Habakkuk's ultimate question has changed now from 'Why is God silent?', to 'How can God use the Babylonians to judge Judah?'. How does he react to this unbelievable news?
- He Encourages Himself In The Lord (verse 12)
Habakkuk reminded himself and God of the Almighty's attributes, especially His holiness.
- He Links Himself With The Lord (verse 12)
Habakkuk takes assurance that there is an unbreakable covenant promise between God and His people.
- He Questions The Actions Of The Lord (verses 13-17)
Has God forgotten His people and left them to the savagery of the Babylonians? Habakkuk argues with God concerning his many questions.
- He Awaits The Answer Of The Lord (Chapter 2 verse 1)
Habakkuk sets himself as a 'watchman' to wait in prayer for an answer from God to his arguments and objections. No matter how long it takes, Habakkuk will wait until God answers.
Now let me take this opportunity of welcoming you to our Bible Study here in the Iron Hall Assembly. We're very glad to see such a good number gathered out this evening to study the word of God. We're continuing this evening in our study 'Majoring On The Minors', we're looking at the book of Habakkuk and we're finishing off, this evening, chapter 1 - we're not finishing the book - but chapter 1, we're ending it and entering chapter 2 this evening - and the subject tonight is 'Watching And Waiting'. If you're a visitor with us we give you a special welcome and hope that the Lord blesses you, as you study the word of God with us here in our Assembly.
We're turning to Habakkuk chapter 1, Habakkuk and chapter 1, and we'll take time to read the whole chapter again together, 'till we get the context of what we will be thinking about this evening. And it begins, verse 1:
"The burden" - or the vision, or the oracle - "which Habakkuk the prophet did see. O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! Even cry 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 they that raise up strife and contention. Therefore the law is slacked" - and we saw that that word literally means 'numb', it's of no effect at all - "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" - or 'I am working' - "a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it were told you. For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans" - the Babylonians - "that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwelling places that are not theirs. They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves." - in other words they will worship themselves, they're their own boss and they don't have any other authority - "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:...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." - and we saw that literally meant 'He makes his own strength his god'.
These are the verses we'll think of this evening, concentrate on them: "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" - or the ground open up and swalloweth - "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 their angle" - their fishing rod - "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."
One of the pictures that is given to us, within the word of God, is the picture of the shepherd and his sheep. Why do the sheep have a shepherd? It's illustrated for us in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah - that all we like sheep have gone astray, and we know sheep wander wherever they will, they have no guidance and, unless they have a shepherd, they will go everywhere and follow every whim, every distraction. So sheep need a shepherd, and a shepherd is given to sheep to guide them, to protect them from harm, to bring them from one place to another, to guide them on their life's journey and so forth. And he is a figure of protection, he is a stronghold for them that will guide them and be with them all their days. Of course, that is how the Lord Jesus is for us - isn't that right? But to see a picture of a shepherd turning on his sheep, is an awful picture. To see one who is meant to care, who is meant to concern, who is meant to comfort and protect, turn upon the objects of his protection and hurt them, is something that is awful. Think of it this evening - a child and their parent - child abuse is a terrible thing. When we hear about it, when we see it depicted in advertisements on the television to warn that it is going on all across our land - why does it strike fear within our breast, within our very soul? It is simply this: that the one who is meant to love the child, protect the child, look after the child and lavish their parental love upon the child is the very one that is turning to harm the child. Of course we know, that there is a grave difference between child abuse and child discipline. Child abuse is something that is unnecessary, it's criminal, it is sinful - but child discipline is something that is needed, to train up a child in the way that they should go. If we spare the rod we spoil the child - and we have it throughout the word of God, but it's common sense, that every child that grows needs discipline, it is something that is needed.
