, or with the world around us.  This is true.

  2. God is bigger than our anger.   This is absolutely true.

However, we must be very careful not to go beyond these things and run recklessly around, saying anything we want or doing anything we want because God is big enough to handle it.  Our God is big enough to handle sin...but that doesn’t mean that we should purposely sin against Him!

So, whether Habakkuk crossed the line, or was just right at it…

  • It is good to tell God how you are feeling

  • It may be necessary to ask for forgiveness for feeling that way.

But we see that the start of Habakkuk’s second complaint, his second prayer, is different already in an important way.  He has moved on from simply crying out, “Help me!”  Now, he begins by appealing to God’s character.

Are you not from everlasting, O LORD, my God, my Holy One?

Our God is from everlasting!  Everything God is, He has always been.  Everything God is, He will always be.  

Everlasting means an eternity in both directions.  And we can take great comfort that the God of yesterday is the God of today, and is the God of tomorrow too.  I do not fear what God will send me tomorrow, for I remember what He did yesterday, and I love what He is doing today.

The God who loved you enough to die for your sins and weaknesses 2000 years ago is the God who graciously deals with your sins and your weaknesses today.  He is the same.  He will not be corrupted by sin.  He will not wear out due to age.  But He is faithful and true.

And Habakkuk, a covenant child, addresses His covenant God.

Are you not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One?

Take a look at this verse in your Bibles, verse 12.  Because you can’t hear it when I say it.

LORD is in all capitals.  This is Yahweh.  The God of the covenant.  But Yahweh isn’t just the covenant God of Israel, but He is also the personal God of Habakkuk.  Habakkuk, as a believer, can lay claim to God personally!  Because Yahweh is a personal God who loves His children individually and answers them.  We can see this personal relationship in the way that Habakkuk addresses God: MY God.  My Holy One.  Yahweh is Habakkuk’s God!

And Habakkuk clings to his God.

  • God is answering!

  • God is working!

  • I knew it!!

But he still isn’t satisfied.  Habakkuk still doesn’t see.  We can see his eyes slowly lifting upwards.  His eyes aren’t exclusively focused around him at the wickedness in Judah.  His vision is becoming heavenly.  But he is still distracted by the earthly realities.

And so Habakkuk’s second complaint takes this general theme

  • Yahweh, you are a God of JUSTICE

    • But you are promising INJUSTICE

  • I will wait on my just, covenant God to explain this to me.

Habakkuk begins by appealing to God’s character.

          He is Yahweh - that means He is faithful.

          He is the Holy One - that means He is holy.

Habakkuk knows his God, because he knows what his God has done.  Habakkuk would have known the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden.

  • How first Eve, and then Adam broke the covenant.  They broke the one law that God had for them.  And how God still sought them: Where are you?  How God punished their sins with curses, but gave them the hope of a redeemer.  Both blessings and curses from God.  They were faithless, but He was still faithful.

Habakkuk would have known the story of Israel in Egypt.

  • How the covenant people cried out in their misery, and God heard them.  God sent Moses to bring them out.  How the pagan nation was punished for harming Israel.

The evil is punished by the good.  Habakkuk knew this.  But God’s people being punished by an evil pagan nation?  Habakkuk didn’t understand this.  But one thing he understood was what he said next

Are you not from everlasting? O LORD my God, my Holy One?  We shall not die.

“We shall not die.” This follows directly after Habakkuk’s confession of God as His covenant God, and there is an intimate connection there.

          You are from everlasting

                We shall not die.

God’s love is everlasting.  It remains forever.  And that love...it makes us infinite too.

Habakkuk has confident hope in His covenant God.

           YOU are our God,

                  And so

            WE shall not die!

For Habakkuk, these two things are so closely connected.  In fact, they cannot be separated.  God adopted the Israelites as His children.  He gave them His presence.  He appointed Himself as their defender...and so these people cannot perish!  They are preserved by God, and cannot be taken out of His hand.  No power in this world...no power in the spiritual realms...can overcome the protection of God.

