A Question For Today
Habakkuk 1: 1-11
Habakkuk was an older contemporary of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.
He lived before 600 B.C.
He lived just before the doom and destruction of his nation by the invading Chaldeans
(sometimes called the Babylonians).
Habakkuk asked some of the most penetrating questions in all literature, and the answers
are basic to a proper view of God and his relation to history.
He begins his prophecy with an agonizing cry: "Oh, Lord, how long, how long shall I cry
and thou wilt not hear? Even cry unto thee of violence and thou will not save?"
He cried until his eyes were a fountain of tears.
And he prayed until his voice could no longer utter the sentences; and still, God did not hear.
He did not understand how the Lord allows the wicked to persecute, and to triumph over, the good.
He was asking why do You show me iniquity, cause me to behold grievance, spoiling and violence?
Thy law is paralyzed, and there is no judgment.
The wicked overcomes the righteous, and judgment is perverted.
Why, oh, God, do the righteous suffer?
And why does the wicked triumph?
Habakkuk is a righteous man and he has been faithful to God's law, but he is struggling with God ways.
He respects God and does what is right, but it is getting him nowhere.
It is the question that is still being asked about God.
"If God is good, then why is there evil in the world?"
If there has to be evil, then why does it prosper at the expense of the righteous?
As Habakkuk wrestles with God's ways, he cries out: "How long, O Lord, must I cry for help,
but you do not listen . . . you do not save . . . you make me look at injustice . . . you tolerate wrong
. . . your the law is impotent . . . the righteous suffer and justice is perverted."
Habakkuk is in in the depths as he sees all the evil around him.
Many of God's people suffer that same despair today.
They question the ways of a gracious God and the prolifilation of evil in our society.
The message of Habakkuk is desperately needed in the days in which we live when so many
are asking, "Where is God in all that is happening today?"
We learn from this first chapter that God's ways are often mysterious to us.
As we look at this section, we discover that God seems to be strangely silent and inactive
in these provoking situations.
Many are asking, "Why does God permit certain things to happen?"
Why is the Christian Church in the declining condition that it is in today?
When we study the history of the church over the last 40 or 50 years, we wonder why God
has permitted the church to be in such dire conditions.
Why does God allow liberalism to be undermine the faith and deny the fundamental truths
of God's Word.
Why does God allow such blantant sins to to dominate our society.
God's people sees the violence and injustice in our world and are outraged.
There is such horrible sins, and wickedness, and destruction and there is very little justice
in the courts, and the wicked outnumber the righteous.
God's law is ignored and His standard is no longer considered.
All the preaching that is being done seems to have very little effect.
There is no way that a righteous person can witness such wickedness and not have
these questions in their minds and in their prayers.
The only reasonable question that we can ask is "How long, O Lord, will you tolerate it?"
Habakkuk is questioning God; he is wrestling with God's ways.
Why doesn't God strike those dead who blaspheme God and deny the faith which they are
ordained to preach?
Why does God allow all so many bad things to be done even in His name?
Why has God not answered the prayers of faithful Christians all over the world
who have been praying for revival for many years.
Those prayers have been sincere and even pleading.
We have cried out to God to come and change all these terrible things are happening today,
but nothing seems to change.
Many Christians, like Habakkuk, are asking, " How long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear,
even cry unto thee of violence and thou wilt not save?"
And then, there is a personal question that is puzzling to many Christians.
There are Christians who have been praying for for their family and friends to become
Christians, and they have been praying for many years, and their prayers have not been answered.
So they themselves thinking: " Surely it is the will of God that my loved ones
would becfindome a Christian, but I had been praying for them all these years
and nothing has happened. Why?"
Many Christians don't understand how God can permit His church to be in the condition it is today.
We have discovered that God sometimes gives unexpected answers to our prayers.
For a long time God does not seem to answer our prayers.
Then, when He does answer, what he says is more mysterious than His failure to listen to our prayers.
Habakkuk had no question in his mind that the need was for God to chastise the nation
and then send a great revival.
