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Bible Search
Developing a Thankful Heart
Debating God
Habakkuk 1:13; 2:1-20
 
Have you ever tried to make a deal with God?  I remember hearing about a little boy who was living in a Catholic orphanage who wanted a new bicycle.  So one of the sisters, seizing on the opportunity that had presented itself, told him if he would be good for two weeks God might bless him with a new bike. 
 
So the little boy went to his room, knelt down by his bed, folded his hands and began to pray.  “Dear Lord, I promise I’ll be good for two weeks if you’ll give me a new bike.”  Then he thought, “I can’t do that.”
 
So he began again:  “Dear Lord, if you’ll give me a new bike, I’ll do my best to be good for one week.” That still seemed impossible.  So he looked around the room and saw a little statue of the virgin Mary.  He tenderly picked it up, gently wrapped it up in a towel, got back down on his knees and said, “Lord, if you ever want to see your mother again. . .”
 
That describes most of us. Even though we know we can't do what we are promising to do, most of us have tried, either consciously or unconsciously, to strike a deal with God. “God, if you'll do this I'll do that” or “God if you will just come through this one time I promise I'll do this or do that.”
 
The problem with the deals is that they are almost always weighted in our favor. We try to arrange the details and the result so it is in our best interest, and that desire goes all the way back to the first man who ever lived.
Adam was walking around the Garden of Eden moping and pouting and God said, “What is wrong with you Adam?” He said, “I am lonely. I don't have anybody to talk to.”
 
God said, “Adam, I've got good news for you. I am going to make a companion for you and you are going to call it a “woman”. This person will gather food for you, cook for you and when you discover clothing she will wash it for you. She will agree with every decision you make. She will bear your children and never ask you to get up in the middle of the night to take care of them. She will never nag you and she will always be the first one to admit she was wrong when you've had a disagreement. She will never have a headache and she will freely give you love and passion whenever you want and need it.”
 
Adam said, “What will this woman cost?” God said, “An arm and a leg.” Adam thought for a moment and said, “What can I get for a rib?”
 
Have you ever noticed that when you bargain with God and He doesn't deal that then you start debating God and you start giving God all kinds of reasons why He should have done things your way? That is exactly where we find Habakkuk.
 
We began to look at his story last week, and to remind you of what we saw, Habakkuk is living in what is known as the “Southern Kingdom.”
 
Israel, at one time, was a united kingdom, but after Solomon died there was a civil war and the kingdom split into half - Israel to the North and Judah to the South.
 
At the time of Habakkuk, Israel had already been taken captive by the Assyrians as God's punishment for living in open idolatry and paganism.  And unfortunately, Judah didn't learn from Israel's mistake and they were repeating the same behaviors. 
 
Habakkuk, as God’s prophet, had been crying out to God to do something, to bring revival to His nation, to make things right, and it seemed like God had gone deaf and blind. He wasn't listening to Habakkuk's prayer and He couldn't see what was going on.
 
And to make matters worse, when God finally did answer Habakkuk, God told him He was going to raise up the most wicked nation on the planet, Babylon, to conquer Judah, destroy it politically, and take the people captive. Habakkuk just thought times were tough. Now, times were about to get a lot tougher.
 
Habakkuk thought it over and he is not satisfied with God's answer. Whereas He may have doubted God because of His lack of communication, there is no longer any doubt. God is alive and well and speaking. 
 
But now he is debating God and basically trying to convince God He has made the wrong decision.
 
Habakkuk 1:12-13
 
I think in many ways, what prompts the debate is this lack of harmony between the character and nature of God and what He is now going to do. After all, Habakkuk affirms God’s Holiness. By the way, that is His number one attribute.
 
 
 
But as Habakkuk thinks about the holiness of God and what that looks like and how it acts, He just can’t make it fit with God using a pagan nation to bring judgment on His people. 
 
After all, God is a Holy God. In fact, so holy and so pure is God that He cannot even look upon sin. Obviously, that doesn't mean that God can't see sin and evil. It seemly means He cannot look upon it with approval like we do.
 
So logically speaking, Habakkuk says, “How can a Holy God like you use the Babylonians? You think we are bad. Have You noticed them? They are a lot worse. They are a lot more evil. They are a lot more sinful than we are.”
 
And he was right!  If you were going to compare nation to nation, there was no comparison when it came to evil and sinfulness. 
 
