- A Man - 'The Embracer Of God' (verses 1)
Habakkuk's closeness to God was the reason why he was burdened, however such closeness is not always without its questions and always brings its burdens.
- A Burden - 'The Silence Of God' (verses 2-4)
God's silence to Habakkuk's prayers in the face of such wickedness was confusing and frustrating for the prophet and this was a burden.
- A Hope - 'The Promise Of God' (verse 5)
In the middle of Habakkuk's despair, God reveals to His prophet that He is already working in a way that will in future days prove to be almost unbelievable.
It's great to see such a good number out with us this evening to study the word of God. We're beginning this evening a study entitled: 'Majoring On The Minors' - the subject of the minor prophets. We're turning this evening to the little book of Habakkuk, found at the end of your Old Testament, the fifth book from the back of it. So from Malachi at the back of your Old Testament, it's book number five, and we're beginning to read this evening at verse 1.
It reads: "The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see. O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! Even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save! Why dost thou show me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? For spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention. Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth. Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you. For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwellingplaces that are not theirs. They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves. Their horses also are swifter than the leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves: and their horsemen shall spread themselves, and their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly as the eagle that hasteth to eat. They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand. And they shall scoff at the kings, and the princes shall be a scorn unto them: they shall deride every strong hold; for they shall heap dust, and take it. Then shall his mind change, and he shall pass over, and offend, imputing this his power unto his god. Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One? We shall not die. O Lord, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction. Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he? And makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them? They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag: therefore they rejoice and are glad. Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous. Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to slay the nations? I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved".
We're taking a study this evening, and beginning it tonight, on the book of Habakkuk - 'Majoring on the minor prophets'. We find within the Old Testament scriptures that there are two categories of prophets within it. There are the major prophets and there are the minor prophets. Now those two definitions do not, in any way, define how one is more important than the other - all they simply do is describe the length of them. The longer prophets within the Old Testament are called the major prophets, the shorter prophets are described as the minor prophets. If you were to look at the front of your Bible this evening, you would see that the major prophets consist of the book of Isaiah, the book of Jeremiah, the book of Ezekiel, and the book of Daniel, and even - some say - Lamentations. Then there are twelve little books, mainly at the end of the Old Testament, and those twelve - including Habakkuk that we're thinking about tonight - are the minor prophets.
The structure of the minor prophets can be found on the back of your handout there. All of them were not given to the same people, or directed towards the same nation. You see from the little table at the back of your handout that there are some minor prophets that are described as pre-exilic, some that are exilic, and some that are post-exilic. The pre-exilic prophets are simply those that were given to these nations before the children of Israel were taken into captivity into the land of Babylon - before it, 'pre-'. The exilic prophets are those that were written by the children of Israel, and to the children of Israel, in the land of Babylon during their captivity. Then the post-exilic prophets are written after that, when the children of Israel have been delivered and have come out of their captivity in Babylon. You see there that the book of Hosea and Amos was written to the nation of Israel. Lamentations, Micah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, Zephaniah, and Habakkuk that we're thinking about tonight, were written to Judah. To Assyria there was the book of Jonah, the book of Nahum; and to Edom, Obadiah. During the exile from Babylon, Daniel and Ezekiel. Then post-exile, after they came out of the land of Babylon, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, to the city itself of Jerusalem.
Now, that is not the beginning of our study tonight, but it gives you a bit of a background to what this book is all about, and that these minor prophets were not all written to the same nation, they were not all written for the same purpose, they are entirely different - many of them. What about the geography of the minor prophets? Well, on the back the sheet that you have, you see a map of the kingdoms of Israel and the kingdoms of Judah. You remember that the kingdom, the one united kingdom under King David, eventually what happened was it split into two, and the northern kingdom was Israel, and the southern kingdom was Judah. So whenever we read that this book of Habakkuk was written to the kingdom of Judah, it means that it was directed specifically to the southern kingdom that you see on your map in green there.
