Habakkuk 2:1-3 “The Word that Sustains in Difficult days” July 17, 2011
In the midst of the Branch Davidian crisis a few years back, when David Koresh’s compound outside of Waco, Texas, was stormed by Federal officers, there was a somewhat humorous side story. When the Feds began to storm the compound, and it began to burn, David Koresh called 911. Now that would be a normal thing for most us to do, but Koresh claimed to be the Messiah; the Christ! And in his day of trouble, he picked up the phone and called 911?!
Well, where do YOU look, in your difficult days? I hope that more than anything you look to the Lord. Last week, as we continued our study in the Book of Habakkuk, we saw that we need to turn to the Lord in our difficult days: not just to any generic god, but to the God of the Bible, who is Eternal, and Holy, and Sovereign. Many of you have responded this week and said that God spoke to your heart in a special way through that message, because of what you were going through. But if indeed you are enduring some difficult days – all of us do at some point, and as our society deteriorates, we may all be facing days of crisis soon – there is a special way in which we need to turn to Him: we need to turn to Him in His word. That is what we see Habakkuk doing here; he is a great example for us in this. I will be honest; I had not intended, in the outline of messages I had planned, to preach this message. But as I began to study for this week, God just nudged my heart with the example of Habakkuk in the first verses of Chapter 2. There we find how he struggled with what he was facing, but we read how he was committed to get a word from God. Let’s look together at the confidence that we can have in God’s word, and at the example of Habakkuk’s commitment to hear from Him. He is a great example for us to seek “The Word That Sustains (us) in Difficult Days.”
I. The Source of the Word.
Habakkuk said in :1 that he wanted to see “what HE will speak to me” – “HE” in that first verse is God. Habakkuk wanted a word from God. Then :2 says, “Then the LORD answered me and said …”. As you may see in your Bible, the word “LORD” there is in all capital letters; that means that in the Hebrew text, it is not the generic words, “Lord” or “God”, but “Yahweh”, the personal name that God gave Moses when he asked Him, what he should say that His name is. The Bible is saying here that Habakkuk got a message from Yahweh, not just from any God; He got a message from the One who was, and is, and always will be; He got a message from the Great “I AM”; He got a word from the Living God! THAT is what we find here in this book. The source of this word is the One, true, living God.
Now, God told Habakkuk in :2 “Record the vision, and inscribe it on tablets …”. Here we find a scriptural insight into the process of the inspiration and writing of the scriptures. God spoke to Habakkuk, and He specifically told him to record it; to write it on tablets (the Hebrew word here is the same as is used to describe the tablets of the 10 Commandments) and to make it plain. This is just what we believe about the Bible: as II Peter 1:21 says: “men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” The words that we find in the Bible did not originate merely from the human authors, but from God.
That is what we need in our most difficult days; we do not need a word from men; we need a word from God.
During the discussion of the same-sex marriage vote in New York, one of the state senators (Mark Grisanti) who was “on the fence” ended up saying that “after I have done the research” and done interviews and talked with people from both sides, “I couldn’t think of a LEGAL argument against same-sex marriage.” This is what happens when you don’t have a word from God! Men’s opinions are going to sway you one way or the other, and you end up just doing whatever seems right. In that New York debate, many of the senators ended up saying “it was just a vote on conscience” – I read that over and over: “it was a vote of conscience.” But your conscience has to be informed by something. What are your decisions based on? How are your judgments formed? For too many people in Americatoday, they are just based on popular opinion or personal feelings. America today is eerily similar to the land of Israel during the days of the Judges; where the scripture says, “There was no king inIsrael; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25) That is just what is happening in our land today; every person just does whatever is right in their own eyes. And if our nation does not get a continent-shaking, culture-shaking word from God very soon, we are heading right off the cliff morally, to our inevitable destruction as a nation. We do not need everyone’s opinion; we don’t need a “vote of conscience” – whatAmerica needs to follow today is a word from GOD!
