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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:Habakkuk 4: God's Overwhelmed Prophet Falls to his Knees
Text:Habakkuk 3:1-16a (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Worship
 
Added:2022-01-20
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Hebrews 12

Text: Habakkuk 3:1-16a

 

GOD’S OVERWHELMED PROPHET FALLS TO HIS KNEES

  1. Praying for Yahweh’s restored goodness

  2. Praise for Yahweh’s revealed glory

  3. Petitioning for Yahweh’s reassuring grace

 

  1. Psalm 76: 1, 2, 5

  2. Psalm 6: 1, 2, 6

  3. Psalm 114:1-4

  4. Psalm 44: 1, 2, 8

  5. Hymn 14:1, 2, 7, 8

 

Words to Listen For: history, wing, 600, jump, tiny

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. How has Habakkuk been disciplined?

  2. What is true strength?

  3. How is the cross an answer to Habakkuk’s plea?

  4. What does it mean that God veiled his power?

  5. Why does Habakkuk tremble? Does he need to?

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


Beloved in Christ our Lord,

When we read Habakkuk 3 together, were you jealous of Habakkuk?  Were you jealous of his faith?  His rock-solid assurance in God?

Assurance in God’s salvation in the past?

Assurance that God could save like this again?

Assurance that God would hear his prayer?

There are times of doubt and struggle in my life when I turn to Habakkuk 3...and I read it, and I feel even more down.  Habakkuk has such a strong faith!  Such an amazing faith in God!

But then I remember...I remember that Habakkuk doesn’t just start at chapter 3.  Habakkuk starts in the pit of despair.  Habakkuk starts by crying out in agony.  Crying out in doubt.  Crying out because he can’t find God in the tragedy around him.  He can’t see his way through.  There is no light at the end of his tunnel.

And so, when my faith feels dwarfed by Habakkuk’s faith in chapter 3, I remember that he took a journey to get there.  He wasn’t always this full of faith, stalwart and unwavering.  He had crisis after crisis.  And only after all that was done...did He stop questioning.  He stopped complaining, and

FELL TO HIS KNEES

  1. Praying for Yahweh’s restored goodness

  2. Praise for Yahweh’s revealed glory

  3. Petitioning for Yahweh’s reassuring grace

When we read Habakkuk 3, we are introduced to a very different prophet than before.  A humble prophet.  A faithful prophet.  A prophet who still struggles, who still isn’t perfect, but a prophet who humbly realizes that his very real problems and concerns fade in comparison to God’s glory.

And this prophet, now humbled, is driven to his knees.  Not in exhaustion, not in uncertainty...but in awe and fear.

O LORD, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD, do I fear

Habakkuk has heard the report of Yahweh.  What is this report?  Well, the report is what follows here.  A description of God’s glory.  His power. His holiness.  You see...Habakkuk knows his history rather well.  He knows the stories of how God saved His people.  How God saved His people from slavery in Egypt.  How God saved His people in the Promised Land.  Again and again, how God acted for the sake of His anointed ones.  His chosen nation.

This one verse, verse 2, serves as both an introduction and a summary of what is to come.  Even though Habakkuk is writing a song here, a prayer meant to be sung...it’s almost like an essay, and verse 2 is the introduction and the thesis.

O LORD, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD, do I fear.  In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.

Yahweh, you are mighty

          Therefore I am in awe

                    Please show yourself to be mighty once more!

This song, this prayer, is the product of Habakkuk’s struggle with his covenant and personal God.  With Yahweh.  Habakkuk 3 is great and glorious, described by one commentator as

  • Bold in conception

  • Sublime in thought

  • Majestic in dictation

  • Pure in rhetoric

But this song, however beautiful and amazing...it only comes as the result of all the hardship in Habakkuk’s life.  Without darkness, the light means very little.  Without the valleys surrounding them, the mountains aren’t quite so high.  Without Habakkuk’s struggle, his awe and joy here in chapter 3 would not be quite so sweet.