There were many nations, many empires, in these days of the minor prophets. Within the whole of the Old Testament Scriptures, we find that the Israelites had three main enemies. There were the Edomites, there were the Assyrians, and there were the Chaldeans who were the Babylonians. If you look up at this map here tonight - don't worry if you can't see it, because I can hardly see it where I'm standing - but if you look at this colour here, that is the Assyrian Empire, then you have the Babylonian Empire. Those are the two main empires that we will be thinking about as we study the book of Habakkuk, and you see down here God's chosen people - Caanan, Israel at the top, and Judah at the bottom. That is the geography of the minor prophets, you can keep that map - you'll be glad to know - at the back of your handout, but use it as we study the word of God together.
We read, as we go through the minor prophets, that the kingdom of Edom - well, it was Obadiah that was given a vision, and a burden, and an oracle, a message from God - Obadiah was the one who delivered the [message of] doom to Edom, Israel's enemy. Then we read that Nahum, he delivered the message of doom to Assyria. The book that we're thinking about tonight is the book of Habakkuk, and he is the one who delivers a message concerning Babylon, and ultimately of their judgement and their doom.
Let's begin looking at the book of Habakkuk: Habakkuk is a lament, it is a Psalm, it is a weeping Psalm - it's not a public address, it's not specifically a message of preaching that was given by this prophet Habakkuk to the nation of Judah, but as we read chapters 1,2 and 3 we find that this little book is a discourse, it's a dialogue, it's a speech, a debate, between this man and God. It seems that there was no one else speaking within the book. What is the time of this book? At the front of your handout you see that it's approximately 609 BC, the king seems to be King Jehoiakim. But to bring it down to our level this evening, it's just shortly before King Nebuchadnezzar, before he came and he ravaged the cities of Assyria, he went through Nineveh, you remember how Jonah prophesied that. This prophecy, this little book of Habakkuk, is just before Nebuchadnezzar came from Babylon and went right through eventually to Jerusalem - he destroyed the temple, and the children of Israel and Judah were taken to the land of Babylon for 70 years captivity. This little book is written just before that.
To give you a summary of this book tonight, it can be split up into three chapters, the chapters that we have. The first chapter deals with a burden, the second chapter deals with a vision, and the third chapter deals with a prayer. If you like: chapter 1 is sighing, chapter 2 is seeing, and chapter 3 - finally and exultingly - is the prophet Habakkuk singing. This whole book is about Habakkuk's journey of faith - and isn't that what we're all in tonight? We are in a journey of faith, we have been born into the faith, and given as a gift the faith of Jesus Christ the Son of God - and we're all on an adventure, we're all on a journey that has started in our lives when we were born-again. But that journey has bumps, that journey has plains, that journey has difficulties and barriers, that journey has traps, booby traps - it has dangerous wild beasts upon its path, there are many dangers, pitfalls, there are many joys and exaltations. But as we look at Habakkuk's journey of faith, I believe tonight and the weeks that lie ahead, we see in chapter 1: faith - this man's faith, and our faith, grappling with problems. Chapter 2 we find: faith grasping at the solution, and then in chapter 3: faith glorifying in its assurance.
Habakkuk was christened by the reformers as the grandfather of the Reformation, because in Habakkuk chapter 2 and verse 4 we have the key verse of the whole book. It reads like this, and it's found in the book of Hebrews, it's found in the book of Romans, and the book of Galatians that: 'The just shall live by faith'. Let's look, tonight, at the God-bound man of burden. We're going to look only this evening at verses 1 to 5, verses 1 to 5 of chapter 1 of Habakkuk. We're thinking tonight, specifically as we start our study proper now, on the God-bound man of burden. If you had a Hebrew Old Testament in front of you tonight, you would notice that every Old Testament book within the Hebrew Bible begins and is titled with the first few words of the book. So, in the Hebrew Bible the book of Habakkuk is actually entitled: 'The Burden Of Habakkuk' - the first few words of the book, the burden of Habakkuk.
