Chastisement by God – Habakkuk 1:5-11

God Will Use Evil Nations To Chastise His People

5 “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.
6 I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
to seize dwellings not their own.
7 They are a feared and dreaded people;
they are a law to themselves
and promote their own honor.
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;
9 they all come intent on violence.
Their hordes advance like a desert wind
and gather prisoners like sand.
10 They mock kings
and scoff at rulers.
They laugh at all fortified cities;
by building earthen ramps they capture them.
11 Then they sweep past like the wind and go on-
guilty people, whose own strength is their god.”

Crisis Counseling

In the verses just before these, Habakkuk asks a profound, appropriate, and Godly question:  What are you going to do about the wickedness of Your people, Lord?

2 How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
3 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.
4 Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.

God answers Habakkuk’s cry for intervention by the Lord with an answer that he did not expect, and one that would cause us all to take pause – He declared that He would raise up the Babylonians to conquer His people.  Habakkuk and the rest of us were most likely expecting a different response, something like, “I know it is difficult to watch, but I will surely turn the hearts of the people back to me, and all will be healed and restored, and there were be great joy and celebration of the people as they give their lives back to Me.”  Instead, Habakkuk now gets to hear about God’s plan to conquer Israel and enslave His people.

Careful Correction

The people Israel, descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, have had a tendency throughout history to wander off the beaten path to pursue their own desires.  God had shown them in the past that they should follow Him, in good times and bad.  However, Israel has required repeated correction.  Gentle rebukes by the prophets of God were met with stoning (they lashed out at the messengers because they couldn’t do it to God Himself, it would appear).

Time and time again, God increased the severity of hardships He placed on His people to get them to turn from wickedness and turn back to Him, the only Holy and Righteous God that exists.  But Israel, after turning back to God, quickly prospered, and then just as quickly went their own way.  And just as a human parent becomes annoyed when they spank a child and see in their eyes that, even during their correction, they are planning their very next act of rebellion, God took it up a notch.  They would be enslaved by the Babylonians.

Creative Chaos

It was bad enough to be “spanked” by God, but by the Babylonians?  That is like taking your child to the local bully guild, and then saying to them, “OK, beat up my child, he certainly deserves it.”  It was not only a rebuke by God, but humiliation as well.  Not only was God withdrawing His protection from His people, but using the equivalent of today’s modern gang-banger drug lords to do it.  God’s description of the Babylonians should give us pause:

  • They have no sense of law (God gave the Israelites the Law of God, something that they were very proud of)
  • They promoted their own honor (God warned against pride and haughtiness.  Rather than chastise the Babylonians, He was using them to chastise His people)
  • They were a violent people (God wanted the Israelites to be a people, and was using violence, antithetical to their law, to chastise the as well)
  • They mock kings and rulers (God’s law showed the Israelites to be respectful of authority.  God would use this very thing against them as a rebuke, since they themselves refused to honor and glorify God)
  • They were idol worshipers (they worshiped their own strength, rather than the One who gave it to them.  Again, a serious rebuke to the people who were told to worship God and refused to honor Him)

God would introduce chaos into their lives through a most stinging rebuke – a people who God would not immediately judge for doing even worse things than they were doing.  God is perfectly capable of bringing people back to Himself with love and kindness.  But when a people refuse the very love and kindness that are offered to them, what can be done?

Day of Distress

When we refuse God’s gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) nudges and rebukes, God resorts to the “bend your back” beat-down methodology.  God will allow another nation to thoroughly cause distress in the lives of His people.  And He does this for both the righteous (those who believe God) and the unrighteous (those who refuse to believe God, and through their sin, obscure the truth about God in their actions, words, and thoughts).

