Text: Habakkuk 1-3
Summary: Pause. Repent of your soulishness. And learn how to live by faith.
Good morning, everybody. I don’t know if I ever sang that praise song. Or maybe it’s been a long time. It says, I don’t know what holds tomorrow. I just live from day to day. I don’t borrow from its sunshine, for the skies may turn to gray. I don’t worry over the future for I know what Jesus said. Today, I’ll walk beside Him for He knows what is ahead. Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand. But I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand. Amen. What an appropriate song to sing in 2020. Let’s pray.
Father, we don’t always understand your will and your purposes. In the days in which we live, many things don’t make sense. But Jesus, you’re the same yesterday, today and forever. And you always make sense. We fix our gaze upon you, Jesus. We pray that you would speak to us and shepherd us. Please hold our hand and lead us today. Tomorrow we leave in your hands. And we trust you for it. Please speak today to all of your children. In Jesus Name, Amen
I will be reading a few verses in each chapter, starting with Habakkuk 1:2.
2 O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? 3 Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. 4 So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.
We could imagine Habakkuk living in the year 2020 and speaking these exact words in our day. And his complaint is straightforward. He is complaining, and I’ve complained to the Lord on many occasions as you look out at 2020 and the situation that we’re in, where we’re wondering, God, where are you? Are you listening? What are you up to? We’re very confused, Lord. This is the complaint of Habakkuk when the people of God in the southern kingdom of Judah are suffering under Assyria.
And we could say that we’re also suffering under coronavirus. We’re suffering under a lockdown or suffering under perversion of the law. Is there any law anymore? There seems to be a double standard, one law for the elites and the law for everybody else. And Habakkuk is asking the Lord, why are you just idly looking at wrong? And couldn’t we say the same thing in 2020? God, why are you just idly looking at evil getting away with all of their schemes? And here’s the Lord’s answer.
5 Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. 6 For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own.
So here’s God’s answer. You think things are bad now. It’s going to get worse. Assyrians are an evil people. But the Babylonians are even more wicked. They’re even more ruthless. So things are going to go from bad to worse. And that is the Lord’s answer. And would we be satisfied if we are in Habakkuk’s shoes and we heard the Lord answer that way? Would we be satisfied today, if the Lord gave a similar answer that things are going to go from bad to worse? And so like all of us, if we were in Habakkuk’s shoes, Habakkuk complains again.
12 Are you not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof. 13 You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?
And so initially, Habakkuk submits under the Lord’s answer. And he says, okay, I am not going to complain about the fact that you raised up the nation of Babylon the Chaldeans as an instrument of reproof, but I just have one more question. Lord, they are more unrighteous than the people of God. And so, isn’t that unjust? Isn’t that unfair? Why are you going to raise up a more wicked people? We’re not as wicked as them. So why are you allowing them to punish us?
And so if we got a similar answer from the Lord that things are going to go from bad to worse in 2020 and 2021, and maybe all the way until 2030, or however long until Jesus returns, wouldn’t we also have a similar complaint? We’re Americans. We’re Christians. And there are so many other nations that persecute Christians, that do way more wicked things than Christians. Why are you raising up China, Russia, North Korea, these nations to punish us? Why are you doing it, Lord? It’s not fair. And so the Lord answers again in Habakkuk 2:4.
3 For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. 4 “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.
So the Lord answers in v.3, this vision of Babylon or the Chaldeans coming and things going from bad to worse. The fulfillment of this vision is hastening to the end. It is going to come to pass. It is not delayed although you may think it’s delayed. And when Habakkuk was written, there was a 20 or so years delay before Babylon destroyed Jerusalem. But God is saying, it is not delayed. It has already been prophesied, it is coming, it will come to pass. It is just my grace that you’re getting more time to repent.
So why are we in lockdown? Why are we going through a Coronavirus? Why are there riots in the cities? It is because God is giving us more time to repent. God spends the rest of Habakkuk 2 reassuring Habakkuk that He knows and He agrees with Habakkuk. He knows that Babylon is more wicked than the people of God. And God reassures this prophet that He is going to judge Babylon, they are not going to get away with their wickedness toward the people of God.
But judgment always begins with the house of God. And so before He will deal with Babylon, He’s going to deal with the people of Israel. Already God is dealing with His own people. Why are they subjugated by Assyria? It’s because God is dealing with the people of God and their sins. Why is He allowing the Chaldeans to rise up and to conquer them? Again, it is because God is dealing with the sins of His people.