Habakkuk has been disciplined by his covenant God.  Disciplined, not so much in terms of punishment, but in terms of discipleship.  God had taken His confused, frightened, exhausted, uncertain prophet under His majestic wing, and discipled him.  We heard of this discipline in our reading from Hebrews 12

He (that is, God) disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness.  For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Habakkuk appears to us in chapter 3 as a man trained.  A man trained by God in the forges of difficulty.  We hear that difficulty and hardship builds character...but too often we think that what this means is that hardship makes us hard.  It makes us hardened to the cares of this world so that we can make it through with a suit of armor on.  That strength means being unaffected by everything and anything.

But is that how we see Habakkuk in this chapter?  Cold and unfeeling?  Distant and apathetic?  Not at all!

We read of the prophet fearing, trembling, quivering, his legs giving way beneath him.  And yet He has never been stronger.

Because the reality is, beloved, we will always be overwhelmed.  Being overwhelmed is part of life.  It’s part of the life of a pastor on Tuesday morning, when there are two sermons waiting to be written.  Unanswered emails piling up.  Council meetings, consistory meetings, people wanting advice and care.

The life of an elder is overwhelming...trying to juggle work, family, and his office.

The life of a teenager is overwhelming...wanting to be an adult, but still feeling like a child, sorting out graduation and university classes.

This life is overwhelming.  We are so small in the grand scheme of things.  But we have a choice.  We can be overwhelmed like Habakkuk was in chapter 1 and chapter 2...overwhelmed by the world around him...or we can be overwhelmed by the greatness of God.

By the holiness of our Heavenly Father.  By the might of our Maker.  Overwhelmed like Habakkuk in chapter 3.

Now Habakkuk is strong...because He is overwhelmed.  Because that is true strength.  Feeling your feelings, being open to love, being willing to be hurt because you DON’T know the future...but trusting in the One who does.  Trusting in the One who not only KNOWS the future, but actively CAUSES the future to happen.

We have a firm foundation below us, but it’s not us.  The foundation is not our ways of dealing with things...learned behaviours and walls that we put up, but our firm foundation is the love of God.  The power of God.  The care of God.

And Habakkuk knows this, finally.  No longer does Habakkuk feel that he has to call God to account.  To call God to work for His people...to call God to remember His holiness.  But Habakkuk is learning to let go and let God be God.

But that doesn't mean that the prophet doesn’t have requests anymore.  Because praying to God with requests doesn’t have to be from a place of mistrust...instead, it can come from a place of deep trust and hope.  Knowing that God CAN do these things.

Your work, O LORD, do I fear.  In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years, make it known.

Habakkuk knows of the greatness of Yahweh, and he wants to see it.  He wants Yahweh to be Yahweh.  Mighty.  Holy.  Majestic.

"Please God, show yourself to be who you are.  You’ve done it before, save your people once more!"

"Show your goodness again to your people!"

Essentially...in wrath, remember mercy

No longer is Habakkuk complaining...WANTING wrath to be shown against the wicked Judeans

Or complaining...WANTING wrath to be shown in a different way than the wicked Chaldeans

But he knows that wrath is coming.  It is unavoidable.  God is holy, and so there is wrath for those who do not believe.  Wrath for those who are greedy, violent, and idolatrous.  But he pleads that in His wrath, God remembers His mercy.

WRATH is the right and just response to sin, but mercy is needed for those who repent of their sin.  Those who are righteously living by faith in God.

In wrath remember mercy.

Sin must be punished.  God is JUST.

God’s people are loved.  God is MERCIFUL.

Habakkuk deeply desires both of these things to happen.  And the only way for this to happen, the only way for the problem of justice and mercy to be solved is in the cross of Christ.

