“The Calm of Faith in the Storms of Fear”
Pastor Josh Beakley
December 7, 2014
Scriptural Text: Habakkuk 3, ESV
1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.
2 O Lord, I have heard the report of you,
and your work, O Lord, do I fear.
In the midst of the years revive it;
in the midst of the years make it known;
in wrath remember mercy.
3 God came from Teman,
and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah
His splendor covered the heavens,
and the earth was full of his praise.
4 His brightness was like the light;
rays flashed from his hand;
and there he veiled his power.
5 Before him went pestilence,
and plague followed at his heels.
6 He stood and measured the earth;
he looked and shook the nations;
then the eternal mountains were scattered;
the everlasting hills sank low.
His were the everlasting ways.
7 I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction;
the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble.
8 Was your wrath against the rivers, O Lord?
Was your anger against the rivers,
or your indignation against the sea,
when you rode on your horses,
on your chariot of salvation?
9 You stripped the sheath from your bow,
calling for many arrows. Selah
You split the earth with rivers.
10 The mountains saw you and writhed;
the raging waters swept on;
the deep gave forth its voice;
it lifted its hands on high.
11 The sun and moon stood still in their place
at the light of your arrows as they sped,
at the flash of your glittering spear.
12 You marched through the earth in fury;
you threshed the nations in anger.
13 You went out for the salvation of your people,
for the salvation of your anointed.
You crushed the head of the house of the wicked,
laying him bare from thigh to neck. Selah
14 You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors,
who came like a whirlwind to scatter me,
rejoicing as if to devour the poor in secret.
15 You trampled the sea with your horses,
the surging of mighty waters.
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.
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.
He was a farmer. He was rich. And, he was an atheist. He built his barn and planted a cornfield across the street from an old country church. Week by week, he did all he could to bothered the congregation. He intentionally saved his noisiest work for the weekends. He only plowed, cultivated, and fertilized on Sundays. He only harvested during services. The non-stop rumbling of heavy machinery disrupted church for weeks. In spite of this farmer’s contempt for God, he reaped one of the highest yielding crops in the nation.
He mailed a letter to the local newspaper challenging Christians to explain how an evil farmer could taunt God and escape unpunished. His arrogant assault went like this, “If God is just, how can a church worship and suffer, while I curse and prosper?” The next day, the editor’s response arrived in the mail. It was one sentence, “God doesn’t settle all His accounts in October.”
“You reap what you sow,” so we are told in the book of Proverbs. Sow an apple, reap sweetness. Sow a lemon, reap bitterness. Most of the time, that’s true. Study for math, get an A. Eat spinach, get strong. Work hard, get the raise. Invite friends over, and they invite you back. Pray for your kids, and their hearts soften. Pull the dog’s ears, lose a finger. Yell at your children, raise rebels. Do drugs, get arrested.
But there are exceptions. Some people sow apples and reap lemons. They study Trigonometry, but get an “F”. They eat broccoli, but they get sick. They arrive early to finish the report, but then are fired. Other people sow lemons and reap apples. They cheat in biology, yet get an “A”. They smoke daily, yet live to be 90. They skip mandatory meetings, yet enjoy double promotions. We all know Christians with cancer and atheists with Oscars.
What should we do with these exceptions? At some point in our lives, we will all face two questions about justice.
First, why do the righteous suffer? Second, why do the unrighteous not suffer? God does not leave either question without a response.
The first is addressed in the Book of Job, the second in Habakkuk. Both books echo with similar themes, but they remain distinct. Job asks why the righteous suffer, while Habakkuk asks, why the unrighteous do not. Habakkuk’s question is the topic to which we direct our attention in this study: Why do the unrighteous not suffer?
Judah is a mess. After years of spiritual and material blessing under the rule of kings like Hezekiah and Josiah, their recent leader aligns with Egypt and leaves YAHWEH forsaken. He abandons YAHWEH’s laws and the justice they require and the innocent suffer unprotected. Violence escalates unrestrained. This is Habakkuk’s burden,
1:2 O YAHWEH, how long must we endure injustice!