4 “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.
The word for puffed up is swollen. If somebody is physically swollen, or somebody is swollen with cancerous tumors coming out of their body, we know that person is physically sick. It is obvious, but when the soul is swollen, or the soul has tumors on it, can we see it? It’s not so readily evident. But God sees it. God sees the swollenness of our souls, a soul that is puffed up. There are tumors on the soul that need to be healed in Jesus.
Part of what it means to be puffed up is to presume to know what is best. And that’s what we see earlier in Habakkuk 1. Habakkuk is presuming to know what is best. Of course, the people of God are puffed up, but God is addressing even Habakkuk’s soul. Habakkuk’s soul is being puffed up because he presumes that God is just idly allowing the Assyrians to punish His people and God is not doing anything about it.
And God says, even if I told you, you wouldn’t believe it. If I told you what I’m doing in your day, you wouldn’t believe it. But because you asked me, because you’re complaining to me, I’m going to tell you what I’m up to. And the answer is not what we expect. He’s raising up the Babylonians. It’s going to go from bad to worse. But what’s great about Habakkuk is that he teaches us something about how we can deal with this puffed up soul. First, he pauses.
1 I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.
So the greatness of Habakkuk is that although he is puffed up, along with the people of God, rather than presuming to know the answer and saying, this is the final answer and I’m going to level my complaint and I’m not going to even listen to what your answer is, instead, Habakkuk pauses.
And I wonder how many of us are pausing before our souls react, before our mind spins and our emotions are stirred, and before our will is mobilized. We see things and immediately react. And the people in society want us to because they have puffed up souls. They want us also to join them in being stirred up in anger and speaking out and taking a side. And the will goes in the direction of our mind and our emotions. And God looks at that and says, your soul has cancer tumors on it. I want to heal you from it.
And the first step in the healing process is to pause. Like Habakkuk, we need to pause, moment by moment, before we act and before we speak. Before our emotions are vomited out, we need to pause. That is the first step of the healing process. It is to pause. Allow our soul to be put low. Our mind, will, and emotions to be put low. It is to put a pause button on our soul.
People in this world do not know this because they are so puffed up. And the people of God are being deceived into joining the chorus of this world. In their anger and in their agitation, in their writing, in their condemning, in their pronouncing of judgment on the other side. God does not take any sides. He is on His own, and we are on His side. We don’t take sides. We put a pause on our soul.
The second thing we should do is repent. Our soul needs to repent. We need the mind of Christ. How many of us are so convinced that we know best? That if we were a politician, we would know what to do to fix the problems in society. And even the people of God, we think we know what the problems are and what the solutions are. And I wonder how many of us are pausing, repenting, and then asking the Lord, what are you doing in 2020? Instead of just jumping into the fray and into the agitation and into choosing a side, I wonder how many people among the people of God are pausing, repenting, and asking the Lord, what are you doing in 2020? If God gave an answer to Habakkuk, God will surely give an answer to His people. If we humble ourselves before Him, He will tell us exactly what He’s up to.
And his answer might not be what we want to hear. That if the Church of God and the nation of America does not repent, things are going to go from bad to worse. That’s not the kind of answer we want to hear. We want to hear solutions. We want to know that there are better days in front of us. We should ask Him, what are you doing in 2020 in America? What are you doing in Korea? What are you doing in different nations around the world? We should be asking, what are you doing? And it takes a humble person who has put down their soul to pause long enough to hear.
Now that I have started working, I have so many thoughts related to work because I see all these problems and I want to fix them. I don’t want a band aid solution because people are busy at work and they just want to put a band aid solution on it. I want to get to the root cause and just solve it. And so I have so many fires that I want to put out, and now I want to get to the root of these issues and I want to fix them. I want to help with the structural issues and put some processes in place. I have all these ideas. Even after I clock out at five, my mind is still moving. And I wonder how many of us can put a pause on our mind long enough to listen?
Even when I’m doing devotions with my children and with Jackie, sometimes I have to ask them, can you repeat that? Because my mind was veering toward work when I should have been focusing on what they had to say. I have not trained myself to pause, because I haven’t been in this kind of a work situation in many years. How many of us are pausing long enough to listen to the other person? Instead of saying, okay, that person is against me and I’m coming up with my argument. I’m going to put them down. I’m going to win the argument. And we do this. And that person might be a struggling Christian or a young Christian or maybe even a nonChristian, and we are more concerned about winning the argument, instead of saving that soul.