In wrath remember mercy

Wrath SHOULD come for all of us.  Wrath isn’t turned away by our attempts at obedience.  Wrath isn’t turned away by being born into the covenant.  But wrath is only turned away and mercy is only shown through the cross of Christ.  Because God is both merciful and just.  He is both wrathful and loving. Because of Jesus Christ.  HE took the wrath so that WE could get the mercy.  The cross is the answer to Habakkuk’s plea.

In wrath remember mercy.  Please God.

And God declares: I WILL.

He will show His salvation...through the cross.  600 years after Habakkuk.  2000 years before us here today.  A powerful revelation of His glory.   The most powerful of all revelations of glory.  Our second point.

Look at what God had done in the past for the salvation of His people!

God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran

Here, God is pictured coming from the southeast to save His people from slavery in Egypt.  He comes like the rising of the sun.  Coming faithfully each morning.

His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of His praise.

Yahweh’s splendor lights up the sky like the sun.  God is in His holy, heavenly temple, revealing His glory.  And what should we do?  The earth was created for His glory.  We were created to praise His name!  Since His splendor covers the heavens, the earth MUST be full of His praise.  It is the only fitting response.

His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from His hand

Whereas the idols of the nations are lifeless, without power, without speech, the LORD, Yahweh, is completely different.  He is unique in His power and majesty.  The idols are covered with silver and gold, but Yahweh’s splendor covers the heavens.  His brightness is like the light.  And his power like rays of lightning.

There He veiled His power

Our God dwells in unapproachable light.  We could not stand the fullness of His power, and so He veils it for us.  He is LIKE the bright shining of the sun...but truly, He is a million times brighter.  His power is LIKE a bolt of lightning...but truly, He is a million times more powerful.

He condescends to us, explains Himself on our level...but truly, we have not even scratched the surface of who God is.  Everything He has told us about Himself is absolutely true.  But we couldn’t handle the whole truth.

And this is the glory of the old covenant.  The glory of Mount Sinai, a blazing fire, darkness, gloom and tempest.  But the author to the Hebrews explains that the glory of the new covenant is even more glorious.

You have come to Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering!

He dwells in unapproachable light.  WE could never approach HIM...but the beauty, the wonder is...that HE approaches US.  This light approaches mankind, and we stand in awe.  We will spend all eternity on Mount Zion...all eternity gazing up in awe, discovering more and more about the glories of our God and King.

He stood and measured the earth; He looked and shook the nations; then the eternal mountains were scattered; the everlasting hills sank low.  His were the everlasting ways.

Just pause for a second and think about these words.  This amazing description of the power of our God.

In Habakkuk 1, we saw the Chaldeans described as terrifying, powerful, and violent...but that description was nothing like this.  Compared with Yahweh...the mountains that were eternal, the hills that were everlasting...they sank low before Him!  When God appears, the earth takes notice!

I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction; the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble.  Was your wrath against the rivers, O LORD?

When God appears, the earth takes notice.  God comes down in power, and the earth melts away at His presence.

But WHY does He do this?

Does He come down and melt the earth because He is angry with the earth?  The rivers?  With the sea?  With the dirt and dust within the borders of Midian?

No.

No, God’s wrath was not against the rivers.  His indignation was not against the seas...but rather, He was marching out for the sake of His people!  For the sake of His anointed!

His wrath was against the sinful men and women who raise themselves up against His church.  He marches forth to right wrongs.  He marches forth against sin, proclaiming the gospel of salvation by faith!

You went out for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed.

He will never stop marching to reach you.  When He goes out for salvation, He will not stop until that salvation is achieved.  Our God is relentless in His love, never giving up on you, no matter how you struggle and resist.  He loves you too much to abandon you or forsake you!

You crushed the head of the house of the wicked, laying him bare from thigh to neck.  You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors.

The head was crushed.

He was defeated with his own weapons.

What does this sound like?  What should immediately jump into your mind here?

Is the head of the house of the wicked, King Nebuchadnezzar?  King of Babylon?  Not really.  Not truly.

We fight, not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

So who is the head of the house of the wicked?  Satan!

