Damariscotta Baptist Church
Monday, May 21, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

06/08/14 Sermon - Who Do You Think You Are

HABUKKUK 2:1-20

 

We began looking at the book of Habakkuk last week and found a prophet, in 600B.C., asking the same questions we ask today.

The infamous “Why?” questions.
 

Why does God allow bad things to happen?

Why does God use bad people to punish or discipline His children?
 

Why does a God of love, allow bad things to happen to good people?

I’d like to take time to review what happened in chapter 1 of the book before we go on to Chapter 2 today. The book begins with Habakkuk in Jerusalem at the time of King Josiah. King Josiah was one of 20 kings of Judah, which were made up of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin and living in the Southern Kingdom. He and king Hezekiah were the only 2 kings, known as “the best”, as they were the only two kings who did not practice idolatry. They were faithful to Jehovah. There were 6 other kings known as “Good” and the rest, or 12 kings were known as being either “Bad” or “Wicked”.

As for the Kings of Israel, in the Northern Kingdom, they consisted of the remaining 12 tribes of Israel. All of those kings worshiped idols. Out of the 20 of them, 19 were labeled “Bad or Really Bad” and the other one was labeled, “not good but better than most”.

Well our prophet Habukkuk is working in the temple at the time of King Josiah, and the city of Jerusalem and the nation of Israel are in the midst of a spiritual revival. The Holy Words of God had been discovered in the temple while they were working to build it back up. Josiah was awe struck at how many commands God had given the Israelites and that the nation was no longer doing any of them. Josiah was also frightened when he discovered the Words God had given Moses also included specific punishments for the people who chose not to follow God’s rules. Josiah immediately put the rules and punishments in place. But as you have probably experienced in your own life, when someone makes you do something, just because you say so, people quickly learn to obey to avoid punishment but not because they believe it is the “best thing to do” but generally to avoid the bad consequences. So even though it may have looked like a revival on the outside, people doing what they were supposed to, when they were supposed to.

Habakkuk was a prophet, and he understood the hearts of the people who came to the temple. He also saw how they acted outside the temple, during the week, and things did not match. Habakkuk knew what it was like to have a relationship with God and he desired, more than anything else, that God’s chosen people would chose to experience the same. But God’s chosen people, had chosen the opposite. They were more concerned with what they could do for themselves right here, and right now. They were choosing to take matters into their own hands and live life their way and get what they could get, regardless of the means or how others were affected. Now mind you, Habakkuk knows the hearts of people are bent towards evil, so he isn’t questioning why humans are doing the things they are doing. He is questioning why God allows the people of Judah to continue to go on dishonoring Him. Once God’s glory is experienced and people begin a true relationship with God, Habakkuk knew their hearts would change. Just like King Josiah. Why wasn’t God working things out for the people to be revived from the inside out?

Today we have Habakkuk leading us in finding the answer.
 

So Habakkuk chooses to question the one who will give him the answer. He addresses God himself. We left Habakkuk last week waiting for God’s answer.

HABAKKUK

What’s God going to say to my questions? I’m braced for the worst.
I’ll climb to the lookout tower and scan the horizon.
I’ll wait to see what God says,
    how he’ll answer my complaint.

 
And then God answered:

 

GOD

“Write this.
    Write what you see.
Write it out in big block letters
    so that it can be read on the run.
This vision-message is a witness
    pointing to what’s coming.
It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait!
    And it doesn’t lie.
If it seems slow in coming, wait.
    It’s on its way. It will come right on time.

God gives Habakkuk a command. “Write this! Write what you see!” God even told him how to write it, “with big block letters, so that no one could say, “I didn’t see that” because even if they were busy and on the run, God wanted his message to be so prominent that there would be no excuses. Then God tells him why it needs to be written down. Because it will be pointing to what is coming, it’s a prophecy, its fulfillment will be in the future. And even though it may seem like it is taking a long time coming, God has it coming “right on time”. With anything we are “waiting for” whether it is driving to a destination “Are we there yet?” or eight months into a pregnancy, when every twinge makes you wonder if “it’s time” the time you are waiting, seems like eternity. God is reminding Habakkuk, his answer will be “right on time”.

GOD

“Look at that man, bloated by self-importance—
    full of himself but soul-empty.
But the person in right standing before God
    through loyal and steady believing
    is fully alive, really alive.