And I’m asking the Lord for more compassion on people. Because I see the ignorance, I see people just veering off in the wrong direction and I just want to speak. I want to correct, I want to move them on the same path that I am on, not realizing that it’s taken me so many years for the Lord to redirect me. And I want to do it for someone in one conversation. It takes much longer and God is dealing with my impatience.
I remember the Lord brought to memory some conversations I had with my parents and things they said were so wrong. Things they said were so wrong. And when they talk about God and the Bible and it’s wrong, I just had to defend it. And I’m not asking the Lord, is it time? Are they ready? Do they have ears to hear? I was more concerned about winning the argument, rather than saving the soul of my parents. Couldn’t I have just bit my tongue? Could I have just been softer in my defense? Because what’s more important, me winning the argument, upholding the integrity of God’s Word, or saving the soul of another person?
When our soul is puffed up, we don’t have much compassion, pity or mercy for others. Because our mind is so active and we’re so convinced that we know best. Habakkuk should show us that as he saw Assyria beating his people, he assumed God’s answer was, yes, I will deal with Assyria and I’ll release you. But God’s answer was, yes, I’m dealing with Assyria, but Babylon is coming in, and it’s going to get worse. I pray that America repents because if not, things are going to go from bad to worse.
The soul is puffed up. We should pause. Our soul needs to learn how to pause. Put a pause on your mind. Put a pause on your emotions. Put a pause on your will. Do you just run off and do things and live however you want, or do you pause? Is your soul in a posture to listen? That’s what we should be repenting of. We’re so puffed up. Our mind is so full. Our emotions are so easily agitated. Our will is so quick to move. We don’t pause because our soul is puffed up. We should repent of our soul or soulishness. Because God contrasts the unrighteousness of a puffed up soul with a humble soul of a righteous person who lives by faith, as it says in Habakkuk 2:4.
There are two opposing ways to do life. You can either be puffed up, live unrighteously and have no faith. Or you can be humbled of soul and live righteously by faith. When your soul is humbled and you hold on to your faith in Jesus, God looks at that and says, yes, that is one of my righteous ones. I am pleased with the way that they are living. God is dealing with the puffed up soul of Habakkuk, and He’s pointing out the puffed up soul of His people. They’re living unrighteously without faith. And through the course of these three chapters in Habakkuk, his soul is being put low. He is pausing his soul. He’s submitting to God’s answer. He’s repenting, he’s listening.
And Habakkuk ends with a beautiful prayer. If you want to know what faith looks like, look at Habakkuk 3. That is what faith looks like. If you can pray Habakkuk 3 and live out Habakkuk 3, this is what faith looks like. I’ll just read the last few verses starting at verse 16.
16 I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us. Habakkuk Rejoices in the Lord 17 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 19 God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.
What an amazing prayer of a man, a righteous man who has learned to live by faith. It says in v.16 that his body is trembling. Why is he trembling? Why are his lips quivering? Why are his legs getting weak in the knees? It is because he’s seeing the answer of God that things are going to go from bad to worse. Babylon is going to come in 10-20 years time, and they’re going to utterly destroy the people of God and oppress them far worse than what they’re experiencing at the hands of Assyria.
And then he transitions from submitting under that vision, and says the famous verses from Habakkuk. That though I see destruction, though I see loss, though I see emptiness and nothingness, and pain and suffering. Though my eyes see these things, I will live by faith. In the year 2020, have you been living with your eyes? Or have you been living with your faith? If you live with your eyes, there are many reasons to grumble. Many reasons to be fearful, many reasons to complain, many reasons to feel depressed and feel hopeless. If you look with your eyes, there is a long list of things that will cause you to not rejoice.
But if you live with faith, with eyes of faith, then there’s all the reason to rejoice. You can rejoice in Jesus Christ. And that is a choice. Habakkuk says, I see all these things with my eyes, yet, it says. Yet, I will rejoice. In v.18, faith says yet. My eyes see this, yet, I will rejoice. This is a person of faith who decides to rejoice, who decides to hold on to Jesus. Despite what they see with their eyes, this is what faith looks like. Your eyesight leads you to this kind of conclusion, yet, I’m not going to look there, I’m going to look to Jesus, I’m going to hold on to Jesus. That is what we as followers of Jesus say. We’re holding on to Him. We decide to rejoice. We’re not saying we don’t see it. We’re not saying that this year is not a difficult year. We see everything, yet, I hold on to Jesus. And in Jesus, I have joy, I will choose to hold on, I will rejoice. I see this, yet, I will rejoice.