Habakkuk had a great question, didn't he? What was his first question - the first question we thought about was the burden that he had in verses 1 to 5. His burden was this: that there was violence across the land, that all immorality and amorality seemed to be let loose within the land of Judah, and he got on his knees, he shed his tears, he lamented before God and ripped his clothing and cried, 'Lord, why won't You do anything? Are You going to let this go ahead Lord? Are You going to turn a blind eye at all the injustice and unrighteousness that prevails within Your land, Judah? Will You not come and revive Your people? Will You not come and judge them even?'. You remember, as he cried to God, his burden increased - and the reason why his burden increased was that there was no answer that was coming from heaven. And God was not answering him, no matter how much he cried in such fervency, in such energy - so much so that he turns to God and in verse 3 he says, 'Look Lord, why are you giving me a burden if You're not going to answer my prayers?'
We thought of how God, so often in our lives, He doesn't seem to answer our prayers. But as we looked further, we saw in verse 5 that great promise that God said: 'Listen, you may think I'm doing nothing at the moment' - but He says - 'I, look around you at the world, I am at this moment working a work in your days, and if I were to tell you now, Habakkuk, what it is you wouldn't even believe My words - even though they're God's words!'
What was this great work that God was going to do? Maybe Habakkuk got excited, I don't know, maybe he thought that God was going to revive His people again and bring a revival like in the days of Josiah that he could remember. But, oh, as God expanded and in verse 6 He said, 'For, lo, I raise [up] the Chaldeans' - and all of a sudden Habakkuk's mind and dream is shattered - 'You can't do this!' - and this raised Habakkuk's second question. His first question was: 'God, why won't You answer me?', and his second question was this: 'Lord, yes answer me - but no! Not this one! - You can't send the Chaldeans, sure they're a more wicked people than we, Judah, are that are being judged!'
To Habakkuk it was as if the Shepherd was smiting the sheep. To Habakkuk it was as if the Father, their Heavenly Father, their God - oh God our help in ages past, their hope for years to come - it was as if God had turned, in all His anger, all His displeasure and wrath and was about to just pour it and exhaust it over His own children. To Habakkuk, God was abusing them. This questioning prophet was perplexed, he was absolutely stunned, he was, perhaps, silent as he heard. And he said to himself and to God, 'How can God tolerate, even, the very habitation of the Chaldeans upon the earth. But let alone tolerating their presence, He is actually using them to discipline, to abuse the people of God'. That led Habakkuk into more questions - and I'm sure that Habakkuk began to question himself and say, 'I wonder have I misunderstood God's message to me?' And as he thought about it and as he analysed God's word to him, he realised no, he had not misunderstood it - God had said, 'For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans' and we remember the awful, savage, sordid description of their characteristics throughout those verses that we thought about last week.
'No, I didn't misunderstand God. He said He was going to do it, and He is going to do it' - and I think that what happened was Habakkuk went from questioning whether he had misunderstood what God had said, to actually asking himself whether he had misunderstood God Himself. Have you ever done that? Have you ever asked yourself - perhaps it's because of certain circumstances that enter, maybe don't enter, but actually divulge into your life, break in without expecting it - and you begin to question God, and you ask yourself, 'Do I really know who this God is? Do I really know whether He loves me? Do I really know how much He cares, if He's concerned about my life, if He is actually directing the steps of my way?' Have you ever done that?
All these questions, all this frustration, all this confusion in the faith of this prophet, now - Habakkuk - leads him to explore his God. Let me ask you: do you know your God? Do you know your God? Do you really understand Him? Do you know how He works? Have you any idea of His principles, of His characteristics, of His attributes, the things that He has, the things that He says? We have been given the things that He said, and few of us even know what He said - [not even] the way that He is.
Do you know your God? Do you know His characteristics? Do you know how - in some measure - God thinks, how God moves? And Habakkuk as he looks at this problem, this perplexity, it is the question of all mankind: Who is God? What is God like? And as we look at mankind, we find as we study all the religions of the world that human beings, and man at large, does not transcend his religion. What do I mean by that? Well, men never transcend their idea of God. If you're Islamic, you have a picture in your mind of a philosophical god that is cruel, of a god that makes women dress in black, and only their eyes are able to show, that denies them the pleasures of marital relationships - that denies them so much, that puts restrictions and laws and petty indulgences [necessities] upon a person - and because they have a god like that you find that the Islamic nations are some of the most wicked and cruel in the world. The people become like the god that they worship. A society or religion will never excel its picture of their god. But if you were even to come near - and you'll never do it, and I'll never do it - but if we were ever to strive to be like our God, would we know enough about Him to become like Him?
