In December of 2012 heavy grief came due to the massacre of little children in Newtown, Connecticut. Samuel Freedman wrote a column in The New York Times titled: “In a Crisis, Humanists Seem Absent.” Freedman noted the explicit religious vocabulary in all the public ceremonies. Even President Obama delivered close to a sermon based on 2 Corin. 4 and 5. Though Connecticut is very secular, every single family had a religious service as they buried their child. In Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, Tim Keller wrote: “When facing your child in a coffin the secular consolation that ‘the dead do not suffer’ seems thin in comparison to the Christian consolation of the resurrection.”
We are studying Habakkuk, which is full of suffering. The near prophecies of Habakkuk were fulfilled just decades later as the Chaldeans came and brutalized Judah. But what causes us to pause is that this prophecy points to the end times as well, when suffering will intensify before Christ will come. But in the midst of woe upon woe, God gave flashes of hope, hope to which God’s people then and now must cling. This is real hope, not thin comfort.
ONE DAY HEAVEN AND EARTH WILL BE JOINED.
THERE WILL BE NO MORE SIN, NO MORE TEARS, AND NO MORE DEATH.
EVERYONE WILL BE GLORIFYING THE LORD.
THIS IS REAL COMFORT WHEN SUFFERING COMES.
WE CAN TRUST THIS PROMISE, FOR HE ALWAYS KEEPS HIS WORD.
GOD HAS PROMISED A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH.
Last week I was in a prison near Milwaukee where the women were graduating from an Idol Lies curriculum. A beautiful young inmate stood up and sang I Can Only Imagine.
The women worshiped, and, as has been my experience, the worship was deeper and truer than in the church outside prison walls. Suffering has caused them to press into God, and they are more than surviving. Why? They are holding on to the hope of the day to which Habakkuk points.
LET’S REVIEW WHERE WE HAVE BEEN.
THE SHORT BOOK OF HABAKKUK IS VERY MUCH LIKE A PSALM OF LAMENT, WITH THE PROPHET LAMENTING, WAITING,
AND THEN HEARING FROM GOD REPEATEDLY.
1. Hab. 1:1-4 – 1st lament: Why is God allowing God’s people to do wrong?
2. Hab. 1:5-11 – 1st reply: I’ll raise up the Chaldeans to discipline my own.
3. Hab. 1:12-2:1 2nd lament: Will You use the wicked to swallow those more righteous?
4. Hab 2:2-20: 2nd reply: I will purge the Chaldeans next, but don’t despair, for one day “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
As we look at the sins of the Chaldeans, and the woes God brought to them, we must also look at our own hearts, for their root sins of idolatry are also our root sins. God will not bring arrows of woe to His Bride, for “woe” in Scripture is always for the enemies of the Bride. He will eventually wipe out all our enemies or change their rebellious hearts. What He will do with His Bride is not punishment but discipline, purifying us. And one day, Hosea 2:17-19 promises, “I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth…and I will betroth you to me forever.” This time on earth we are being purified and prepared for that great day, and in the midst of trouble, we must hold to His promises and walk in repentance and faith. That’s cooperating with the One who is turning our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh.
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
MONDAY-FRIDAY BIBLE STUDY
(If you were not able to listen to the Keller sermon last week, you have another chance! Do it when you can and share your notes or comments. Or go back and read Deanna’s amazing notes.)
It is June, and time for graduations and speeches exhorting the graduate about how to make the best of their lives. My favorite speech came from Gordy Scharf, son of Dr. Greg Scharf, preaching professor at Trinity Seminary. Gordy told his classmates that there was a quality that would guarantee them of contentment, success, and genuine joy in life. He surprised them with what it was. HUMILITY. That would make them grateful and content for what they were given, and trusting for what they were not. That would give them success in what mattered most: character and relationships.
Likewise, the opposite, pride, C. S. Lewis says, is the cancer of the soul.
2. Read Habakkuk 2:4-5
A. Find all the descriptions of pride you can in these two verses. Look carefully for word pictures.
B. With what is pride contrasted in verse 4? What do you learn from this?
C. Meditate on the quote from C. S. Lewis and explain why you think it is true or untrue.
A. What gifts or possessions that God has given you do you tend to trust in instead of Him?
B. How could you walk in repentance and faith concerning this?
Lewis also calls pride the chief sin, for it leads to others. Let’s see how this happened with the Chaldeans.
4. In Habakkuk 2:5b, what sin has pride led to? Why do you think this happens?
5. Describe the first WOE in Habakkuk 2:6-8.
6. Describe the second WOE in Habakkuk 2:9-11.
7. Describe the third WOE in Habakkuk 2:12-13.
AND THEN HERE, JUST AS IN THE BOOK OF JOB, IN THE MIDST OF THE STORM, A RAINBOW OF HOPE, A HOPE THAT GOD GIVES THOSE WHO ARE EXPERIENCING SUFFERING. A DAY IS COMING WHEN THOSE WHO ARE IN HIM WILL LIVE IN THE PROMISED LAND, WHERE WE WILL SEE OUR REDEEMER FACE TO FACE, AND EXPERIENCE GOD’S GLORY EVERYWHERE.
What I love about this verse is that it will happen here on earth, not in some ethereal place. God will create a new heaven and a new earth that will be more beautiful than we can even imagine.
In D. A. Carson’s commentary on “New Testament use of the Old Testament” he finds a parallel to the above passage in Romans 1, when God’s wrath “will be revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrightousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18)
“Destruction must come in order for salvation to arrive. God’s wrath sweeps away his enemies, in this way working salvation. As a result, the earth will be filled with the knowledge of Yahweh, as the waters cover the earth.”
8. Challenge Question: Compare Romans 1:17-18 with Habakkuk 2:11-14 and see if you can find, in each:
A. The way the righteous are to live
B. The wrath of God against the unrighteous
Last week Susan and Jill initiated a good discussion about struggling with the idea of finding comfort in the fact that God will judge. Both have hearts of compassion and found this challenging. It is hard to think of God sweeping away the unrighteous. We’re going to have a whole week on this next week, but for now:
9. What thoughts do you have?
10. What is your take-a-way and why?