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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:Habakkuk 5: God's Faithful Prophet Teaches us How to Hope
Text:Habakkuk 3:16-19 (View)
Occasion:Public Profession of faith
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2022-01-20
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Daniel 3

Text: Habakkuk 3 (3:16-19)

 

GOD’S FAITHFUL PROPHET TEACHES US HOW TO HOPE

  1. Hope Comes From Yahweh

  2. Hope Means “Even if”

  3. Hope Means Strength and Rejoicing

 

  1. Psalm 87: 1-3

  2. Psalm 18:1, 5, 6, 10

  3. Psalm 137: 1, 2

  4. Hymn 14:8-10

  5. (Post PPoF) Psalm 87:4, 5

  6. Hymn 66:1-3

 

Words to Listen For: private worship, 2017, wine, radio, mountain

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. What is the reason for the musical indicators in this chapter?

  2. Why does Habakkuk have hope?

  3. How does Habakkuk 3 relate to a 3 word telegraph?

  4. Write your own list of “even ifs”

  5. Why shouldn’t your faith feel dwarfed by Habakkuk’s faith?

* 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 Jesus Christ,

If there’s one thing this world needs, it is Jesus Christ.  If there are TWO things this world needs, they are Jesus Christ, and Hope.

And the two are not as distinct as we first might think.

Hope is a Christian virtue, but it’s not really one that we seem to value very much, is it?  Hope seems too much like wishing.  And as Christians, we don’t WISH, we PRAY.  But is that really all that hope is?  Wishing?

Hope is far more than just wishing for something.  Hope is faith related to things in the future.  Faith looks backwards and forwards, and that forwards faith is called hope.

The last time we were together, we saw that Habakkuk had become a man of faith.  He believed in God, and what God had done in the past.  And he was overwhelmed.  He was overwhelmed by the miraculous salvation that Yahweh had accomplished for His people in the past.  Saving His chosen people from slavery in Egypt.  Saving them from oppression by the Cushites and the Midianites.  He marched through the earth in fury, threshing the nations in anger, going out for the salvation of His anointed ones.

And now Habakkuk hopes.  We see in verse 2 that Habakkuk WANTS to hope… “Please Lord, act now like you did then.  Please!”

But in our text, the last 4 verses, we see that he has truly arrived at hope.  And in this time, in this time of impoverished reality...where we can’t do all the things we like, or be with all the people we love...when we can’t travel, experience the sacraments in the same way, or even meet together in person for worship as a full congregation...we need hope.  We need hope for the future.  We need hope in God.

And for our young people here, professing their faith...even if the Coronavirus stops tomorrow, and everything is back to normal...the Christian life is hard.  It is easy to call out “how long?”  It is easy to question God’s wisdom.  It’s not an easy life to lead.  And you’ll need hope.

Young and old, we must hope.  And

GOD’S FAITHFUL PROPHET TEACHES US HOW TO HOPE

  1. Hope Comes from Yahweh

  2. Hope Means “even if”

  3. Hope Means Strength and Rejoicing

Out of the distress of the prophet, and the people of Judah that he is representing before God, Habakkuk raises his eyes to the object of his faith.  Gathering words of hope and confidence.

But these words are not just words.  This poem isn’t just a poem, it’s a song!

Back to chapter 3:1 - A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.

Even though this is called a prayer, we can see very quickly that this is a prayer that is meant to be sung.  We see poetic and musical indicators right from verse 1: according to Shigionoth.  This is likely a reference to a particular style of music.

There are separate verses whose divisions are shown by the word Selah.  This may have the meaning of a pause in the music.

And finally, at the end of verse 19, Habakkuk writes: To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.

And why is this important?  Is there a reason that I’m drawing your attention to these minor poetic and musical markers?  Yes, there is a reason for this.  These markers are important to note, because they show that Habakkuk wrote this prayer, this poem, as a song.  And a song not just for him to sing, but for the people of Judah to sing!  The musical notations mean that Habakkuk meant for this to be sung again and again.  This wasn’t just for his own private worship, but for the public worship of the people of God!

This was a song to be sung by the people of Judah

  • When they cried out “how long?” as they waited for justice to be done in their land

  • When they were taken over by the Chaldeans.

  • When they were suffering in exile in the land of Babylon.

