Tag Archives: Dependence

Joyful Obedience

“For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”  (1 John 3:11–24 ESV)

This section is highlighting Cain’s unacceptable sacrifice with Abel’s acceptable sacrifice.  Ultimately, it does not seem to matter what their sacrifices were, but the heart behind the sacrifice.  God is after contrite hearts that offer sacrifices by faith alone (Psalm 51:17).  Actions speak louder than words and we learn that Abel’s sacrifice was offered by faith and was deemed righteous (Hebrews 11:4).  Cain was evil and did evil, for out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:43-45 & Matthew 12:34).  The difference between good and evil is seen in actions that flow out of the heart.  The redeemed will have increasing goodness flow out of them as the fruit of transformation.  Don’t be surprised that the world hates you – for it is evil.

John emphasizes the continuing ethic to love one another.  Love for one another is rooted in God’s love for us (1 John 4:19).  Love for others, and especially the saints, is a sign that we have been raised from death to life.  The one who does not love abides in death.  John sounds like Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-26) when he says that those whose lives are marked by hate are murderers and no murderer has eternal life.  It is jarring, John is saying that if our lives are marked by hate instead of love then we are not redeemed.  That is a hard saying.  External compliance to God’s commands is inadequate to save.  A moral ethic of being good doesn’t require saving faith.  Jesus’ mission was not to make immoral people moral or to make bad people good – Jesus came to make dead people alive.  We should not murder (Exodus 20:13), but more than that we should kill coveting which leads to hate, anger and ultimately can lead to murder.

The love of God compelled Jesus to action.  Jesus loved us and went to the cross.  Love is active, not passive, love is not primarily an emotion.  Because Jesus sacrificed for us, we can sacrifice for Him.  He is not just our model, but also our power to love.  If we see a brother in need and callously blow it off, we are not abiding in love.  Let’s not love in talk, but in action.  True obedience involves not just our words of profession, but our obedience in love (3:18).  As we walk in a love that is rooted in His love for us, we reassure ourselves that we are His children.

When we become convicted of sin, God is greater than our heart or our sin.  He offers forgiveness.  He is greater than us.  A clear heart leads us to boldly approach the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).  John makes a connection between our obedience and God answering our prayers.  Is this, “I obey, therefore God gives me what I want?”  No, this is not the secret formula to get what you want.  This is a picture of an abiding, dependent man who is praying confidently before the Creator of the universe because he know that he has an Intercessor in heaven.  The commandment is to believe and out of that to love.  Our work is one of belief, one of faith (John 6:29).  Abiding produces faith which yields obedience.  We are not made right by our obedience – that is religion, but our obedience does bear witness to our transformation.  The Holy Spirit of God is the One that bears witness with our spirit.  “Abiding in Christ means allowing His Word to fill our minds, direct our wills, & transform our affections.” -Sinclair Ferguson

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God’s children forsake sin (1 John 3:4–10)

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”  (1 John 3:4–10 ESV)

When we walk in ongoing, unrepentant sin, we walk outside of God’s good, right and protective law.  To walk outside of God’s provision and protection has grave consequences.  Jesus’ mission was not only to forgive us of sin, but to free us from its grip (Romans 6).  John goes boldly tells us that no one who abides in Jesus keeps on sinning – we can’t because He is light and in Him there is no darkness or sin.  He says that no one who walks in ongoing, unrepentant sin (that is evident for we all have sin in our lives) knows Him.  This may be a long and slow process, but ultimately God ensures His elect that they are His by the way that they walk.  Our actions always speak louder than our words.  It is easy to say we love God, serve Him and pursue Him, but only those who pursue the righteousness that is found in Jesus alone are truly His.  Don’t be deceived!  If you’re hanging your hat on having walked an aisle or having prayed a prayer, but have no real desire to know God or grow in holiness, then you need to ask if you are really His child.

We aren’t of God if we make an ongoing practice of sinning.  Growth in holiness, empowered by the grace of God is the most comforting thing in regards to our eternal security.  One cannot be regenerate and walk in ongoing, apparent & unrepentant sin.  Sin is of the devil.  We must be careful not to place timetables on this – for we have all walked in sin for a season.  But, it should always frighten us and move us towards the cross.  The regenerate person cannot continue to walk in open sin because the Word of God and the Holy Spirit dwell within him.  We can’t keep on walking in open sin because we have been reborn.  It is like being reborn as a fish and trying to live on land – you can’t for long.  The very air that we now breath is the grace of God through the Word of God.