There are three things that I want us to notice this evening from these five verses of the first chapter. The first thing is this: a man, the embracer of God. The second thing is: a burden, what was that burden? The silence of God. The third thing is: a hope, the promise of God. Let's look first of all at the man, the embracer of God. Verse 1, it simply reads: 'The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see'. You see, the name Habakkuk, we believe, the name Habakkuk actually means: 'The embracer of God' - embracer! One who embraced God, one who - if I can say it reverently, tonight - he hugged God tight, he clung onto God, he was one who held onto God. Now, friends tonight, we don't know much about Habakkuk. We don't know who his family was, men have speculated, but we don't really know what tribe he was from, we don't know where he was born, or where he lived - we know absolutely nothing about him tonight. But we know this: that his name meant 'embracer of God'.
My friends tonight, that reminds me of a few men in the word of God. It reminds me of John the Baptist, and John the Baptist's forerunner: Elijah - who it was said of him he was a voice of one crying in the wilderness. He doesn't give any qualifications, he doesn't give any genealogies, he doesn't say he was the son of a prophet, or whether he had royal blood flowing through his veins - all the qualification that he had was that he was the bearer of the message of God, he was one crying in the wilderness. Wasn't that who John the Baptist was? He's described simply as a voice, a voice of God, one standing even in the wilderness - no one listening to him, but he was a testimony to the goodness, to the graciousness, to the judgement and the forgiveness of God - he was one standing in the wilderness.
Do you see Habakkuk tonight? We don't know much about him, but friends this tells me something: they may have known him very well in their day, and that's why he didn't need to give an introduction about who he was - but to us, tonight, he is virtually unknown within the Scriptures. He's just introduced to us in this book and this book alone. But do you know what this tells me, that I feel the Holy Ghost of God is trying to bring to our attention tonight? It's this: that the only thing that matters, the only thing that counts upon the face of God's earth, is not where you're born, not what religion you are, not what letters are after your name - but all that matters is that you know your God. Friends tonight, can you grasp that? This man Habakkuk was the embracer of God. He embraced God in prayer, he embraced God in faith, he embraced God in his walk day by day, in his witness, in his preaching, in his living before his family, and if he had children, he embraced God in everything - and men, women, and children that he came into contact with day after day saw that this man was chained to God.
Friends tonight, this man embraced God, but we see that God embraces those who embrace Him. Because this man embraced God, God in His love, in His Shekinah cloud of glory, He came upon this man and He embraced, He smothered, He nursed this prophet of God. The embracers of God tonight - if you embrace God, and if you seek to embrace Him, and to cling onto Him by faith and in prayer, God will embrace you. God will cling to you, God will hold you, God will come close to you - as the word of God teaches: those who draw nigh onto God, God will draw nigh onto them. Jesu' lover of my soul - but, oh, to have the Lord Jesus Christ as the lover of our soul. To have Him as the intimate One, the Bridegroom whom we have intimate fellowship and communion with on a daily basis, that we get to know Him in that marriage - spiritually speaking - relationship. That we are embracers of Him!
Friends tonight, I find this astounding, but listen tonight: embracers of God are burdened by God. This man Habakkuk, his name means 'embracer', it says: 'The burden of Habakkuk' - the burden! He had a burden because he was so close to God, because he held onto God, it's almost as if he felt the feelings of God. God was imparting to him His feelings, His convictions, what He thought, His viewpoint of the nation of Judah at that particular time. God was sharing it with His friend Habakkuk - because he was an embracer of God, he was burdened by Him. If you're here tonight, and you seek to embrace God, maybe you are an embracer of God tonight, and you're well burdened, and you know all about it - and if you are, you will know about it! But maybe you're not, and you think this sounds great to be like Habakkuk, and to be an embracer of God, and to hold onto God - no matter what life, no matter what Satan throws at you, or your family - to hold onto God. Listen tonight: make sure you know what you're getting into, because embracers of God will be burdened by God. They will receive a burden that is almost - almost I say - too heavy to take, only that the Lord knows what you can bear. He will burden those who embrace Him.
