Habakkuk 1: 3 The Lord replied, ” Look at the nations and be amazed! Watch and be astounded at what I will do! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” In the last two days Habakkuk has been quoted to me twice. It’s an obscure book, only 3 chapters long, next to the other tiny books that no one ever reads, like Zepheniah, Nahum, and Haggai (yeah, those books are really in the Bible). So, to have it come up two times in as many days is pretty unusual. I decided to read it, just to satisfy my curiosity. The first couple of verses is Habukkuk complaining to the Lord about things he sees happening around him – courts no longer do justice but are perverted through bribes, government is similarly corrupt, the people love to argue and fight, and there is much violence and destruction. Some might say that this sounds an awful lot like what happens in America today: bribes and payments get unjust laws passed, politicians line their own pockets, criminals win in court even though it’s clear that they are to blame (like the criminal winning a suit after he gets hurt while robbing someone’s house, or the McDonald’s coffee incident – although that person wasn’t a criminal). And often we, as Christians, complain. If we complain to God, that’s okay. He doesn’t mind us telling Him what’s bothering us or what is frustrating us. He listens. And in this case, He answers. God tells Habakkuk that despite all the craziness and difficulty He is at work. That He is doing something in Israel that Habakkuk wouldn’t even be able to comprehend even if He told him. It’s big, it’s amazing, it’s astounding! In their case, it meant that Babylon was coming, which was going to be a difficult pill to swallow. In our days? Well, God is still working. Even in our country today. And it could be something so amazing that we wouldn’t believe it, even if He told us! So, pray for our country (the Bible does tell us to pray for our leaders – the President and congress), and watch to see what He is going to do!
Thoughts from Saturday Night Service at St. Pauls Presbyterian. Mark, one of the pastors at the church, did a segment during the sermon (about hearing from God), and a couple of things really struck me: 1. An analogy he used was a beach he goes to every year where the water is incredibly clear, and he can see straight through it for several meters all around him (no sharks sneaking up on him!). But one year he went and the waters were all churned up from a storm, making it impossible to see through the waters at all. So are our lives when we are in the midst of storms. When we’re all churned up, we can’t see what’s around us, nor where to go next. But if we withdraw to a quiet place (have a cup of tea, says the Brit) and let things settle a little (surrender, relax, pray) the waters become more clear and it’s easier to see. It’s such a perfect analogy for when we’re in a storm. I love it! 2. The other point he made was that it’s God’s responsibility to speak loudly enough for me to hear. One of the things I wonder about is if I’ve missed God’s whisper. Did He speak and I didn’t hear Him? But Mark pointed out that God wants us to hear His voice, so He will speak loudly enough for me to hear Him. Now, if I’m off doing my own thing and not paying attention or making any effort to listen, I can still miss his voice (kind of how my son “misses” hearing my voice when he’s playing or watching Veggie Tales). But if I’m truly listening and paying attention, it’s God’s responsibility to speak loudly enough for me to hear. And He knows just how loud is loud enough. Those were two points that really hit home for me, speaking to areas of my life where I struggle. Yeah God!
Jeremiah 30:11b But I must discipline you; I cannot let you go unpunished. As a parent, I can understand this verse like I never could before. Now I know what it’s like to have your child do something that cannot go unpunished. For example, if Gavin were to hit Kainoah, I’d have to punish Gavin. If Kainoah were to ignore my instructions about not running out into the street he would need to be disciplined to remind him to listen to me. Children need instruction, and part of that is learning obedience and the difference between right and wrong. Do I enjoy disciplining my children? Emphatically, no! Just ask my husband… But, when I must, I do. I don’t like it, but I know if I don’t then they could get hurt later on. And, here God sounds the same way. He knows He must (because He is Just and Holy), but it doesn’t bring Him joy (because He loves us). Thankfully, as Christ followers who live after Jesus came to forgive us, we are blessed with grace and forgiveness. It’s not a license to go and do the wrong thing (because our choices still have consequences), but it does give us the opportunity to be forgiven and to start fresh.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me.” Most people are familiar with Jeremiah 29:11 and how God has good plans for us, to give us a hope and a future. But, the ones after it aren’t as widely quoted, and yet they are such great promises! How often are you in the middle of a crisis, clinging to God’s promise that somehow it’ll turn out for good, but you feel so alone and like God’s gone off on vacation or is ignoring you? I know I’ve been there. But these verses remind me that when I pray He WILL listen. When I truly seek Him, I WILL find Him. I love that He uses “will” instead of “can” in these verses. The word “will” means it’s a definite thing. “Can” would mean it’s possible, but might not happen. So what about those times when I’m praying and it doesn’t seem like He’s listening? Or when I feel like I’ve been seeking and seeking and not finding? I’m not God, so I can’t give you the definitive answer, but here’s my theory: He is listening. Sometimes the things I ask for in my prayers aren’t good for me, so He withholds them. I feel like he’s not listening because I’m not getting what I want. For example, I want out of this financial situation I’m in. I’ve been praying about it, but it hasn’t gone away. I believe it’s because God is using it to work on some areas of my life (letting go of my need to control things, having self-control in my spending, trust, etc.). I’ve been here for quite some time because these lessons aren’t easy for me. However, on the other side, I know that the result in my life will be good and make the future better. I also know that God is here, even when I can’t feel Him. Barlowgirl does a song called “I Believe in Love” that has this chorus: I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining I believe in love even when I don’t feel it And I believe in God even when He is silent And I, I believe. The whole song speaks to this topic, and it’s a great song. So, we know God has good plans for us, but don’t forget that He promises to be there when we seek Him and promises to listen when we pray. Even when it doesn’t seem like it.
Jeremiah 28:10 Then Hananiah the prophet took the Yoke off Jeremiah’s neck and broke it. Hananiah was prophecying that the Babylonians would return the captives and all the temple treasure and that Israel would be free of the yoke of bondage within two years. Jeremiah knew he wasn’t really giving the people a word from God, but he knew the people wanted to believe Hananiah. Later God told Jeremiah to give a message to Hananiah. He told him that Hananiah had broken a wooden yoke, but that it would be replaced with an iron yoke that was even more oppressive. He also said that Hananiah would die within a year because of his false prophecies and because he led the people astray (even more). So I was trying to apply this to life. It’s in the Bible so there’s got to be something. My thought is that sometimes we carry a wooden yoke because God is trying to teach us something important or to discipline us lightly to keep us from doing the wrong thing (and often, from hurting ourselves). It’s tempting to do everything in our power to escape from the yoke and get free. The lies of the world and, sometimes, of very well-meaning people lead us to believe that surely God wouldn’t discipline us or allow trouble in our lives. Surely it’s a test and surely if we were good enough or prayed enough or followed this special formula (that they’d tell us about, if we’d just donate a little to the proper cause) that it would all go away. That’s why it’s so important to pray and read God’s Words for ourselves. If we do, we’d know the truth about our struggles, we’d know the voice of our Father, and we’d be less likely to be fooled by people. Remember Job’s friends? I think they meant well, but the information and advice they gave him were waaaaay off base (so much so that God wanted to punish them pretty severely, but Job interceded). I know in my life I’ve listened to others or done what I wanted instead of asking God and being patient enough to listen (and be willing enough to get an answer I didn’t want), and that’s always resulted in my situation growing even worse. So, don’t try to break the yoke that God gives. Instead submit, offer it to God (in Matthew 11:30 Jesus says, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”) and accept with faith what He has for you. I know I’d rather carry Jesus’ yoke than the yoke this world would give me. Either way I’m carrying something. At least I know that Jesus has my best in mind.
I realize more and more how patient God is when, once again, my plans are foiled by a shift in sleeping patterns! Jeremiah 27:6 So you must submit to Babylon’s king and serve him; put your neck under Babylon’s yoke! God is warning Israel that He has chosen the Babylonian king to rule over many nations and be His instrument (interestingly, he calls King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon His servant – did He worship God?), so Israel must submit to Him or be punished further. Sometimes the hard things in life are appointed by God to do good things in our lives… even when they are harsh and unpleasant. But, similar to Israel, if we submit to the process and stop struggling to get away from it, that’s the fastest way through, the safest way through, and ultimately the only way through. Definitely not the easy way. I’m not good at this because it means I have to give up control. When we had our second little boy, our finances took a huge hit. My instinct is to try and figure out what I can do to fix it. But God wanted (wants) to use that in my life to teach me to trust Him and surrender control of this area (arguably the hardest thing to take my hands off of). Submitting to the process is the best way to work through it, trusting God and learning to stop trying to do His job for Him. Am I done learning? Apparently not, but I’m learning.
Jeremiah 25:3 “For the past twenty-three years … the Lord has been giving me his messages. I have faithfully passed them on to you but you have not listened.” I didn’t realize that Jeremiah had been warning the Israelites for 23 years! Good grief! That’s a long time – for God to keep warning and for the people to ignore him! I wonder how often God warns us over and over and over, and we ignore him or are just oblivious to him. Later in the next chapter, Jeremiah is almost mobbed for telling the people that the Temple will be destroyed. He is brought before a court that declares he hasn’t done anything deserving death, saying that his message is, in fact, from God. The wise old men even recall what happened when the people heeded a previous prophets warning and repented thereby averting the impending disaster. You’d think that after acknowledge that the warning was from God and remember that if they obeyed God would relent, and after so much time, they’d actually listen! But, no. They kept right on doing their own thing, signing their own warrant. And after waiting patiently for them to turn (for 23 years, no less) God finally sends his disaster as Babylon attacks and carries thousands into captivity. So the question is, do we recognize God’s warnings and change our ways? Or do we keep on going, even knowing that what we’re doing is wrong?