Tag Archives: faithfulness

Year-end 2022 Throwback Wednesday: “God Goes Before Us”

Year-end 2022 Throwback Wednesday Wednesda

New Year’s anxieties

In choosing the year-end WordBytes for throwback Wednesday, it was amazing how quickly the teaching for today came to my attention.

First, this WordBytes was written at the end of 2019, as we entered in the world of the COVID virus.  At that time, we had no idea that our lives would be forever changed.  The world as we knew would never be the same.  Secondarily, it was written to address the anxiety we typically experience as we begin to plan for the new year.  This includes evaluation of our accomplishments for the closing year.

Are you ready for 2023?

In our text today, Moses is preparing the Israelites for the changes that lie ahead of them as they prepare to enter the Promise Land.  2+million people.  Just imagine the heightened anxiety and fear in the people.  But Moses shares with them a promise they can “hang their hat on”.  God will go before them!

It’s been said, “Hindsight is 20/20.”  As we look back over the past two years with COVID, social unrest, financial upheaval, and more, has God gone before us?  Take a moment and think about how God has intervened on your behalf during these tumultuous times.

We have experienced many hardships these past few years. However, regardless of them, we now stand on this side of 2022.  We are now planning for a “new year”.  Do you want to know why?  Because God still (even in the 21st century) goes before us.  Whatever circumstance you may face in 2023, know that God is more than able to sustain you through it.  I pray that today’s WordBytes will increase your confidence and trust in the Lord.  Have a happy and blessed new year.

 

God Goes Before Us

The Discipline of Waiting: Advent 2022

The Discipline of Waiting

Waiting

Advent season is a time of waiting.  Waiting by its very definition is challenging.  Waiting is the action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something else happens.   

How well we wait lies not only in what we are waiting for but also who we trust to provide our desired outcome.   That trust is based on the provider’s ability to deliver the outcome.  That why as believers, it is important to remember that Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith is worth waiting for.

Advent and Waiting

The first Advent was a time of waiting.  Israel waited with hope for the promised redeemer who would deliver them from the tyranny of the Roman Empire.  The Three Wise Men (Magi) waited for a sign (the star) that would lead them to the King of the Jews.

Those who studied the law and the prophets, such as Simeon and Anna, daily waited for the arrival of the Promised Savior.  “There was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon:  and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon Him.” (Luke 2:25).

Waiting is a spiritual discipline  

Godly waiting is a spiritual discipline that we should cultivate.  As with any discipline, practice makes “progress” (perfection is not always the goal).  Advent is a time in which we should make every effort to expand our capacity to wait.  That increased capacity will strengthen us for the days ahead.

While waiting, we exercise our patience “muscles” and bolster our endurance until we receive what we are waiting for (Heb.10:36).  In our waiting, faith is activated and strengthened.  It is in the waiting that our hope becomes an expectation.  While waiting, our belief and trust become rooted and grounded in the Lord (Ps. 27:13-14).

What are you waiting for?  Provision, healing, or deliverance?  The believer who waits on the Lord will not be disappointed!  (Is. 40:31)

Learning to wait in 2022

2022 has taught us to wait.  What have you learned about waiting this year? We learn from our experiences to the extent we are willing to be shaped by them (Heb. 12:11).  This includes our experiences with waiting.

Waiting is an important discipline for us to learn.  As I stated earlier, how well we wait is based on who we trust to provide our desired outcome.  We are more willing to wait when we trust the one who can and will deliver the outcome we need.

As believers our response to waiting is different because we know Who can deliver everything we may be waiting for.  It is the Creator and Sustainer of all things—seen and unseen; past, present, and future; Alpha and Omega.  It is Eternal God (Jer. 10:10, 12).

The Gift in Waiting

We have been given great and precious promises (2 Pet. 1:4) as well as spiritual gifts (Eph. 1:3-17) that enable us to live victoriously.  These also enable us to wait patiently and hopefully on the Lord.