As Habakkuk was frustrated, I wonder did he think and did it cross his mind that the people that know their God shall be strong. Do you know that? If you know your God you'll be strong! If you're bound to your God like Habakkuk, you will do great exploits for God - you will move, you will shake, like the apostles, you will turn the world upside-down for God! This is the mightiest thought that a human being can entertain: thoughts of God. I love the little story, maybe I've told you it before, about A.W. Tozer - and he had an old rug within his study and he bought it for two dollars, and he lay it out and every morning from eight o'clock until twelve in the afternoon, he said, he lay on his belly and he simply adored Him! Have we any idea what that is? He didn't ask God for anything, he didn't plead to Him for anything. He simply lay prostrate before Him without a word uttering from his mouth and he worshiped his God - a creature to his Creator. Do we know our God?
How does Habakkuk face this big problem that he has? The first thing that's on your notes is this: he encourages himself in the Lord. He encourages himself in the Lord, and he's asking the question, 'Do I really know my God? Do I really know who He is?' So he begins to explore his knowledge of who God is. The first thing that he looks at is in verse 12: 'Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God?' First he says, 'Well, this God, I'm possibly misunderstanding Him, but this God, I know, is an eternal God'. God is eternal. What does that mean? Psalm 90 says, 'From everlasting to everlasting Thou art God'. 'From ever to ever Thou art God', and what that means is, 'From the vanishing-point to the vanishing-point Thou art God', and the vanishing-point is the part that you can't see beyond - the horizon. From horizon to horizon God is God and He's God beyond it. 'In Him we live, we move, we have our being'. That means that we dwell within Him, He is bigger than all of us, He is beyond us - but it also means that everything was created by Him, and there was nothing created that was not created by Him, and there was nothing created before Him - and that means that time was created by Him. Have you ever thought about that? Time was created by God! In fact time dwells within God - that means that from your birth to your death God has been there the whole time, but He's been there before it and after it. Before the garden of Eden, when all creation was made, God was there before it and He will be there after it - and the whole timeline of the history of the universe dwells within God. That means this: that God dwells in an 'eternal now'. Do you know what that means? Right now, here and now tonight, in our sphere God is at the Red Sea where Moses is crossing. Here and now from God's perspective, because He is in an eternal now, He is there as He watches the Lord Jesus Christ come and return and His feet land on the Mount of Olives. He's there. He's at your birth, and for anybody that's not saved here this evening, He's at your death. You mightn't have thought about it, but God can see it right now. What a great God!
But why is Habakkuk meditating upon this - do you know why? He is thinking to himself, 'God must know that if these Chaldeans come down from Babylon and they raid us, they rape us, they pillage us, He must know what will happen! If He is an eternal God, as He says so, surely He would not bring this upon His own people!' Not only does he know He's an eternal God, but he looks and we see, 'Thou art from everlasting oh Lord my God, mine Holy One'. He thinks, 'Well God is eternal, but God is also holy. He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity!', and holiness just means total, absolute separateness from anything that is sin. Now listen, the Israelites had this drummed into them from day one, through the Levitical law, they were told what was clean to eat, what was unclean to eat, what was clean to touch, what was unclean to touch. They were shown through these various lessons and object lessons within everyday life that God was holy, that God could not abide, or look upon sin, but He abhorred sin itself. They saw it through the priesthood, they saw it through the sacrificial system, they saw it through the purity laws, they saw it through the Tabernacle, they saw it through the feast days, they saw it through everything - that God was pure, that God was holy.
