HABAKKUK WENT TO HIS WATCHTOWER
AND WAITED TO HEAR FROM GOD
Habakkuk was lamenting, wondering how long God would allow violence to surround the righteous. God’s answer astounded him — He was raising up a far more violent nation.
So Habakkuk lamented again and then went to his watchtower to “see what he will say to me.”
D. A. Carson, a mentor to Tim Keller and a founder of The Gospel Coalition, believes Habakkuk’s prophecy (which was fulfilled decades later) may very well be what we call a telescopic prophecy, where there is a near prophecy and a far prophecy, pointing to the end times and the coming of Christ.
I will be sharing some of Carson’s New Testament references that parallel Habakkuk and point to the 2nd coming of Christ as this study progresses.
Of course we do not know the day or the hour when Christ will come. Many believers felt that the holocaust that led to World War II meant we were in the end times. But that wasn’t the end, though I believe a birth pang pointing to the end. In that terrible time there was a remnant who “walked by faith and not by fear.” Corrie ten Boom was one. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was another. The best biography I’ve ever read is this one:
The presence of Christ was so real to Bonhoeffer, filling his heart with an inextinguishable joy. One guard reports watching him just before he was hung. (Can you tell I’m trying to entice you to read the book this summer?)
In the 1930’s the writing was on the wall that Bonhoeffer’s beloved country of Germany was going mad. How could so many Germans, including pastors, line up behind Hitler?
The enemy had used fear to distort their thinking.
Fear is the opposite of faith, and only faith can overcome fear, faith that God is real, sovereign, and good.
To prepare for this week’s short but pregnant passage, I want to show how Bonhoeffer sought the Lord for I see a parallel with his ancestor, Habakkuk, who waited on God and then walked by faith.
BONHOEFFER WAS NOT LOOKING FOR PERSONAL ADVANTAGE WHEN HE PRAYED
This is the man who gave us, in his thirties, “The Cost of Discipleship.” His face was set like flint to do God’s will. In Dallas Willard’s Hearing God, Willard writes:
I fear many people seek to hear God soley as a device for obtaining their own safety, comfort, and sense of being righteous. …God will simply not cooperate.
How often do we pray to be delivered out of our circumstances? While it is not wrong to pray for healing or blessings, God has a deeper purpose for our lives of which we must always be aware.
BONHOEFFER DEMONSTRATED ACTIVE WAITING
He prayed, he pondered Scripture, he sought counsel. He began to move based on those three things.
He saw how the German church was caving, and endeavored to persuade the leadership of the church to take a stand against Hitler. When they told him they were “waiting on the Lord,” he wrote: “To delay or fail to make decisions may be more sinful that to make wrong decisions out of faith and love.”
Bonhoeffer then was led to begin a seminary in Germany to teach the Word of God to young men and to revive the existing pastors who were being deceived by Hitler’s “German church” which distorted the Scriptures to justify the persecution of Jews. Jews were now being identified on their passports and with yellow badges.
In 1939 Bonhoeffer was called into the German draft. He knew he could not do it for “I would have to do violence to my Christian conscience.” He was able to be released by taking a position in America as a pastor to German refugees. He met with the friends and leaders in Germany to keep the seminary going underground before he left. Then he took a ship to America with a heavy heart for his homeland — he wanted to return as soon as possible. He thought it would be in a year, but he heard from God in 26 days and returned, though he knew it might mean his life.
It was a momentous decision.
He could not do anything less for he had heard from God.
These are some entries from Bonhoeffer’s journal during those 26 days. The first, I believe, shows how God was guiding his heart through His Spirit as Bonhoeffer cried out to God day and night for guidance.
June 15, 1939
I do not understand why I am here. (America) I have now been almost two weeks without knowing what is going on there. (Germany) It is hard to bear. …Tonight the parlor conversation was about if it is possible to get a good musical education in New York…The inactivity, or rather activity in unimportant things, is quite intolerable when one thinks of the brethren and how how precious time is. …I am in utter despair.