The Hebrew word 'burden' is the word 'massah' (sp?). It's the word that is used within the Old Testament, there's many words for burden, but this particular Hebrew word 'massah', it means 'a load', it means 'cargo' - something that has to be lifted from one place to another. It's the Hebrew word that is used of the Levites when they carried the Ark of the Covenant, they bore a burden. I could turn you to other Scriptures, Deuteronomy 1 and verse 12, Job 7 and verse 20, where men use this word as a burden of the soul - but they describe it in such a way as carrying something, as if the burden that they bear (and the idea is this) is a responsibility. Something that they have been given, not to chide, not to harm, but it's a responsibility given for them to steward and for them to use - they are responsible for it.
The word 'burden' here, there's a meaning within the Hebrew language that suggests that it means 'it's to be lifted up'. Some translations of the word of God say this: that Habakkuk lifted up the burden, he lifted up! The idea here is that it's not something to be hidden - as the Lord Jesus Christ said, you don't get light and then you take a bushel and put it over it, you don't do that! You let your light shine before men, that they may see it and that they may glory in your Father in heaven. What was it that Paul testified to Festus in the book of Acts? What did he say? Paul was standing describing the Gospel, he was testifying like a lawyer of why it was true, and why a Christian should not be put to death, why they should not be punished for their beliefs. What did he said to Festus? He said to him: 'This thing was not done in a corner'! Friends tonight, the burden that we have for souls - or we ought to have - the burden of the Gospel, the deposit, the guarantee that we have been given by the Lord Jesus Christ and the apostles themselves, it's not something to be kept within these four walls - it's something to be lifted up that the world may see it and fear, and that many may trust in the Lord!
What a burden he had - but the problem in Habakkuk's day was simply this: the people were ignorant of the real situation, but Habakkuk wasn't. The people were willing to be quiet within that situation, but Habakkuk wouldn't - and the fact remains that Habakkuk couldn't, because the burden of God was burning in his breast, that he couldn't stand to hold it in, he had to let it out! There's a saying that goes around that: 'Zeal without knowledge is foolish', isn't that right? But my friend can I say to you this evening, I know that is true, but I would rather have zeal without knowledge tonight, than knowledge without zeal! I know that both have their faults, but to know the truth, to hold the truth in unrighteousness and not share it out - to have a burden, or to see something, and not do something about it in the eyes of God.
Friend tonight, do you see that he says that he saw the burden. Look at verse 1, Habakkuk, the burden of Habakkuk that he saw - and that suggests that this burden was an oracle, it was a vision that was given by God. But do you know what I like to see in that? Simply this: that burdens will be given to those who look, burdens will be imparted to those who look, who open their eyes, who see the lost, who see those that are dying in their sins, who see the judgement that is to come in the future if people do not repent, who see the sinfulness of our nation individually and nationally. You can get a burden tonight if you look, if you open your eyes like Habakkuk.
Let's look secondly - we've looked at the man, the embracer of God - in verses 2 to 4 we find: a burden, the silence of God. We read in verse 2: 'O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! Even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save! Why dost thou show me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? For spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention. Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth'. Habakkuk had a burden, that's right, but what was Habakkuk's burden? What was burning in this man's soul that made him want to shout, it says in verse 2, to cry to God, to scream and to pray, and to supplicate the throne of grace in such power and such fervency - what made him do it? The silence of God made him do it.
Can you enter into this tonight? His burden was God's silence. He was praying that God would come to the nation of Judah, the Southern Kingdom, he looked at his own people, he saw them sinning, he saw how the nation was sinning in so many ways. He looked, and he cried for God to come - deliver them, save them, judge them, do anything! But there was silence from heaven. What a burden that must have been for him to bear. He was the Lord's prophet, and if the Lord's prophet can't even get a word from the Lord, if God won't even answer him, what does that mean for God? Why is God silent? Why is He doing this?
