Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 8 months ago

Questions for the Holy One

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Habakkuk 1:12-2:1

A gracious heavenly father. We do thank you for your word, we thank you for your words of life and we ask that you would continue to speak words of life into our souls help us to see our savior. This morning. We pray this in Jesus name. Amen, please remain standing for the reading of God's word this morning from the Prophet Habacock, Habacock chapter one, though will be reading focusing on versus twelve through to the end of the chapter. We're kind of in the middle of a dialog and I think that be helpful for us to hear the entire conversation up to this point. So reading from Habacock, Chapter One, verse one. Listen, for this is the word of the Lord, the Oracle that Habacock, the prophet, saw. Oh Lord, how long shall I cry for help and you will not hear? Or cry to you violence and you will not save why do you make me see iniquity and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction? Violence are before me, strife and contention arise, so the law is paralyzed and justice never goes forth, for the wicked surround the righteous. So justice goes forth perverted. Look among the nations and see, wonder and be astounded, for I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation who march through the breadth of the earth to seize dwellings not their own. They are dreaded and fearsome. Their justice and dignity go forth from themselves. Their horses are swifter than leopards, more fierce than the evening wolves. Their horsemen, pressed proudly on their horsemen, come from afar. They fly like an eagle, swift to devour. They all come for violence, all their faces forward. They gather captives like sand. At kings they scoff, and at rulers they laugh. They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it. Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men whose own might is their God. Are you not from everlasting? Oh Lord, my God, My holy one, we shall not die. Oh Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Roc, have established them for reproof. You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong. Why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he. You make mankind like the fish of the sea, like crawling things that have no ruler. He brings all of them up with a hook. He drags them out with his net. He gathers them in. Is a dragnet. so he rejoices and is glad. Therefore, he sacrifices to his net and makes offerings to his dragnet, for by them he lives in luxury and his food is rich. Is he then to keep on emptying his net and mercilessly killing nations forever? I will take my stand at my watch post and station myself on the tower and look out to see what he will say to me and what I shall answer concerning my complaint. That's for the reading of God's word. May he bless it to us. Please be seated. I want to start this morning with a with a question. What is a Theologan? What is a Theologan? Well, at theologan right is someone engaged in the study of theology. Therefore, a theologian is someone who ...

...devotes their time to understanding the nature of God. They're interested in the attributes of God theologan is interested in the character of God. That's my second question is, what does a theologan look like? Hold it in your mind right now. What's your picture of a theologian? Does he look like an academic? Does she look bright and intelligent? Are they carrying around a stack of books with lengthy titles? Or maybe, better yet, are they standing in front of an tire bookshelf, a wall of books? Yet, how many of us picture in our heads an Old Testament prophet? How many of US Picture Habakuk, whatever he may have looked like? Because in what I just read, Habacock is engaged in theology. He is deeply interested in the character and the nature of God, and it's not just out of some idle or intellectual curiosity. It has an immediate importance on what is going on around him. Who God is matters for what he sees, for how he's responding to what he sees. For you see, when Habacco began this book, he began by crying out to the Lord, describing all the injustices that he has witnessed. And yet, rather than form this as a prayer or as a request, he puts it in the form of a complaint. He speaks out to God. Why do you make me see iniquity? Why do you idly look at wrong? For you see things are upside down, the righteous are suffering, the wicked or prospering, and God, God, seems to be silence. God seems to be inactive. He's longing for God to respond, he's longing for God's to act, he's longing for justice. And in the Lord's response to the Prophet, we see how shortsighted Habacic truly is. For in verses five through eleven, the Lord says that he has not been inactive, he's not been blind to the wickedness of Judah. Rather, he has been at work among the Babylonians, among these Chaldeans. God has been doing a work too unbelievable for words. He says, I'm doing a work in your day that you would not believe if told. Behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation who march through the breadth of the earth to seize dwellings not their own. And he describes how swift they are, he describes how they are brutal, they are violent, they are ruthless and like a tornado, they will swoop down quickly, leaving only destruction in their wake. And so now in our passage, and quickly becomes obvious to Habacic, this unbelievable answer to the prophets complaint was not what he had in mind. He was complaining about too much violence in Judah, and now the Lord is about to send even more. He was complaining about too much in juice in Judah, and now the Lord will send even more. And so the Lord's solution only raises more questions. And these are more than just questions. These are further complaints from Habakach. And yet this is no longer just a onesided complaint, now that the Lord has responded to the Prophet. We're in the midst of a dialog. HABACO's words here reflect that he isn't just repeating his complaints from before like some child who's throwing a fit. His complaint now changes in light of what's been revealed. And can you see why...