And thirdly, as you look at verse 12, he goes on to say, sorry verse 13: 'Thou art of purer eyes than to behold iniquity'. That means this: that God can never look upon, with approval, any form of sin - never! His eyes cannot behold sin in an approving way, He cannot look and legislate, or put His stamp upon something that is classed as iniquity. Therefore Habakkuk concludes that God can never be implicated in a sinful act. 'Now hold on a minute God', Habakkuk says, 'You're an eternal God so You know what's going to happen if these boys come down from the North. You're a holy God, and they are more sinful than we are, so what are You doing using them?' And thirdly, 'You can't look, or legislate, or be implicated within a sinful act, yet You're going to let them come down and murder us alive!'
And then fourthly, he explains and he declares in verse 12 that God is a mighty God. God is a mighty God - do you know what that literally means in the Hebrew? It's the word 'rock'. God is a rock! What does that speak of? Well, it speaks of immutability - if you were to go to the book of Deuteronomy and chapter 32 and verse 4, we read this: 'He is the Rock, His work is perfect, all His ways are just - judgement - a God of truth without iniquity, just and right - upright - is He'. He is sinless, He cannot do wrong, He is just, He is righteous, He is pure, He is perfect, He is immutable. What does immutable mean? He is unchangeable - He is the same yesterday and today and forever! Our God is the same as He was when He did the miraculous things, He is the same as He will be as we stand before Him in judgment. He never changes, He is a sure foundation, He is a rock of refuge, He is stable. The Lord Jesus said in the parable about the wise and the foolish man, that God - the Lord Jesus Christ - God in flesh and His word is the Rock on which we can build our lives. Paul describes Him as the Rock that followed - the Rock that followed the children of Israel in the wilderness - the Lord Jesus was the Rock of refuge who protected them. Can you see what Habakkuk's thinking? 'You're the cleft of the rock, yet You're going to murder us!'
My friends, we could never exaggerate what was in the mind of this prophet. 'How could God do this? How could God who is in relationship with us smite us in such a way - His own children, a Father abusing them? The sheep of His pasture, the Shepherd whipping them and stripping them and fleecing them - how, God, can You do this?' He really asked the question that maybe you've asked in your life and in your circumstances now: 'Do I really know this God?' That leads him to think about how he is linked with God. And secondly he links himself with God, he's encouraging himself in the Lord, of who he thinks God really is, but he is questioning it deep down. But then he links himself with God in verse 12, he says, 'Oh Lord, mine Holy One', he says, 'God, Jehovah, the Holy One is mine - we shall not die!' You see Habakkuk realised as you read on down the verse that God had ordained the Chaldeans for judgment. That there was a future day, look at it, 'Thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction'. Habakkuk knew deep down that God was righteous and that one day He would judge the Chaldeans - they would get their just deserts - he knew that. He also knew that God's people - the Judeans - were in for correction. Habakkuk knew, among all the sinfulness, among all the wrath of God, among all the threats of the Babylonians and their filthy, sordid, savage ways and brutalities, he knew - and this is immense and beautiful - he knew that he was God's! He knew that Judah and Israel were the chosen of God - that God had revealed to them in Exodus that they were a special, a peculiar people, they were a jewel to Him, they were bound with Himself. They were a people whom with God had made an unconditional covenant, He had given them His word that He would never leave them, that He would never forsake them - and if they wandered away, that one day He would bring them back to Himself. Now that might have been a hard pill for Habakkuk to swallow here - but deep down he knew it.
My friend tonight, I don't know what you're going through, I don't know - I can't enter into what is in your mind, whether you're doubting yourself, whether you're doubting the God that you serve, I don't know what it is - but whatever you do, never lose the sense that you're God's. Never lose the sense that you're the apple of His eye, and no-one can touch you, no-one can do anything to you, unless God says - and even if a whole army of savage barbarians is at your back door, you're God's! Hebrews chapter 12 testifies to this, read it with me, chapter 12 and verse 5 on - that we as God's people and God's children, we may at some time enter into what the Judeans entered into, and what Habakkuk failed to realise was that God was not out to abuse His people, but He was doing what was necessary, which was discipline His people. The writer to the Hebrews says: 'Ye have forgotten the exhortation' - verse 5 - 'which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son' - My children - 'despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present time seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby'.