Habakkuk had some contemporaries of his day. We find them in the Old Testament: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, and Zephaniah all lived at the same time as Habakkuk. They prophesied to the same situations, and that's why we read in the book of Jeremiah that he was the weeping prophet - he wept for the sins of the nation. That's why he wrote the whole book, Lamentations, in crying for the sinfulness of his people. They were burdened and Habakkuk was burdened, because of the people's wickedness. If you look at this book, and you look at chapter 2 and verse 9 to 11, you see that there were social sins, there were religious sins, there were political sins, there were evils of Judah that you could not conceive. They had abusive leaders that filled their pockets with ill-gotten gain of the people, they robbed them, they fleeced them, they extorted the poor. In chapter 2 and verses 6 to 8 we see that they built cities at the price of human lives. They used drink to coerce lasciviousness and sexual immorality. They raped people after they got them drunk, verses 15 to 17. There was idolatry within the nation, verses 18 to 20.
Habakkuk, the holy man of God, the man who - I can say because of his embraciveness of God - he had a heart after God and like God, and God was sharing with him, God was showing him in this vision, in this burden, in this oracle, the way He felt. He was so burdened that he cried out to God: 'Lord, stop it! At any cost, stop it! Save Your people, or judge them!'. All he could get in the closet, in the quiet place, was silence. If that wasn't enough, there was the burden of history - because this man Habakkuk could remember, maybe his fathers talking about it, or maybe he even remembered it: he remembered a king called Josiah. King Josiah brought in reforms, there had been many evil kings before him, but he brought in religious reforms and he had taken Baal worship - which was a false God - and he had shattered it. He went through all the cities, and the towns, and the countryside, knocked down their idols and their groves and their worshipping places upon the hills - he destroyed them. He took the prophets of Baal, he put them on their own altars and he burnt them to death, and then he sprinkled their ashes on the graves of their worshippers. What a man Josiah was!
Josiah began to rebuild the temple, to repair the temple. You remember that, as he repaired the temple, Hilkiah, the man in the temple, he found a book - the word of God. He found the Old Testament Scriptures, the Pentateuch, Genesis to Deuteronomy. He opened it and he read it to King Josiah and, to put it in our New Testament language, Josiah was gloriously saved and converted. What happened then in the nation was, he tried to convert everybody else. He brought in reforms and he urged the people of his day to turn to God and to worship God, but sadly what happened - and this is what I want you to grasp tonight - is that Josiah died at the hands of Pharaoh Neco. This was their dream over, they thought God was moving, God was reviving, God was restoring His truth to the nation - and all of a sudden: finished!
Then what happened was Pharaoh Neco rose up and took one of Josiah's sons - his name was Eliakim, and his name is later changed in the word of God to Jehoiakim, the king that is the king during this prophecy. What he did was he proceeded systematically and devilishly to turn and reverse all the godly reforms of his father. He was a godless dictator, he raped the people of wealth, he built a huge palace. He panelled its walls with the most expensive cedar wood, he painted with vermilion, he studded with jewels - he did all these things! Religiously speaking he brought the religion of Egypt, he brought their gods into the very holy place of Jerusalem in the sight of God. To top it all, the book that Jeremiah had written to him of the judgements of God that would come upon the nation if they continued in their sin, he ripped it up into little bits and he burnt it!
If you turn with me tonight to Jeremiah 22, we read here what the word of God says of this man. Jeremiah 22 and verses 17 to 19: 'But thine eyes and thine heart are not but for thy covetousness, and for to shed innocent blood, and for oppression, and for violence, to do it. Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah; They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah my brother! or, Ah sister! They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah lord! or, Ah his glory! He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem'. That is exactly what happened. He died and no man, or woman, or child wailed for him. He died, and he was taken and dragged into the street and pulled to bits, and thrown on the rubbish heap of Jerusalem - because he dared to bring into Judah the sins of his father Manasseh, and filled the streets of Jerusalem with innocent blood!