The litmus test for faith (children of God versus children of the devil):  whoever does not practice righteousness or love his brother is not walking in the light.  This takes some serious unpacking because it sounds like external behavior modification.  We are recognized by our fruit (Matthew 7:16).  The Christian is transformed to the core by the Holy Spirit, so much so that he cannot walk in a pattern of continual sin for long periods.  John boils it down to the true barometer of where our hearts really are regardless of what we profess or what we’d like to believe.  If we don’t love others, we aren’t regenerate; we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).  This is at the top of the list of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul mentions in Galatians 5:22.  We can’t produce this, it is Spirit wrought.  Additionally, if you can’t forgive then you aren’t forgiven (Matthew 6:14-15).  This is slow and progressive, but will be a growing reality in the hearts of the elect.  God, help us!

In Christ Alone

Our only hope is to rest in Christ alone.  What a beautiful

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fulness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

God’s love fuels our transformation (1 John 2:28–3:3)

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.   See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 2:28–3:3 ESV)

We are His adopted sons and daughters!  WOW!  It should never cease to amaze us that God makes His enemies His family.  That is real love!  Most Christians readily understand & confess that their sins are forgiven (justification), but many struggle to truly embrace that they are adopted children of God.  We may get it in our heads, but don’t meditate on it so that it migrates to our hearts and impacts us at the core of our beings.

We are to abide in Him so that we can discern right doctrine, have right motivations and pursue right behavior.  This will assure us of our salvation.  We must always rest on Jesus’ righteousness alone.  As we rest & rely on His righteousness, we will begin to look like Him.  We must never lean on our own righteousness, but upon the righteousness of the true and better older brother – Jesus.

There is unavoidable friction between those who name the name of Jesus and those who do not.  We serve two different Masters.  Believing in God’s love for us is the fuel for transformation.  His love is so deep and wide that He made His arch enemies His adopted sons.  John addresses us as “beloved,” which is a form of the same word that John uses for love in verse one when he marveled at the love of God towards us.  We are beloved, objects of His love and affection – we are His children.  And though we are not fully like Him yet, we will be like Him because we will see Him. 

The primary way to be like God is to see Him, to behold Him for who He really is.  There is coming a day where mortality, brokeness & sin fades and gives way to a perfect paradise lived in the presence of God.  No more sin, no more mental illness, no more intellectual falseness, no more depression, no more sadness, no more decit.  All the sad things will be made untrue.  As we set our hope upon Him, we seek to live pure upright lives.  Our hope produces transformation of heart which yields transformed behaviors.

Ultimate Affections (1 John 2:15-17)

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15–17 ESV)

The lure to gain our identity, salvation and satisfaction in this world is real.  John tells us not to love this world or the things in it.  Just like Jesus saying that we can’t serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24), neither can we chase both God and the world.  A regenerate heart breaks (though it is slow and progressive) our love affair with the world.  Chase both the world and Jesus are mutually exclusive.  John is referring to a love for the world system, not for people in the world.  We must ask where our affections really lie?  How is this desire and affection for the world destroyed?  By seeing Jesus as far more desirable.  Matthew Henry says that the heart is narrow and that it cannot contain both loves.  Lord, Help us!

John gets specific by defining what some of these things are.  We all have God given wants and desires, but they become twisted and perverted when they terminate upon us and what we want instead of upon God.  Sin is a disordering of our affections.  The heart motivation question is what we must answer; the reprobate mind will justify all sorts of things to get what it wants.  Matthew Henry calls these “The three predominate inclinations of the depraved nature”