His time in the word seemed to confirm what the Spirit was telling his heart. The Word and the Spirit always agree.
Saturday, June 18, 1939
It is almost unbearable… Today God’s Word says, “I am coming soon.” (Rev 3:11) There is not time to lose and here I am wasting days, perhaps weeks. In any case, it seems like that at the moment. My whole life is over there. (Germany)
Sunday, June 19, 1939
He went to a huge church (RIverside) near his hotel, longing to hear from God, but it was a tepid sermon based not on Scripture but on the philosopher William James. Bonhoeffer left, distraught, to return to his room and the Word. His habit was to begin with the psalms, praying them. He was quickened by:
Depart from me you evil ones, so that I may obey God’s commands.
Still others fell on good ground, and produced a crop, some 100, some 60, and some 30 times what was sown.
It comforts me that Bonhoeffer was continually questioning his motives for decisions, making him unsure. He was being pressured by the Americans to stay, because they felt they needed him, and also felt he would be in danger if he went. He was such a godly man, yet often unsure. He writes:
At the end of the day I can only ask God to give a merciful judgement on today and all its decisions.
June 26th, 1939
Today I read by chance in 2 Timothy 4: “Do thy diligence to come before winter,” Paul’s petition to Timothy. “Come before winter” — otherwise it might be too late. This has been in my mind all day.
Bonhoeffer left New York for Europe on July 7th, 1939.
God would use him mightily to bring pastors to their senses, to rescue Jews, and to write books his two years in prison before Hitler had him hung.
Again, in 2016, our world seems to be going mad. We are no longer “slouching toward Gomorrah,” as Robert Bork put it twenty years ago, but rather, “racing toward Gomorrah.”
Another holocaust is happening. 7,000 Christians in the Middle East were martyred last year, yet that news is buried. Are we in the end times? I don’t know, but the world is spiraling down and we must walk by faith and not by fear.
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
Monday – Wednesday Bible Study
Prepare your heart with this:
Audrey Assad wrote this after watching the 21 Coptic Christians beheaded on a beach.
2. As a review of Habakkuk 1:
A. Why was Habakkuk so shocked to hear that God was raising up the
Chaldeans to discipline Israel? (Use the text to answer)
B. Challenge question: My friend Twila and I had an intriguing discussion about
verse 1:12 for some translations (such as the new NIV) say “You shall not
die” and others say “We shall not die.” Remembering that poetry in couplets
repeats thoughts, what do you think and why?
3. Read Habakkuk 2:1-2
A. Where is Habakkuk going and what is he going to do?
B. Keller makes the point to get alone — as a watchtower would do. Do you have a habitual quiet place and time?
C. What phrases in verse 1 show active waiting? Expectancy?
D. What is the first thing that God tells him to do when the vision comes, and how is he to articulate it? Why do you think this is an important command?
E. For those of you who teach, or who are mothers, or who disciple others — what helps you to be clear — and how do you know if you have been understood?
Often prophets have a near and far vision, and that may be the case with Habakkuk.
D. A. Carson writes: Originally this prophecy of Habakkuk pointed to the coming of the Chaldeans to destroy Israel. But this Old Testament text might be considered to have a double fulfillment, originally fulfilled in Habakkuk’s era but pointing to the ultimate fulfillment at the second coming of Christ.
3. According to verse 3, what does God tell him about the vision? Find all you can.
4. Do you see any similarities to Luke 12:35-48?
4. JUDGMENT IS COMING. It will deal with the unrighteous and reward the righteous. What is the contrast that is made between the two in verse 4?
5. How are you “walking by faith” in these times? And if indeed, if we are at the precipice of difficult end-times, how will you walk by faith?
6. Read Habakkuk 2:1-4 slowly.
A. Reflect: What quickens you and why?
B. Respond: How could you pray what you learn into your heart?
C. Rest and be with God. Experience His presence.
7. Listen and share your notes.
8. What is your take-a-way and why?