God hands Habakkuk some binoculars, “You are not going to believe it,”
5 “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded.
In the distance, a dark cloud approaches. A world is in turmoil. Two nations struggle for international domination until Nineveh, the capital city of ancient Assyria falls to the rising power of Babylon. Judah sides with Egypt in rebellion against the new kingdom, but will pay the price. God tells Habakkuk, “Judah’s corruption won’t go unpunished forever. Babylon is coming, and with them, they bring a bitter justice.”
But that makes Habakkuk’s dilemma worse. “Justice executed by the unjust? That is no justice at all!”
12b O God, you ordained them as judgment? 13 You who cannot look at wrong? Why would you remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?
God’s replies to Habakkuk in Chapter 2 by telling him justice will prevail. Judah cannot escape, and neither can Babylon, that by humble faith the righteous remnant will be saved, and by inflated pride the unrighteous nations will be judged. Their glory will turn to shame, while the glory of Yahweh fills the earth. The idolatry of Babylon is futile. Their manmade images are speechless silent stones, lifeless, breathless, created by men whose only god is their own might. For now, earth is saturated with violence, and heaven still in silence, but YAHWEH is no idol. He is not speechless and will not remain silent. He suffers no challengers to His supremacy. One day He will come, and that day, in view of His glory the whole earth will fall silent,
2:3 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.
Wait for it…
Chapters 1 and 2 are the dialogue. The prophet’s questions were asked and God’s reply was given. What will be the prophet’s response? We find that in our text. For now, the unrighteous prosper. For now, evil goes unpunished. Justice will come, but for now, Habakkuk must wait. So how does he respond?
How do people of faith respond while evil goes unpunished? There are three ways we can respond while evil goes unpunished and there are three lessons when life doesn’t make sense. This is what people of faith do. First, people of faith can respond when evil goes unpunished by crying out to God in prayer. Our first response to unpunished evil should be a prayerful cry to God.
On April 6th, 1994, a plane approached the Kigali airport in Rwanda. Passengers on board include the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, and the Rwandan army’s chief of staff. Suddenly, surface to air missiles strike the plane, which crashes into the garden of the presidential palace and none survive. This assassination drives an already dangerous divide between the nation’s two major ethnic groups, the Hutu’s and the Tutsi’s, over the edge. A Hutu paramilitary group begins hunting civilian Tutsi’s. This day marks the beginning of a genocide that would eventually claim over 500,000 lives.
A 40-year old local named Paul Rosesabagina, lives in Kigali with his family. He works as an assistant general manager at a nearby hotel. He is Hutu, but his wife is Tutsi, so when the genocide breaks out, he, his wife and children, and thirty two neighbors flee to the hotel. They are eventually, joined by over 1,200 refugees. Thousands outside are murdered, as they hide in the hotel, but it won’t be long before the attacks will come. The refugees begin making calls to the United States., the United Nations, outside nations, friends, and family. Desperate appeals for justice and mercy are made. Imagine those conversations. Though it seemed none would answer, they were determined to cry out.
Justice in Judah is dead; a corrupt nation marches without mercy. Here is Habakkuk’s desperate appeal to God.
1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.
This is a public prayer, written in official capacity as a prophet. This is likely intended to be sung as corporate worship. “…according to Shigionoth,” is a musical term referring to the rhythm or instrument by which the lyrics should be sung. Verse 1 and verse 19 bracket this song of Hebrew poetry with melodic instructions, “To the choir master with stringed instruments. A word in Hebrew that rhymes with Shigionoth is benegeenowth which means a public prayer written for worship. How does Habakkuk begin? It is a prayer cry to God.
Verse 2 gives us the reasons for and requests of this prayer,
2 O Lord, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O Lord, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.