As we live in this period between Jesus’ first arrival (as Savior) and His second return (as Judge), let us remain faithful to that which God has given us to do (Titus 2:14).  Use this time of waiting to experience the fullness of God and to serve Him until His return.

Thanksgiving Gratitude

Thanksgiving Gratitude

“In everything give thanks.”

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, we are instructed to give thanks in everything.  What does that look like in our homes and cities as we continue to deal with challenges on every hand.  Especially this Thanksgiving.

As we prepare for our family gatherings, the impact of inflation, rising gas prices, and supply shortages may cause us to question, “is there really anything to be thankful for?”  What gratitude are you bringing to this year’s Thanksgiving celebration?

Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation and thankfulness for what one has.  Is there anything we appreciate or are thankful for?  While we are very good at expressing our displeasure for what we don’t have, regrettably, we often miss the mark in articulating our gratitude.

Failure to show gratitude

We, in general, are slow in offering gratitude.  We will sometimes express gratitude when prayers are answered, or catastrophes are avoided.  However, even in those special circumstances, we are more likely to attribute our good fortune to luck than to God’s benevolence.

In the busyness of living, we take for granted those things God provides through His grace to all mankind:  the sun and the moon (Deut. 33:14), the regularity with which the seasons change (Gen. 8:22), and the marvels of created life (Rom. 1:20).

We fail to recognize our blessings and therefore fail to express gratitude.  Gratitude is the only “proper response” to beneficence:  the generosity and kindness from a benefactor.  In our case, exuberant gratitude is the best response to our gracious and loving God.

Gratitude and salvation

With salvation, we as believers experience a multitude of blessings, both now and in the future.  First and foremost is our deliverance from the power and penalty of sin (Rom. 6:9).  This release from our sin nature provides instant access to God the Father (Rom. 5:2).

We are given a new identity in Christ, both as children of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16-17).  As new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), we are gifted with the presence of the Holy Spirit who empowers us with the same dunamis power that raised Christ from the dead (Eph. 1:19).

Finally, eternal life is God’s special gift to believers.  It is a gift that cannot be acquired through works, or any other path.  Yet it is readily available through belief in Jesus the Christ (John 3:16).  Through eternal life, we can experience God’s presence, peace, and provision.  As heirs of God, we await our final inheritance reserved for us in heaven, when we return to our true home (1 Pet. 1:3-4).

It is God’s will that in everything, we give thanks.

It is not God’s will that we express gratitude for “gratitude’s sake only”.  We know that in giving thanks, His power can be released into our life in ways never before seen.

This includes the formation of incredible joy, unshakeable hope, and unbroken peace (1 Pet. 1:2-4).  The outward expression of appreciation to God, works to bring new power and access that, under other circumstances, would be unattainable.

As we prepare for this year’s Thanksgiving, are we grateful for what we do have?  According to the Greek writer and philosopher, Cicero, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others.” Let us, therefore, bring to this Thanksgiving dinner an “extra serving” of gratitude.

Altars of Earth

An Altar of Earth

It’s all in the instructions

I am notorious for ordering items online.   When the box arrives, I’m excited to see my item in the perfect spot I’ve chosen for it.  However, when I open the box, all I see are parts and pieces in plastic bags with the INSTRUCTIONS on how to put it together.  Thank the Lord, I have such a kind and knowledgeable husband who is good with instructions.

Today we explore a  set of instructions God gave Israel following His presentation of the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:24).

An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you.

 God’s  “thunderous” manifestation of his  presence  impressed upon Israel that He was the “Living God” and not some impotent idol they had worshipped in Egypt  (Exod. 20:18-20). God was the Creator and not the molded creations of man’s idolatrous mind.  God was moving closer to His people.  He would come to them and bless them.

Why an altar of earth?