The same thing is true for you individually. If you are in the middle of difficult days right now, the single thing you need more than anything else is a word from God that will help sustain you through this time in your life. I don’t know just what you are going through, but I do know this: whatever your trial, your greatest need is not to hear from CNN or Fox News, or the counsel of Oprah or Dr. Phil, or the advice of your Aunt Edna or that of your best friends – what you need is a word from God!
And thank God, that is just what you have in this book: this is a word from the Living God Himself! The word that will sustain you in difficult days is the word of God!
II. The Certainty of the Word:
Look at what a strong and certain word Habakkuk received from the Lord. God said in :3, “It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail, though it tarries, wait for it; for it WILL certainly come ….”. The Hebrew for “it will not fail” literally means, “It will not lie”! God said, My word which I have spoken is sure. It may seem to be delayed to you, but it WILL happen; it WILL come to pass; it WILL be exactly as I have said. His word is certain.
This is just what God had said about His word to Isaiah just a few years earlier:
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth, and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So shall my Word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)
–Isaiah also wrote: “The grass withers, and the flower fades, but the word of God endures forever”. (Isaiah 40:8)
–Psalm 19 says “The Law of the Lord is perfect …” God’s word is absolutely pure; it is absolutely perfect.
— II Timothy 3:16 says “All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness …”
–Jesus said in Matthew 5, “Truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke will pass away from the Law until all is fulfilled.” I love the Baptist Faith & Message statement about the Bible: “it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter.” You can be absolutely certain and confident about the word of God:
So … when God says that judgment is coming upon a nation; you can be sure that it is coming.
–God proclaimed in Isaiah that Assyria would be “the rod of (His) anger against the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and history tells us that the Assyrians indeed came and conquered them.
–God proclaimed here in Habakkuk that the Chaldeans (or Babylonians) would come and ravage Judah, and history tells us that this is exactly what happened. In 587 they invaded Judah, broke down the walls of the city, killed King Zedekiah and his sons, burned the city to the ground, and took thousands of their people into captivity into Babylon. The word that God spoke through Habakkuk in this book regarding the judgment of Judah came to pass, exactly as He said. It did not return void.
— Again, this is why we can be confident that God’s judgment is coming upon our nation, unless we repent. If our nation looks just like Israel & Judah did in the 7th Century B.C., and His judgment came upon them for their sins, we can be certain that if our nation is involved in the same sins, that we too will be judged – unless we repent. His word is sure!
You can count on what it says about judgment – and not just about nations, but about our individual lives, too. God’s word says, “The soul that sins shall die.” It says, “The wages of sin is death.” If you continue to live life your own way, in rebellion against God and His word, you will receive the just punishment of God for your sins. Hebrews says, “It is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment.” His word says it, and you can count on it. It is absolutely reliable. That is why it is imperative for you to turn from your sins today and trust Jesus as your Savior.
And you can also trust what His word says about salvation. If, in your time of trial, or of national economic upheaval and judgment, or of personal conviction of sin, you repent of your sins and trust Jesus as your Savior, you WILL be saved. You can count on His word.
I remember once leading a husband and wife to pray to ask Jesus to forgive their sins, and come into their lives. After we had finished, I showed them Romans 10:13, which says, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” I asked them: “Did you just call on the Lord?” They said, “Yes!” I said, “Then what does this word say about you?” They said, “We shall be saved!” They could put their trust in God’s word!
That is our hope: that God’s word is certain; that what He says He will do. I John 5:13 says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may KNOW that you have eternal life.” He wants us to stand in faith on His promise, to believe what He says in His word. God’s faithfulness to His word is the great assurance of our salvation; not our own lives or our “feelings.” Listen: after you ask the Lord to save you, you are going to let God down sometimes; you are going to sin sometimes; there will be times that you are discouraged – and so there will be times that you will not always “feel” like you are saved. If you are looking for feelings for the assurance of your salvation, you will often be disappointed. Do not trust your feelings; trust the word of God! Call on His name; ask Him to save you – and He will do it. When you doubt, say, “I called on the name of the Lord: I am saved; I do believe in the name of the Son of God, so I KNOW I have eternal life!” Trust what God’s word says for your salvation; His word is certain.