Neither life nor death, nor angels nor demons, NOR ANYTHING ELSE IN ALL CREATION can separate us from the love of God.  Already, hundreds of years before the Apostle Paul would write these words in Romans 8, Habakkuk made this same confession.  Habakkuk knew this BEFORE Christ.  Paul knew this BECAUSE OF Christ.

Do WE know it now?  Do we know this truth?  “You are my God, and therefore I am safe.”  Is this your confession?  What happens in your mind...your heart...your soul, when your world begins to fall apart?  When you see God acting in a way that you don’t understand?  Do you doubt?

If you do, do not feel guilty about that feeling.  It is normal to doubt...the Holy Spirit has been given to us specifically for those times.  To be our comforter, our Paraclete.

But what matters is what you DO with that doubt.  Do you take it to God?  Do you believe, even in the midst of unbelief?  Or do you give up on God because you think He has given up on you?

Don’t believe the lies of the devil that he whispers in your ear: that God doesn’t really love you, that God didn’t ever really forgive you, that you have to bear all these sins yourself.

Because God will always be faithful to His covenant promises.  He will never disown those who call out to Him in faith.

Because, beloved, our hope...the hope that makes us call out...it does not come from the goodness of the world around us, but from the goodness of God.  Let me say that again.  We don’t hope because ALL THINGS are good...we hope because GOD is good.

And even though Habakkuk hoped, he doubted.  He wondered.  So often we view hope and doubt as polar opposites.  And in some sense, they are...but they are polar opposites that go together all the time in the Christian life.

You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot idly look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?

Suddenly, Habakkuk’s first complaint is forgotten.  He is saying, in effect, I know that we are wicked, but we’re not Chaldean-levels of wicked!  After all, the Chaldeans have swept across the nations, taking over fortified cities, countries, nations and civilizations, leaving behind death and destruction in their path.  They only recognize their own strength!  We learn more about the Chaldeans through a series of 5 woes.  We will get there next time.  But they were a cruel and bloodthirsty nation.  Remember how God described them last week?  Dreaded and fearsome, coming for violence.  Truly terrible.  So...how could God use this nation?  Isn’t Habakkuk onto something?  If God is of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong...how can He USE evil?

 

Even though this is a good question, it is one that has already been answered.  Even in Habakkuk’s day, it had been answered.  Even though Habakkuk trusted God because of the true stories of God saving His covenant nation, it seems that Habakkuk didn’t remember all the stories.

Like Israel’s defeat at Ai

  • Right after their miraculous victory at Jericho, Israel was defeated by wicked Canaanites at Ai.  This was because Achan sinned and did not devote all of the spoils of war to destruction.

Or what about the story of the Judges?

  • Again and again, Israel sinned.  Horrible terrible sins, and so God brought in the Ammonites.  And the Amalekites.  And the Philistines, the Midianites, the Amorites.  Again and again, God raised up wicked nations to punish and teach His covenant people.

And the examples could go on.  The nation of Israel losing the ark when they brought it into battle against the Philistines.  Or, in Habakkuk’s day...in very recent memory, God raising up the Assyrians to take over the nation of Israel.  We heard about that in our reading from Isaiah.  The northern tribes were wicked, and were punished by a nation more wicked and cruel than them.

God CAN do this.  He CAN use what He hates to accomplish what He loves.

God permits sin and evil.  We hate it...He hates it...but it is used for the greater good.  And every once in a while, when we look back, at those times we felt so alone, at those times when we struggled so much, in pain and confusion...we can look back and see what God was doing in us.  We can look back, and even though pain is evil, we can be thankful for what God did through it.  It all led us to this place.  To this place where we are together, worshipping our God.  Feeling His presence rain down on us.  Refreshing our dry and dusty souls.  Giving us new life.

And if you’re still not sure...if you still wonder...I invite you to take a look at the cross.  We learned this morning about the comfort that we can have because of the pain of our Lord Jesus.  How the blackest Friday could be called good.