Did you catch what God just said? The description for the person who is “really alive” is the person in right standing before God, through loyal and steady believing. The NIV writes it this way, “but the righteous will live by his faith”.

Paul writes in the NT that the just live by faith, not by the law. Last week I talked about being just and being fair. To be seen as “just”, that is “approved” by God, you have done so having a relationship of faith, not by works.

Before his bold declaration of the truth of the gospel, Martin Luther was an Augustine monk. As a monk he went on a pilgrimage to Rome and as he crossed the Alps he fell deathly ill. As he lay sick he felt great turmoil, both physically and spiritually, and a verse that had previously touched him came to mind: “The just will live by his faith”, from Habakkuk 2:4.

When Luther recovered he went to Rome and did the tourist things that all pilgrims did. One day, he came to the church of Saint John’s Lateran, where there is a staircase said to be from Pilate’s judgment hall. It was the custom of pilgrims to climb this staircase, but never on their feet – they painfully climbed a step at a time on their knees, saying prayers and kissing the steps where it was thought the blood of Jesus fell. Luther came to this place and started doing just as all the pilgrims, because the pope promised an indulgence to all who climbed the steps on their knees and said the prayers. As he did this, Luther remembered the words from Habakkuk: “The just will live by faith.” It is said that when he remembered this he stopped, stood up, walked down and went straight home to Germany. Some say the Reformation began on those stairs.

The world says that it is by what we do and how well we do it,that makes us “alive”. The worldly person is bloated by self-importance and full of themselves and “soul-empty”. Somehow, the world has convinced people, and I believe the world starts convincing people around the age of 12, or even younger now a days, that the person who is “really alive” is the one who stimulates their emotions and experiences to the max, regardless of the cost. The world says being fully alive comes from focusing on yourself and God says it comes from focusing on God.

Isn’t God the creator of Life? Who should we listen to?

GOD

“Note well: Money deceives.
    The arrogant rich don’t last.
They are more hungry for wealth
    than the grave is for cadavers.
Like death, they always want more,
    but the ‘more’ they get is dead bodies.
They are cemeteries filled with dead nations,
    graveyards filled with corpses.
Don’t give people like this a second thought.
    Soon the whole world will be taunting them:

God is now describing the Chaldean nation. If you recall from last week’s message, Habakkuk has not figured out the Chaldean takeover of the Jewish nation. This is where God gives Habakkuk a glimpse of what and who is to come. God is giving the reasons why the Jews should be looking for God to punish them. According to God, “the arrogant rich don’t last”.

Note, He said “arrogant rich” not just “rich”. It is not the amount of money we have or don’t have, that God is concerned with, it is how we handle it, or let it handle us.  

The remainder of Habakkuk is written in the format of what is known as “A derisive song”. These literary forms were also used by Isaiah and Micah. The derisive song has 5 stanzas. The first 3 stanzas consist of 3 verses each, the 4th stanza has 4 verses and the last stanza has 2 verses. Each stanza has its own subject and all except the last has the same beginning, and all have a closing verse introduced with the word, “for,” “because,” or “but.” In the Message version the repeated verse is……

GOD 

Who do you think you are
    getting rich by stealing and extortion?
How long do you think
    you can get away with this?’
Indeed, how long before your victims wake up,
    stand up and make you the victim?
You’ve plundered nation after nation.
    Now you’ll get a taste of your own medicine.
All the survivors are out to plunder you,
    a payback for all your murders and massacres.

God is showing Habakkuk that although the Chaldean nation may think they are in charge, the survivors, even though it may be a remnant, will be there to pay back what has been done to them, and will ultimately be victors.

GOD

“Who do you think you are—
    recklessly grabbing and looting,
Living it up, acting like king of the mountain,
    acting above it all, above trials and troubles?
You’ve engineered the ruin of your own house.
    In ruining others you’ve ruined yourself.
You’ve undermined your foundations,
    rotted out your own soul.
The bricks of your house will speak up and accuse you.
    The woodwork will step forward with evidence.

 
We need to remember the words God is speaking are ones of prophecy for Habakkuk. Remember one of Habakkuk’s concerns is that an evil nation is looking like the winner. God is explaining that the lifestyle of this evil nation is so reckless and their grabbing and looting is so evil they will be destroying even their homes.