An altar of earth, a simple structure, or of stone (unhewn), was  to be constructed. God wanted them to build a plain altar of stone with no engraving. I’m sure many of the Israelites had seen the engraving of the statues and monuments in Egypt.  They may have even been engravers themselves.  But God required a higher yet simpler standard that would recognize who He was.   The moment a tool was put to the stone, it would be considered “polluted”.

It should be noted that the primary purpose of the altar was for worship.  That worship was to include specific offerings—a burnt and a peace offering.  There was no mention of presenting a sin and trespass offerings which were given to Israel later.

The peace offering revealed man’s need for  sacrifice that would reconcile him to God.  Jesus Christ accomplished that by His blood on the Cross.  The burnt offering speaks of God’s  worthiness and ability to save.  Christ was the perfect sacrifice and the only one able to satisfy the righteous requirements of God (2 Cor. 5:18)

Where’s my altar?

Everywhere Israel journeyed,  they made an altar of earth.  The altar was to be placed  in those places where  “God recorded His name.” One commentary states it this way:   “cause My name to be remembered”.

God would reward Israel’s offerings in those places where God was worshipped in sincerity.

Afterwards, God chose one particular place (Jerusalem) to record his name.  But now that has been taken away under the gospel, when men are encouraged to pray every where.  This promise revives in its full extent, that, wherever God’s people meet in his name to worship him, he will be in the midst of them, he will honour them with his presence, and reward them with the gifts of his grace; there he will come unto them, and will bless them.  More than this we need not desire for the beautifying of our solemn assemblies.[1]

This portion of the Exodus text caught my attention.  I then began to ask myself the following questions.

Where are my “altars of earth” to the Lord?

Where are the places in my life where God has caused me to “remember His name”?

Am I watchful and recognize when I am “out of fellowship”with Him?

Am I presenting offerings that worship God?

Do I bless God for all His benefits? His presence,  power, provision, and  protection?

Altars and offerings are no longer needed to be in right relationship with God.  Jesus’ death and resurrection eliminated that requirement.  However, it is important that we Christians spiritually create our personal altars to worship God in recognition of His love and gift of life through Jesus Christ.

I close with the following  scripture texts in the hope that they  will “cause His name to be remembered” by each of us.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.(Rom. 12:1) 

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. (Heb.13:15) 

Give to the LORD the glory due his name; Bring an offering, and come before him.  Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness!  (1 Chron. 16:29)

[1]  Matthew Thomas Commentary

Throwback Wednesday: Recapturing Our Thoughts

Throwback Wednesday for a New Year

A Great Read

I recently finished a book which has proven very insightful for me as I strive to be “more conformed” to the image of my Lord and Savior.  The book is entitled, “Watchfulness: Rediscovering  a Lost Spiritual Discipline, by Brian G. Hedges.

Hedges proposes that Christians could benefit spiritually by exercising greater “vigilance or watchfulness”  over their hearts, minds, and souls.  Why?  To protect ourselves from Satan’s snares, the world’s bendings, and our flesh’s weakness.  We need to be more intentional.

Throwback connection

With this book I mind, I thought it would be a great refresher to revisit  for this Throwback Wednesday, “Recapturing Our Thoughts.”

Our thoughts are vulnerable to attack by the world and by Satan.  Our flesh is continually weakened by marketing and media; by every sound byte we listen to.

Begin your “watchfulness journey” by recapturing your thoughts.

Our Theology of Suffering: Purpose and Possibilities, Part 1

Our Theology of Suffering: Purpose and Possibilities, Part 1

Why suffering?

Pain and suffering have been themes for many great philosophers.  But when we enter a time of suffering, all the wisest speculation of the philosophers seeing empty and meaningless. We simply hurt.  And the mystery as to why we experience suffering often remains shrouded and hidden.

Beginning with Adam and Eve, human beings have suffered because of their wrong choices AND/OR because of the wrong choices and acts of others. As we shared earlier, suffering is the natural consequence of sin and therefore, an integral part of the human experience.

Biblical perspective of human suffering

Unlike the ancient Greek Stoics who viewed suffering as a man’s fate in an impersonal universe, the Bible affirms a world ordered by a personal God.