Babylon was everything that was wrong in a nation.  They didn’t believe in God. They lived a pagan lifestyle. They were ruthless and mean. They didn’t care about anything moral or right.  They had no fear of God.  :
 
Judah, on the other hand, was the people of God.  They openly feared God.  They weren’t perfect, but they were chosen by God, protected by God and led by God. 
 
And as he processes that, Habakkuk is asking God, “God, since  you are so good, so pure, so holy how come you let the bad guys win?”
 
 
Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever look up the street and see your next door neighbor who runs around on his wife, plays the lottery, never darkens the door of the church, and yet he has a secure job with more money and a steady income? Here you are in a faithful marriage, love God, play by the rules, are a committed servant of God's church and you just got the pink slip?
 
The problem is God is approaching the situation from a completely different place.  He is asking a completely different question. Habakkuk is looking at behavior and determining which is better. 
 
In his mind, it is precisely because God is too pure to look upon evil and too holy to tolerate wrong to ever let something like this happen.  And because of that, he doesn't understand how He could possibly use a wicked nation like Babylon to solve the problem of Judah's rebellion.
 
But God is assessing the response to what each has been given. So God’s question is, “Habakkuk, should I expect more out of people who claim to know Me, love Me, fear Me, serve Me, and worship Me or should I expect more from people who don't?”
 
Remember, we are looking at how to develop a thankful heart.  And in so many words, God is saying to Habakkuk, “I am going to teach you that I expect far more out of my people than I do out of others.  Instead of arrogance and indifference, I expect you to live as a grateful people.”
 
So how should we respond?  Let me offer you three expectations, and with each one I want to give you a reason to do it.  When you don’t understand the inequalities and injustices that seem to be taking place around you and you are tempted to question God and His goodness and fairness and justice, then keep these three things in mind. 
 
First,
 
1.  Wait On God
 
Now some of you are not going to like what I am about to tell you, but when you are in the middle of a difficult situation and you either don't hear God, can't see God, or you hear Him, but you don't like what He said, or you see Him and you don't like His looks and you really don't understand what He is up to, the first thing you have got to do is wait.
 
Habakkuk 2:1
 
The word “watch” literally means “watch tower.” Back in Bible days, cities were surrounded by walls with gates. At certain parts of the city wall they would build a watchtower or a rampart. Typically they were mounds of earth that were raised up so you could see far above the city and you could see everything from caravans bringing goods to enemies that might be coming to attack the city.
 
In reality, it was a way that you could get away from everybody and everything and get a higher perspective. That is exactly what you need to do when you can't find God in your situation, when you can't seem to hear God, go up and look up. Get above your problem and wait for the One who can solve your problem.
 
 
That is super hard to do today in our technologically driven culture. We have accelerated our sense of time. Thousands of years ago we measured time in days and nights. Then, we invented clocks and began to measure it in hours and minutes. Now, we are in the digital age and we can measure it in microseconds.
 
But we must learn to wait on God. Why? The reason we should be patient is God keeps His Word.   
 
Habakkuk 2:2-3
 
Notice, God tells Habakkuk exactly what He is going to do and even tells him to write it down. And Habakkuk is about to learn that you can wait on God when you know that God keeps His Word.
 
Do you know what the Bible is? The Bible is God's light for dark days. I promise you no matter how dark your situation may be, in His time God will turn on the light. God won't leave you in the dark. He will break His silence. He will speak into your situation and He will keep His word to you. He will keep the promises that are written down in His book to you.
 
The problem with us isn't that we don't get answers from God. The problem is either we don't get them when we think we ought to have them or when we do get them we don't like them.
 
But I want you to listen to that third verse again.  
 
Habakkuk 2:3
 
Those two words, “appointed time” are huge. God is concerned with timing, not time. Everything has an appointed time.
Everything operates according to an appointment.  In fact, Hebrews 9:27 says, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once.” That means your life is full of appointments, including the final one.  And in that regard, time is irrelevant to God. That is why He can't be early and He won't be late. We need to wait on His timing.
 
Remember this principle: Delay is not denial. God says, “I do things My way in My time. I don't hurry and I won't be pushed. I will act and when I do I will do the right thing in the right way, but it will be on My timetable not yours.”
 
Do you know why God wants us to wait? Do you know why God wants us to be patient with Him? It grows us.
 
James 1:2 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”
 
Patience develops perseverance. Perseverance develops persistence. Persistence develops spiritual power. Do you know what tough times are? Tough times are simply an opportunity for you to show those watching how a person acts who truly trusts God.
 
The word “wait” literally means “be patient in persistence.” When you can't find God in tough times don't give up, don't blow up, but look up.
 