 

GOD

“Who do you think you are—
    building a town by murder, a city with crime?
Don’t you know that God-of-the-Angel-Armies
    makes sure nothing comes of that but ashes,
Makes sure the harder you work
    at that kind of thing, the less you are?
Meanwhile the earth fills up
    with awareness of God’s glory
    as the waters cover the sea.

God is now saying the words Habakkuk had hoped to hear. The nation that builds itself by murder and crime, eventually comes to ruin. And God fights His battles in the heavenly realms. He is the “God of the Angel Armies”. Take a moment to let that title sink in. God is the Commander and Chief for “armies of angels.” When you think about it, are, angels and armies, words that should be put together? And yet, here they are. And what a concept!

 

We are only able to see the earthly realm and it is from that perspective we come up with the “Why” questions, because we can’t see things from the angelic perspective. God is working and doing things we can’t even begin to imagine. In places we can’t even imagine. And God even gives a glimpse of what that may look like. He says the angel armies “make sure the harder you work at the kind of thing that is destructive, the less you become? And while those who chose to live in this destructive manner, continue to self-destruct, the awareness of God’s glory will abound.

GOD 

“Who do you think you are—
    inviting your neighbors to your drunken parties,
Giving them too much to drink,
    roping them into your sexual orgies?
You thought you were having the time of your life.
    Wrong! It’s a time of disgrace.
All the time you were drinking,
    you were drinking from the cup of God’s wrath.
You’ll wake up holding your throbbing head, hung over—
    hung over from Lebanon violence,
Hung over from animal massacres,
    hung over from murder and mayhem,
From multiple violations
    of place and people.

In this section the words God uses to describe, what the nation is like, will bring Habakkuk to the understanding that the nation God is talking about is the Chaldeans and the city of Babylon.

Nebuchadnezzar was known for his insatiable desire to allure neighboring states into the same mad thirst for war to obtain booty. And as it turns out, we can read in Daniel 5:1-31, that Babylon actually fell during a drunken revel.

GOD

18-19 “What’s the use of a carved god
    so skillfully carved by its sculptor?
What good is a fancy cast god
    when all it tells is lies?
What sense does it make to be a pious god-maker
    who makes gods that can’t even talk?

Who do you think you are—
    saying to a stick of wood, ‘Wake up,’
Or to a dumb stone, ‘Get up’?
    Can they teach you anything about anything?
There’s nothing to them but surface.
    There’s nothing on the inside.

Another clue as to who what the nation was like that was taking over Israel, but in the end would not prevail, because although Babylon put its faith in its idols, to save them, in actuality, they were powerless.

They were beautifully made of gold on the outside, but on the inside, they were void, empty.

GOD 

“But oh! God is in his holy Temple!
    Quiet everyone—a holy silence. Listen!”

So, what about you?
Can you say you are living by faith?

And if you say, “Yes, I am living by faith,” Is your faith like the wooden idols of the Babylonians. Gold and shiny on the outside where everyone can see it, but on the inside, an empty relationship?

Let’s face it, it is much easier to live by the law, then it is to live by faith. There are few gray areas when you have rules to follow. Either you did it or you didn’t. You know exactly what you are supposed to do. Now there can be some arguing about exactly what things may mean, and humans hem and haw about the minor details. But in general it is “black and white”.

However, living by faith requires a relationship and relationships take work. The relationship is between you and God. And in order for any relationship to be real, you must spend time getting to know each other. Even though God knows us, He still wants to spend time with us. I am sure if you are a parent you can relate to this. Especially as your child gets older and becomes more of an individual, spending time together is cherished. For our relationship to become stronger with God, we need to get to know Him better. This means taking time to pray and time to listen to God, and the best way to do this is to be reading His word.

Matthew recorded Jesus’ words during his sermon on the mount. Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

What God told Habakkuk, still works for us today. If you want to walk a road that leads to life, and be “really alive” while you are walking, you must walk by your faith, which means being loyal and steady in the Gospel of Jesus. Walk like He did. And the best way to figure out how Jesus walked is to read God’s word, study God’s word, seek out people who are doing so and ask for advice and then, like Habakkuk. Ask God.