Tuesday, March 3, 2015

End time encouragement from a long-past prophet: Habakkuk

My friend, Pastor Phil Andrukaitis of the First Baptist Church of South Portland Maine, preached on Habakkuk 3 recently. I am on the email list for the sermon notes, and I was struck by how encouraging the notes were. Because:

  • it is always good to be energized by the profound truths of God's word
  • it is always wonderful to remember that prophecy points to the sovereignty of God
  • it is comforting to see there are faithful pastors laboring in all parts of this country and the world, serving and ministering to our Lord

I asked Pastor Phil to reprint the notes. They include a thoughtful and discerning introduction. Please be encouraged with either or both, the introduction or the sermon notes themselves. I added the photos and artwork. They are not original to the sermon.

Please continue to pray for pastors all over the world who preach the Gospel faithfully and discerningly. There are 4,500 pastors meeting in Sun Valley CA right now at the annual Grace Community Church/Masters College Shepherds' Conference. There are thousands of other pastors right now working out sermon notes, praying in tears for their sheep, visiting the sick, building a new church, or doing any of the myriad and seemingly impossible things God calls His under-shepherds to do.

Pastor Phil Andrukaitis
It is only by the Holy Spirit that these men are able to lift themselves up each day under the workload, to have the word of God illuminated to them, to have kindness and comfort to offer the grieving or sin-stricken, to have strength to have the difficult conservations and uncomfortable confrontations.

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)

Good pastors are a gift from God.

And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. (Jeremiah 3:15)

The introduction and sermon are long. Print it out, mull it over, return to it when you have time. These are God's words, delivered through a pastor's heart, and offered in love and truth to comfort you.

SERMON INTRODUCTION

Phil Andrukaitis
Good afternoon my family and friends,

As a pastor, I have a divine responsibility to shepherd my flock [and to encourage other Christians] by strengthening their faith with the Bible and by preparing them for future trials and tribulations, which lie ahead for all of us. Knowing my own weaknesses and failings, I still press on to model my faith with my life, as this is part of the process of making disciples.

Question: My family and friends, are we ready to experience the difficult times that are coming to our country? As I read the Book of Habakkuk, this prophet of God was told what was in store for his nation. This news was so disturbing for Habakkuk, it caused him to tremble. I believe God is allowing discerning Christians, along with many American citizens, to see ominous signs for our nation. And some folks are trembling.

The concept of the Rapture is embraced as an escape plan among many Christians. While I believe Scripture promises the church to escape the "Great Tribulation," the church may very well experience smaller tribulations [e.g., the collapse of our economic system, martial law, restricted freedoms, fear in the streets, etc.] before the actual rapture of the church.

My brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of the Lord not to dismiss current events or to become discouraged by them. Rather, we are to embrace God and His Word, as did Habakkuk. Therefore, let each Christian embrace his God-given assignment and enable the church to fulfill the Great Commission, making disciples of Jesus Christ.

I pray that Habakkuk's message will strengthen your faith and prepare you to stand firm on the Rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ.

Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Phil


SERMON TRANSCRIPT

This morning, I begin this sermon not with a story to illustrate the passage; rather, with the text itself. It is one of the most magnificent pieces of Hebrew poetry [comparable to Psalm 23]; the closing verses in the Book of Habakkuk (3:17-19 – NASB):

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. The Lord GOD is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.

Gustav Dore: Habakkuk crying out in prayer
Did you hear Habakkuk’s words with your soul? But wait: Unless we understand these words in the context of the chapter, in the context of the book, and in the context of its setting, Habakkuk’s words of praise would be wrongly interpreted and misapplied to our lives. Therefore, let us begin with the fact that Habakkuk is a devout servant of God who...
  • grieved over his nation’s wickedness,
  • wrestled with theological perplexities,
  • and shook with fear when God told him what was coming to the nation.
God was bringing judgment to His people. Yet, Habakkuk declared his faith and expressed praise to the Lord GOD, in spite of the news he learned (Habakkuk 3). How is that possible?

