From the Preacher’s Pen…
New Year’s resolutions… remember them? Many times they don’t last past January. Sometimes we try to revive them in mid-year and other times we just save them for next year.
Do you remember when you first became a Christian? Remember that resolve and determination to live a faithful life and how you wanted to share the Good News with everyone? Isn’t it even more important to revive and renew that zeal, that resolution?
One of my favorite prophets is Habakkuk. His weakness and failure to understand God’s plan and purpose is something I can identify with. His faith in the face of such fear and doubt is an incredible lesson that we can all aspire to!
No one living in Habakkuk’s day can remember a time when Judah had known and obeyed the Lord’s commands. Josiah becomes king at the age of eight and at 16 begins to seek the Lord. At 20 years of age, he purges idolatry from Jerusalem and during the repairs on the Temple Hilkiah, the priest, discovers a copy of the Book of the Law. When Shaphan the scribe reads the book that has been lost during the reign of a series of wicked kings, he hurries to Josiah with the news (2 Kings 22:10). Josiah is aghast at what they have done and humbles himself, prays for mercy and promises to both keep God’s commands and to publish them throughout the land. As the people hear God’s word, and the Feast of Passover is re-instituted, the King leads all Judah in a revival to obey the Lord.
In the midst of this revival, Habakkuk becomes aware of how superficial this religious reform is to the hearts and minds of most worshipers. Simply knowing God’s will and word does not produce holiness. More than outward reform is needed as many twist and pervert God’s word to suit what they want to do. Some even do violence to those who do try to truly obey. Sound like a familiar story? Is it perhaps just a little too like our world today?
As Habakkuk writes his book it certainly seems that God’s people have learned nothing from their own history. The Assyrians destroyed the northern tribes of Israel so long ago that the lesson is now forgotten. It seems like peace and prosperity will continue forever in the land. Far too many people believe that God really doesn’t mean what He says and will allow His people to go on sinning. Revival is just for those old fashioned few. But God Himself counsels, “Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)
God always sees through the superficial people in any revival and reveals to Habakkuk just what the future holds: the cost of great sin is great punishment! So terrible is the judgment God explains to the prophet that he is shocked by the revelation. Habakkuk will soon see with his own eyes the wicked nations swallowing up his people.
As Habakkuk seeks solitude he wonders how God can allow such wicked people to destroy His own even in their sin and prays for true revival and for God’s mercy: “Lord, I have heard the report about You and I fear. O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.” (Habakkuk 3:2)
Living by faith is the true revival; the true return to what God wants us to do. God has declared that His righteous will be preserved in the day of trouble because they depend on Him. And God will always remain the final judge, dealing out certain retribution on all the ungodly such that all the earth will be silent before Him. As Habakkuk’s prayer continues, he accepts God’s will, “I heard and my inward parts trembled, at the sound my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones, and in my place I tremble. Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, for the people to arise who will invade us.”
And then he reveals to us what true faith and true revival really mean: “Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:16-18)
May God grant such faith to us! May the Lord renew in us the love, devotion and faithfulness that we need. May the Lord grant us the true joy that comes in faithfully serving Him. May we let it show in and lead our lives that we might boldly declare with Habakkuk, “The Lord God is my strength” (Habakkuk 3:19)
— Lester P. Bagley