There are two reasons for this prayer and they are Habakkuk’s motivation. First, he prays because he has heard who God is. Habakkuk has an awareness of God and his knowledge motivates his prayer, “O Lord, I have heard the report of you…” He heard of God’s righteous justice and Habakkuk’s his trouble with man’s evil is overtaken by a terror of God’s holiness. He heard who God is and that awareness of who He is drives Habakkuk to prayer.
Why do we pray? It is because we know who God is and we have an awareness and a reverence for who His is and what He does.
Second, Habakkuk cries out because he reveres what God does and he has a deep respect, even a fear, over what God does and an awareness and a reverence, “…and your work, O Lord, do I fear…” But, what does Habakkuk pray for?
We know of three. First, he asks God to revive His work, to make it live, and energize and bring about what was described in Chapter 2. Utterly terrified of God’s judgment, Habakkuk says, “May it be, in the midst of the years, as soon as your timing allows, revive it and bring to life your plan of judgment.” This book began with a cry for justice and it remains, only Habakkuk has become more sober about the Judge. The prayer has not changed, but the prophet has. This time his prayer is with a little more humility.
For what do we pray? Of course, we pray for God to bring justice, but we do it with reverence.
Habakkuk’s second request is for God to reveal His work and make His justice known. He is asking God not to let His justice disappear and to put His glorious righteousness on display. As Pastor Ritch made clear in the previous study, more than an explanation of God’s plan, people need a revelation of God’s person. In response, people worship. That is what will happen at the end of the age,
Revelation 15:4 “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
For what do we pray? We pray according to God’s perfect timing that the righteous acts of His power are revealed.
Habakkuk’s third request is for God to remember mercy and for YAHWEH to Him not to forget His compassionate mercy, “…in wrath remember mercy.” Habakkuk wants justice, but now that his eyes have transferred from the troubling enemy to the terrifying Judge, he cannot help but ask that God remember mercy, just as a small child who falls from the tree and breaks his arm. The doctor explains his bones must be reset. The child accepts that and tells the doctor, “Okay, do it but be gentle.”
For what do we pray? We pray for God to bring justice but to have mercy. We remember who God is and what He does and His justice is terrifying, but we never forget our need for mercy.
Isaiah hears of the terrible woes God pronounces upon the unjust, yet he is undone by the iniquity of his own lips,
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
Praise God for his mercy in Psalm 78,
37 Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant. 38 Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath. 39 He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again.
Israel’s heart was not steadfast toward Him. They were not faithful to His Covenant, yet He was compassionate and He did not destroy them. He restrained His anger often and He did not stir up all of His wrath. He remembered they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again. This is a reminder for us to pray,
Psalm 6:1 O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.
Jeremiah 10:24 Correct me, O Lord, but in justice; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing.
3Lamentations 3:31 For the Lord will not cast off forever, 32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
The God of Habakkuk’s song, in Chapter 2, Verse 12, is the same God of Moses’ song in Deuteronomy 32,
3 For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God! 4 “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.
We cry out to God because there is no one like our God, for who He is, and what He does. We must remember the parable of Jesus in Luke 18, regarding how we should always pray and not loose heart. In this chapter, the widow comes and brings her case, but the judge does not listen. After a while, he says he must listen,
1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
The point is this: when evil goes unpunished, people of faith pray. When life does not make sense, when classmates cheat and win the scholarship, when the co-worker inflates his numbers and earns the promotion, when we follow God and our wife leaves, when the church slanders without remorse, when justice vanishes, we cry out to God in prayer. Habakkuk may not have understood God’s timing or methods, but he knew God’s character and from that character he derived a faith that propelled him to cry out.
Our world is full of injustice: racial, legal, and social. Some people give up on God because He does not respond the way they want, but they misunderstand faith. God’s timing and methods may be mysterious, but faith means crying out in prayer anyway. If we are not Christian, we cannot evaluate our need for God based upon circumstance. Our material success or failure is not an accurate predictor whether or not our choices merit God’s approval. We can enjoy spiritual blessing while under His spiritual curse. Following Jesus does not guarantee our physical life will get better. In fact, when we follow Jesus it may get worse.