Because was any day, was anything that has ever happened been WORSE than the death of Christ?  Beaten and mocked, nails in His hands and feet.  Gasping for air.  Abandoned by His disciples, forsaken by His Heavenly Father.  That was an EVIL day.  There is no other description for it.  It was EVIL and HORRIBLE.  It was the greatest failure of earthly justice.  But it was used to accomplish the GREATEST GOOD.  Because of that day, there will be a great multitude that no one can ever number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing in heaven before the throne and before the lamb.  Washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.

Does God use evil?  He does.  God uses everything to bring about His perfect plan.

Does God USE evil?  Yes.

Does God EXCUSE evil?  NEVER.

And we, just like our prophet, can take great comfort in God’s answer.  Our second point.

This comfort should not have been surprising to Habakkuk.  Just as God punishing His guilty covenant people showed His faithfulness and holiness, of course, punishing the invading Chaldeans would show that some faithfulness and holiness.

And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.”

God is so graciously working with His prophet.

Did you notice the strange wording at the end of Habakkuk’s complaint?  Chapter 2:1 - I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.

What I will answer.  You would think that this should say “what HE will answer.”  But it’s not a mistranslation here.  I double-checked the Hebrew myself.  It is what I will answer.

Remember, beloved, Habakkuk’s complaint is on behalf of the righteous remnant left in Judah.  The small remnant who wondered what God was doing.  And so Habakkuk is wondering what answer he could take back to give these people hope.

And so God answers him in kind.  Here is my answer, make it plain.  Set up a billboard as it were.  Make it plain and visible and obvious to everyone what I am doing!  This message was to be passed along to everyone.  That there will be a judgement of Judah, but also a judgement on the Chaldeans.  Everyone needs to know that the LORD has made His decision: judgement is inescapable...for both the Judean and the Chaldean.

And what is this message?  Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him

Who is this a description of?  The Judeans, or the Chaldeans?

Does it matter?  Those who are proud, those who puff themselves up with their own importance, their own ability, those who forget about grace and mercy, and how we DESPERATELY NEED IT...other than their cultural background, there is no difference.

Behold his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him

What does an upright soul look like?  We see this in the next verse

But the righteous shall live by his faith.

The righteous

          Shall live

                    By

                        His faith.

Do these words sound familiar to you?  They should.  For these words were quoted powerfully by the Apostle Paul in Romans 1

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God, for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jews first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

You should know these words.  These words should be impressed on your heart.  THE RIGHTEOUS SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.  These were the words that sparked Martin Luther’s Reformation

As he repeated his prayers, walking up and down the staircase, the words of the prophet Habakkuk, quoted in Romans 1 came suddenly to his mind: “The righteous shall live by faith.”  Immediately, he ceased his prayers, returned to Wittenburg, and took this as the chief foundation of his doctrine.

Later, Luther reflected, “before those words broke upon my mind, I hated God and was angry with him.  But, when, by the Spirit of God, I understood those words: The righteous shall live by faith, then I felt born again like a new man; I entered through open doors into the very Paradise of God!”  These words bring the sinner into Paradise!!

It isn’t about how HARD you try...it isn’t about how many times you read through the Bible...it isn’t about how much money you give to the church

Don’t try to earn your salvation...because if you try to do that...you might just miss it!

The righteous shall live...BY FAITH!!

Habakkuk is saying that the righteous are those who are FULL OF FAITH.  They are the ones who put their trust in the wisdom, the kindness, the plan of their Heavenly Father, even when they may have unanswered and unresolved questions.  Even when their human mind tells them no, their soul obeys the call of their Heavenly Father.

This is what Habakkuk did.  For all his weakness and lack of vision, Habakkuk called out to His covenant God.  He called out and depended on the rock-solid promise of His LORD.

This message is not that the righteous will live lives free from trouble.  The righteous of Judah would also go into captivity in Babylon.  There is death and disease and hardship among God’s people.  In this very congregation, there are those who suffer.

But what it does mean, this wondrous saying that sparked the Reformation?  It means that the righteous are forgiven their sins and are freed from eternal death.  So when trouble comes, we know that we have a firm foundation.  Deep within we can have peace and contentment that our God is faithful and His HESED love is forever.

