Summary: God acted in the history of Judah to turn His people’s hearts back to Himself. The people would not heed the many opportunities God sent their way and when the prophet cried out to God -- He answered. God’s answer shocked Habakkuk. This sermon sets the sc
“Yet I Will Rejoice!”
The prophet of God was disturbed in his spirit. He had felt the revival fires that had visited Judah during King Josiah’s day fade from a roaring blaze to mere flickering embers. He had watched the Temple slowly become empty and the hearts of the people become full of themselves. Pride, lust, greed, violence, and injustice had moved into the city square and began rotting the foundation of the Holy City.
The prophet had preached until he was hoarse. He had warned the people until he was worn out. Now the prophet felt that he could no longer communicate with the people, and he turned to God with the heaviness of his heart.
2 How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? 3 Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. 4 Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted. (Habakkuk 1:2-4 NIV)
“How long must this go on without You intervening God?” How many times have you or I uttered those words? When was the last time you found yourself the victim of violence, injustice, or greed and were powerless to do anything about it? When did you last feel yourself going under, swept overboard by the pain and sorrow spilling over the border of your heart? When was the last time the Lord broke your heart with the sin, the turning away, of our nation from God? When was the last time you felt the piercing blow of someone else’s sin creeping into your own life and taking you hostage? Have you ever watched a friend, or a family member, being sold down the river by injustice and wanted to intervene, but felt powerless to fight the system? You cried out to God in prayer, but their pain only grew more intense. All of these situations and more were weighing heavy on Habakkuk’s heart as he watched his leaders and neighbors abusing and misusing one another. Habakkuk had seen the stirring of people’s hearts during the days of Josiah, he had hoped that a genuine revival had come to the nation, but now he could not find evidence anywhere that hearts had truly been transformed. Habakkuk’s pleas, his prodding, his preaching – nothing seemed to sink in and cause the people to turn back to God. Habakkuk cried out to God, but in crying out for an answer Habakkuk could not believe the answer he received.
What was the answer that God gave to Habakkuk? Well, you’ll have to stick around for the next couple of weeks to learn God’s answer because today I want to share with you the setting of this powerful little prophecy. Where was Habakkuk? What was taking place in the land that caused Habakkuk to suffer such intense frustration and inner turmoil? When did Habakkuk live? What was the political and spiritual climate of the nation that led to Habakkuk’s cry to God? All of these questions and more come to the forefront of our mind as we read this little three-chapter book.
This morning, as we begin our new study of Habakkuk, I want to take you back in time to the period of 700-600 B.C. Habakkuk arrives on the scene in the second half of these one hundred years and he watches the nation of Judah rediscover the Law during King Josiah’s day and forget the Word and will of God once Josiah is gone. Some of the same characteristics that we find as we study ancient Judah are still with us today. That is both good news and bad news. The good news is this: just as God worked in the past He is still working today. The bad news is that we are just as vulnerable today to the predicaments and perils of the people of Habakkuk’s day.
Let me set the scene for you as we begin our study. First, let me say that it is of great importance for you and me to understand Habakkuk’s times and God’s dealing with the people. These stories contained in God’s Word have not been placed before us simply for our entertainment. The stories of God’s dealings with people have been placed there for you and me to learn from, to heed the warnings, and to stir our hearts so that we might seek God with passion and relentless devotion. Paul wrote to the Corinthians and said,
11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1 Corinthians 10:11-13 NIV)