This does not promise our marriage will succeed, that our children will go to college, that our arthritis will heal, or that our portfolio will improve. This is saying Jesus is a God worth crying out to whether those things happen or not. Following Jesus demands faith that cries out to God even when life does not make sense.
No one is a better example of that kind of faith than Jesus Himself. He cried out to God while on the cross and in the midst of His pain, even when it was God’s holy wrath to inflict justice upon Him. Calvary is justice. Jesus suffered God’s wrath to offer God’s mercy. Christian, this is the God to whom we cry. He is one who values justice so much He would send His Son to die on the cross so that sin would not go unpunished. He is one who values mercy so much He would send His Son to die on the cross so that we could go free.
Do we want revival at Bethany Baptist Church? Then we need to cry for God to bring justice and mercy. Sin must be dealt with and that means pain and we must ask God to be gentle. Even if it means the dream of our perfect family is shattered, even if Christmas is never the same, we would rather have God here.
Young people, have you ever said, “That is not fair!” An older sister may have gotten away with eating an extra cookie. A little brother may not have gotten punished while you did. God cares. He wants us, instead of complaining, to cry out to Him and ask Him to help us think about mercy when we sin.
Parents, our words teach and our prayers tell what we believe about God.
Dads, teach your family to look for higher justice rather than higher employment and higher government.
Moms, teach your children to pray by faith and teach them mercy. Listen when they cry out. Do not respond with impatience to solve the issue in the back seat so that you can keep driving in peace. Show to them the faithfulness of God.
Husbands, be careful of your sense of justice. Do not withhold love when it is not deserved. God gave to us the picture of Jesus. We sacrifice a love even when a wife does not deserve it. Marriage is a gift none of merit because it is meant to show, not the happiness of “John Doe,” the holiness of Jesus Christ.
Singles, while others were in school, you trusted God and now it has been years. Everyone else has “tied the knot” and you have patiently waited and no one has come. Keep crying out to God.
Experienced saints, you know more injustice than the rest of us. Medical errors may have taken a loved one. Bills may have forced a move. Do not let the cloud of doubt bitter your heart against Christ. Remember who God is and what He does and cry out to Him in faith.
While evil goes unpunished, people of faith cry out.
Second, people of faith respond when evil goes unpunished by looking up and pondering God.
My second year in college began with a surgery that left me stuck on a couch for a week. I was unable to get up and as a result watched a lot of Discovery Channel. Do you know what week in the year that happened to be? It was shark week. There were tiger sharks, hammer heads, whale sharks, and cage dives. A surfer was attacked by two sharks at once. I rarely changed the channel. I was riveted. Each show was more intense than the last. Just when I reached for the remote… great whites! Perhaps you’ve seen it, a small seal trying to escape and a great white rising from beneath. The enormous jaws expose countless white spears enveloping the seal in one motion. The explosive force propels this twenty foot, 4,000 lb shark entirely out of the ocean. The slower the clip played, the lower my jaw dropped. This was an entire week out of the year devoted exclusively to sharks. Why? It was because they are dreadfully majestic. People love to hear about and describe sharks because they are impressed by them and they are afraid of them.
It is almost like this that Habakkuk describes God. He loves it and it is a joy because to him God is so impressive.
He cried out in desperate appeal for mercy, and now he looks up at the dreadful awe of His majesty. He sees a vision of future judgment and salvation, and describes it by known imagery from the past. There are two aspects of God to ponder: His glory and His fury.
First, we will ponder His glory. There is more here than we can cover, but we will touch four features. The first feature is that His glory is beautifully bright,
3 God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah His splendor covered the heavens,
and the earth was full of his praise. 4 His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power.
This was an almost blindingly, beautiful glory shining among the earth. His holy power is both life-giving and breath-taking. The light in which God dwells is unapproachable. If Moses were to see His glory unveiled, he would have died. God’s glory is not delicate; it is beautifully bright.