So as not to get ahead of myself, permit me to ask you two questions: First, what was the most gut-wrenching, painful experience you have ever had? Second, how long did it last and what were the consequences? Perhaps some of you have experienced one or more of the following:

• The death of a parent, spouse, child, or friend
• An act of violence committed against you [rape, beaten, robbed, etc.]
• News that your health is failing – you have only three months to live
• The rejection of your spouse [divorce]; the betrayal of a friend; the discipline of a church
• The consequences of a sinful decision that brought overwhelming guilt and shame

Okay, now that you are in the moment for just a moment, what were your thoughts towards God when you were in that time of trouble? Were you praying? Were you crying? Were you afraid? Were you angry? Did you doubt God’s love? Were you filled with despair? How did you get through this painful experience?

Transitional Sentences

Having jolted your memory, you are now ready to connect with the prophet’s words and emotions; but just for a little bit. I do not want to offend anyone by minimizing your gut-wrenching painful experience, but when God told Habakkuk what was coming to the nation, within the prophet’s lifetime, Habakkuk wrote,

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 (Habakkuk 3:16 – NASB).

Yet, immediately following these words,

• Habakkuk did not stare at the horrific news he just received.
• Habakkuk did not become paralyzed in his walk with God.
• Habakkuk did not run away from God; rather,
• Habakkuk grounded himself in what he knew to be true about God and praised the Lord.

Historical Setting

Okay, before we proceed further, you might be asking, who is Habakkuk? There is nothing known about the prophet’s personal life. While students of Scripture have speculated that Habakkuk was of a priestly family, the Scripture is silent on this issue.

Habakkuk’s name means, “to embrace.” Based on the prophet’s words, it appears that Habakkuk embraced God [God’s glory, will, purity, heart, people, and suffering]. While all the other prophets spoke for God to the people, Habakkuk speaks openly to God about people.

Habakkuk wrote this book approximately 2 years before the first of three deportations to Babylon [B.C. 605, 597, 586]; 20 years before king Nebuchadnezzar eventually destroyed Jerusalem with a great slaughter. Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah. Moreover, there is a sense in the text that Habakkuk is also living in Jerusalem.

• We know that Jeremiah lived through the two-year siege of Jerusalem. Jeremiah describes God’s wrath against Jerusalem (Lamentations 2), whereby the Babylonian military forces first starved the people into submission and then broke through Jerusalem’s wall, slaughtering, plundering, and destroying the people and the city.

• However, as for Habakkuk, we do not know if he perished in the two-year siege or died by the sword when the Babylonian forces ransacked the city. However, when the prophet heard the news from God, what was to come, it is no wonder the prophet shook with fear.

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 (Habakkuk 3:16 – NASB).

In order to understand more fully Habakkuk’s prayer of praise in Chapter 3, let us review quickly a summary of the Chapters 1 and 2.

Summary Points in Chapter 1

Habakkuk’s 1st Complaint (1:2-4)

• God, why do You seem so indifferent to my prayers?
• God, why did You allow Israel to go so far with their sins?
• God, why do You not bring justice to the land?

Evidently, the time for divine judgment was now. From the Book of 2nd Chronicles, the godly reforms King Josiah instituted were reversed by his wicked sons, especially by king Jehoiakim. Consequently, Israel was rife with the following sins:

The people were idolatrous, especially as they sacrificed children upon the altars of demons, for financial and agricultural prosperity.
  • Corruption in the highest political and religious offices were the norm [Observation: perhaps that is why the nobility were first to be carried off in the first of three deportations to Babylon].
  • Jerusalem’s officials abused their authority and power, bringing injustice to the widows and the poor.
  • Bloodshed and crime were rampant throughout the land.
  • The Word of God was rejected; so were the prophets, as they were persecuted.
  • Consequently, the people of the land refused to repent of their sins.
God’s Reply to Habakkuk’s 1st Complaint (1:5-11)

God said, I am bringing the Chaldeans [Babylonians] to judge My people [Israel].