It is interesting if you put a buzzard in a pen 6 - 8 feet square and entirely open at the top, in spite of his ability to fly he will be an absolute prisoner. Why? He always begins a flight from the ground with a run of 10-12 feet. Without space to run he won't even try to fly.
 
A bat that flies around at night, a very nimble creature, cannot take off from a level place. If placed on the floor or flat ground all it can do is shuffle about helplessly until it reaches some elevation in which it can throw itself into the air. A bumblebee, if dropped into an open container, will be there until it dies unless it is taken out. It never sees the escape at the top. It will always try to find its way out through the bottom.
 
In so many ways, many people are just like the buzzard, the bat, and the bee. They complain because they can't find God in tough times never realizing if they will just look up they will find the answer.
 
But if you will develop a thankful heart, if you will not be defeated by the circumstances you don’t like or can’t understand, you must learn to wait on God, and you can wait, knowing He will keep His Word.
 
Here’s the second thing.  Not only must we wait on God, we must learn to 
 
2. Watch for God
 
Habakkuk 2:4
 
It’s interesting that the Lord uses the word “just”. He is intentionally bringing to Habakkuk’s attention the idea of justice and being rightly related to God. After all, that is at the root of Habakkuk’s quandary. How can a just God do what He’s said He’s going to do? 
 
And God says, “Yes, I am just and I do what is right, but I am going to use a more wicked nation to punish a less wicked nation. I am going to do things many times that neither prophets, nor pastors, nor professors will understand.
When I do, there is only one way to handle it.” Those who seek justice must watch for God believing that He will deal bring justice. He will deal rightly with the situation. And we do it by faith.
 
By the way, this verse is one of the cornerstone verses of the entire Old Testament.  In fact, it was the second half of this verse that ignited the Protestant Reformation.
 
It is one of the most quoted Old Testament verses in the New Testament. It is found in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:3. 
 
In fact, I would say it is the key to the entire book of Habakkuk and it provides, not only the best answer, but the only answer you need when you are trying to figure out what’s going on in the circumstances around you. 
 
The relationship between God and every human being who has ever lived, beginning with Adam all the way down to this present who has named His name, can be boiled down to one word and that is faith.
 
I want you to know there is something more important than any proof of God and that is a relationship with God. Only faith can make that relationship possible. The most important question about God is not, “Is there a God?” The most important question about God is, “If there is a God, how can I have a relationship with Him?”
 
You see, in this verse alone you have the key to how to understand the entire history of the world. There is a great conflict raging on the earth right now.
 
It is a conflict between the proud on one hand and men of faith on the other. You've got those who have put their trust in themselves and those who put their trust in God.
 
Those are the only two kinds of people who have ever lived. On the one hand, you've got those who are described in verse 4 as “proud and his soul is not upright within him”. 
 
That simply means this person is not right with God because he is so puffed up with pride that his ego gets in the way. By the way, you will never develop a thankful heart as long as you are puffed up with pride. 
 
On the other hand is the person who is just or righteous. What makes them righteous is not what they do, but in Whom they believe. And it boils down to two kinds of people: people who trust themselves and people who trust God.
 
In essence, what God is saying to Habakkuk is, “If you want to get through tough times, don't lose your focus. Keep your faith. Keep trusting and believing Me.”
 
Every time you go into a difficult situation, every time you get what you don't deserve, every time life deals you a bad hand, the whole ballgame will come down to your faith or your lack of faith. Life for every follower of Jesus Christ ultimately comes down to faith. It comes down to questions like these:
 
Will God keep His word? 
Will God meet my needs?
Will God do what is right? 
Will God bring justice?
Will I really overcome death?
Is the Gospel really true?
 
The only way you will get the right answer to those questions is if you make up your mind that you are going to trust God.
 
And by the way Habakkuk, if you are worried about the Babylonians, look what I have in store for them because when I show up, I bring with me justice. 
 
The two greatest sins in the Old Testament were pride and idolatry. And in regard to their sin, through the remainder of chapter 2, God pronounces five judgments on this pagan, idolatrous nation.
 
We’ll look at the details in just a moment, but let me just say this: When God does that it is bad. When God looks at you and He says, “Woe, woe, woe, woe, woe” you have messed up!  It’s as if God is using their middle name! 
 
Five times God names the sin that Babylon is guilty of and then He gives the consequence of the judgment.
 
We don't have time to elaborate on these. I'll just share them with you.  
 