  • The desires of the flesh.  John Wesley says that these are largely external & outward pursuits.  Paul unpacks this in more detail in Galatians 5 when he compares & contrasts walking in the Spirit with the desires of the flesh.  “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”  (Galatians 5:19–21 ESV).  In our self righteousness, we want to feel better about ourselves because we aren’t pursuing the “varsity sins” of sexual immorality, orgies, drunkenness, etc.  But, who has not struggled with jealousy, envy and idolatry.  They are in the same list.  Are you indulging fleshly appetites or godly appetites?  The appetite that you indulge in is the appetite that will grow.
  • The desires of the eyes.  This is “of that internal sense whereby we relish whatever is grand, new, or beautiful” said John Wesley.  ““The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22–23 ESV).  What do you fantasize about?  What fuels your hopes & dreams; what is your internal imagination fixed upon?  Are they morally good things that have become “god” things?  We delight & distract ourselves with the toys, trinkets & treasures of this world as we crave these things.  This is covetousness.  For what we behold and set our gaze upon shapes & controls us.  What we say that we must have sets the course of our lives.
  • The pride of life.  Again John Wesley’s comments are helpful:  “All that pomp in clothes, houses, furniture, equipage, manner of living, which generally procure honour from the bulk of mankind, and so gratify pride and vanity.”  This is the desire to be “someone,” to be admired, to be esteemed, to hunger and thirst for the applause of man.  This is the person that must have friends, must have applause, must be significant in order to be OK.

The world, with all of these desires, is passing away.  To set our ultimate hope and affection on these transient things is as meaningless as chasing after the wind – it is vanity.  And yet the depraved parts of our minds still say that God alone is not enough.  Ah, but the man who walks in glad submission to God abides for ever.  Our joyful obedience to the commands of Christ are only possible when we are abiding in Christ.  We are in Christ now and will be in Christ forever.  God, help us to see you as the true Treasure that you really are!

Revelation is Required (1 John 1:1-4)

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”(1 John 1:1–4 ESV)

John is attesting to what he has seen & experienced about Jesus.  What he is writing is rooted in John’s first hand account of Jesus and His teachings; this is not some man made religion or some weird eclectic vision that he had experienced in a vacuum.  John points out to us that Jesus is the preeminent, preexistent, Creator God of the universe (John 1:1).  He is God who put on flesh and died, bearing the sins of His people.  But, the grave could not hold Him – nor will it be able to hold us!

We normally think that with enough information about something that we can figure it out.  We think that we can work out certain scenarios in our minds to learn how they will play out.  We think that we can think through things and get all of the pieces put together.  We give ourselves too much credit.  The Creator’s revelation is what we need; revelation is required. Revelation about God has always been what is required – even for Adam & Eve.  We don’t naturally seek God or have eyes to see, ears to hear or hearts to believe.  We need God to reveal Himself and His will to us.

Jesus & the gospel is God’s revelation to us.  The gospel is not just the saving power of God, but the bonding agent in His church.  It connects us and enables us to pursue authentic community.  This is because when we truly embrace the gospel, we are embracing an incredibly high view of God and a realistic view of ourselves.  We naturally tend to lower our view of God to a grandpa in the sky who gives us good gifts.  We naturally tend to think that we are pretty moral, pretty capable, pretty good.  We think that Jesus’ sacrifice was necessary to make up for our shortcomings, but that we don’t really have that many.  We rarely see ourselves as we really are – selfish control freaks who are stiff necked and refuse to lovingly submit to the God of the universe.  The gospel frees us from pretending that we have it all together (we don’t) and it frees us from performing as if we could please God by our hard work (we can’t).  The interesting thing about the gospel is that it most fully marks those who know how wicked they really are.  That is because God chooses the messiest of people so that THEY WILL NEVER FORGET WHO FREED THEM. 

Once you have been freed from believing that you are justified OR ACCEPTED based on your performance, you begin to see that obedience to Christ’s commands actually lead you to greater joy.  His commands are not harsh or burdensome.  His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).  This a recurring theme for John in his gospel (John 15:11; 16:24) and he visits it here in this epistle as well.  He sees that joy is to be had in an abiding relationship with Jesus.  This is for his joy and for ours.  Lord, give us eyes to see.

The Fruit of Faith

It seems that most people in the south claim the name of Christ.  People have prayed prayers, walked aisles and stirred the waters of baptism.  But, how can we know if we really are His children?  According to Jesus, there will be many who say that they are His, but they really aren’t (Matthew 7:21-23).  How can we know that we are born again and are His children.  John addresses this in his first letter.  Here is a note from Crossway’s ESV Study Bible that I found very helpful!