Habakkuk’s 2nd Complaint (1:12-2:1)

• But God, the sinfulness of the Chaldeans is worse than the sinfulness of the Jews!
• God, how can You endorse evil people to do Your divine work?
• God, You are too holy to look upon sin.
• God, the cruelty of the Chaldeans is known worldwide! They will destroy us!

To feel the horror that filled Habakkuk’s soul, imagine ISIS forces overwhelming this nation, as they are overwhelming the nations of Iraq and Syria.

Summary Points in Chapter 2

God’s Reply to Habakkuk’s 2nd Complaint (2:2-20)

• God declares: The just shall live by faith [present the gospel]
• God declares: I will judge the Chaldeans for their sins [5 woes]

--greed and aggression (5-8)
--exploitation and extortion (9-11)
--violence (12-14)
--immorality (15-17)
--idolatry (18-20)

Summary Points in Chapter 3

Even though Habakkuk did not understand everything about God and the course of action He was taking against Israel, the prophet offers a powerful prayer of praise.

First, Habakkuk makes a request of God (2).

--Revive Your work.
--Make Your work known.
--Be merciful when You express Your wrath.

Observations about Habakkuk’s request

1. Habakkuk knows what is coming and expressed his fear, along with his faith in God.

2. Understanding that God is holy, Habakkuk knew that God must judge sin. Habakkuk does not ask for personal deliverance, ease of suffering, defeat over the Chaldeans, or for Israel’s deliverance.

3. Rather, Habakkuk asked for God’s will to be done. Hmmm, this is reminiscent of the Lord’s Prayer. Consider the following questions: Are we more concerned about...

...our personal welfare or God’s will in our lives?
...which political party will win next year’s election or purity of the church?
...becoming more like Christ or securing material possessions?
...our comforts in this life or the kingdom of God?

Do you seek the shadow of the Jesus’ cross looming over this passage? Habakkuk asks, “in wrath remember mercy.” Habakkuk knew that God could no longer tolerate Israel’s sin. God’s righteous character demands that He judge sin.

God is still the same God today. He does not change. He cannot look upon our sin without judging us. That is why God sacrificed His Son on the cross for our sins. When Jesus hung on the cross, He alone bore the wrath of God so that you and me could escape God’s wrath. Indeed, God did remember His mercy while pouring out His wrath on His Son. We do not deserve to be saved. God held back the judgment we deserve [mercy] and gave to every sinner who has believes, eternal life [grace].

Listen, my friends, there is no sin in your life beyond the cross. Even though no one else knows about your sin, God knows. Come to Him in faith, believing that the blood of Jesus cleanses you from all your unrighteousness.

And to my brothers and sisters in Christ, God continues to bestow mercy and grace on our lives. Forsake the sin that so easily cripples your walk with God by calling out to Him to revive your heart for Him.

Second, Habakkuk remembers the deeds of God (3:3-15).

God displayed His majesty to the world.
God displayed His power over the nations [the Exodus and the plagues].
God displayed His presence among His people [Mount Sinai].
God displayed His glory, causing the nations to fear Him [Joshua 10].

What was God’s purpose in all of His deeds? The answer is clear: To demonstrate to His salvation for a people He loved.

Applications from Habakkuk’s remembrance

1. Read Scripture and understand how God has demonstrated His faithfulness in the past. A good place to begin would be at the cross. Think through how God took steps to bring Jesus into this sin-cursed world. In your mind, imagine yourself among the fickle crowds that called for the death of Jesus. See with your mind’s eye how Jesus carried His cross for you; the soldiers who nailed Him to the cross. Listen to His last words from the cross. These actions on our part have a way of strengthening our faith and making more intimate our personal relationship with Jesus.

2. Think back how God has delivered you in the distant and recent past. Be sure to tell others about His faithfulness.

3. Parents and grandparents, how are we demonstrating our faith and what values are we setting before our children? It is true that many young people are leaving the church. Might the problem lie in our homes and the manner in which we live out our faith?

Third, Habakkuk confesses his fear because he knows what lies ahead of him (16).