In the past, it was the Babylonians who were feared.  In today’s world, the new Babylonians are the Fundamentalist Adherents to Islam.   The F.A.I. have no fear – they strap bombs to themselves, their children, and anyone they can to cause the maximum amount of fear and disruption in society.  They behead, mutilate, rape, and disfigure anyone that has the impudence to oppose them and their belief system.  They pour acid on the faces of women who they accuse of disobedience to their laws.  They accuse women of sexual infidelity if a man rapes her, and her word is so despised, she needs several male witnesses to testify on her behalf that she was not at fault.  In all things, they act in ways that they believe honor their god, but that are, in God’s eyes, absolutely abhorrent.  They are promised great rewards in eternity, and are guaranteed entry into their heaven if they die while killing their enemies.  Only YHWH, the one true God, in His sovereign will, can change the mind of someone who is convinced that murdering others brings glory to their god.

God has been raising them up for more than a millennia now, and God blesses the fruit of their women’s wombs, while the rest of the world experiences barrenness and strife.  Their hatred of anyone who is not like them is amazing and appalling, and their adherence to the idea that the end justifies the means should place us all on guard (take a look at what is going on in Europe, especially Great Britain, France, and Germany…).  Any group of people who believe that what they do, no matter how cruel, evil, heinous, and despicable, is honored by their “god” because it advances the agenda of their “god”, is a people who should be watched and guarded against.  Just like the Babylonians more than two millennia ago, these people are the new force of evil that God is raising up to chastise the nations.  And they are very effectively chastising the nations even now.

Regal Rescue

YHWH, the one true God, is a God who is our strength and our rescue.  He is able, and willing, to rescue us from our every difficulty.  And just as God sent Jesus Christ to rescue us from our bondage to sin, He will rescue us again when we turn towards Him and away from sin:

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I doing anything that would justify God bringing His chastisement upon me, my family and my nation?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your judgments are holy and righteous.  Everything that You do is right and good.  Father, forgive me for my sins.  Forgive my nation for its sins against You.  Father, because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of most is growing cold.  Forgive us for not better guarding our hearts against such wickedness, and for not speaking up when we had the opportunity.  Give me the courage to do what You desire me to do when faced with injustice.  Help me to encourage my family, my neighbors, and my nation to turn to You, worship You, and live our lives for You.  And when You send Your holy judgment upon us to chastise us, remember me, and keep me and my family safe from Your anger.  This I ask In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Rescued by God – Psalm 18:16-19

God Is Mighty And Is Able To Rescue Us Out Of Difficulty

16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Superbly Simple

Sometimes when we read scripture,  it can convict us, comfort us, instruct us, and even confuse us.  God is able to use even the simplest of things to bring about understanding and growth in our lives if we are open to His leading.  In this passage, God has given us six simple, yet powerful, things to think about when we are in distress.

Heavenly Help

Our help does not come from man, but from God.  We don’t trust in horses or chariots, but we trust in the name (character) of our God.  God’s rightful place is above us, in Heaven.  Even here on Earth, the desired position of living is on high.  People build their estates in high areas, where they are (somewhat) protected and can survey the areas around their domicile’s dominion.

Jesus, in providing a prayer to His disciples on how to have a more powerful prayer life, starts the prayer out like this:

This, then, is how you should pray:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name…”

The very first thing that Jesus acknowledges is that God is our Father.  He then acknowledges the position that the Father has in our lives.  He then acknowledges the character of the Father.  Just behind relationship is where God is located.  Our help comes from above, as does every good giving and every perfect gift.  We need to always remember our position with God, and that God is on high, in His rightful place of leadership and authority over all that He has created.

Deep Distress

Matthew Henry, a great man of God, had this to say about the deep waters of our distress in his commentary:

The greater the difficulties are that lie in the way of deliverance the more glorious the deliverance is. For the rescuing of David, the waters were to be divided till the very channels were seen; the earth was to be cloven till the very foundations of it were discovered, Psalm 18:15. There were waters deep and many, waters out of which he was to be drawn (Psalm 18:16), as Moses, who had his name from being drawn out of the water literally, as David was figuratively. His enemies were strong, and they hated him; had he been left to himself, they would have been too strong for him, Psalm 18:17. And they were too quick for him; for they prevented him in the day of his calamity, Psalm 18:18. But, in the midst of his troubles, the Lord was his stay, so that he did not sink. Note, God will not only deliver his people out of their troubles in due time, but he will sustain them and bear them up under their troubles in the mean time.