We as the children of God may face the same thing - but we need to get beyond what Habakkuk saw, and all he could see was the rod of God, but he couldn't see that behind that frowning providence was a God of love, a heart of compassion, of mercy and love for them. Isn't it beautiful? Is it not what Paul said in Romans, 'Nay, nay in all these things - no matter what they may be in our lives - we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus! There is nothing, nothing in hell, nothing in heaven, nothing upon the earth that can separate us from the love of God. Death, life, angels, principalities, powers, things present, things to come, height, depth, any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.' Hallelujah! 'Mine by covenant, mine forever, mine by oath and mine by blood, mine nor time the bond shall sever, mine as an unchanging God'. Charles Wesley put it like this:
'Arise my soul, arise.
Shake off thy guilty fears,
The Bleeding Sacrifice
In my behalf appears.
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written in His hands.
My God is reconciled,
His pardoning voice I hear,
He owns me for His child,
I can no longer fear.
With confidence I now draw nigh
And Father, Abba Father cry'.
Are you downhearted? Encourage yourself in your God. Are you discouraged? Link yourself with the Lord and remember that He died for you, His blood's shed for you and you're His.
But I'm sure that yet with all that knowledge that Habakkuk had of who his God was, of what his God had done in his life, that he was still asking the question 'Why?'. And even though you're saved and you know the gospel, even though you may have a smittering of knowledge about who your God is, it still does not eradicate or erase the big question of life: 'Why?'. Did the Lord Jesus Christ, hanging on the cross, not know who His God was? Of course He did. Did He not know why He was there, did He not know the special relationship that He had between Father eternal and Son eternal? Of course He did, but He still cried, 'Why hast Thou forsaken me?'. And that led Habakkuk to question God even more, and in our third point we see that he questions the actual actions of God.
It is the cry of the barren womb: Why? It is the cry of the bereaved parent: Why? It is the cry of person in a tragic accident, disabled: Why God? What is the purpose, what is the logic behind all of this? And what Habakkuk tried to do was he tried to bring God down to his own logic, and tried to put Him in a box to understand Him. It's interesting that as people's faith gets greater, as people come to know the Lord more and more, and in a more deep way, they end up with more questions. You would think as you came nearer the Lord, and you knew Him deeper you would get more answers - and everybody runs to this one and that one who they think knows the Lord for the answers, but what can actually happen is you get filled more and more with questions because God is so apart from us, He is so transcendent of us, that the more we know Him, the less we understand about Him.
It was fresh in Habakkuk's mind, that the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been destroyed by the Assyrians, and he saw what they went through. He thought of this great tragedy upon his mind, coming from that Northern Kingdom, of the Babylonians. And he thought about if it had happened, like it happened to them, and he had the prophets speaking to him of it - he knew what they went through, and oh, how he feared it. But he could not understand, he couldn't understand that if the Northern Kingdom of Israel was destroyed, and if the Chaldeans destroyed the Southern Kingdom of Judah - where would God's people be? Where would God's role in history and upon the face of the earth be? Where would His light be among the darkness of the Gentiles? And so, in verse 13, he says '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?' Do you know what he's saying? 'Lord how can You judge - OK I'll give you this: we're a sinful nation (Judah) - but how can You judge a sinful nation with an even more sinful nation? How can You judge an unrighteous nation with an even more unrighteous nation - the Chaldeans? How can You do it? It just doesn't work - You're a God who cannot behold or look upon iniquity'.
Habakkuk's problem was that he was asking the wrong question: 'Why?'. You see the question was not this: 'Who was more righteous?', because the Bible says this - and if we could let this sink within our souls: 'There is none righteous, not one'. And in God's book all that mattered was this: who sinned less and who sinned more - but there was none more righteous than the other. And when God deals with men and women, that is not what is upon His mind - who is more righteous than another. It was a misconception, because in God's sight it wasn't one nation over another, but all were in His eyes, all were sinners - and all that God was interested in was repentance. God wasn't asking how full your bucket of sin was - and when you got saved that wasn't what God was asking. He didn't ask how deep-dyed, how hell-damned you were - all He wanted to know was how sorry in your soul, how mournful you were, how repentant you were.