“Being born again, having received the Spirit, abiding in God and God abiding in them, and knowing and loving God, Christians bear observable fruit:

  • Practice truth/righteousness (1 John 1:6; 2:29; 3:7, 10)
  • Walk in the light/as he walked (1 John 1:7; 2:6)
  • Confess sins and have forgiveness (1 John 1:9; 2:12)
  • Keep/obey his commandments/Word (1 John 2:3, 5; 3:22, 24; 5:2, 3)
  • Love one another/the brothers (1 John 2:10; 3:10, 11, 14, 16, 18, 23; 4:7, 11, 21)
  • Overcome the evil one/them/the world (1 John 2:13, 14; 4:4; 5:4)
  • Do the will of God/cannot keep on sinning (1 John 2:17; 3:9, 22)
  • Confess the Son/believe in Jesus (1 John 2:23; 3:23; 4:2, 15; 5:1, 4, 13)”

ESV Study Bible Introduction to 1 John

When Wrestling gives way to Worshipping

“A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.   O LORD, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy. God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power. Before him went pestilence, and plague followed at his heels. He stood and measured the earth; he looked and shook the nations; then the eternal mountains were scattered; the everlasting hills sank low. His were the everlasting ways. I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction; the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble. Was your wrath against the rivers, O LORD? Was your anger against the rivers, or your indignation against the sea, when you rode on your horses, on your chariot of salvation? You stripped the sheath from your bow, calling for many arrows. Selah You split the earth with rivers. The mountains saw you and writhed; the raging waters swept on; the deep gave forth its voice; it lifted its hands on high. The sun and moon stood still in their place at the light of your arrows as they sped, at the flash of your glittering spear. You marched through the earth in fury; you threshed the nations in anger. You went out for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed. You crushed the head of the house of the wicked, laying him bare from thigh to neck. Selah You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors, who came like a whirlwind to scatter me, rejoicing as if to devour the poor in secret. You trampled the sea with your horses, the surging of mighty waters.

I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us.

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.”

(Habakkuk 3:1–19 ESV)

This section sounds so much like Job who had heard of God, but now sees Him (Job 42:5).  Habakkuk had heard of God and knew His laws and commands, but now he was asking that God remember mercy when His justice provokes His wrath.  Habakkuk remembers how God’s mighty, sovereign saving power had been displayed in the past – at the Nile, the Jordan & the Red Sea and in the desert during the Exodus.  He is an all powerful deliverer.

Majestic power is on display here.  As God measures the earth (I envision a couple of small steps), He shakes the nations (like in a brown lunch sack), then the eternal mountains were scattered (only God can shake what they viewed as a foundation to the world).  His ways are eternal.  Habakkuk is doing in these verses what we must do – we must recite and remember who God is and the truths about Him – when we do this, things come in to perspective.  Apart from this perspective, you will always struggle and wrestle because you have no real perspective on things.  Like Asaph, the Psalmist you will be able to say, “but when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” (Psalms 73:16–17 ESV)

The majestic power of God is seen in the spectacular display of lightning & flash flooding in thunderstorms.  Mountains quake at His power (earthquakes) and He causes even the sun & moon to stand still (Joshua 10:12-13).  This God is all powerful, unequaled & sovereignly ruling.  When difficulty and hardship comes, knowing that our God is ruling and reigning in all power is a comforting thing.  And not just that He is sovereign, but He does good to His people.  Habakkuk is calling to recollection that.  God had protected and miraculously delivered His people before.  He will indeed do it again – but they were needing punishment for their wickedness.  God delivered them from Pharaoh and from Canaanite kings.  God is willing and able to deliver; He is the great Deliverer.