You can be equally certain of every promise He makes you in His word. In your times of trial, you can count on His promises:
— When He says He will be your “refuge and strength; a very present help in times of trouble.” He will be!
— When He says: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” – He will be!
— When He says: “I will never fail you nor forsake you” – He will not.
— When He says: “no one will snatch (you) out of My hand” – they will not!
— When He says “All things work together for good to those who love God …” — they will!
The Bible says, “It is impossible for God to lie.” Put your trust in His promises; trust them to the end – this is exactly what some of you need to do today; you are in a difficult spot – but trust God; trust what He says in His word to you.
When I called one of David Smith’s references a number of days ago – this reference happened to be a man whom I know and trust — and asked him about David’s personal character and integrity, the man said, “On personal character and integrity, I give him the highest recommendation.” That recommendation gave me a lot of confidence to proceed with calling David here today. But listen: as reliable as that recommendation may be, the word of God is even more so! God cannot lie; His word can be trusted; it is where you need to turn in your most difficult days. God’s word is absolutely certain and reliable.
III. Your Commitment to the Word
Habakkuk had all of these questions that he wrestled with God about, as we have seen over the last couple of weeks:
–why would God use the wicked Babylonians to judge Judah?
–Why did it seem like God approved evil, when He was supposed to be so holy?
–Why did Habakkuk cry out to God in prayer, and it seemed like He was not listening? With all of these things Habakkuk wrestled. So what was his response? What did he do?
Habakkuk’s response is instructive to us. :1 says “I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; and I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me.”
In all of his searching and questioning in those difficult days, Habakkuk said he was going to stand and wait on a word from God. He knew he must have that certain word from God. He didn’t want merely his own musings; he didn’t want the best interpretation that the philosophers of the day could give him of the current events; he didn’t want to know what his friends thought. He wanted a word from God, and he was committed to stand there until he got it!
And what Habakkuk did in his difficult day is exactly what you and I need to do in ours, too. In your personal trials, and as you see difficult days come upon our nation, it is imperative for you to wait on the Lord in His word. You must have a word from God.
Now the Hebrew word here is literally not what God would say “to” him, but literally that he would see what God would say “IN” him. (The Hebrew “Beth” means “in”.) He waited for God to say something “in” him. In other words, Habakkuk was not waiting for an audible voice; the Spirit of God was going to speak “in” him, in his heart. Now, we need to understand that you and I are not Biblical prophets; God is not inspiring any more scriptures; this book is complete. We don’t need to listen for a voice, whether audible or internal; we have the 66 books of the Bible as the complete word of God. But when you seek the Lord, His Holy Spirit, who lives inside of you if you are a genuine Christian, will take His word as you read it, and He will “speak in” you – that is, He will take His word, and in your heart as if He is saying: “This is for you! I am speaking to YOU.” He will take that word you are reading and make it personal. THAT is what you should be looking for in your difficult days. Don’t “just read” the Bible; read it and study it, and as you do, look for the personal word of application that God is going to give you for your life.
This should be our goal every day. People ask: Bro. Shawn, what Bible reading plan do you use? I learned my current practice years ago from the man who took me on my first mission trip in college. When I asked him what he did for his daily Bible reading, he said, “I read in the Old Testament until God speaks, and then I read in the New Testament until God speaks.” That’s what I do now. I read consecutively wherever I am in my Old Testament reading, until God says something that applies to me, that I write down, and then I do the same thing in the New Testament. The key is, it is not “how much” you read; it is not how many chapters or verses, as much as it is that you let God speak a word to YOU that ministers to your life and speaks to your situation. It may be the first verse that you read, and you just camp there and let God speak to you about it. Or it may take hours until you get what you need from the Lord. The key is not “quantity” of reading; it is doing what Habakkuk did: stand watch until the Lord speaks a word to you that you need to hear from Him.