Second, His glory is righteously lethal and deservedly deadly,
5 Before him went pestilence, and plague followed at his heels.
Egypt and Israel both knew casualties from God’s plague when they disregarded His holy glory. God is not safe. His righteousness is lethal.
Third, His glory is immeasurably powerful. Consider the effects of His glory upon the earth,
6 He stood and measured the earth; he looked and shook the nations; then the eternal mountains were scattered; the everlasting hills sank low. His were the everlasting ways.
Have you ever had a teacher who could silence the classroom with a look? Some yell for order while others make the students shake with just a glance. One look and everyone and everything gets out of God’s way because they know His ways are everlasting. He is not limited and His glory is immeasurably powerful.
Fourth, His glory is rightly terrifying. Consider the way people tremble,
7 I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction; the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble.
This is similar to the vision on Mount Sinai described in Hebrews 12,
21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”
The holiest of men, who had a strong sense of justice that got him into trouble more than once, saw a glimpse of God’s glory and was reduced to trembling. Look up and ponder the glory of God.
Second, we should look up and ponder the fury of God. There are four features of His fury. First, we look at the object of His fury. It is not in nature but in the wicked,
8 Was your wrath against the rivers, O Lord? Was your anger against the rivers, or your indignation against the sea, when you rode on your horses, on your chariot of salvation?
Of course not! Nature recognizes God’s fury and flees and gets out of the way. The waters part at His call, but our heart is much harder. It is not toward nature that God directs His fury, but it is toward sinners.
Secondly, we look at the intensity of His fury, which is comprehensive,
9 You stripped the sheath from your bow, calling for many arrows…You split the earth with rivers.
His bow is ready for battle and He asks for many arrows. His fury against sin is utterly intense.
Third, we look at the effects of His fury,
10 The mountains saw you and writhed; the raging waters swept on; the deep gave forth its voice; it lifted its hands on high. 11 The sun and moon stood still in their place at the light of your arrows as they sped,
at the flash of your glittering spear. 12 You marched through the earth in fury; you threshed the nations in anger.
YAHWEH the Warrior marches in fury and His sharp blade is threshing between the righteous and the unrighteous.
Fourth, we will look at the reasons for His fury: salvation and judgment,
13 You went out for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed.
This is our God who comes to the rescue for His people. He is a furious warrior marching to save His chosen people from judgment. Reading further we see how He does this through judging the evil,
13b You crushed the head of the house of the wicked, laying him bare from thigh to neck…14 You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors…15 You trampled the sea with your horses…
Look up and ponder the fury of God. No matter how much injustice prevails, it will not win,
Proverbs 16:4 The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble. 5 Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.
Psalm 34:15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. 16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. 17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. 19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
In the midst of the storm, Jesus calls Peter out onto the water. Peter obeys, but once he takes his eyes off of Christ and looks at his circumstances, he begins to sink. Sometimes the solution is as simple as looking up.
When evil people go unpunished, people of faith ponder God. When life does not make sense, we need to take our eyes off of what we do not know and put them on Who we do know. Most times we do not need answers, we just need assurances. We should not worry about problems we cannot solve, but we should worship the person who can save. We should not grasp for God’s mysteries when we can grip His majesty.
Habakkuk did well once he pondered God. Non-Christians are in trouble. God’s majesty is terrible. His fury approaches and every moment they reject His Son it builds. Their only hope is to cry out for mercy through the sacrifice of Jesus.
Coming to church is uncomfortable. Hearing about God should be uncomfortable. It confronts our sin, but it is good because it forces us to cry out to the only One who can save us. Our world is dying from the lack of clarity about who God is. They believe they are “pretty good” people, oblivious to God’s fury. Jesus is our only hope. Through Him alone the world was created and through Him alone the world can be saved. He died to rescue us and at Calvary the sun went dark, the earth trembled, and God’s glory was shown in a new way. Jesus alone is the seed of the woman and the Son of God who can crush the serpents head. Do not forget Jesus came once to die, but He comes again to kill and to judge those who are defiant against His rule.