In the Old Testament suffering is set in the context of morality and the divine purpose. There is no hint of chance or fate. From a morality standpoint, suffering is a consequence of sin. God establishes a moral order in creation and retribution is metered out in life experiences.

Pain and suffering are concepts that draw attention to how human beings are affected by the tragedies of life. It is not the loss of a home or a loved one, nor physical agony, that seems devastating. It is how such an experience affects us within, causing doubts and fears and trembling as the pattern of our lives is shaken and our expectations fail.[1]

The prime Old Testament example of one who endured pain and suffering is Job. Although he was a person whom God Himself called blameless and upright (Job 1:8), he lost everything in a single day. However, even after Job was restored, there is no answer as to why he suffered.  But in this revelation, we see, it was Job’s faithfulness and trust that resulted in blessings that were even greater than before his loss (Job 42:12-17).

In the New Testament, we discover God’s attitude to suffering expressed in Jesus. Not only did God sympathize, sharing in our hurt and suffering, but God in Jesus even entered humanity and took on to Himself the full weight of sin (Heb. 2:14-18).  And with that weight came suffering.  Christ presents to us a model we can use to “embrace” suffering.  Jesus’ attitude reflected trust, obedience, patience, and hope.

So what are we to do?

Scripture offers no magic remedy when suffering surprises and overwhelms us. There is no verse to read that will instantly heal us or even dull our pain. Grasping what the Bible teaches us about suffering (and how to meet it) will not relieve it.  Nor will it release us from circumstances beyond our control.

However, the biblical perspective on suffering, will enable us to better cope and even to overcome those difficult times. The sufferings of the prophets, the apostles, and others, just like us, “reveal” the goodness and the greatness of Almighty God.

It reaffirms our trust in God and encourages us to “go deeper” in our relationship with Him.  While we may not understand the reason for our suffering, we as believers can be assured God is with us to both comfort and strengthen us.   The God of the mountains—our good times—is the same God of the valley—our times of suffering (1 Kin. 20:28).  It is in the valley that we rekindle our hope and trust in Him; that we will KNOW that He is our God!

Our theology of suffering

With every incident of pain and distress, we are continually “updating” our “theology of suffering”.  What did we learn about ourselves or about God in this experience?  Are we getting “bitter or better” in managing through suffering?  How are we responding?  With anger, fear, or trust?

The mystery as to “why” we experience suffering remains shrouded and hidden.   However, our best strategy and response is to develop a theology that draws its strength, faith, and hope from Eternal God.  Perhaps one day, in eternity, we will discover the purpose for our suffering.  But once we see Jesus, will it really matter?

More on suffering, its purpose, and possibilities, next week.

[1]   Encyclopedia of Bible Words, Zondervan Publishing House

When life turns left

 

When life turns left

Bad news

The morning headlines reads: “Man Loses Everything in Bizarre Disasters.”

Breaking News at 5 shares this update: “Doctors were seen leaving the victim’s home.  It is believed that now, even his health is beginning to deteriorate due to the shock of these tragic turn of events.  However, bad as things might be, he is currently being supported by his church and close friends.  While our victim was unavailable for comment, his wife was said to be angry and unsupportive.  Some even heard her tell her husband, “You ought to curse God for all that is happening to us.”

Well, as you can tell the “he” in this news event was Job.  He was described in Scripture as “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.” (Job 1:1) Job was a tribal chieftain, like Abraham who suddenly incurred total disaster—his wealth lost, children dead, and his health ruined.

Suffering in Faith

The book of Job analyzes the question how a righteous person like Job can encounter such enormous troubles.  Of course, as we read Job, we better understand why Job’s situation came to be (Job 1:6-12). More importantly, by the end of the book, we understand that, like Job, we cannot always understand why we suffer but we must endure our sufferings in faith.