This is especially essential when you are going through difficult times, or if you are seeking an answer from God for something. You don’t need what I as a pastor have to tell you; you don’t need the advice that your friends have to give you; you certainly don’t need what the worldly media has to say to you – you need a personal word from God Himself! And this involves commitment on your part: like Habakkuk, you need to say, I am going to get in His word, and I am not going to leave it until I get a word from Him that applies to my life. God WILL speak to you in His word (if you are a Christian); He WILL guide and direct your life. But you must be committed like Habakkuk was to stand and wait for His word for you.
I want to share a story with you that I don’t think I have ever shared in a church before; and I sincerely hope that you will take it in way it is intended. I don’t want to glorify myself, but it is the best example I could think of – as it comes from my own life. Many of you know the story of how after I had graduated from seminary, and we had had our first child, Paul, I had not been called to a church for a year after graduation, and all I could get was part-time work, and Cheryl & Paul & I were experiencing difficult days that I have since called my “dark year.” Well, as you can imagine, during that “dark year” I sought the Lord in many ways: in prayer, in tithing, in purifying my life – and most especially in His word. I looked to His word for direction, for insight, for keys to what was going on, and what He wanted to do in my life. During that time I found insights in His word that have stayed with me my entire adult life – the character qualities of Christ from the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, among other things. One particular night I was up in the front room of our little house, and I was reading and studying God’s word. Unbeknownst to me, a friend of mine from seminary, who lived next door, and who had a mischievous spirit, saw me from my front window, sitting there with the lamp on, reading the Bible and taking notes. He later told me that as he watched me, a fiendish idea for a practical joke came upon him, and he said as soon as he saw my light go off, and that I had gone to bed, he was going to do it. He said he came back at 9:00, and I was still there; he came back at 10:00 and I was still there. He came back at 11:00 and I was still studying … he said the last time he came back by it was 12:00 or 1:00 a.m., and he said he had lost that mischievous feeling; he said, now he was convicted – that he should have been studying God’s word instead of looking to play a prank! And he went off to bed. When he told me about all this the next day, he asked, “When did you finally stop studying, anyway?” I think it was something like 2 that morning; he just shook his head.
But I want you to understand something; I don’t say this to glorify myself. I wish that studying God’s word is all I ever did all of the time; I wish that what I did that night is what I do every night of my life. It isn’t. But I want you to understand is that I was at a crisis time in my life right then; I didn’t understand why God had called me to ministry, and put me through seminary, and wasn’t giving me a place to pastor. I wanted to understand why I couldn’t find a full-time job. I wanted to know why, when it seemed like we were doing everything right, that it didn’t seem like God was providing for us. I wanted to learn what He was trying to tell me through all of this. So like Habakkuk I was going to stand watch until He spoke to me. I was not going to leave without finding a word from Him. And He did show me rich treasures in His word that applied to my life then, and which have benefitted me all my life since.
My point, and what I pray under God will speak to some of you today, who are going through trying times, is that this is the time that you need to seek the Lord in His word. Some of you can say, as some of you have to me before: “Bro. Shawn, THIS is my dark year! THIS is my difficult time!”
–If it is, then THIS is the time that you need to seek the Lord.
–This is the time you need to plunge yourself into His word.
–This is the time that you need to stand like Habakkuk and say, “I will keep watch until I see what the Lord will speak to me.”
And I guess my question for you is: are you doing that? Are you seeking God in His word? Are you beginning every day by looking into His word? Are you looking for help and answers from Him for your life in His word – not just “doing a daily Bible reading” but seeking HIS personal word for you? Are you spending more time seeking God than you are watching television? Are you spending more time in His word than you do reading the newspaper? Are in you in His word early in the morning, and late at night, because you realize that in this crucial time YOU “do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”?! When I pray for people whom I love, who are in crisis, or on the mission field, or who facing difficult times, one of the most important things I pray for them is that they will be certain to seek God in His word every day. It is vital in times of crisis, whether personal or national. THIS is “the word which will sustain you in difficult days” – but you must have the personal commitment to seek God in it.
Will you do that? Habakkuk said: “I will keep watch to see what He will say to me” – will you?!