This song is the product of Habakkuk’s struggle over the last 3 chapters with his covenant and personal God.  With Yahweh Himself.

And for the people of Judah, a people without hope...for whom it would get worse before it got better...they could find immense strength when they saw other believers going through trials and emerging on the other side with a stronger faith in the Lord.  These people, who struggled like Habakkuk did, could come out on the other side, just like him!  Going from the depths of despair to the heights of security.

But how could they do this?

The answer MUST be more than just by singing a song.  It is in the MESSAGE of the song.  It is what the song REPRESENTS.

The people of God, as they had since the beginning, would put their faith in Yahweh Himself.  They would not trust in mute idols, or in their own failing strength.  But instead, it is only Yahweh who will always come through.  Habakkuk’s song reminds them of that.  It reminds them of God’s unparalleled power, and WHY He chooses to use it.

Verse 16 - I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me.

We heard this last time.  Habakkuk is overwhelmed by God’s self-revelation.  He is overwhelmed because he realizes the power and the holiness of who He has been arguing with this whole time.  But being overwhelmed, being terrified is not the end.

Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us.

Habakkuk could respond like this because he knows who God is.  He knows the character of Yahweh.

THIS is why the prophet who started by saying “How long” is now the prophet who will now quietly wait for the work of God.  He trembles...and yet he trusts.  He trusts in His covenant God.  In Yahweh, whose character is that of justice.  Of righteous wrath.  Habakkuk will quietly and patiently wait for wrath without mercy to come upon the enemies of Israel.  The enemies of Yahweh.  Justice will be done.  It is coming.  Habakkuk is certain of it.

And...Habakkuk trusts in His covenant God. In Yahweh, whose character is that of love and mercy towards His people.  Even if Habakkuk, the prophet who has been all about what his eyes can see, even if Habakkuk does not see...even if…

Habakkuk has been all about what his eyes can see.

  • He sees evil in his own land and he questions Yahweh’s goodness

  • He sees the evil of the Chaldeans, and he questions Yahweh’s wisdom

But now...here at the end...even if he sees no evidence of God’s salvation, even if there are storms billowing around him, he knows who is on his side.  He knows that his covenant God will save His covenant people.

It is because Yahweh is the God of Israel that they will be spared.

And beloved...this is how we can have hope too.  Habakkuk’s God is our God too.  Just as Yahweh was the covenant God of Israel, He is our covenant God.  We sang that in the beginning of the service with the words of Psalm 87

God’s goodness and love does not well up inside of Him because the Israelites were so lovable.  Because they EARNED His love.  No!  God’s goodness and love is always there, and He chooses to show it to His people.  People from Egypt.  People from Babylon.  People from the Netherlands, and people from Canada!

And WE are welcomed in in a great way!

Because we were all outsiders at one time.  Even those of us born as insiders...we were outsiders.  Without faith, without responding to the promises made at your baptism...God’s covenant blessings will do you no good.  And this is why there is so much joy here today, because over the years you have witnessed these covenant children grow up and respond in faith to the baptismal promises.  I have had the pleasure of seeing them grow and mature over this past year, to the point where they will publicly respond to the promises made to them with promises of their own.

The God of Habakkuk is the God of these young people here in front of me.  And young people...God didn’t remove Habakkuk’s problems.  The people of Judah were still wicked at the end of this book.  The Chaldeans would still come and take away the righteous in exile.  There will be difficulties in your life.  A crisis of faith.  Difficulty with your health - mental, or physical.  But that doesn’t mean that God isn’t acting and that God isn’t working.  Because He is!  And with your eyes open, your eyes lifted heavenward, you will be able to see and have faith.  Even if.  Even if you don’t see, you will know in your heart, because you will have hope.  You will have hope in the God of your salvation.  Hope means “even if.”  Our second point.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,

Nor fruit be on the vines

The produce of the olive fail

And the fields yield no food

The flock be cut off from the fold

And there be no herd in the stalls

YET I WILL REJOICE IN THE LORD

Have you heard of the war movie Dunkirk?  It was a blockbuster that came out in 2017, and told the true Word War II story of the 350 000 British soldiers trapped on the beach at Dunkirk.  It’s a powerful movie.

But this movie left out the most important part.  This movie left out the famous 3 word telegraph that was sent.