Christian, it is easy to grow self-righteous and to forget God’s fury. In effect we are here to call sinners to repent, but this is not the Kingdom. We need not get mad at people for upsetting our perfect life here. We are here because God is being patient. Our mission is to proclaim Christ while He is patient. We need a clear view of God. We need to teach our children how to think about Jesus. We need to teach our children to come to church with eagerness. We need to get them ready for God by being impressed with God our self. We need to train our heart to spend less time about life situations and more about our Savior.
Dads, it is okay to have plans, Plan A and Plan B, but maybe not Plan C, Plan D, Plan E, or Plan F. Sometimes we do not need another backup plan. Instead of using our commute to solve the world, we need to use it to worship the One who can. It is worth our time not to worry about the things we do not know and worship the One we do. Do we attempt to fix our wife’s problem or point her to the One who can? Do we teach our family how to ponder the Savior or do we attempt to be the savior?
Singles, do not dream about your future life more than you think about God. Put your hope in Him. Every joy in life will not fulfill that life like He can.
Experienced saints, teach us how to ponder God. We are foolish enough to believe we have seen it all. Remind us and teach us to look up.
When evil goes unpunished, people of faith cry out, they look up.
Third, when evil goes unpunished, people of faith hold on and they praise God.
It was about one o’clock in the morning I received a telephone call. It was from my wife’s friend. Her father had been in the hospital and this would be his last night on earth. We rushed to join her in the hospital room. When we arrived, it was full of family, most of whom did not believe in God, but my wife’s friend did. For the family, their faces were completely absent of hope and utterly devastated.
My wife’s friend was different. Of course, she was weeping and, of course, there was pain, but she wanted to sing. While many just stared at us with blank faces, she wanted to worship,
“Bless the Lord oh, my soul. Oh, my soul.
Worship His holy name.
Sing like never before. Oh, my soul.
I’ll worship His holy name.”
When the trials of life hit, nothing stands out like genuine faith. This is the perseverance of the saints. This is what marks Christians. Even when it hurts they hold on. On the eve of judgment, here is the prophets song. He praises God, he cries out a desperate appeal for mercy, he looks up in dreadful awe of the majesty, and he holds on in decisive assurance of God’s might.
There are two ways the prophet praises God. The first is with patient faith; trusting, persevering, enduring with patient faith. Faith does not mean one does not have fear. Believing God means we have faith in the midst of fear. Look at the effect of God’s Word upon the prophet,
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 could not be more afraid, yet he will wait with patience. Faith that praises God in patience does not need an immediate answer or immediate relief. It is decisive assurance from God within the storm.
Second, the way the prophet praises God is resolute. Perhaps the most obvious mark is this resolute faith. There is a complete economic breakdown with the loss of all comfort, food, and real estate investment,
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…
This is a worse-case scenario. In resolute faith, the Prophet Habakkuk says,
18 …yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
This sounds much like Job, does it not,
Job 1:21b “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
This is a prophet who has moved from questions to confidence, from fear to faith, from perplexity to peace. How is this kind of resolve even possible?
19 God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.
This is not possible by any kind of strength of the prophet. It is only possible by the strength of God. It is not human strength. That is the religion of the Babylonians of Chapter 1, whose god is their own might. Habakkuk says, “My might, is YAHWEH, Adonai!” What does that look like? Habakkuk conjured the picture of a deer, not an Illinois deer, but an Israelian Ibex. They are small and graceful and they live on the rocky cliffs in the Middle East. They have the ability to jump between ledges only an inch or two wide and they are hundreds of feet above death. They are hunted by wolves and they escape by leaping to ledges impossibly small. They do not know where the next foothold will be but they escape danger by embracing the safety of a higher ledge.