He asked the wrong question. And then in verse 14 we see this, he actually accused God of letting go of His creation. He says: 'And makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them?' He is saying, 'Have You suspended the laws of Your providential care? Lord, have You let go of everything? Are You going to let chaos dominate?' He felt that God had let go, and the fish of the sea that are left to the accidents of nature - He was treating His own people like that. You're walking down the aisle, outside tonight, and I don't know how many bugs that you'll kill on the way - but you'll kill some. And to a certain extent that's an accident of nature and Habakkuk is saying, 'Lord, You're treating Your own people like this! Like the fish of the sea!' And then in verse 15: 'They take up all of them with the angle' - the fishing rod - 'they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag: therefore they rejoice and are glad'. He says, 'The Chaldeans are going to come and they're going to take a net, a fishing net and they're going to catch us all'. The predator of the Chaldeans, but more than that if you look at Jeremiah 16 verse 16, you'll find out that God said, 'You see the ones that aren't caught with the fishing net - I'm going to send hunters out and they're going to go to the crevices, the rocks, the clefts and the caves and they're going to hunt out every single one that gets through the net'.
How bad this picture was. Habakkuk finally cries in verse 16, 'Lord, how can You let Your people be swept aside like insects, like germs?' -- 'Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous'. Why can You let this happen Lord? And in verse 17, they're sweeping, these people are sweeping the nations away from them and they're attributing it not to even their own god, or to Israel's God, they're attributing it to themselves - they're burning incense and sacrificing to their net. Think of a fisherman tonight, who does he accredit for pulling the fish in? He accredits himself, his own wisdom about where the shoals are, and where he takes the boat and casts the net. And these Chaldeans were praising themselves for what they were doing, but little did they know that they were pawns in the hands of an Almighty God. Does it not remind you of communism, of the former Soviet Union? They denied God, they prohibited belief in God and they swarmed across Eastern Europe with their false doctrine and beliefs - and they forbade the name of God to be worshipped, to be adhered to, or even to come out of their lips - and they brought themselves up as a god, they were self-deifying and they worshipped their own achievements. Just like the Babylonians.
Now quickly this evening, I've so much to say, but one of the greatest problems that Habakkuk had was this: God was bringing upon them something that He had forbidden Himself. Does that sound strange? Think of it for a moment. First of all: Habakkuk was saying, 'Look, God is not to look upon perverseness' - verse 13 - 'Purer eyes than to behold iniquity'. 'You're not allowed to look at perverseness' - but if you look at verse 3 you see he says, 'Why dost Thou show me iniquity?' He says 'Lord, You're not meant to look at it, yet You're letting me look at it'. And then secondly, the Lord had declared in Leviticus chapter 5 and verse 1 that a witness of a town, and a witness could be a prophet, if he was to see a sin and was to keep silent he was breaking the law. Yet God was letting this prophet see the sin, and when the prophet shouted out against it, God was silent. Then thirdly in the verse that we read, in verse 14 we see, I beg your pardon verse 13, that it says, 'thy tongue when the wicked devoureth' - and that word 'devoureth' literally means 'swallow up'. And I believe that what was going on in Habakkuk's mind was, he was going down the annals of Old Testament history and he was looking to the Red Sea, where Pharaoh and his armies were swallowed up by the sea, by God. 'Praise the Lord for that!' they said. And then they look as Dathan and Abiram, the very ground opened up because they offered false fire to the Lord and they were swallowed up - 'Praise the Lord for His victory!' But to Habakkuk's awesome despair - God was swallowing His own people up! And he literally accuses, almost accuses God of maltreatment, maltreatment.
I can't answer those questions for you this evening. But Habakkuk was turning to God, and he could turn, and we could turn almost today, and turn to our God and get on our knees and cry, and put sackcloth and ashes on, and we could look to the Almighty in heaven, and we could say like Habakkuk, 'Lord Your name is at stake! Your reputation is at stake! What are You going to do about it?'