You see, the soldiers were trapped.  And their commander sent a message to mainland Britain.  Just 3 words.  3 words so as not to give the Nazi’s any advantage if it was intercepted.  3 words that would tell mainland Britain that they needed help, but that they understood if they couldn’t be rescued.  What were these three words?  BUT IF NOT.

3 seemingly inconsequential words.  But these words were well-known to the British commanders.  Well-known to them from our reading today, Daniel 3.  Did you catch those three words? “But. If. Not.” ?

Please turn there with me.  Daniel 3:16 - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  IF this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  BUT IF NOT, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

BUT IF NOT.

EVEN IF.

Even if Yahweh did not show His immense power.  Even if Yahweh did not miraculously save His people, they would still worship Him, and Him alone.

A beautiful story, a beautiful message of hope.  Somewhat similar to Habakkuk 3, isn’t it?

If fig trees do not blossom… yet I will rejoice in the LORD.

God will deliver us, but if not...we will not serve your gods.  The implication is that they will only serve Yahweh.

A parallel passage.  Quite nice.  But it’s more than that.  It’s so much more than that congregation!

Do you remember that I pointed out the musical notations throughout Habakkuk 3?  That I said that this was a song for the Judeans to sing before the Chaldeans came?  That this was a song for the Judeans to sing in exile?

One more question for you now...where were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego living?  In a land ruled by King Nebuchadnezzar...in Babylon.

Habakkuk’s song was written to be sung in Babylon by the faithful Judeans living there.  So that they would learn from this song.  So that they would be faithful in tribulation.  So that they could say “Even if.”  So that they could say “But if not.”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were faithful Judeans living in Babylon.  Exiled there.  And their faithful answer in trial came because they had been taught and strengthened by Habakkuk’s song!  They would have sung their version of Hymn 14, and it gave them the strength to stand up to this trial by fire.

Though the fig tree should not blossom

Even if God does not provide blessings for His people...Habakkuk will still worship.

It’s easy to sing when there’s nothing to bring us down...when there are figs bursting forth from the branches...but what will we say when we’re held to the flame?  When there aren’t blessings, and in fact our lives are threatened?

How many of us will look with the eyes of faith and see that when all is gone, God is not gone.  When all is gone, Yahweh is not gone.  He remains. He is unchangeable.

Even though God would act through His curse, Habakkuk could still rejoice, because even the curse reveals Yahweh’s faithfulness.  It reveals Yahweh’s unchangeable nature.  His unchangeable wrath over sin.  His unchangeable mercy and love to His people!

Mercy and love shown through Jesus Christ, our faithful Saviour!  We see so much more.  So much more clearly than Habakkuk.  Than Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Though the fig tree should not blossom

Figs were the fruit of celebration and plenty.  They were a delicacy, made into cakes.  So Habakkuk starts with the luxuries.  Even if there are no luxuries, I will rejoice!

Even if there be no fruit on the vines

Even if there are not other fruits other than figs, if there are no grapes for wine, the drink of celebration...I will rejoice!

Even if the produce of the olive fails

Olives were very important in the diet of the Judeans.  They were one of the main foods.  They were used to make olive oil which was used for everything, including temple worship.  Even if one of the main foods is taken away, and I can’t worship as I once did...I will rejoice!

Even if the fields yield no food

Even if there weren’t olives, there would still be grain for bread.  The other main food.  Bread for the homes, special bread for the temple.  Even if there is no food from the field, I will rejoice!

Even if the flock be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls

Even if there aren’t animals for warmth, milk, meat, sacrifices to the Lord, even if these are all gone...I will still rejoice!

I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

How would this song look in our day and age...when we need hope and comfort?  Maybe something like this:

Though many provincial parks are not open for camping,

Nor can I eat at my favorite restaurant…

If there is no toilet paper on the shelves,

And I can’t see all my friends

Though sacraments may be delayed or altered,

And I can only go to church once every three services…

YET I WILL REJOICE IN THE LORD!  I will rejoice!

There are those who say this is the new normal.  I myself have been caught using that phrase.  And there are those who rightly fight against this terminology.  This isn’t normal, we shouldn’t accept it as normal.  We should fight to safely reopen our churches!

This is the new reality right now, but it is an impoverished reality.  And it’s not okay.  God will act, and His church will return to normal functioning.

BUT IF NOT…

EVEN IF HE DOESN’T…

God is still good.  And so I will worship!