Powerful Protection

One of the aspects of God that we fail to grasp in our time of emotional distress under fire from the enemy is that God is Omnipotent.  God, by His very nature, is all-powerful.  Regardless of the power and strength of our enemies, God is the one who has sovereignly provided them with what little strength they do have.  And while our enemy’s strength may seem considerable and formidable, it is The Lord God Almighty who has the final say in what our enemies can and cannot do to us and among us:

6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.

Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

As we see from the life of Job, the enemy can do nothing without the express prior knowledge AND approval from The Lord God Almighty.  If we keep that in mind, we might be able to better respond to the attacks of our enemies.

Superior Support

Mankind is always in an arms race.  We develop new weapons to threaten, protect, and to intimidate our enemies, and sometimes even our own people.  And because of the fall of Adam, we have the curse of sin upon our lives.  And what is worse, because of the freedom God has given us as His image-bearers through free will, as well as the aspect of creativity (after all, God DID create everything…), we have perverted that which God has intended for good, and we even now invent new ways to sin.

But we can take heart!  For the Lord our God is our superior support.  We don’t need to fear anymore.  The God of Heaven and Earth is for us, to work out all things to good, so who can be against us?  Since no weapon formed against us shall prosper, we can take comfort in knowing that it is the Lord who will deliver us by supporting us through our trials.

Perfect Placement

God does more than just deliver us through our trials.  He places us where He wants us both before, during, and after He delivers us:

  • God placed Moses where He wanted him
    • He placed him in the Pharaoh’s daughter’s arms
    • He placed him in the arms of his mother to be raised
    • He placed him in charge of his people in Egypt
    • He placed him in at the side of Jesus at the mount of transfiguration
  • God placed Joseph where He wanted him
    • He placed him in the hands of slave traders to keep his brothers from killing him
    • He placed him in the house of Potiphar to prosper his master
    • He placed him in jail to talk to the cup-bearer and the bread maker
    • He placed him second in command of all the known world to deliver it from famine
    • He placed him in a position to be reunited with his family
  • God placed Daniel where He wanted him
    • He placed him with the right person to honor God with the food he ate
    • He placed him in a position of authority to speak to the rulers of the known world, one whom who later gave glory and honor to God
    • He placed him in a place where he could prophesy about what was to come

In all things, when we are willing (and sometimes when we are not), God will place us where He wants us to be.  And when we are delivered from our enemies, God will often place us somewhere other than where we started so that we can be used more effectively by Him for His purposes in His timing for His glory.

Divine Delight

David, the author of this Psalm, recognizes something important that each of us should recognize and acknowledge – God delights in us.  He loves us with an everlasting love.  He created each of us to be a blessing to one another and a blessing to Him.  He loves us with an everlasting love, and the only reason He delivers us is because He delights in us.

Don’t listen to the enemy, whether it is men (or women) belittling you, or Satan trying to rob you of your joy of the Lord (which is your strength).  God delights in YOU.  He delights in delivering you out of your troubles so that you will remember just how much He delights in you.  And as we take time to honor, glorify, and worship Almighty God, remember that even when you fail, even when you are outnumbered and all seems lost, even (and especially!) when God is doing the opposite of what you would expect of Him in your life, God’s underlying view of you is of a Father who absolutely adores and delights in the child He created.  It is for this reason:

he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When I am in difficulty, who or what do I rely upon to be rescued?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I know that You delight in me.  Rescue me out of my troubles.  Walk with me through my trials.  Grant me strength to continue on when I have lost even the ability to desire to go on.  Lift me up, and carry me through my pain and sorrow.  Vanquish my enemies who attack me for no reason, and have mercy upon them, Father, for they know not what they do.  Guard my heart until the day of my ultimate redemption when Your Son, Jesus Christ, appears in the sky and gathers His people to Him, with the dead rising first, and we who are still alive joining Him in His triumphal appearance.  Father, please remember my loved ones who do not know You.  Send kind, loving disciples to them, and I pray that the soil of their hearts would be plowed and ready for Your seeds to grow deep roots and bear much fruit for You when they won’t listen to me.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Precious Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?