Saturday, October 6, 2012

Even Prophets Have Doubts? (Habakkuk 1)

[This is the first week in our series on the Minor Prophets, specifically Habakkuk and Zephaniah. Our Youth Pastor, Adam Jantz, is batting lead-off.]

Have you ever been mad at your parents? I mean really mad…. Like so mad you didn’t even want to think to them, obey them, and just felt like… It is entirely their fault for this situation that I am in! You get so mad with your parents and so frustrated for not fixing the situation, you just didn’t know what to do and why they are taking sooooo long to fix the situation…. Why not Now! 
Eventually you realize you have to turn back to your parents… Yeah, the one you just said you would never talk to again!  Then you felt ashamed, maybe a little regretful and, if you are like me, a little stupid for making a mess of things… You wanted answers and you were troubled that you couldn’t get any.
Well I am sure all of us have there or thought about going there for one reason or another… 
Let’s take this a little further... let’s replace “parents” with “God.”
Have you ever been mad at God? I mean really mad… Like so mad you didn’t even want to think about God, obey Him, and just felt like… It is all God’s fault for this situation that I am in!  You get so mad with God and so frustrated with God for not fixing the situation, you just didn’t know what to do and why he is taking sooooo long to fix the situation… Why not Now! 

Eventually you realize you have to turn back to God… Yeah, the one you just said you would never talk to again!  Then you felt ashamed, maybe a little regretful and, if you are like me, a little stupid for making a mess of things… You wanted answers and you were troubled that you couldn’t get any...
After you cleared the air with yourself and God, did you stop to think about where your faith was during that time?  Were your anger, fear, and frustrations justified?  Were you really being faithful? Or were you doubtful with God?? 
Sound familiar?  … Don’t worry.  We are all in good company... Well to an extent.  You wanted answers now, wanting things to be done your way and can’t seem to stand the fact it’s not being done. Patience can be very difficult sometimes.
Let me introduce to you Habakkuk.  ... Habakkuk also wanted answers.  He was a man who sought answers and was always not happy with what he saw.  His situation was a bit different than ours, but his reaction to his situation was very familiar to ours.  You see, Habakkuk saw a lot of terrible, wicked things in his life.  He saw a dying world; he saw his homeland being ran over by the Babylonians.  He didn’t know what to do.  So he confronted God and asked God why these things were happening!
“If you are God, why is the world dying?  Why are the Israelites being defeated by your enemy?  Where is your power?  Where is my God?”
Let’s listen to his cry out to God in Habakkuk 1:2-4.
How long, O Lord, must I call for help?
    But you do not listen!
“Violence is everywhere!” I cry,
    but you do not come to save.
Must I forever see these evil deeds?
    Why must I watch all this misery?
Wherever I look,
    I see destruction and violence.
I am surrounded by people
    who love to argue and fight.
The law has become paralyzed,
    and there is no justice in the courts.
The wicked far outnumber the righteous,
    so that justice has become perverted.
Habakkuk wanted answers now and wasn’t happy God was not delivering him the answers immediately. According to Keil and Delitzch, they suggest that “this wickedness had been happening for a very long time and God had done nothing for a long time. To Habakkuk, it appears irreconcilable with the holiness of God.”  
If this is true, than it is easy to see that after so much violence, heartbreak and destruction... Habakkuk would be complaining to God… Wouldn’t we? If I saw people being conquered every day, people starving and dying, people being cheated from the land… I would probably wonder were God was too.
So now it starts to make sense...  A righteous man begins to question God after years of violence and God not interacting with his own people...  He let even the Babylonians take over His people...  What is God thinking!?!?!
Or  maybe not….
Let’s look at the situation a little closer. Judah had already created this problem on their own, way before the Babylonians came. Their last four kings were wicked men who rejected God, and they oppressed their own people.  Babylon decided it was time to invade at 2 different times and finally destroyed Judah.  The defeat of Judah only further created a lawless nation that had lots of fear, oppression and persecution in it from the Kings before.
Habakkuk, being a prophet of God was seeing all this unfold in front of him and could not understand why God seemed to do nothing to stop this or prevent this.  Why?  Why is this happening?  So what did he do, he talked to God to try to get some answers. 
But…  His attitude in the key to this passage. 
He had questions for God?? … Yes … and Habakkuk’s questions did not go unheard from God.  God responded to him with a reply in verses 5-11.
The Lord replied, 
“Look around at the nations;
    look and be amazed!
For I am doing something in your own day,
    something you wouldn’t believe
    even if someone told you about it.
I am raising up the Babylonians,
    a cruel and violent people.
They will march across the world
    and conquer other lands.
They are notorious for their cruelty
    and do whatever they like.
Their horses are swifter than cheetahs
    and fiercer than wolves at dusk.
Their charioteers charge from far away.
    Like eagles, they swoop down to devour their prey.
“On they come, all bent on violence.
    Their hordes advance like a desert wind,
    sweeping captives ahead of them like sand.
10 They scoff at kings and princes
    and scorn all their fortresses.
They simply pile ramps of earth
    against their walls and capture them!
11 They sweep past like the wind
    and are gone.
But they are deeply guilty,
    for their own strength is their god.”
God answered Habakkuk, but I am thinking this is not answer he wanted to hear, at first...  But during his second round of questions to God, we can see his attitude may not be what we thought it was from the first round of questions… In Verse 13, Habakkuk asks God how he can even look at such evil.  How can God even tolerate such treacherousness?  He is questioning God’s method, but he begins to show his faith in God even with his questioning. Habakkuk says in verse 12 “we will not die.”  Meaning he knew that God would never let the Israelites to be completely wiped out.  He begins to understand that God is not ignorant of Judah’s sins and is punishing his people for their past crimes. 
Now, Habakkuk doesn’t seem to like God’s methods, but he begins to accept the actions of God. The Kings were wicked and evil was spreading across the entire land...  So yeah, I guess God is correct in punishing us.
Habakkuk beings to see that God is using the wicked Babylonians to do his will.  When we look at verse 11, God even says that Babylonians will sweep like the wind and that their own strength will bring them down.  They have made their strength their God and not God Almighty.  So Habakkuk learns quickly that God can use the unjust to punish us and then get rid of them when he is finished with them...
As we see in verse 13 -The wicked “Babylonians” are pictured catching unsuspecting men, like fish, with hooks, sweeping them into a net, and gathering them in a large dragnet.
The analogy is pretty easy to see and very vivid.  Jeremiah used a similar analogy of fishermen, connecting it with that of hunters (Jer. 16:16).  The evil Babylonians had as little consideration for the happiness of people.  The same as fishermen have for fish.  The victorious Babylon foe rejoiced and was glad.
To Habakkuk it was hard to understand why God would permit such blatant injustice. Habakkuk could not fully understand why God would let this happen. So Habakkuk was now in a dilemma.