But living by faith is not just about RECEIVING grace from God.  That is where it starts, and that grace is there every step of the way.  But living by faith means that we are active in our faith.  That our faith is a living faith.

Do you still trust in the Lord Jesus Christ TODAY?  Is your hope still in the message of justice and mercy in the cross of Christ?  Do you constantly put your trust in your Heavenly Father?

Because living by faith is not some dimly remembered, one-off action, “once saved, always saved!”  But instead it is a present, constant, enduring faith in God.  A faith that is vivid and costly.  A faith that endures and continues, no matter what is going on in our lives.  No matter what we may feel in our hearts, no matter what we see in the world around us, or even in the church around us.

Do not live by SIGHT.  Because our eyes are dim, and we cannot see clearly.  We need to have the spectacles of faith with us, so that we can see God working.  See God working out His plan of salvation in our lives.

The arrogant do not live by faith.  The arrogant do not have contentment deep down in their hearts, but instead, they crave more and more power.  They are never at rest.  They are like drunkards, veering here and there, causing a path of destruction in their wake.

There is never enough wine for a drunkard and there is never enough power for the arrogant.

But woe be to him!  A curse be upon him!

Those who do not live by faith in the son of God, those who build themselves up by their strength and cruelty...they may have temporary power.  They may rule for a time...for the Babylonians, it was 50 years.  But then their power was broken.  The Persians came next, followed by the Greeks, and then the Romans after that.  No power on earth can last forever...all of them are in the hands of God.

This pronouncement of judgement on the arrogant, filled out for us in our text for next time, is so similar to God’s judgement on Assyria.

Because God had done this before. He had raised up a wicked nation to take over His covenant people.  To bring them to repentance.  But the sad reality was that Israel never came back from exile.  Not really.  There were some stragglers from the northern 10 tribes...but they weren’t like Judah.  They did not listen to God’s rebuke.  They did not live by faith.

The Assyrians accomplished their purpose.  God’s wrath over the sins of His covenant people was temporarily satisfied.  And for the Assyrians themselves?

Woe to Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands in my fury!  Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him.

They were used by God, but their evil was their own.  He did not create it in their hearts, He simply used it to accomplish His purpose.  And the Assyrians did get their comeuppance.  They were taken over by the Babylonians.  Out of the ashes of Assyria, Babylon rose.

Beloved brothers and sisters, this message of judgement against the Chaldeans would have been comforting for the Judeans to read when they were in exile.  God saw the wickedness of the Chaldeans, and He is not inactive.  There was a plan for their downfall, and it would come.

And we can have this comfort too.  Each day draws us closer to the day when the Lord will come in judgement.  The judgement is coming, but for those of us who live by faith, there is hope in Christ.  There is wrath, but there is mercy for those who cling to Him.  There is mercy for those who see their need and humble themselves.  For the cup of wrath for God’s people has been poured out.  It’s dry.  There is no more wrath for us.  Christ took it all.  Jesus paid it all.  All to Him I owe.  Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.

Jesus Christ is the escape: the righteous will live by faith in Him!  When we trust in the Lord and seek our righteousness and life in Christ, we have no reason to be afraid!

So take this message and run with it!  Do not be ashamed of the gospel, but show by your words and your life that you live by faith in the Son of God.  For our Heavenly Father says, “Do not be proud, but trust in me!  Trust in me even when you don’t understand what is going on, or why it is happening.”

Because the gospel is light.  And light is good.  This light may reveal the wickedness of the world around us.  It may reveal the wickedness of our own heart.  But what it reveals, it also destroys.  We can have confidence and comfort that all wickedness, all sin, all violence...all of this will be completely destroyed.

Through the work of Jesus Christ, the wickedness and sin in us has been defeated.  This is a start.  This is a foretaste of what is to come.  That one day we will live in the Paradise of God.  Free from enemies.  Enemies like the wicked Chaldeans.  Enemies like Satan.  Enemies like our own sinful flesh.  It will all be gone!

So let this light guide you.

Let your Heavenly Father, your covenant God, guide you through the darkness into His marvellous light.  If you keep your eyes on Him, you never have to be afraid.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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