Quickly, and finally - the only way we really can understand these verses is from Romans 11 and 33 'O the depth, the depth of the riches of both the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his ways, and his judgements past finding out!' But fourthly as we close, he awaits the answer of the Lord - this is beautiful. This is a great lesson for us as believers, as we are perplexed and frustrated - torn apart by circumstances of mind, of health, of family relations, whatever it may be. Even in our own land, the religious situation or the political situation - notice that Habakkuk, he didn't despair. He didn't panic, He was not impatient with God, He did not become assertive with God, He did not demand God, but praised God - he knew that he had a faithful God!
What was a watchman to be? Look at verse 1 of chapter 2, he said, 'I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and I will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.' If you look at the book of Ezekiel, you find the watchman in chapter 3 and chapter 33 - and you see there that if the watchman didn't warn about the enemies coming and people were slaughtered, the blood would be on his hands. A watchman was to be responsible, a watchman was to be vigilant, he was to spot imminent danger. A watchman needed to have nerves of steel, because as he saw the enemy coming he had to stand and not move, and cry that they were coming. The watchman had to be trusted, the watchman had to not love sleep, otherwise it could be the death of the whole town, the watchman had to be faithful to his commission. The watchman ought to miss nothing. Why did he go up there? Why did he stand? He had questioned God, and we see in verse 1 that he's saying, 'I've questioned God, I've asked Him, I've argued with Him and do you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to sit here and I'm going to wait, and whether God reproves me or whether God answers me, I'm going to wait 'till He answers!'
We find in the book of Isaiah and chapter 40, verse 31 these words: 'They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength'. Can I say this: He didn't become an atheist, he didn't become an agnostic - but more than that for us today in our situation as the church of God, he didn't become cold-hearted! And no matter how many questions he had in his faith, his faith was being tried, his faith was being tested, his faith was having to grapple with the problems of contemporary life in his day, as we have to do today - but he remained on fire for his God! That's what mattered.
Moses, hid in the cleft of the rock. What was he told when he hid in the cleft of the rock? He stood waiting, it says, 'till he saw the glory of God parade by him in all His majesty. It says of Balaam that he went aside to stand, and I quote, in waiting for the revelation that God would bring to him in Numbers 23 verse 3. It says of Elijah, that he was commanded to go to the mount and stand in waiting for the revelation, that God would come! But he had to wait.
Friends tonight, do we lean on our own understanding, or do we wait on the Lord? John Calvin said these words: 'All who indulge themselves in their own counsels, deserve to be forsaken by God, and to be left by Him to be driven up and down and here and there by Satan. For the only unfailing security for the faithful is to acquiesce in God's word'. The wonderful thing about God's silence, as Habakkuk stood waiting for an answer from God, and there wasn't a word uttered from his lips, and for some long time not a word uttered, if I can say, from God's lips themselves. But as he sat there in the silence, something marvellous, I believe, happened - the stillness of God entered into his heart. There was there in the depths of his soul an assurance and an awareness in the silence that the answer was coming. Someone has said that our prayers are like the wee fellow that runs up to the door, rings the doorbell and runs away. We don't wait on the Lord, do we? We don't wait until we get tired, until our knees get sore, until we get weary, until we get hungry, until we get thirsty. When we get cold, when it's uncomfortable we don't wait on the Lord - old Leonard Ravenhill said: 'Men and women go into some room for one week, and eat only bread and drink only water, and read the word of God, and seek God's face and pray - and you'll either break down or you'll break through!'
J.D. Smith put it like this, and with this I finish: 'Waiting, yes, trusting, trustfully waiting. I know though I've waited long, that while He withholds His purpose, His waiting cannot be wrong. Waiting, yes, waiting, still waiting - the Master will not be late. He knoweth that I am waiting for Him to unlatch the gate'. Friends, tonight, whatever you are praying for, listen to the word of God to your heart: 'Behold, regard and look ye among the heathen, for I am working a work in your day, that if you saw it, you wouldn't believe it'. May God bless His words to our hearts.
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 third tape in his Habakkuk series, titled "Watching And Waiting" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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