So we should pause. We need to put a pause button on our soul. We need to repent of our soulishness. And let’s ask the Lord, teach us. We want to learn how to live as a righteous man or woman by our faith. To choose to rejoice. To choose to hold on to Jesus. Let’s ask the Lord, what does it look like for our soul to be put low, so that instead of our mind being so active, we have the mind of Christ?
Instead of our will being so stubborn and unyielding, that we surrender our will, and we ask the Lord, what is your will? Instead of our emotions getting so bothered every time we read the news, having the emotions of peace, trust, and compassion flow out of us. If this is happening, this is what it means to be a righteous person who lives by faith, and it presumes that your soul has been put low. It’s not puffed up. It’s been deflated, it’s been put low.
In Habakkuk 2, the famous verse, the righteous will live by faith, is quoted in Hebrews 10. So I want to close with Hebrews 10:37. I encourage you, whenever you read the Old Testament, find out where it’s referenced in the New Testament, because that will be your takeaway point. Don’t just read Habakkuk in isolation. Go to where Jesus references, or it’s referenced somewhere in the New Testament, and that will give you the concluding point of the entire book and the life of Habakkuk. And the answer is in Hebrews 10:37.
37 For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
Remember why Habakkuk was fearful. He’s fearful of the answer and it was an unexpected answer that the Lord would deal with the Assyrians by bringing a worst bully to terrorize the people of God, the Babylonians. And Habakkuk’s mindset reflects many people’s mindset. That I just see a political issue or some physical issue and I just want God to deal with it. And then God gives an answer and it’s an unexpected answer.
Because what we should learn through just history is that God, yes, He dealt with the Assyrians. How did He deal with it? He brought the Babylonians. And then the people of God were complaining about Babylon. And they’re looking for a solution for Babylon. So how does God deal with Babylon? He brings Persia. And then people are suffering under Persia, and they say, God, can you deal with Persia? And how does God deal with Persia? He brings Rome.
And we might have been complaining back some decades ago about the Bushes. And then the Clintons. And then the Obamas. And then now Trump. See, God’s answer is not what we expect. God’s answer is not what we expect. We think things are going to get better after Trump? I bet my money things will get worse after Trump. It is bad now but I think it’s going to get much worse after Trump.
God’s answer is not expected. It’s not what we expect oftentimes. And here, the author of Hebrews is giving us the final answer. See, we want temporary solutions. We want temporary political solutions. In the same way that people of God complained under Assyria, and they complained under Babylon, and Persia, and Rome. The same way that we could complain under different presidents over the decades. God’s answer is not to bring a better president, or a more favorable dictator. God does that but that’s not where we should be putting all of our energy in, how God can fix this temporary moment in history. Because God’s final answer is, yet a little while, and the Coming One will come and will not delay.
Remember that this is the same language that God is speaking to Habakkuk, that I’m raising the Chaldeans up as an instrument of reproof. And you think it’s going to take a long time but it’s not delayed. It is hastening to the fulfillment of this vision. It’s going to come in 10 or 20 years. And that was a foreshadowing of the Coming One who will not delay. The Coming One is Jesus Christ, He will come once and for all. And He will bring perfect justice.
People are so uptight about trying to get a transient justice in America right now so that I can just live a comfortable and a prosperous life without headaches. God’s answer is unexpected. His answer is, yes, I am not delayed. You think I’m delayed 2000 years. I’m not delayed. I’m giving you time to repent. The Coming One is coming. Jesus is coming and when Jesus comes, there is perfect righteousness. There is perfect justice. His kingdom is just because the King is just. There will be righteousness from the top to bottom because King Jesus is righteous.
See, we don’t get the full understanding of what the verses mean in Habakkuk until we read Hebrews 10. And I used to think the verses are talking about our initial reaction when we see Jesus. That we’re either going to be shrinking back in shame because we didn’t live for Him, or we’ll be running toward Him in faith because we live for Him. And yes, there is that final determination when we see Jesus.
But it says in Hebrews 10:38, but my righteous one shall live by faith. It’s not just the final moment. The same verse in Habakkuk 2, the righteous shall live by faith. God the Father wants to know, today are you living by faith? Not, will you respond in faith in the final moment of your life. No, today, are you living by faith?