Friends tonight, why did I tell you all that? Because Habakkuk saw it, that's what Habakkuk saw. He saw the wickedness of the political system, the religious system. He had seen the wickedness of royalty and this awful man Jehoiakim. He turns to God, and verse 2 says twice that he cries to God. The first word, Hebrew word for cry is 'shavah' (sp?), which is the word 'help'. He cries: 'God, help us!'. The second cry in verse 2 is the word 'zahag' (sp?), which is the word 'shout' - scream! Imagine this: this man Habakkuk sees all of this, he doesn't ask for help any more from God, but he screams to God! But God doesn't answer.
My friend, do you feel like that at times? Have you screamed to God? Have you cried to God? Have you wept to God? Have you fallen on your face before God? Have you, like this man Habakkuk, even argued with God? - and let me say that that is a commendable thing, if it is done in the context of trust in your God, not trying to call God's bluff, but trying to plead with Him in faith for what He has done. Have you ever done that, like Job, where he says: 'Oh, that I might come before him, and that I may be represented with arguments, and witness, and debate before God'? My friend tonight, have you ever felt like that? That God doesn't listen, that the heavens are brass, that God's not hearing, that your prayers are bouncing off the very throne of glory and not getting to the Son of God? That's why he said in verse 3, look at it: 'How long?' - 'How long?,' he says, 'Lord, how long?'. Then later on, in verse 3, he says: 'Why?'. How long will this go on, and Lord, why will You let it go on and not answer?
In verse 4 he says this: 'The law', it literally means not 'is slackened', but literally, 'is numb'. The very law of God has lost its power, it's lost its edge, it's no more effective - simply because of the godless people that are executing it and the society that is round it. The society has influenced the laws of God. Friends tonight, I want you to see the despair in this man's heart. He cried to God, so much so that he says in verse 3, if you look at it what it is saying is simply this: 'Why dost thou show me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance?'. He is a man, a man embraced of God, a man burdened by God and by the very burden of God Himself - and do you know what he turns to God and says? 'God, what are You giving me a burden like this for if You're not even going to answer my prayer?'. Friends tonight, that's the way these men talked to God. Not in an irreverent way, not in a familiar way, but because they were so close to God, because they had the promises and the faith in God, they could come to Him and say: 'Lord, Thy name, vindicate it!'.
Friends tonight, is God silent in our society? Is He? Is God silent individually in your home, or nationally within our province? Do you not see the evil that abounds within Ulster tonight? - and I will never be political from this pulpit, never. Friends, what we witness day by day is the laws of common decency and morality thrown up and rejected. Friends tonight, we're seeing living before us what Habakkuk saw. We are seeing lawlessness and sinfulness of the deepest dye, and we are crying to God - God knows we're crying to Him - but there's no answer! Why is there no answer for our burden? In the United States of America Pastor Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate. Everyone was expecting the usual politically correct generalities as he stood up to speak. But we read this, that he prayed to God, and listen to what he said:
'Heavenly Father, we come before You today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and Your guidance. We know Your word says: 'Woe to those that call evil good', but that's exactly what we've done. We've lost our spiritual equilibrium. We have inverted our values. We confess that we have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your word and called it moral pluralism. We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism. We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it political savvy. We have coveted our neighbour's possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honoured values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. Search us, oh God, know our hearts today. Try us and see if there be some wicked way in us. Cleanse us from every sin and set us free'.
