HABAKKUK – EMPOWERMENT IN HARD TIMES!

Mountain deer

Habakkuk 1:2-4 (GOD’S WORD® Translation) – How long, O LORD, am I to cry for help, but you will not listen? I cry out to you, “There’s violence!” yet you will not come to the rescue… Quarrels and disputes arise… Wicked people surround righteous people so that when justice is carried out, it’s perverted.”

 

The book of Habakkuk opens with the agonizing cry “How long, O LORD“, things have fallen apart in Judah, “There’s violence“, frequent quarrels and conflicts, but the judges are so corrupt “when justice is carried out, it’s perverted.” In such conditions, poor people, simple people, and righteous people, often experience hard times.

The LORD answers Habakkuk that he has seen the ugly conditions in Judah, and has permitted Judah to be captured by Babylon as a form of discipline for Judah. Habakkuk thinks the punishment is too strong and ask God for mercy. God assures him that “the righteous person will live because of his faithfulness” (Hab. 2:4).

God’s response so delights Habakkuk that he was inspired to write Habakkuk Chapter 3 as a magnificent song of praise. Habakkuk 3:17-19 are among the most beautiful praise and testimony of God’s provision for the righteous in hard times.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 (GWT) – “Even if the fig tree does not bloom and the vines have no grapes, even if the olive tree fails to produce and the fields yield no food, even if the sheep pen is empty and the stalls have no cattle – even then, I will be happy with the LORD. I will truly find joy in God, who saves me. The LORD Almighty is my strength. He makes my feet like those of a deer. He makes me walk on the mountains.” 

In hard times, the LORD is our strength, empowering us to thrive – giving us feet like those of the mountain deer, so we can walk on the mountains to springs of living waters, which never runs dry, glory to His name, Amen!

 

Image: Deer in the Carmel mountain, Israel (Source: Wikimedia)

WHAT IS YOUR ANCHOR IN TIMES OF UNCERTAINTY?

Seraphim 2

Isaiah 6:1-2 (New Living Translation)

It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.

 

Uzziah (also known as Azariah) was the twelfth king of Judah.  His father and grandfather were assassinated; they left Judah a poor and weak country. Uzziah was king at 16 and ruled for 52 years (see 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26). He was faithful to God, and thus God prospered and made Judah strong again.

Sadly, in his later years, pride caused Uzziah to attempt to take over the functions of the Priests; God struck him with Leprosy and this eventually led to his death. It was while mourning over Uzziah’s tragic death that Isaiah had this spectacular vision of God on the throne in the Temple, filing it up with his mighty presence and greatness.

The vision showed Isaiah that Judah’s true King was still alive and full of power. The vision strengthened Isaiah’s faith, renewed his hope, and showed him the way forward. It was the key turnaround moment in Isaiah’s life.

Who or what is king over your life? Country? The President? The economy? The certificate you earned from College? Family? The job you do? Friends? Church you attend? Will these hold firm in times of uncertainty?

Isaiah’s confidence was wrecked when Uzziah died, but the Lord rescued Isaiah with a vision of His presence and greatness. Our anchor and stability in times of uncertainty is Yahweh, the true and permanent Ruler of Heaven and Earth.

May the LORD give us a vision of his presence and greatness, like he did for Isaiah, to strengthen our trust in Him in these uncertain times, Amen!   

 

Image: Seraphim on Jerusalem YMCA based on Isaiah 6:1-5 (Source: Wikimedia

WISDOM FROM LAMENTATIONS

File:The captivity of Judah.jpg

 

Lamentations 1:1 (New Living Translation) – Jerusalem, once so full of people, is now deserted. She who was once great among the nations now sits alone like a widow. Once the queen of all the earth, she is now a slave.

Lamentations 5:21-22 (New Living Translation) – Restore us, O LORD, and bring us back to you again! Give us back the joys we once had! Or have you utterly rejected us? Are you angry with us still?

 

These are the opening and closing verses of the book of Lamentations, written by Prophet Jeremiah. Many avoid Lamentations because it is about grieving with sorrow over a devastating event; in this case, it is Jeremiah mourning the horrible destruction of Judah by the Babylonians and taking the people as captives.

This happened about 1000 years after God delivered Israel from Egypt and took them into a land of milk and honey (see previous post on Milk and Honey Part 1 and Part 2). When David was King, Israel was a very powerful nation, and when Solomon was King, it was a very rich nation. Here they were in Jeremiah’s era, a captive people.

The books of the prophets in the Bible, explain that this happened because Israel turned her back on God; consequently her Kings ruled very badly; her court judges were corrupt; her markets had traders who often cheated buyers; men were unkind and women cared more for their dress and make-up than their character.

Despite the prophets warning Israel for about 500 years to repent, they refused; and were then cruelly destroyed by Babylon. If Israel’s leaders, greatly favored by God, could get it wrong so badly, what about leaders of our nations today? Is it wise to place ALL our hopes for a better life, a better country, in the ability of our leaders today?

Psalm 146:3-5 (New Living Translation) tells us – Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the LORD their God.

Lamentations teaches a wise lesson that human leadership, no matter how blessed, will fail the people, from time to time. The only secure anchor we have is God; so in these difficult times of political insecurity everywhere, seek God earnestly and sincerely, and he will keep you and give you peace, Amen!   

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Image: The Captivity of Judah (Source: Wikimedia)

 

JONAH AND THE GOD OF ALL PEOPLE

Jonah_the_Prophet

Jonah 4:1-3 (New Living Translation)

This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the LORD about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, LORD! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”

Prophet Jonah was sent to preach to Nineveh, capital of Assyria, that their cup of wickedness was full; either they repent or face judgement from God. Assyria was a mighty country at that time similar to present day USA, or Germany, or China. Israel as a smaller neighbor feared Assyria, so the relationship between them was poor.

Nineveh was a great city, like New York, London or Paris; when they heard the message from Jonah, they were touched, and they all repented, including their King. God forgave them and the city was spared his judgement. What a happy outcome!

Not so for everyone though, Jonah became very angry, and said: That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, LORD! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”

I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God – think about this…

This is a passage from the Old Testament half of the Bible; a passage from a narrative where God is extending his love and mercy to a gentile city, Nineveh. The God of the Bible is clearly not just a God of Israel, but a God of all people. Jonah saw this more than three thousand years ago; this merciful and compassionate God has not changed.

I pray your goals in 2018 include getting to know more of the God of the Bible, through studying the Bible a little more on a regular basis. Don’t be satisfied with my blog, or the word you hear from the pulpit, the radio or the TV, read the Bible a little more!

May the merciful and compassionate God of all people give you understanding and light as you study the Bible to get to know him a little more, Amen!

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Image: Jonah the Prophet By Sargis Babayan – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32665853