Is that not what God does for us? He strengthens us to escape into a situation that may seem even more fearful, trusting in Him even more with greater faith. When our strength fails, the safety of faith is in God’s might and the God of silence has become his God of salvation and He has become his God of strength.
This is Peter singing in prison. This is David singing in exile,
Psalm 34:1 I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
The Apostle Paul tells us, in Philippians 4,
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice…6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
It does not make sense, but this is the peace of God for the Christian.
Philippians 4:9b …the God of peace will be with you…11b I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
The health and wealth gospel teaches if one has enough faith one can do whatever one wants and Christ will strengthen them to do what they want. But, that is not the point. Christ does not strengthen us to win the game necessarily. Anyone can win and be content to praise God. Christ gives us strength. God’s might is unveiled when we are content to praise God as we lose or when we praise God when He does not heal our family member. The apostle Paul writes,
2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
God’s might is shown when we worship in weakness and why He chose us,
1 Corinthians 1:25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men…27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong…31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
It is because of Him we are in Christ Jesus and He is our strength. The point is, while evil goes unpunished, people of faith still praise God. No matter how bad life gets, we still have joy and we hold on.
Habakkuk is willing to hold on. The entire prayer is his song. No matter how much is lost, by faith he will live. Our world is consumed with the here-and-now. The prosperity gospel is so prevalent we should have faith and God will heal us and we should have faith and God will make us rich.
Scripture tells a different story. Yes, sometimes we are healed, but here a healthy man is godly and he becomes sick. Rottenness enters into his bones. Faith requires that we look deeper than the surface. Non-Christian, there are many joys in following Christ. There are clear blessings for the church, but the reason to follow Jesus is not to make better friends or to make a better life.
Jesus was treated terribly and no one was more faithful and more forsaken. We read in John 15, we will also suffer,
20 “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”
Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
We must be willing to let go of everything and hold onto Jesus. Following Him may cost us everything, but Scripture is telling us it is worth it. Christian, do you want to see the strength of God? It may come through miracles, but it may come through trusting in God when the miracles never come. That is the power of God.
Beware of the words of idolatry, “I need….”, “I deserve….”, “If God was good, then….”, “If I am good enough, then God will….” Do not keep anything as a condition for praising Him.
If we want revival, this is what it looks like. We fear moving forward with what God asks because we are not holding onto Him but onto other things and we are afraid to lose them. This is what happens when God comes: legs tremble, lips quiver, bones turn rotten, people weep. That is revival.
Young people, when hard times come, it does not mean God is not there. When grandma dies, He is with us and He wants us to hold onto Him. We cherish our grandmother, but we hold onto God.
Parents, we must set our hopes higher, higher than the vacation in June, higher than the quiet time at night, higher than the children going to college. We are to cherish our children, but we are to hold onto God.
Couples, we should not let peace in the marriage and enjoyable times stop us from having important discussions. We should seek revival. We are to cherish our marriage, but we are to hold onto God.
Singles, we should not look for places to put our hope in the newest television, the newest car, the latest clothes. We should cherish our gifts, but we are to hold onto God.
Saints, teach us. You know the pain of loss. Teach us to hold on. Teach us how to cherish our family, but hold onto God.
Someone may say, “I cannot handle that!” Of course, you cannot and neither could Habakkuk. That is why his strength is in God.
When evil goes unpunished, people of faith cry out, look up, and praise God. They hold on.
Though I do not make the team and my friends forsake me, though I do not get a date, though the beds are not made, though my work projects go unfinished and I do not get a raise, though my parents divorce and the wound never closes, though my wife passes away, though my cancer returns, yet I will praise the Lord. That is what sinners need to bid them to come and cling to a Jesus who is worth it. Amidst our storms of fear is the calm of faith.
“When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand.”
 Matthew 14:22-31
 10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord), Matt Redman, “10,000 Reasons” album, 2012
 “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”, Edward Mote, 1797-1874, text 1 Timothy 1:1.