Habakkuk knew what was coming. If the Spirit of God told us of our future, I do not think we would be able to handle it, as God permits a measure of intense suffering for many of us. Read Peter’s first letter as suffering is a major theme he addresses (1st Peter 2:20-25; 3:13-17; 4:12-19).

Is it any wonder then, that we often times design our lives to avoid future suffering? God’s Word says, “Many are the plans in the heart of man, but the answer comes from the Lord.” God desires that we learn to walk by faith and not by sight or to solely lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6). Therefore, as Habakkuk’s heart melted in fear, his faith did not paralyze his walk with God.

Applications from Habakkuk’s confession

I do not read tea-leaves. I do not listen to Glenn Beck. I am not a pessimist. However, you do not have to be a rocket scientist to see that difficult days lie ahead for this nation.

God has not spoken to me, as He did to the prophet Habakkuk; however, His Word speaks to all of us. And our country, like ancient Israel, is rife with the same sins. God is going to judge America for her many sins. The question is, when will this judgment fall?

As your pastor, I have a divine responsibility to strengthen your faith with the Word of God and by modeling my life before you; making disciples of Christ.

My brothers and sisters, are our souls ready to experience what is coming to our country? God told Habakkuk what was coming and the news caused him to tremble. God is allowing us to see the signs in our country and across the world and I sense that people are beginning to tremble.

I believe many of us think that the Rapture is the church’s escape plan. Yes, I believe Scripture promises the church to escape the Great Tribulation; however, there will be many smaller tribulations, [like the collapse of our economic system, martial law, restricted freedoms, fear in the streets, etc.] that impact the church.

My brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of the Lord not to dismiss current events or to become discouraged. Rather, we are to embrace God, as did Habakkuk, seek to fulfill our mission as a church, bringing Jesus into the lives of others.

With that being said, let us look at the final portion of Habakkuk’s prayer of praise.

Fourth, Habakkuk praises God because... (17-20)

--God’s sovereignty never changes (17).
--God’s salvation is sure (18).
--God’s strength will help us walk with Him (19)

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.
The Lord GOD is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
and makes me walk on my high places.

Applications from Habakkuk’s praise

When the Chaldeans ransack the nations, they wiped out the permanent crops [figs, grapes, olives], the basic food and the flocks. In other words, God oversaw the destruction of Israel’s economy. What did that mean for the people of Israel? There was no food in the land. The absence of social services, like those of today, guaranteed that the young, the old, and the sick would most likely die of starvation.

What do we say today, when any of us lose our job and become unemployed; when the insurance runs out; when social security check is denied? Even worse, what might be our reaction should Wall Street collapse, wiping out all of our savings?

A word to the wise and prudent: Our country is on the verge of economic collapse. Even now, America is financially bankrupt, not to mention morally and spiritually bankrupt. Even though many people may lose everything, God remains in control. After all, He is responsible for removing those things in our lives.

Conclusion

This is Communion Sunday. Someone has said that God tries our faith so that we may try God. When God gives His people unwanted burdens, God also provides His undeserved blessings. Therefore, thankfulness comes from what is in our hearts, not what is in our hands.

Even though I have lost everything [consider Job], I will rejoice in the Lord for He has guided my steps into this experience. May each of us cultivate a heart like that of Habakkuk, of Job, and of Jesus. Amen.

----------------------------------------------------------------

First Baptist Church 879 Sawyer Street ~ South Portland, Maine 04106
Office: (207) 799-4565 Fax: (207) 799-5922
Website: www.spfbc.com Email: southportland.fbc@gmail.com


2 comments :

  1. God IS sending His messengers with admonition to get ready and be prepared. Warnings of approaching trials and tribulations seemingly falling on deaf ears, it is business as usual, as men move ever closer to the judgement of God. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be again.

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  2. A 5:45 minuet video message that is a must see

    Coming Persecution To Christians In America and the World by Steve Lawson

    Dr. Steve Lawson (Shares the platform with John MacArthur and others - conferences etc.)


    http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/myvideo/photo.php?lid=3013


    Rick Buffington
    Metro Atlanta

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