Saturday, February 20, 2016

From Protest to Praise

(by Pastor Joe)
the word for today:
Habakkuk 3:16-19
mark this: Habakkuk 3:17-19 --
Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls--
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer's feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.
We have one last crack at this little gem of a book, and I want to make sure we get it right. The past two days we have focused on two specific themes, but before were are through, its very important that we don't miss the bigger picture.
Perhaps the best word to describe Habakkuk is "process."
The entire book, with all of its brilliant questions and answers and promises and declarations, is focused around one man, Habakkuk, and his relationship to God.
Think about the book as a whole:
First Habakkuk asks that age old question: "Why, God?" (1:2-4)
Then God gives a very unlikely answer (1:5-11)
Next Habakkuk asks a follow up : "But why, God?" (1:12-17)
And again God answers with powerful words and promises about:
Faith (2:2-4)
Evil and justice (2:6-17)
Idolatry (2:18-19)
Silence before God (2:20)
Chapter 3 is the final response of Habakkuk- a prayer. What a contrast from earlier on!
Chapter one was focused on the evil Babylonians and the numerous horrors they were unleashing upon God's people (Remember the words used: violence, iniquity, wrong, destruction, strife, wickedness, hooks, nets, dragnets etc.)
Chapter three is focused on the Great & Glorious Lord, and on how He has done mighty things in the past. Habakkuk gives an incredibly profound description of the Exodus story- how God went to extraordinary lengths to redeem His people- shaking, stripping away, splitting, marching, threshing, crushing, piercing, scattering, trampling upon and otherwise kicking some serious posterior; all for His ransomed. All for His Holy Name. (3:1-15)
The Babylonians, with all their might, have nothing on God.
But it is in the last 4 verses (today's reading) that we see the amazing change in Habakkuk. His relationship with God goes from protest to praise. Here in these verses, despite his questions and doubts, despite his fears and pain, despite the complete upheaval of everything he knows and loves, Habakkuk chooses trust. This is not fatalistic acceptance (e.g. Eeyore), this is one of the clearest expressions of faith found in the Bible. Richard Hendrix puts it into modern terms:
Even though the price of gas goes through the roof,
And the bottom falls out of the stock market,
Though my house isn’t worth what I owe on it,
And foreclosures are happening all around me,
Though people I know have been laid off,
And I’m dreading the next round of budget cuts,
And I don’t think a bailout will reach me.
Still I will be glad in my God,
I will celebrate that He is my Savior;
He won’t let me slip from His grip,
He gives me strength to survive this with grace.
What has changed for Habakkuk?
- Not his circumstances
- Not his troubles
- Certainly not the Babylonians
- Not the destruction and exile of Jerusalem
- Not even his own personal fears & dread (3:16)
The only thing that has changed is that he chooses to put all these things in perspective before an Awesome God.
Never forget the process! Never forget that each stage of it is valid, including our questions, our disillusionment, our doubts, our frustrations, our fears. None of us automatically has total faith in God. Our trust must be built, and pretty much every time it is through the process. The main point of life is also the main point of Habakkuk- trusting and relating to the King of kings.

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