But even in his dilemma, he stayed faithful to God, even with all his questions, misunderstandings and unknowns of God’s action, or rather inaction, at the time.  In verse 1 of chapter 2, Habakkuk tells God he will stand guard and watch for God’s will to unfold. 
Habakkuk’s attitude is now looking a bit different than we thought it was when we first read the passage.  We can now see that Habakkuk never lost his faith in God.  He just wanted to know what was going on and why, when, how and where!
During his conversation with God he realized that faith in God would give him all the answers he needed, even if he didn’t necessarily like the answer.  Just like David in Psalms 13, David asks God many questions but at the end, he reaffirms his trust in God.
O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
    How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
    with sorrow in my heart every day?
    How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
    Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
    Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.
But I trust in your unfailing love.
    I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
    because he is good to me.
We too must act the same with God when we see things we don’t like or situations we just cannot figure out why they are happening.  Maybe God is using this situation for His will.  Just like Habakkuk, we can ask God many questions.  We can ask why? Or why not?   But… we must be patient and have faith. 
We want things to work on our own time, and that is when we mess up God’s plans for people or a situation. We are human, not God.  Our thinking and ways are not God’s righteous ways.  Just like Moses, who never entered the Promised Land.  Asking wasn’t the problem; it was questioning of God and his faith in God. 
We must be faithful and not doubt God.  Asking God what is happening is not wrong, but not having faith in God and not trusting God, even when we cannot see the results is wrong. 
We must be patient and wait on God’s time. Just like the nation of Israel did, which Paul speaks about in Acts 13. 
16 So Paul stood, lifted his hand to quiet them, and started speaking. “Men of Israel,” he said, “and you God-fearing Gentiles, listen to me.
17 “The God of this nation of Israel chose our ancestors and made them multiply and grow strong during their stay in Egypt. Then with a powerful arm he led them out of their slavery. 18 He put up with them through forty years of wandering in the wilderness. 19 Then he destroyed seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to Israel as an inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years.
450 years! Wow! Now just think about that!  Habakkuk knew about this story and how Israel waited 450 years. As we can see, God’s time is certainly not our time. 
The importance of this passage is not so much the questions that Habakkuk asks God but that fact of his faith in God to take care of the situation. If we have faith that God has complete control and that one day all evil will be destroyed then... we don’t really need to know why? Or why not?  But if you are anything like me... you want answers...  
I love the phrase “unquestionable faith.”  If we have so much faith in God, we could potentially never question God, no matter what happens.  We would never complain to Him about why this is not done or that.  This is the faith Habakkuk realized he needed after God responded to him.
  Habakkuk never fully got the answers he was looking for from God in chapter one, but he learned to set that aside and be in the best possible position before God to receive whatever God gave him. 
The final verse in this story is very powerful. 
I will climb up to my watchtower
    and stand at my guardpost.
There I will wait to see what the Lord says
    and how he
will answer my complaint.
The watchtower metaphor that is used in chapter 2 verse 1 is a perfect example of unquestionable faith in God, even though he never got an answer to his questions to God. 
Watchtowers were used several times in the Bible to show an attitude of expectation and patient waiting and watching for God’s response.  Habakkuk could not have shown us a better way to have faith, unquestionable for God and in God.
It reminds me of what I was always told in as a child Caravans... “do everything without questioning or complaining...” and “patience is a virtue.”  I hated these quotes because I was far from patient, and today I still am, but I now am starting to see how important that is to my faith and how I interact with, not just God, but other people.  If I have faith, true faith in God, then I can be patient and wait for the Lord to show me how he is working in all my situations.
Let us all have faith like Habakkuk…
I will climb up to my watchtower
    and stand at my guardpost.
There I will wait to see what the Lord says
    and how he
will answer my complaint.
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