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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They Won’t Understand

The wicked man will see and be vexed, he will gnash his teeth and waste away; the longings of the wicked will come to nothing. Psalm 112:10

Have you ever had a non-believer look at you in disbelief at something you did or couldn't do because of your beliefs? I've had that happen on a number of occasions. They simply cannot figure out what's making you tick at the moment.

When I lived in Mongolia, drinking three shots of vodka "to the bottom" was standard fare among any group of people. Early in our stay there we had decided that drinking in Mongolia would be disastrous for our Christian witness. It was a personal belief based on the out of control drinking we saw wherever we went. So, I was at a party and one man across the table had downed his three shots of vodka and reached across the table with the upside down shot glass, indicating it was my turn to do the same. I refused. He held it there. I still refused. Others around me said I was offending the host. To put the matter to rest, I addressed the host, “Sir, can I still be your friend even if I don't drink a drop of vodka?” He nodded. I held out my hand and said, “then please let me be your friend without the vodka.” I held it there as the man sitting in front of me held the shot glass in front of me. The host shook my hand and his head, then explained in Mongolian what I had told him.

You will possibly be misunderstood for what you believe and your belief in God. People won't “get” you. That’s okay. Continue to make clear and thought out stances. Continue to fear the Lord, much like the entire Psalm 112 exhorts us to do.

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Hoard No More

[Blessed is the man who fears the Lord]…He has scattered his gifts to the poor, his righteousness endures forever. Psalm 112:9

Search the Bible and you’ll see that God clearly has a special place for the poor, the orphan, the widow, the foreigner, and the downtrodden. Entire laws were written to protect them from the ruthless and uncaring. And rightly so.

Without question, God has compassion on the poor. He had compassion 4000 years ago when He wrote the laws, and He has compassion now in the crazy world we live in. He knew about the poor then and He knows about them now. And verse nine still remains: [the man who fears the Lord] scatters his gifts to the poor.

Again, I’ll relate it to the times we live in. As the economic downtown continues, our tendency will be to hoard as we have fewer resources. It will then become more and more important for us to be generous in our giving, and in our giving to the poor. Hopefully God’s people will be able to lead the way in generosity. God will show us how we should then give.

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God’s Pilot Light

[Blessed is the man who fears the Lord]…His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes. Psalm 112:8

There is an entire multi-billion dollar industry built around Security. Whether it's security for your home, your car, finances, or even as simple as your computer, we all want to feel secure. But as we're beginning to see, the security we once knew in America is unraveling, especially in the financial markets. Everyone is looking for a secure place to park their hard earned dollars. Even the experts say there is no place to hide that’s full proof.

But when we trust in God, our security is different. It is safe and solid with nothing to fear. Well, in an ideal world, that is. We let fears and worries creep into our thinking, sometimes to the point that it immobilizes us. Deep inside, though, like a pilot light in a gas stove, we have God’s security to lean on during those insecure times. It's always there; it's always on; it's dependable. We need only to call out for that security.

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Fearing and Trusting

He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112:7

You don't have to go very far these days to hear or read about the bad news. From the economy to increasing violence in the cities and schools to an overall moral decline in society, there's plenty of bad news to go around. And often, it's tough not to let it all get you down.

But the one who trusts in the Lord has something else going in his favor: a bedrock belief that come fire or flood, God is in command. Period. He doesn't deny that there are very bad things happening in the world around him, but he chooses to trust in God instead.

So, whenever you pick up the doom and gloom newspapers or turn on the nightly news, pray that God will give you clarity to see that ultimately the Lord is who we should be fearing and trusting.

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Remembered Forever

Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever. Psalm 112:6

O that there were an army of equipped and passionate Believers marching across the land in defense of Godly causes and the Gospel. How would our world be different if we had unshakable faith and an unquenchable thirst for righteousness? What would that look like in our day and age?

And yet, there are many, even those reading this, whose faith is solid and strong, who cares not what the world says or thinks, but does he or she knows to be right. You don't get a lot of credit or "glory" now, but you will. Later. I suspect that there are even those who have done a world of good and just want to give up or give in because you think your righteousness is in vain and no one is noticing. Corruption and envy and greed and selfishness and blatant Godless living abound around you and life just isn't fair. Even Believers around you are falling. You want to give up fighting and just "go along to get along."

Take heart, my friend, take heart! Your righteousness will be rewarded. Your labors and toils and sufferings are not in vain. You have been called to do what you're doing and you mustn't give up.

Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever.

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Generosity and Justice

Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice. Psalm 112:5

How would our lives change if we sought to practice generosity and justice in everything we did? I believe the results would be astounding.

Being generous is fairly easy to accomplish, and it goes beyond “not being stingy.” Generosity is ungrudgingly giving something that you have to others so that they are more comfortable. It can be deal with money, food, service, time, and material goods. Of course you can even expand it to being generous with your knowledge and wisdom. As I said, generosity is easy.

Justice is a little trickier. It’s tricky because it’s not as obvious as generosity. The opposite of justice is injustice or unfairness, and we can usually spot that (people being abused, mistreated, or cheated come to mind). In today’s verse, conducting your affairs with justice seems straightforward. Honesty. Integrity. Doing what’s right.

Former Senator Alan Simpson from Illinois said this, “If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.”

That’s a fair assessment of justice in business dealings, don’t you think?

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Take a Peale Pill!

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man. Psalm 112:4

When I was in high school I played the character of General Bullmoose in the play “Lil' Abner.” I told my secretary, “I'm not taking my Peale pills. They make me think…too positive.” The reference is to Norman Vincent Peale, the famed optimist. The optimist referred to in this verse is not merely optimistic for the sake of being up, but he's displaying the quality of his moral character.

I'll admit it, life can get you down, especially in the times we’re in now. But too much of the negative news will just wear you down completely. I think we need to guard against that. I don't say that we need to be a Pollyanna or swallow giant-sized Peale pills, but it's important to keep a healthy perspective.

Such as?

God is in control; we're not. God is not caught off guard by events. And God will give us the grace to handle anything life throws our way.

So, anyone for a bite-sized Peale pill?

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Burdensome or Blessing?

Wealth and riches are in his house; and his righteousness endures forever. Psalm 112:3

This is a verse that refers back to the previous two verses. Because a man fears the Lord, he has great wealth and riches, and it may very well be that his children are the source of those “riches.” Let me put it another way. Have you ever known a person with many children to be unhappy about it? I’ve personally known two families with 10 and 12 children each, and the parents couldn’t be more pleased with their decision to have that many children. Sure, the kids run them ragged but they are having the time of their lives raising them. They truly are wealthy families, though, as I recall, they didn’t have a lot materially.

So legacies are lived out through the children, and through their children’s children, and so on. The children may not turn out exactly like the parent had wanted, and may very often disappoint, but the legacy will still live on.

On the other hand, many parents consider their kids to be a burden, sadly. They don’t view them as the “riches” that they are, only that they are a drain on time and finances. I don’t claim to be an expert on the matter, but it’s not hard to spot someone who is not enjoying life with his children. I’m afraid that twenty years from now those same people will regret that they didn’t appreciate their kids more.

So, are children burdensome or a blessing? It’s probably an important question to ask as the kids grow up.

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