May 25, 2013

Revealing Christ In The Old Testament XXVI: God of My Salvation

To any Bible savvy reader, the name Habakkuk is synonymous with faith. In the short prophecy of Habakkuk we see what seems like sin and evil winning just as we do today in our hyper-partisan country and religiously divided world. We see in Habakkuk's time the same seemingly insurmountable obstacles to believers as we see beginning to mounted against Christians today. One must understand that what we experience today is nothing new, just a historically reoccurring pattern of apostate and unregenerate humanity ebbing and flowing in intensity. It is a humanity that some day will meet its end and then face judgment in the presence of an infinitely holy God. The One that saves will be the One that judges. 

As we can expect from anything God is involved with (which is everything), the seeming paradox of evil triumphing over good changes quickly and dramatically. Habakkuk opens his prophecy with the cry, “How Long O' Lord?” or ''O Lord, how long shall I cry and Thou wilt not hear?'' He is looking around at a nation (Judah) engulfed by wickedness. This is not unlike what we see today in America and other nations.

Habakkuk 1:2-4 ~ How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.

The Lord's answer is succinct and absolute. He is about to bring a brutal punishment upon Judah in the form of a devastating Chaldean invasion.

Their cavalry was furious and infamous:

Habakkuk 1:8 ~ Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like an eagle swooping to devour…

They were known for demeaning conquered kings:

Habakkuk 1:10 ~ They mock kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at all fortified cities; by building earthen ramps they capture them.

Having seen, in a horrifying vision the destruction of his people, Habakkuk again brings his questionings to God.

Habakkuk 1:13 ~ Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?

In other words: Habakkuk's question is, how is it that God, who is literally too holy to behold iniquity, will execute vengeance upon Judah by a people even worse than Judah themselves? God of course answers again and tells Habakkuk that essentially, ''the just shall live by faith.''  It is here in Habakkuk that God speaks of an immediate vision, but he is also looking on to the end as the words “(v.4) the just shall live by faith,'' is preceded by, ''(v.3) For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. ''

God would use the very people that didn’t even believe in Him to carry out His own will, then they themselves would fall under divine judgment that would obliterate them. There would be a day when Babylon would become desolate (Jeremiah 50:23). What we see here is God's sovereignty over all peoples and all nations...even those that do not believe in Him. It is the old adage: You may not know of God but He certianly knows of you. Whether or not you believe in Him is irrelevant. You will be judged by Him all the same. If you know not Christ Jesus, nor will you know eternal life in His presence. Ignorance is no excuse and wanton rebellion once you know of Him is even worse.

Habakkuk then prays in chapter 3. His description, of God’s glory and grandeur is second to none in the entire Bible. Habakkuk describes the faithful and continued dealings of God with His people. How He brought them into the land of Canaan as they promised. This of course is a foreshadowing of Jesus and how He will ring us into the Kingdom. It is the Kingdom that He has already initiated with His first coming and will complete upon His second coming. We see a type or shadow of a greater salvation yet to come in Christ…and a greater promised land which is Heaven. A time and place we can only get a glimpse of now but will see in full when Christ comes to reign in full.

Habakkuk uses the word “Selah” in this prayer (v.3, 9 & 13). It is an appeal to silence or for one to pause from what they are doing. This is done because,the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him as Habakkuk 2:20 had told us. This silence is to wait and see, “what he will say to me” ~ Habakkuk 2:1

Do we have this silence with God as Habakkuk did? Can we hear if He calls on us and beckons us to do His will? Has the world cluttered and drowned Him out? Do we still make the time for God to enlighten us and illuminate our paths…or do we walk in darkness? It often takes a Biblically fine-tuned mind, eyes and ears to hear and see what God wants of us. It is not our will that need be done…it is His. If we are not paying attention we end up doing our own will by default. This is the will of a fallen person. It takes biblical and spiritual focus to stay on God’s task rather than our own selfish ones.

As with Habakkuk, so too with us: The righteous will live by faith alone. Sola Fide. Even in the prophets lament and the "shock and awe" effect of being in the presence of a holy God, the Lord Himself comforts Habakkuk. He can and will do the same for us. 

No one said being a man of God was going to be easy. As a matter of fact the Bible states just the opposite.

Luke 9:23 ~ “…whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

Matthew 10:34 ~ “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

In the face of abject failure and inability to get anything accomplished for God or the Kingdom because of the evil that confronts and resists us, we’re exhorted and encouraged by the little book of Habakkuk. When all hope is well-nigh deader than a door nail we read a prophet that is willing to lift of God’s name aloft even in the face of his consternation and confusion—in total faith (as he had nothing else to rely on).

We see Habakkuk lift up God’s glory in the face of failure and what appears to be desolation:

Habakkuk 3:17-19 ~ “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.

The words “God my savior” are interesting. They are more properly understood as: “The God of my Salvation.” It is in this compact term for Habakkuk’s God that we see Jesus most clearly. It is stating בֵּאלֹהֵ֥י  יִשְׁעִֽי “Elohim-of my salvation”, “Jehovah-salvation” or “Jehovah is Salvation”: The modern rendering of this phrase is very familiar to Christians. It is Jesus! Praise God!

Hebrews 5:9~ “…and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him”

Just thought you’d like to know.

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