Thursday, October 23, 2014

"The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD!"

Day #300:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - October 24th

Scripture Reading:  Habakkuk 1 - 3 …

Evil will NEVER win!  In spite of all that wicked men try to do, they are simply instruments of God to accomplish His ultimate purpose:  "The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD!" (2:14).  Because of our short-sightedness, we cannot see how all that is going on all over the earth today is going to end … but God has told us!  This verse in Habakkuk, and the rest of his short book, reveals to us that when evil appears to be winning and wicked men are doing their worst, our Sovereign God is still in control.  But how?  Is it possible that God really uses even the evil men do to accomplish His perfect will?  That was Habakkuk's question, and you need to hear God's answer!

Habakkuk lived during the time when the northern kingdom of Israel had been overrun and defeated by the Assyrian Empire and now there was "a new kid on the block."  The Babylonians had become the world power of the day, and it was a matter of time before Judah fell and the Jews were taken into captivity.  Habakkuk appears to be a contemporary of Jeremiah.  God would inform Judah through Jeremiah that He was going to bring judgment on them for their idolatry and that they would be in captivity in Babylon for 70 years.  Perhaps Habakkuk had heard that prophecy and it prompted his questions.

Imagine living in a nation that was called to be the people of God, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to see the impending fall of your government and the inevitable consequences that would follow.  This was REAL for Habakkuk … and so his questions, his complaint:  "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?" (1:2-3).  Habakkuk was in anguish and he felt as though God didn't care!  Have you been there?  Are you there now?  It's not a fun place to be and honestly, as a believer, you should never go there!  If you learn nothing else from Habakkuk, I pray that you will arrive where he does at the end of his brief prophecy.

Whenever we approach God with "Why?" questions we run the risk of digging a hole for ourselves … a hole of self-pity.  "Why do You make me look at injustice?  Why do You tolerate wrong?", Habakkuk asks (1:3).  Listen to God's answer:  "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" (1:5).  God goes on to explain that HE is raising up the Babylonians (1:6); that their rise to power was not by accident.  Look at the situation in the world today.  Evil nations and governments flex their might, but unless the Lord our God allows it, they can do nothing.  In a moment He could destroy them.  If He chooses not to do so, He has His own reasons and purposes for allowing evil to advance.  (More on that in a moment).

God describes Babylon as "guilty men, whose own strength is their god" (1:11).  Fools, bent on evil for their own purposes, unwittingly being instruments of God to execute HIS judgment.  But this raises another question for Habakkuk!  "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" (1:12).  BUT, "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?" (1:12-13).  Good questions, aren't they?!  Habakkuk is not the first or the last to ask such questions of God.  You need to hear God's answer … not only with your ears, but with your mind and your heart!

Within God's answer is His answer for those who believe for all time, until the very end of the age!  In verses 3-5, God speaks not only of Babylon, but of the future Babylon and the one who will gather the nations against Jerusalem and Jesus Christ, Himself (Revelation 16-19) - the Antichrist!  And in the midst of these words God reveals the only answer for those who know Him and who believe His Word.  He says to Habakkuk:  "Write down the revelation … For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. … See, HE is puffed up; his desires are not upright - BUT the righteous will live by his faith!!" (2:2-4).

While referring to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, these words also point ahead to OUR future, when this wicked ruler will rise to power (appointed by God), and "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" (2:5).  God would use Babylon to bring judgment on His own people - for a time, but in the end, Babylon would be judged.  So it will be at the end.  God will use the Antichrist to bring judgment upon the earth for a time, to gather the nations for the final battle between God and Satan, good and evil, but he will face the same fate as all the rulers who have gone before him.  "Because you have plundered many nations; the peoples who are left will plunder you!" (2:8).

You need to understand, however, that God reveals in verse 4 of Chapter 2 the response of those who know the true God and who trust in Him:  FAITH!!  "The righteous will live by his faith!" (2:4).  The Apostle Paul quotes this verse in Romans 1:17, as he speaks of the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The truth is that ALL of us deserve the judgment of God.  Judah deserved to be judged, and so do you and I.  Were it not for God's grace, we would all face His wrath, but God had something better planned:  the coming of the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ!!  He will rule the nations with an iron scepter and He will reign in Jerusalem over all the nations of the earth.  Why?  Because God said so!!  "The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as waters cover the sea" (2:14).

The peoples and nations of the earth set up their idols and scorn the God Who alone is the Creator of all things and reject His offer of forgiveness and life through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.  Yes, "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God!" (I Corinthians 1:18).  Whether it is Islam or Buddhism or Hinduism or counterfeit Christianity (those who claim to know Jesus Christ but who mix the truth of God's Word with false teaching), the things that people trust in (idols - even religious idols) will be destroyed when Jesus returns and stands on the earth … LITERALLY … as King of kings and Lord of lords!!  "The LORD is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him!" (2:20).  That day will come; and sooner than most can possibly comprehend!

Now Habakkuk prays, "LORD, I have heard of Your fame; I stand in awe of Your deeds, O LORD.  Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy" (3:2).  Perhaps God gave to Habakkuk a glimpse of the future return of Christ, when He will gather His people and then God's wrath will be poured out on the rest of mankind:  "God came … the Holy One …  His glory covered the heavens and His praise filled the earth.  His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from His hand, where His power was hidden" (3:3-4; see also Matthew 24:30). In the midst of the darkness, the Light of the world will explode on the scene and defeat the enemies of His kingdom!!  And Jesus will reign!!

It was at the cross that Habakkuk's prayer was answered:  "In wrath, remember mercy!"  As God poured out His wrath on His own Son, He showed mercy to all who would believe!  Habakkuk concludes, "I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.  Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, YET I WILL REJOICE IN THE LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign LORD is my strength!" (3:16-18).

There is your sure and certain hope!  There is the answer to all of your questions!!  Evil will NEVER win.  In spite of all that wicked men seek to do, "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea" (2:14) ... and "the righteous will live by faith!" (2:4).  Trust in our sovereign LORD with all your heart and live by faith UNTIL we live by sight; for our eyes will see Him and we will rejoice in God, our Savior.  Do it today!!

"Father, I come to You without questions or doubt or fear.  I believe that You are the sovereign God who rules over the nations and that nothing and no one is beyond Your control.  Though trials will come and life at times does not make sense, You deliver those who trust in You.  Give me strength to keep my eyes on You daily so that I will not waver when troubles come, for You are my Rock.  I praise You, O Lord my God, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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