God is still good, and so I will rejoice in Him!

We can rejoice in God in these circumstances when we stop looking horizontally, at the world around us, and seeing if there’s any hope from the government, or good news on the radio.  We can rejoice in God when we look up.  When we take our joy and strength in the God of our salvation.  Our final point.

It’s a joy to see Habakkuk in chapter 3, isn’t it?  What a joy.

Even if God doesn’t provide all these things that I think I need...He is still good.

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD;

I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

Our prophet has ARRIVED!

And it is a joyful thing to see that.

But wasn’t the appeal of Habakkuk that he was “my kind of guy” ?  That he was the one who speaks my language?  The one who doubts and fears?  Has Habakkuk now turned into the Apostle Paul?  A great figure of faith that is now unrelatable?

We might think this.

“It’s great for Habakkuk...but that’s not my experience.  I was with him until these final 4 verses.  I was with him when he cried out, I was with him when he was confused.  I was with him when he pleaded with God.  But satisfaction?  Trust?  Calm assurance?  That’s not me.”

And our faith may feel dwarfed by Habakkuk’s faith.  And I have to admit, Habakkuk is on a pretty high pedestal in these final 4 verses.  But how did he get there?

He wasn’t this perfect example at the beginning of the book.  But instead, he went on a journey with God.  He went on a journey by being honest with God about his fears and failures.  He came empty, and God filled him again.

Now, because this book is only 3 chapters long, we might think that the events happened over the course of an afternoon.  Just a few hours of the prophet talking with God.  But Habakkuk begins by asking “how long?”  There was a large amount of time that Habakkuk had been crying out and not hearing God’s answer.  This wasn’t a short and easy bump in the road.  But it was a crisis of faith!  But, at least for now, that crisis is over.  Habakkuk is breathing easy again, resting in God with a powerful faith.  But how does he have this faith?

His strength doesn’t come from himself, it doesn’t come from pulling himself up by his bootstraps, but from God!  God is the one who has given Habakkuk this faith and this strength.  And your faith and your strength is a gift from God too.  Even if that faith is as tiny as a mustard seed and your strength is almost gone.

But it’s more than that.  It’s more than just that God gives us strength...God IS our strength.  That is what Habakkuk says in verse 18 - GOD, the Lord, is my strength.

When God IS your strength, that means that He does more than just give you the strength to do what needs to be done, and then leaves you to do it.  But instead He fills you, and the Holy Spirit works in you to do every good work.

The Father has chosen you before time

The Holy Spirit is there, strengthening and sanctifying you.

And all of this by faith.  Our faith, whether it is as large and as strong as Habakkuk’s faith, or, as our Lord Jesus taught...the size of a mustard seed...you can do all things.  You can climb over any mountain, you can make it through any challenge or difficulty.  Because it is God who gives us strength.

He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places.

Yahweh gives us the swiftness to flee from trouble - because not every fight must be fought to the bitter end.  Yahweh gives us the sure-footedness not to stumble - because there is sin and difficulty on every side.  We are prone to wander.  Prone to leave the God we love.

And this is why we not only need a strengthening God, but a faithful Saviour.

Because WHEN we wander...WHEN, not IF.  WHEN we wander, when we sin, when we look back on our Public Profession of Faith sadly and think of the sins we’ve committed...after committing our lives to God...we HAVE TO turn to Jesus Christ.

Because God being our strength means more than being chosen.  God being our strength means more than guidance.  God being our strength means SALVATION!

Because when we falter, when we stumble and wander on the road marked out for us...our Saviour comes alongside of us and reminds us that we aren’t walking alone.  He comes alongside of us and reminds us that the good works we are trying to do...they aren’t to EARN our salvation.  Because He has earned every ounce of it for us.  He earned it by His perfect life.  He earned it by His perfect death.  And He makes us share in it by His perfect resurrection.

God provides us with strength and salvation so that we can say “It is well.”  We can say “it is well with my soul” even if.

Let me close with some words that may be familiar to you.  They’re words of another man of great faith, faith even in tragedy.  A man who rejoiced in God even in trials.  A man who wrote the words to this song after hearing of the death of his four daughters at sea.

When peace like a river attendeth my way

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, through trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control.

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate

And has shed His own blood for my soul.

 

And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll

The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend

EVEN SO, it is well with my soul.

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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