But when God replied, "My answer is that I am going to raise up the Chaldean army to go
through your land and destroy your cities."
Habakkuk could never have imagined that God would say something like that.
But that is what God told him, and that is what actually took place.
John Newton wrote a poem describing a similar personal experience.
He wanted something better in his spiritual life, and he prayed for a deeper knowledge of God.
He expected some wonderful vision of God rending the heavens and coming down
to shower blessing into his life.
But instead of this, Newton had an experienceor months in which it seemed that God
had abandoned him.
He was tempted and tried beyond anything that he could ever have imagined.
He didn't understand that what was happening was God's way of answering his prayer.
God had allowed him to go down into the depths to teach him to depend entirely on Him.
Then, after Newton had learned his lesson, God delivered him from his trial.
Many of us try to tell God how we want Him to answer our prayers.
But God's Word teaches us that God sometimes answers our prayers by allowing things
to get worse before they get better.
God may sometimes do the opposite of what we anticipate.
He may overwhelm us by confronting us with a Chaldean army.
We must always be prepared for the unexpected answer from God.
Then another surprising feature of God's ways is that He sometimes uses pagans and
other strange methods to correct His church and His people.
Of all people the Chaldeans werer the ones whom God is going to raise up to chastise Israel.
That was unthinkable.
But God can use who He wishes even if it is a godless Chaldean.
Down through history God has used all kinds of strange and unexpected methods to bring
about His purposes.
So, if we do not view these things in the right way, our prayers will be conceived
wrongly and directed wrongly.
We must understand that it is possible that the forces which are antagonistic
to Christians could be used today for God's own purpose.
God's ways are often misunderstood by careless and thoughtless religious people.
In Habakkuk 1: 5, God refers to the godless in Israel which were those who had become careless.
" 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."
The attitude of Israel was that this prophet is telling us that God is going to use the Chaldeans,.
and we don't believe that God could do anything like that.
So they did not believe Habakkuk.
They had the attitude that prophets were always trying to scare them and threaten them
The trouble with Israel was that they never did believe the prophets.
But God did do exactly as He said He would.
That kind of attitude in Israel was as old as the Flood.
God warned the world in Noah's day that He was going to bring judgment against them.
He warned them through Noah.
God said: " My Spirit shall not always strive with man. "
But the people said that was ridiculous and would never happen.
It was the same situation with Sodom and Gomorrah.
Easy living people will never believe that their cities would be destroyed.
They were sure that God would intervene before that would ever happen.
So, they continued in their sinful ways, and hoped that God would deliver them
and that they would not have any problems.
The people in the days of Habakkuk had the same attitude.
But God did raise up the Chaldeans, and Israel was attacked and conquered.
The nation was defeated and they were carried away into captivity.
But the people didn't believe Habakkuk for they thought that God would never do such things.
This should remind us that God does act in such ways according to His divine plan.
We must not be smug and think it unthinkable that God would use a pagan nation
as an instrument to bring us down, and bring us back to Him.
We must not allow ourselves to be lulled into the state of those who dwell at ease in Zion.
We must not fail to read the signs of the times.
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 here is what he prayed:
'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'.
Judgement is coming, and it could very well could begin at the house of God.
1 Peter 4:17-19:
"For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us,
what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
And, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?"
So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves
to their faithful Creator and continue to do good." (NIV)
This is the time that we should cry out the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14:
"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray,
and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven,
and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
We must do what Habakkuk did.
He determined that he would live by faith in God's sovereignty.
What do we do today when things are bad in the church?
What do we do when things don't go the way we think they should?
Do we hold out on God?
Do we refuse to serve?
Do we refuse to give?
Do we look for another congregation?
There are Christians who just go from one to another, and never .....
Do we refuse to be faithful to God when things don't go our way?
Do we have the heart to pray for God's people asking the Lord to remember mercy
and grace in his wrath?
Habakkuk understood his need to be faithful right where he was, and He was committed
to wait upon the Lord truly believing that God's way is always best.
And that is what God expects of us.
Sermon prepared from many sources by Dr. Harold L. White