Habakkuk physically responds with a trembling body and quivering lips to the impending judgement that is coming, but he will wait for God to finish His judgement and then judge the invaders.  Habakkuk is finished wrestling, complaining & accusing God.  He is now resting on the sweet sovereignty of God.  The battle in his soul is over and he is beginning to worship and rest.  He does not have all of His questions answered, but He sees God and that is enough for him.  Oh, that we would land in the same spot.  When we wrestle, complain & accuse God of injustice or of silence – we need to be looking to get to this place.  A place where we are done wrestling and we begin worshipping.  Worship is the only thing that will satiate the wrestler’s soul.  God satiates Habakkuk’s soul by giving him a grander view of Himself – God gives Habakkuk God, and it proves to be enough.

Habakkuk concludes that if there is absolute famine in the land and hardship – no figs, no fruit, olives, food or live stock – he will still praise the Lord his God.  He will take joy in the God of His salvation.  He trusts in God’s sovereignty and God’s goodness, what a place to rest your feet in the midst of adversity.  Trusting God leads to joy.  Faith that God is in control and working all things out for His kid’s good is profoundly comforting and joyful, despite the physical hardships that may come our way.  In verse 19, Habakkuk clarifies that it is the LORD (Yahweh, the personal covenant keeping God) that is His strength.  Whether deliverance, comfort & prosperity come or not – God is Habakkuk’s strength.  There are struggles to be had, tears to be cried and doubts to wrestle through, but when we find that God alone is enough to satisfy joy ensues.  When we still believe that anything created can satisfy the longings in our soul, unrest & discontentedness are not far behind.

We want to accuse God of not running His world the way that we think is right.  It’s His world and He gets to run it the way that He wants.  And we must always rest on the fact that He is good and is doing good – even when we can’t see it.  This is walking by faith and not by sight (feelings, emotions or current experiences).  There comes a time (or many times) in our lives, if God is gracious, that we press and ask questions seeking to understand, but where the questions no longer matter because we see God and trust Him – regardless of the circumstances of life.  God, alone, is enough.  Regardless of where you find yourself today, remember that the eternal God of the universe set His saving affections on you before a star was breathed into space.  Why?  For His glory and YOUR JOY.  Meditate on this truth, mull it over, think about it and see if it doesn’t move your heart.

He is God and We are Not

“And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.

“Moreover, wine is a traitor, an arrogant man who is never at rest. His greed is as wide as Sheol; like death he has never enough. He gathers for himself all nations and collects as his own all peoples.”

Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him, and say, “Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own— for how long?— and loads himself with pledges!” Will not your debtors suddenly arise, and those awake who will make you tremble? Then you will be spoil for them. Because you have plundered many nations, all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you, for the blood of man and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell in them.

“Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house, to set his nest on high, to be safe from the reach of harm! You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many peoples; you have forfeited your life. For the stone will cry out from the wall, and the beam from the woodwork respond.

“Woe to him who builds a town with blood and founds a city on iniquity! Behold, is it not from the LORD of hosts that peoples labor merely for fire, and nations weary themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

“Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink— you pour out your wrath and make them drunk, in order to gaze at their nakedness! You will have your fill of shame instead of glory. Drink, yourself, and show your uncircumcision! The cup in the LORD’s right hand will come around to you, and utter shame will come upon your glory! The violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, as will the destruction of the beasts that terrified them, for the blood of man and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell in them.

“What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it. But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.””

(Habakkuk 2:2–20 ESV)

Habakkuk had been questioning God and wanting to know why He seemed to be absent, disconnected & slow in acting in judging the wicked.  God tells Habakkuk (and us) that He will indeed punish all of the wicked in the right time!  God will judge all injustice, but it rarely happens on our timetable.  If it seems slow, wait for it.  Good counsel.  All injustice and sin will be paid for – either at the cross of Christ or at the end of time.  Judah would be judged in 586, but Babylon’s judgement would be another 50 years – in 539.  We don’t normally think in 50 year chunks.  But ultimately, It’s not about them (or us), it’s about Him & His story.