Habakok would be complaining now, after the Lord has responded to him? You see, it's this. If he's just been told that they're hiring drug dealers to hand out speeding tickets, it's as if he's just been told they're hiring serial killers to stop shoplifting. This solution doesn't make sense. How is it that God could use such a wicked nation like Babylon to judge his own covenant people? After all, he's been complaining about injustice. He's going been complaining about the brutality of Judah, but surely the brutality of Babylon is worse, and the Lord says so himself. He's not raising them up for their abilities to listen. He's not bringing them to Judah because you know they're strict but fair. No, it's because of their relentless might and greed that the Lord is using them for this judgment. And here is precisely then, where the prophet shows us that he's a theologian, for even in his complaint he's answering the question who is God? Here's his theology at work as he struggles to reconcile what he's just heard from God with who he already knows God to be. Just notice all the divine names and and descriptions which he falls back on in the midst of his despair. He addresses God as Oh Lord. Here he refers not to a title but to the name Yahway he calls upon the Covenant Name God gave to his people when he rescued them from Egypt. This is the name God gave to Moses to tell the people exactly who is redeeming them. Therefore, this name goes to the heart of what is unique about Judah as a nation, as a people. What makes jude different from the Babylonians and from every other nation is their covenantal relationship to Yahwe God had this relationship with no other nation, only Abraham's chosen offspring. He refers to God as my God, as this is even more heavenence in how he describes him. Oh Lord, my God. He addresses him not just as a god or the God, but my God, and this is in direct contrast to the idolatry, then of the Babylonians mentioned just prior to this in verse eleven. God calls the Babylonians guilty men whose own might is their God, because the Babylonians don't worship the Lord, they worship themselves. They don't praise God for their victories, they simply praise themselves. And so, when calling out to God as my God, do you see how the Bacach is drawing this distinction between Judah and the nations. And then there's the further name my holy one. The Prophet reference is not only God's covenant with his people. He now calls upon the very holiness of his God as opposed to all the slaughter, as opposed to all the bloodshed all around him, both in Judah and Babylon, as opposed to the wickedness, to the pride, to the greed present both in Judah and now coming from Babylon. The Lord, my God, My holy one, and stands separate, my holy one, stands apart. He alone is holy, he alone is undefiled, as the Prophet himself...

...says in verse thirteen, you who are of pure eyes then to see evil and cannot look at wrong. So he knows of God's holiness, he knows of his perfections, he knows that God is so entirely pure, so entirely holy, that he cannot tolerate sin. And yet not only does God seem to be tolerating it, not only is he seemed to be allowing it, he is raising up wicked Babylonians to carry out holy justice. Do you see how this confuses the prophet? Do you see why this situation throws the Prophet back upon his own theology, for he's not reevaluating his theology, he's revealing it. He's saying, this is what I know to be true of you, God. You are Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac Jacob. You are my God because you have made yourself knowable to your covenant people, because You yourself promised to be our God and you made us your people. You are my holy one because you have have revealed your purity, you revealed your holiness. In all of your statutes and all of your ceremonies. We see that you are holy, you are free from defilement, and yet we are filthy, we are covered in our shame and guilt. Do you see them that? The confusion that a pacock is wrestling with who God is seems to be at odds with what God is doing and allowing for this prophet, the judgment doesn't seem to fit the crime. He goes on to describe Judah's powerlessness before this approaching enemy, and he uses the metaphor of a fisherman using his nets to endlessly catch and drag fish from the sea. The fish cannot fight back. The fish have no defenses. They are hopeless, utterly vanquished at the hands of the fisherman. He says, you make mankind like the fish of the sea, like cawling things that have no ruler. He brings all of them up with a hook, he drags them out with his net, he gathers them in his dragnet. so he rejoices and is glad to the point where he sacrifices to his nets. He makes offerings to his dragnet, because by them he lives in luxury and he has which he has, his food is rich. Is he then to keep on emptying his nets and mercilessly killing nations forever? The Prophet asks. Now, compare this wickedness of the sins of Judah. Judah has still been chosen by the one true God, whereas the Babylonians simply worship their strength, they worship their might. They get away with great brutality. And who do the Babylonians think? They sacrifice to their nets. So not only are they brutal, they're also stupid, as if a sacrifice will make the rope stronger or their weapons better. These brutal men are are pagans and they're dumb. How can it be that they are to triumph over Judah? How can they be the staff used by God to judge his own covenant people, these unchosen Pagans who boast in their nets or their might, and the holy one is going to use them and bring them success? His own chosen people have been sinful, but do they deserve this? How can this be happening? And so Habakuk, the theologian,...