Is that not a picture of our generation, and our day, and our province? Friends tonight, I want you to learn a lesson. I believe that because of the silence of God that burden of Habakkuk's got heavier. I believe it was like John the Baptist in the wilderness - and you know, if John the Baptist had just gone into that ministry without that time that priceless, precious time in the wilderness, the fire wouldn't have been in him. But he had to take that time in the wilderness for the fire to fester, for the burden to bear upon him, for the fire of God to burn within him. He needed that time. We read the same of Elijah, we read the same of Elisha, as he ploughed in the field, he needed that time at home on the farm, he needed that time to feel the burden of God in his very bosom and breast. Paul needed it in Arabia, where he went for three years, he needed it to get the burden for the Gentiles and for his fellow Jews. Moses needed it as a shepherd in Midian, he needed that time away from Egypt, he needed that time alone with God to look into the very face of God, to get the burden. Gideon needed it as he was behind the winepress, he needed that time. Can I say, reverently, tonight: our blessed Lord Jesus Christ needed it in the carpentry shop. It wasn't until He was 30 years of age, hammering nails, looking after wood, making chairs and tables, watching His earthly father as he did it, working, dealing with customers - but as He did it, I believe the burden of souls that were dying and on their way to hell, the burden of what He would have to do at the cross, I believe that it was weighing heavily upon Him! During that time the burden was perfected.
Friends tonight, the silence of God to us in our generation, in our assembly, or in our lives - I hope to God tonight, for me, it's because He wants to perfect the burden, not because He's not going to answer. Thirdly, and finally, and I'm not going to spend any time on this really because it's going to introduce us into the study of next week. There's a man, the embracer of God; a burden, the silence of God; and in verse 5 we read these words - a hope, the promise of God. 'Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you' - a hope! At last, a promise from God in verse 5! The verse says: 'Behold ye among the heathen' - and He's saying: 'Look around you at these people, and regard', and the word means, 'weigh up well what I am doing'. 'Wonder marvellously', and it means: 'Be amazed, be amazed, for I will work' - and the tense is this: 'I am working a work in your day, and when you see it come to fruition, you'll not believe it'.
Can you imagine what he would've thought as he heard that promise? My friends, it's not what he thought, because this promise caused another problem for the questioning prophet - because God has said that He's going to take the Babylonians, an even less godly people than themselves, the Judeans, and He was going to bring them to judge them. In the next few verses we will read, in the weeks to come, that the next cry of Habakkuk to God was: 'How can You judge an ungodly nation with an even more ungodly nation?'. My friends, I want you to see very quickly tonight, if in closing you turn with me to Acts 13 and verse 40 and 41 - Paul at Pisidia in Antioch uses this promise in a different way, and I believe that it's the ultimate way to use it. Verse 40: 'Beware therefore, lest', and he's speaking to the Jews now, 'lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets', namely Habakkuk, 'Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you. And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath'.
Paul says that the great work that Habakkuk spoke of, ultimately speaking, prophetically speaking, in our generation and circumstance and context today was this, found in verse 38: 'Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins'. Friends, that is a more marvellous work than any could conceive, the blessed work of the cross - that our Saviour's soul and spirit was made an offering for sin at Calvary, and God brought all the judgement of unrighteousness upon Him. My friend, does that not make you wonder? Does that not give you a burden for souls? Be an embracer of God. Be a burdened embracer. Be a hopeful embracer. Don't just look at the world around you, but look at what God has said: 'I will work a work' - praise God! Praise God, He's going to!
Let me say tonight, there could be someone here and they don't know our Master. He's a glorious Saviour, and I'm sure you've gathered that tonight. Will you not trust Him? He was burdened for your sin, will you not take Him as your own? Our Father, we thank Thee for Thy word. We thank Thee that Thy word is truth, it's a two-edged sword and it cuts us to the core. But Lord, we thank Thee for it, for if we didn't have it I don't know what we would do. We are fed by it, we are sustained by it, but help us as we inwardly digest it, to take that energy and to use it. To use it for our sanctification, to use it for Thy glorification, bringing souls to Christ. Bless us now as we part, in Jesus' name. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the first tape in his Habakkuk series, titled "The God-Bound Man Of Burden" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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