Summary: In today’s lesson we learn the proper procedure to deal with our personal or national problems. We learn that when dealing with problems, we must pray (i.e., P-R-A-Y).
Last week I began a short sermon series on the book of Habakkuk, which I have titled, “Making Sense of Today’s News.” Most of the material for this sermon series comes from Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ series on Habakkuk, which he preached at the beginning of World War II.
Habakkuk is a profound book, one that delves deeply into the mysteries of God. Habakkuk raises deep questions about the actions of God in today’s news—why God does what he does, why he does it in the way he does, and why he sometimes does nothing.
Habakkuk is also profound because of the answers God gives. God says that although the righteous may not understand everything he is doing in today’s news, they nevertheless should live by faith in him (2:4).
The prophet Habakkuk had a problem. He had lived through a period of national revival followed by a period of spiritual decline. The Babylonian Empire was rising. They had captured Nineveh in 612 BC and they were later to capture Jerusalem in 587 BC. King Josiah, who had been responsible for the spiritual revival of the nation, died in 609 BC, and after his death the nation’s spiritual decline was remarkably fast. Habakkuk wrote this book after Josiah died and probably some time before 600 BC.
When Habakkuk cried out to God about the spiritual decline of his nation, at first God was silent. God appeared to be doing nothing. But then, when God did reply, he said that he was sending the Babylonians to be an agent of judgment against his people. This was not what Habakkuk expected, nor wanted. Habakkuk wanted God to change the spiritual attitude of his people by simply sending a revival. But instead of sending a revival, God was using a foreign, ungodly nation—the Babylonians—to bring his judgment against his people.
With that in mind, let us read Habakkuk 1:12-17, focusing especially on verses 12-13, our text for today:
12 O LORD, are you not from everlasting?
My God, my Holy One, we will not die.
O LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgment;
O Rock, you have ordained them to punish.
13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
you cannot tolerate wrong.
Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?
Why are you silent while the wicked
swallow up those more righteous than themselves?
14 You have made men like fish in the sea,
like sea creatures that have no ruler.
15 The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks,
he catches them in his net,
he gathers them up in his dragnet;
and so he rejoices and is glad.
16 Therefore he sacrifices to his net
and burns incense to his dragnet,
for by his net he lives in luxury
and enjoys the choicest food.
17 Is he to keep on emptying his net,
destroying nations without mercy? (Habakkuk 1:12-17)
Habakkuk faced serious problems in his life. He was wrestling with the spiritual decline of the nation. But as he learned about God’s response, Habakkuk had a further problem of reconciling God’s actions with what he knew about God’s attributes.
This is similar to the situation today. We live in a state of spiritual declension not only in the nation but particularly in the Church. And with the increase of terrorist attacks as well as wars, it is not uncommon for people to ask many questions: “Where was God when terrorist attacks and wars and disasters happen? Why does God allow it to happen? Why does God not stop it?”
When we face problems in our lives—whether they are national or personal—it is very important that we follow a proper procedure in dealing with them. It is much more important that we should know the proper procedure for dealing with these problems than that we should have simplistic and clichéd answers to particular problems.
People want clear answers to specific problems, but the Bible does not always give us what we desire in this respect. It does, however, teach us a proper procedure. We are apt to panic and jump to wrong conclusions when the unexpected happens, and when God is dealing with us in a strange and unusual manner.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones suggested that there are four steps in a proper procedure to help us know how to deal with our problems. Let me give them to you briefly. By the way, today I am going to tell you what I am going to say, then I am going to say it, and then I am going to tell you what I said.
My proposition for today’s message is this: When dealing with problems, we must pray (i.e., P-R-A-Y).
First, pause to think. Most of us have a tendency to talk first and think afterwards, if we think at all. But James tells us, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak” (James 1:19). When we speak first, we often muddle ourselves by talking nonsense. But, when we first pause to think, we begin to sort things out and allow the light of God’s Word to shine in on our specific problem.