First, they were guilty of greed - Habakkuk 2:6
 
Second, they were guilty of injustice - Habakkuk 2:9
 
Third, they were guilty of violence - Habakkuk 2:12
 
Fourth, they were guilty of seduction - Habakkuk 2:15
 
And finally, they were guilty of idolatry -
(Habakkuk 2:19
 
Before you say, “Man, they were a bad nation!” just remember there are plenty of all five of those things going around today, right here in the good old United States of America.
 
But the point God was making with Habakkuk was simply to say, “Don’t worry about what will happen to Babylon. I’m going to use them to deal with Judah, but they don’t get the last word because when I’m through with Judah, then I’m going to deal with them.”
 
And that is so important to understand. God wasn't going to let the Babylonians get away with anything. God said to Habakkuk, “Habakkuk, quit worrying. It is not a matter of whether I will judge, but it is a matter of when I will judge. Don't you understand? I judge sin everywhere. I don't play favorites. Nobody gets a free pass. Whether it is the Babylonians or My own people, sin brings judgment just as surely as a cloud brings rain.”
 
By the way, even though it went badly for Judah, they were not completely destroyed. As you know, the Jewish people are alive and well.
 
Let me ask you a question, “Have you ever met a Babylonian?” No, and you never will. Yes, the Babylonians did conquer Judah and did take the people away into captivity, but fifty-six years later the Medo-Persian Empire came along and completely destroyed and wiped out the entire nation of Babylon.
 
 
 
God judged the Jews and God judged the Babylonians.
 
By the way, don’t worry about what someday else has done to you or said to you. They’re not getting by with anything. One of these days, God will judge them.  And one of these days you will stand before the Lrod as well.
 
So the question you need to be asking is not, “God, why don’t you deal with them”, but rather, “God how do I escape the judgment I deserve?”
 
And the only acceptable answer is by faith.  After all, the just shall live by faith. It all comes down to faith.
 
There are only two possible ways you can approach God - with belief or unbelief. You either believe God or you don't believe him. You either put faith in Him or you don't put faith in Him. You only come to Him by faith in Jesus Christ or you don't come to Him at all.
 
So I can wait for God because He keeps His Word. I   watch for God, believing He will bring justice.  And I will
 
3. Worship God Because He Is In Control
 
The last verse of this chapter is like a hammer that shatters every argument and every objection that Habakkuk, or Job, or you and me could ever bring against God.
 
Habakkuk 2:20
 
The God who made heaven and earth and every being in it has a throne of dominion over every part and parcel of this universe.
From His holy temple God is calling the shots. God is seeing to it that every piece of the puzzle is falling into place. God sees to it that all of history is headed exactly into the direction that He wants it to go.
 
And in His sovereignty, God uses evil to accomplish good. God can use one nation more wicked than the other nation to get the attention of the less wicked nation. The bottom line is when times are the toughest and days are the darkest the only thing that will matter in your life is that God is in His holy temple and you are to trust Him no matter what.
 
The Babylonians may have destroyed the Jerusalem temple, but they won't destroy the heavenly temple. And unless and until we understand that God is in His holy temple and He is a sovereign, all powerful, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God we would do real well just to be silent before Him. God doesn't need us telling Him what to do. We need to hear God tell us what He is going to do and then trust Him for the results.
 
There is one thing that never changes and it doesn't change when there is an attack on Pearl Harbor. It doesn't change when there is a Great Depression crash on Wall Street. It doesn't change when planes fly into a World Trade Center. It doesn’t change when you lose your job. It doesn’t change when your kid is sick. It doesn’t change when you’ve lost your spouse.
 
The Lord is in His holy temple and He is in complete control.
 
If you ever wonder sometimes where all history is headed, where our world is headed, where you and I are headed, it is summed up in verse 14.
Habakkuk 2:14
 
God wants His name, His fame, His greatness and His glory to go out across the earth as the water covers the land so that everybody will eventually know that Jesus Christ is Lord. He died for our sins, came back from the dead and that if we will respond by faith in Him we will not face judgment, will not taste death, and we will be saved.
 
I wonder how many of you need to change your thinking today? Instead of moaning, “Why me?” or instead of groaning, “If I were God this wouldn't be happening”, why don't we do what Habakkuk did?
 
When you are confused wait on God. He keeps His word. When it seems like the bad guys are winning and the good guys are losing and you think all of your goodness has been for nothing you watch for God - He will bring justice. When you think all hope is lost and there is no way out you worship God - He is in control.
 
Every one of those things was proven at the cross of Jesus Christ and they will prove true in your life as well.
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