...he he complains because these actions don't seem to match the character of God. He's wrestling with the conflict between God's nature and his activity, which is why he concludes with the question will this go on forever? Is he then to keep on emptying his nets and mercilessly killing nations forever? And don't you see, then, it's this concept of eternity, this forever, which brings another layer to these complaints. The way back at the beginning of this line of questioning, when the Prophet calls out to God by these divine names and titles, there's a context for these names. They arise in the midst of a question in verse twelve. Are you not from everlasting? Oh Lord, my God, My holy one, don't you see that fundamental to the prophets struggle is not only that God is holy and pure, but that God is eternal. And surely Habaka realizes that he's brushing up against his own limits even as he complains. But that's the point. God is eternal and we are not. We live in time, we are bound by time. God is not. So we don't have God's eyes on the situation. We don't have God's understanding of event us which occur in time. God is infinite, eternal and unchangeable, even when this world seems so finite and flexible. And so habaca theology breaks forth in a in a surprising way when, after asking are you not from everlasting? Oh Lord, my God, My holy one, he concludes we shall not die. Did you catch that? In the midst of his confusion, there is a tiny, hopeful cry of faith. Having just heard the news of terrible, inescapable judgment, his only response is by stating that death will not win, death will not ultimately conquer God's people. Given everything he knows about who God is, and despite the circumstances which appear to be the end of everything, God cannot deny himself. The circumstances are temporary. Yet God's Word is forever, his promises are certain, his promise us says, are secure and eternal. And so, despite the unbelievable words of devastation coming upon Judah, is the knowledge that God will not revoke his word, he will not remove his promise. F I'm sure you've all heard the line from from Isaiah forty, verse eight. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. But are you so familiar with the context of those words? Just a couple verses earlier, the Prophet says all flesh is grass and it's beauty like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord...

...blows on it. Surely the people are grass. And yet even as the grass withers and the flower fades, the word of our God will stand forever. So let me return to that earlier question. What does the theologian look like? Well, look in a mirror. You're a theologian. Ores sprout tiled one of his books. Everyone's a theologian, and that's so true, because everybody has an understanding of God, everyone has an awareness of God's character and awareness of his nature, and the question becomes not should you be a theologian, it becomes what kind of a theologian are you? For even the person who believes all religions are made up or the person who believes that all religions are equally true, they they both have a theology and they both live out that theology. So the question is our is our understanding to be shaped by God's eternal word, or are we just creating a god in our own image? What kind of a theologian are you? Hardships have a way of revealing what kind of theologian we are. Hardships have a way of revealing our theology better than any exam ever will, better than any paper could. Turmoil always brings out our most basic, fundamental convictions about who God is, whether it's saying a quiet prayer during a turbulent flight or whether it's singing praises to God during a funeral. Suffering reveals our most closely held convictions, because suffering reveals where our hope is truly found. Martin Luther broke it down into two categories. He says you're either a theologian of glory or you're a theologian of the cross, where a theologian of glory builds their theology on their own expectations of what God must be like. A theologian of the Cross recognizes that God's power is demonstrated in weakness. At theologian of the Cross recognizes that God reveals his power, he reveals his might in the suffering of Christ. Therefore, a proper theologian relies upon God's strength, which is most evident in weakness and frailty. For you see, for us, suffering rarely makes sense. For us, we rarely get a divine perspective on why tragedy is happening or why someun suffer while others prosper. However, in the judgment of Judah, were given a glimpse of the judgment of Christ. And we ought to be theologians of the Cross, because at the cross where shown who our God truly is, that there, in the midst of abundant sin and suffering, our God reveals himself to be the Lord over sin and over death. And yet his is a victory that did not side step suffering, it did not side step the grave. Jesus entered the grave and was raised victorious through it so that, whatever the circumstance, however unfathomable the trial that is before you, however severe the diagnosis, you can utter with Hebaccic, the briefest of phrases,...

...with the deepest of convictions, and say, oh Lord, my God, My holy one, we shall not die because we know who our God is, because we know what our God has done. We can pick up our cross with that same conviction, knowing that death is swallowed up in victory, as Paul says, Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin. The power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Rarely does our suffering makes sense to us. Therefore, let's find comfort not in our understanding of the circumstances. Let Us Find Comfort in Christ and His crucifixion, in his death and his glorious resurrection. Amen, let's pray a gracious heavenly father. We come to you from the midst of a world that that rarely makes sense to us, where we see suffering all around, where we see sin and wickedness praised, where we see the righteous sufferer, where we see the wicked prosper. And yet, father, we thank you. We thank you that in the midst of these we have such an enduring hope, such an enduring word, such wonderful promises that, because of Christ, this world is not our home. We do think you that your kingdom does make sense. We think you that your kingdom is righteous, that your kingdom is holy and that your people are righteous and holy in Christ, for we confess, we would deserve the same kinds of judgment that would be poured out upon Judah and Babylon were it not for our savior. So help us to come to you in him, clothed in his righteousness, in the midst of the severities of our trials, in the midst of our bouts with depression, father or doubt. help us to cling to the cross, help us to see in Christ your love for us and your protection of your people. We pray all this in Christ's name. Amen.

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