In the case of Habakkuk 3:16, you see the reaction of Habakkuk, that this vision of the Chaldeans was so fearful. He knows the ruthlessness of the Chaldeans, and he cannot even fathom how much more difficult things will get under such wicked people, and he is fearing for the realization of this vision. But he ends this entire book with Habakkuk 3:19, God the Lord is my strength.
God the Lord is my strength. So what will embolden Habakkuk to go through this incredibly difficult tribulation at the hands of the Babylonians? He is rejoicing in the Lord. He’s putting his faith in the Lord. And God the Lord is his strength. The joy of the Lord is our strength.
As things potentially could get from bad to worse in 2020 and the years ahead, what will embolden us to get through tribulation after tribulation, even perhaps the final tribulation? It’s the strength of the war, and we need to learn today to rejoice in Jesus and Jesus will embolden you. He will walk with you. He’ll pull you through every tribulation, because you’ve learned that God the Lord is my strength.
And that’s why Habakkuk is such an appropriate book for the people living in the end times. Babylon is difficult. I think that people in the final generation, it’s even worse. And we need to learn how to rejoice today, choose today to rejoice in the Lord Jesus. Choose today to live by faith. And that takes some preparation. You need to put a pause on your soul. You need to repent of your soulishness. You need to learn from the Lord how to have a humble, surrendered soul.
Learn how to live as a righteous man or woman by your faith. Rejoice in the Lord Jesus. Choose today to rejoice in Him. And He is your strength. He will get you through every tribulation. It’s not because you’re so great, not because you’re so brave. It’s the Lord Jesus, His strength. He will embolden you with His strength. His joy will be your joy. The joy of the Lord, it says in Nehemiah, is your strength.
Father, like Habakkuk, we, too, have puffed up souls. We presume to know what is best. We presume to know what you are thinking. We presume that we have the answers to all of life’s problems today. Because we are educated, we think we know what to do, what to think, and how to act. Lord, we repent of our soulishness. If we don’t have wisdom or revelation from you, we don’t know anything. Just because we have degrees, does it mean we know anything? In fact, our education often leads us in the wrong direction. We humbly lay down everything, our education, our intellect, our mind, we humble it, Lord. We repent. We ask for the mind of Christ. We ask for wisdom from above. We ask for revelation from above.
We repent of our puffed up emotions. Our moodiness, our irritation. Forgive us, Lord. Our anger. Forgive us, Lord. We pray that you would redeem our emotions. Give us new emotions. Ones of peace, compassion, pity, mercy and gentleness, and joy of the Lord. Forgive us, Lord, for our stubborn will. We just do life however we want. Forgive us, Lord. We don’t put a pause. We don’t ask you. We don’t consult you. We just go off with a quick few minutes of our devotions, and then we’re off to the races. Forgive us, Lord. We repent of our soulishness. We pray that you would deflate our puffed up souls. We pray that you would heal the tumors of presumption from our souls. We pray that we can learn how to be a righteous one who lives by faith.
Teach us how to live by faith. We want to live by faith. We choose you today, Lord Jesus. We rejoice in you today, Lord Jesus. We put our faith in you today, Lord Jesus. And you are our strength. If things go from bad to worse this year, next year or in the decade ahead, you are our strength. The joy of the Lord is our strength. We will get through it. We will endure to the end. Not because we are so strong or so brave, but because we have learned to rejoice in the Lord Jesus. Teach us how to live by faith. Teach us how to live righteously. How to live a life that pleases you.
I pray that you minister to us during this time of prayer as we examine our hearts, as we repent. I pray for the blood of Jesus to cover us from head to toe, every cell of our body. I pray that you would do a special cleansing of our soul today. The soulishness, the mind, the will, the emotion, we pray for your healing touch of our soul this morning. We want to learn from you. We’ve done life our way. Now we want to learn your way. Teach us how to do life. How to live by faith.
We don’t want to react because of news stories in 2020. We want to ask you and pause long enough to listen for your answer of what you’re up to in 2020. If you gave answers to the prophets of the Old Testament, surely you will give answers to your people today. We don’t want to presume to know the answer. We want to pause like Habakkuk paused. And ask and listen long enough to hear your response. I pray that you speak to us as we pause, as we humble ourselves before you. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen