On Our Watch

“Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high, to escape the clutches of ruin!
You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life.
The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.
“Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime!
Has not the LORD Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. 
Habakkuk 2:9-14

This is a continuation of yesterday’s verses on the judgment of Babylon and its rulers. And it could be straight from the headlines of some of the nations in the news today.

More than a decade ago, the nations of the world sat back as the small country of Rwanda was embroiled in what is now called “ethnic cleansing” or genocide. More than 800,000 Tutsis were slaughtered in a period of 100 days. I say that the world sat back because it was happening in front of us and we toyed around with the word “genocide” because we couldn’t believe it was actually happening “on our watch” or we didn’t want to get involved.

Sadly, it is happening again in a few nations that do not get a lot of press. The region of Darfur Sudan is one such place. The Muslim Khartoum regime is slaughtering unarmed innocents in that region and the world debates the real meaning of the word “genocide.” The death toll is rising, though not as quickly as it did in Rwanda. Make no mistake, though, if nobody was watching or monitoring the situation, there would probably be nobody left alive in Darfur, and quite probably all of south Sudan.

Pray that the Church will continue to thrive and be a powerful force against Satan and his minions in Sudan. One day, as Habakkuk 2:14 states: the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

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Here Comes The Judge

Indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples. “Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying, ‘Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion! How long must this go on?’ Will not your debtors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their victim. Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you. For you have shed man’s blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them. Habakkuk 2:5-8

God, in his response to Habakkuk, is describing the Babylonian King, and by extension, those who are arrogant. What God’s describing is really no different than the kind of society we’re living in today. Arrogance. Greed. Unsatisfied. Extortion. Murderous. Destruction. Because of these (and more), harsh judgment is on its way.

Even though Babylon will be bringing judgment against Judah, God saw Babylon’s arrogance and haughtiness. He sees what they’re about and is waiting to judge them as well. He has taken notice and will act in His time.

An old Russian proverb goes like this: God sees everything but waits. In other words, it’ll be okay because God is a righteous judge. We don’t understand God’s patience, especially when it comes to blatant evil. We want the judgment to happen now, or better yet, yesterday!

Be encouraged that there is a coming judgment, and The Perfect Judge will preside. No judgments will be too harsh; no verdicts will be too lenient.

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Living By Faith

Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. 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. “See, he is puffed up; his desires are not right—but the righteous will live by his faith. Habakkuk 2:2-4

Perhaps the toughest job of a prophet was to foretell of future events without being able to witness them. Already in the first Chapter God foretold of Babylonia’s conquest, but there was an appointed time for it, and that time was not then (when he was speaking to Habakkuk). God told Habakkuk to write down the prophecy plainly. He is telling Habakkuk to be patient and to have faith that what He has said will come to pass.

It’s difficult at times to wait for God, especially when we know what’s waiting “on the other side.” Sometimes we want Him just to “cut to the chase” and get on with eternity already! But God would have us be patient. He wants us to trust Him, just as Habakkuk had to trust God.

We can trust Him with the Big Things (end times events, new heaven/new earth); we can also trust Him with the little things (everything in our lives).

The righteous will live by faith.

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Waiting

I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. Habakkuk 2:1

Have you ever had burning questions that you needed God to answer: who will I marry? What will my career be like 10 years from now? Should I join the military? Which college should I go to? Those answers are rarely cut and dried for us. Unfortunately, we don’t hear a voice from heaven saying “do this!” I’m not even sure we’d want that deep down since part of the fun of arriving at the destination is the journey it takes to get there. Sometimes it would be nice, but most of the time there’d be no satisfaction of knowing you’ve made the right decisions.

So, Habakkuk was waiting for God to respond. He’s not going anywhere for a while. I think we can learn a very simple lesson from this: God will speak to us if we’re willing to wait for his answer. Then, once we have his answer, we’ve got to act on it, regardless of what that means to us.

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Where are the Reluctant Leaders?

You have made men like fish in the sea, like sea creatures that have no ruler. The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks, he catches them in his net, he gathers them up in his dragnet; and so he rejoices and is glad. Therefore he sacrifices to his net and burns incense to his dragnet, for by his net he lives in luxury and enjoys the choicest food. Is he to keep on emptying his net, destroying nations without mercy? Habakkuk 1:14-17

Habakkuk speaks truth when he states that men (and women) often have a "we want a leader" mentality. They (we) look for a leader far and wide, and when we find one who is promising, we're not discerning about him/her. Granted, we may not have a lot of information initially, but once the person is in power, the individual is difficult to replace.

Leaders who love power (and the benefits and privileges it brings) are all over the place. Rare is the leader, however, who is reluctant to take the leadership reins but passionate enough to make a difference.

Our leaders at every level (federal, state, local) need our prayers more than they know. The power they hold over others can be intoxicating and dangerous. The more power they have over others, the more they want, and the cycle continues.

Pray that your leaders will take their oaths of office seriously.

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Every Day

O LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, we will not die. O LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgment; O Rock, you have ordained them to punish. Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? Habakkuk 1:12-13

God's seen and heard it all. That's perhaps the understatement of the year. He was from the Beginning and He'll be in the End. Infinite. Everlasting. Unending. Without respect for days or people or institutions. They will come and go but God will remain.

He formed the mountains and the valleys and all creatures living in them. He holds the oceans in the palm of his hand. The stars are like grains of sand and he created them too. He knows exactly what microbes and microscopic germs are inside your body. Of course we know that He did all of that.

This snapshot in history called "now" will go away. Tomorrow will come and go. God remains. Nations will rise and fall. God remains. If we end up destroying the planet through war or disease, God will remain.

Every day we're alive, we have an opportunity to praise this God.

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Strength of a Nation

They [Babylonians] are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor. Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like a vulture swooping to devour; they all come bent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand. They deride kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at all fortified cities; they build earthen ramps and capture them. Then they sweep past like the wind and go on—guilty men, whose own strength is their god." Habakkuk 1:6-11

Many will look at the character trait list above and see America, Russia, Iran, China, or a handful of other powerful nations. Those nations have one thing in common, they THINK they are all powerful. They think they could never be defeated in battle. Their arrogance is their weakness but they don't know it.

I write this in perhaps the most powerful (militarily and economically) country in the world. But I’m not foolish enough to believe that we will always be this way. Nations come; nations go. It really is that simple. Often the destruction of a nation comes from within (without any other nation firing a single shot).

Arrogance will bring down a nation fast. Wherever you are, pray for your nation. Pray for the leadership. Pray that they will humble themselves before Almighty God has to intervene and humiliate them.

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Out of Control

Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own. Habakkuk 1:5-6

This is God's response to Habakkuk's complaint. God was raising up a very specific group of people who were feared and hated among God's people. Think about that. It was almost as if God were saying, “Yes, Habakkuk, you see evil now but wait until the Babylonians come to town. You ain't seen nothing yet. AND I'm raising them up to do just that!”

The longer I'm a Christian, the more puzzled I become at some of the things God allows to happen. Of course there are the indescribable atrocities occurring in foreign lands (mass rape, genocide, children being used as sex slaves), but we don't have to go far to see what God allows. We too shake our heads and question the rightness of it all.

But this was God’s point to Habakkuk. Of course Habakkuk wasn't in control of events around him. God was. As the world seemingly spins out of control, God still is in control. He knows what He's doing. We need to be reminded of that often.

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Habakkuk: The Reverse Prophet

The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received: How long, O 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 wrong? 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. Habakkuk 1:1-4

How many times this year have you felt this way?? This opening passage could have easily been written last week. Habakkuk (and every generation since) has experienced the utter despair at the violence and injustice occurring all around. He seemed frustrated at his inability to do anything about the corruption and conflicts.

Normally a prophet received a message from God and delivered it to a people. With Habakkuk, the reverse is true; he is speaking on behalf of the people to God. Habakkuk is an honest seeker of the truth, perplexed by the evil and injustice around him. He knows God is still around but carries a "boy, wouldn't it be great if He actually did something about the evil" attitude.

God is stirring hearts all around you. He is stirring yours. He wants to continually draw you near to Himself. Forget about the evil and injustice and terrible things happening in the world today. What is He saying to you? Today. Right now.

Listen. What is He saying to you?

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