God says that the Babylonians, and specifically their king, are prideful and puffed up; they are relying upon their own strengths, abilities and savvy (sound familiar?).  But the righteous shall live by faith (Genesis 15:6, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Ephesians 2:8, Hebrews 10:38-39) and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).  Simple faith in the Almighty is all that is required to be deemed righteous by God and yet it seems to be the hardest thing for man to do – to admit that he can’t do it on his own, to admit that he is some how deficient in and of himself.  Trusting that God is in control and is redeeming all things for His glory is all that is required.  Even in the darkest nights of the soul, there is an abiding trust in God and in his promises.  He is at work, never distant, disconnected or unconcerned – regardless of how you feel.  Walk by trust in the gospel & in God’s promises and not by what feel or think.  Preach these great truths to yourself instead of running through your own feelings and thoughts continually in your mind.  You talk to yourself more than anyone else, what are you saying?  Are they good, noble, right, praiseworthy things or are they toxic, faith killers.

Habakkuk lands on the sweet sovereignty of God, which is the softest of all doctrines to the weary soul.  We know that God sovereignly controls man’s destiny, but we fail to walk in this truth daily.  “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”  (Proverbs 16:9 ESV).  A day is coming when God’s glory will be shown perfectly because sin will no longer cast a shadow over it.  Things will not be broken, man will worship Him, lives will glorify Him.

God then points out to Habakkuk that idols are stupid. We craft them and then look to them for direction, meaning and worth. Idols can’t speak, relate, rule or reign. They are nothing but wood with precious metals on top of them. They are not alive or powerful. Our idols are more “sophisticated” today – marriages, children, wealth, fame, approval, relationships – many are good things, but they are created things that cannot direct our lives.  
But the Lord is in His holy temple and His presence commands silence.  What a comparison between powerless, silent inanimate objects and the power and presence of the Almighty.  In His presence there is a palpable sense of power, holiness and glory that renders created things speechless (Isaiah 6:4-5). We rant and rave and shake our fists at God, we accuse Him as if we are sovereign, but there is coming a time when our mouths will be shut and we will know that He is God and we are not! “Be silent before the Lord GOD! For the day of the LORD is near; the LORD has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests” (Zephaniah 1:7 ESV).

What God reveals to Habakkuk about Himself is that He is God – just like in the book of Job – and seeing that renders a man speechless.  Far too often, we ignorantly careen through life relying on our senses and feelings for direction.  We feel like we have ultimate perspective and understanding – we are limited, finite and ignorant.  The most gracious thing that God can do is to crush us and reveal to us that we are not sovereign.  When we realize this and embrace the truth that He is in control – and that we are not – when we embrace that He is God – and we are not – our hearts worship.  Instead of staying crushed, we are lifted up and God’s power, holiness and justice meets His mercy, grace and glory – and we worship and experience joy.  Lord, please teach us that you are God and we are not.

Questioning God

“Are you not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O LORD, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, 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 his 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 watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.”  (Habakkuk 1:12–2:1 ESV)

Habakkuk’s theology is correct – God is eternal and He has sovereignly chosen the Babylonians for judgement over His people.  But Habakkuk’s head and his heart are disconnected.  He wants to know how an all powerful & good God could allow sin to go on unchecked.  Furthermore, how in the world could a just and holy God use the wickedness of the Babylonians to punish His own people for their disobedience?  Judah was indeed less wicked than the Babylonians, though only slightly!  Have you ever been there?  Have you ever questioned God and despite the fact that you know that He is in control of all things, you can’t seem to figure out why things have turned out the way that they have and where He is in the midst of the darkness?

Habakkuk’s main argument is that God makes all things and the current state of affairs seem as if He is absent from the equation.  This is deistic thinking that resides in all of us that needs to be put to death!  Habakkuk wants to know if God will sit idly by and allow the Babylonians to sweep across the world conquering, subjecting and treating people wickedly?  Where is the justice in that?  In 2:1, Habakkuk throws down a direct challenge to the Almighty.  That’s scary!  He is going to the watchtower to wait and see How God responds to His direct challenge.

We rarely challenge God directly & out loud like Habakkuk is doing, but aren’t these thoughts swimming around in the back of our minds?  Don’t we question where God is and why He seems absent from certain situations?  We seem to, by nature, gravitate towards believing that God set up the world but now just let’s it mostly run on its own.  Nothing could be further from the truth, He is intimately involved in this world – whether we can see it or not.  He holds all things together (Colossians 1:7 & Hebrews 1:3).  We must battle this unbelief because it never leads us to worship.  This is why when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His word.  Let us lean upon one another to build our belief; let us walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).