Satan’s head was crushed, after he struck the heel of Jesus on the cross.  Or, we could say...Satan’s head was crushed WHEN he struck the heel of Jesus on the cross.  Because the very weapons that Satan used to take down the Son of God...the blaspheming Jews, the Roman governor, the whips, the cross itself...THAT was what crushed Satan’s head.

With his own weapons wounded,

the chieftain was brought low.

Just when Satan thought he had won, when Jesus breathed His last...suddenly everything changed.  Jesus cried out “IT IS FINISHED” and Satan was.  Satan was finished.  This was a cry of victory, not a cry of defeat!

Already, here in Habakkuk this is prophesied.  Hundreds of years before it would happen.  ALL of Scripture...even Habakkuk, ultimately leads to or comes from the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross!

But Habakkuk...though He wrote these words...He didn’t know about Jesus yet.  Not clearly.  Not completely.  He had seen so much of God’s glory and power...but not the ultimate act of His mercy yet.  And so Habakkuk feared.  And the final few verses of our text are the result of that fear.  Habakkuk petitioned for Yahweh’s reassuring grace.  Our final point.

I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound.  Rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me.

This fear...this fear comes to Habakkuk because of what he heard.  Because of the report of God’s work.  Verse 2.  Habakkuk is undone!

But why?  Why does he tremble?  With every fibre of his being?

Because he had felt the wrath and the power of God in what he had been inspired to write.

The God that Habakkuk had been arguing with...this was the God whose splendour covered the heavens.  This is the God who flashes rays from His hand.  His VEILED power is like the shining of the sun.  He is the one who causes earthquakes just by saying a word.

And tiny Habakkuk.  Little Habakkuk the prophet had been contesting with God.

We can’t help but think of God’s interaction with Job after Job had argued with God and tried to call Him to task.

WHO IS THAT DARKENS COUNSEL BY WORDS WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE?

DRESS FOR ACTION LIKE A MAN; I WILL QUESTION YOU AND YOU MAKE IT KNOWN TO ME!

Who is Habakkuk?

Who is Job?

Who are WE to question the Almighty?

Habakkuk realizes that he has been walking a very fine line.  God owes him no answer.  God owes him no explanation…

And yet, God gave him an explanation.  God answered Habakkuk twice now.  And the answers were enough.  Habakkuk got the message.

Rottenness enters into my bones.

Here this has the idea of weariness.  Weariness, being completely and totally overwhelmed because Habakkuk has gained a fuller realization of just who he has been debating with this whole time.  And this is a warning to us.  A warning spelled out in Hebrews 12: Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

God’s holiness is not confined to the Old Testament.  It is not confined to the old covenant, but it shines forth today too.

GOD IS HOLY.  Before the mountains were brought forth, God was Holy.  After the everlasting mountains give way into the sea at His return, God will be Holy.  God is a consuming fire.

But we should not spend our days paralyzed in fear of God’s holiness.  We must be reverent, we must be in awe...but this reverence and awe should enable us to do His will.  To be grateful for receiving His kingdom.  To be thankful for receiving His salvation.

To be eternally in wonderment that He is also...YAHWEH.

Because:

He isn’t JUST Almighty God

He isn’t JUST wrathful over sin

But He is Yahweh.  Our covenant God.  Our God who does all these mighty things to save US.  He knows that we need saving.  He knows that we need rescuing.  He knows that we are weak.  And so He is strong.  And so He did these things.  These glorious and majestic things.  Driving out nations proud and bold...delighting in us, His people.

 

He delighted in Habakkuk, despite Habakkuk’s sins and weaknesses.

He delights in His church, despite our sins and weaknesses.

He delights in you...His child, despite your sins and weaknesses.

So congregation, rejoice in your God!  Rejoice before Him reverently but joyfully.  Rejoice in His goodness.  Rejoice in His glory, and in His grace, shown in Jesus Christ.

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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