What does it mean to “endure suffering in faith”?  In faith believes that despite our circumstance, we know that God is with us (Is. 43:1-2).  In faith we remain steadfast, even during tragedy (1 Pet. 4:1; 1 Cor. 15:58).   In faith our trust is anchored to Almighty God who is in control of all that is happening to us (Hab. 3:17-19).

One thing we must always remember (and never forget):  We live in a fallen world.  It is a place where everything is not always perfect nor is it always fair.  Life happens!  Sickness, disease, misfortune, and other “stuff”.  That’s reality.   But only ONE reality.

Reality when life turns left

If we lose everything we own, will we still love God?  Suppose we lose our only child, our family home, and our health.  Will we still serve God?  If everyone turns their back on us, will we still obey God?  When God is silent, can we still trust Him?   Such are the questions we ask ourselves when life turns left.  What, why, how?

As followers of Jesus Christ, we live in a reality based on “who we are” and “Whose we are”.  First and foremost, we are children of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).  Secondarily, we are in Christ (Ep. 1:3-14).  In Christ, we have the security of God’s presence, His power, His provision, and His protection.  Bad things may happen in our life (remember we live in a fallen world) but in Christ we are able to overcome the world.

This month we will spend some time on the theology of suffering.  Why? Because these times of uncertainty will often lead to suffering and pain.  We need to believe that regardless of our circumstance, we can live victoriously even during our suffering (2 Cor. 4:17).

To begin our journey, we invite you to read The Clue to Life’s Maze,” F.B. Meyer’s perspective on Job and life lived in the context of a fallen world.

Have you got good religion?

Have you got good religion?

Do we have it?

“Have You Got Good Religion?” is an African American gospel song which imagines a series of questions Jesus might ask believers.

After the opening query, “Have you got GOOD RELIGION?”, there are five (5) additional questions which Jesus asks.  The individual then answers with an emphatic response, “Certainly Lord!”  As there have been many renditions of this song, there also have been many modifications to the “original” questions.

For this teaching, I’d like to share the original verses:

  • Have you been redeemed?
  • Have you been to the water?
  • Have you been baptized?
  • Is your name on high?
  • Has your name been changed?

The occasion or background for this dialogue is not given nor is it even important.  But as I purview the Church in the 21st century and the role of each of us as believers, I find the questions very appropriate.

Do we have good religion?

What is religion?

The origin of the word religion is from Latin religio or religare which means “obligation, bond, or to bind”.   Modern classification describes religion as a particular system of faith and worship.  It is also belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power especially a personal God or gods. 

I’m sure one time or another our faith walk has been described in terms of how we pursue our “religion.”  As we share our beliefs as it relates to world events, we might be told, “you are taking this religious thing too far!” Or as we refuse to acquiesce to some immoral or dishonest act, we may be accused as being “too religious”.

So what is good religion?

I concur with both definitions of religion put forth earlier.  I worship only One God, the Creator and Sustainer of all life (Ps. 104).  He is the ruling authority in my life.  My Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ redeemed me and translated me from darkness into light (1 Pet. 2:9).  Jesus lives in me through His Holy Spirit who empowers and guides me in all things.  I am a Christian and I worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

We must be careful however, not to allow man-made rituals and practices to keep us from true righteousness—being in right relationship with God AND with each other.  Such was often the case with the Pharisees who often mistaken religious activities for true worship and love for God (Matt. 15:1-20). Sadly, we see this in our churches who cling to history and tradition.  These often result in the quenching of the Holy Spirit.

What’s in a song?

I think the questions put forth in the song, help us to define what “good religion” looks like.  Then we can begin to examine ourselves to see if we are still of the faith (2 Cor. 13:5).

    • Have you been redeemed? To be redeemed means we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  We no longer belong to Satan but are now part of God’s family. (Titus 2:11-14)
    • Have you been to the water? Have you been baptized? Baptism is our public testimony to our willingness to follow Jesus.  It is our external witness to our allegiance to Him. (Rom. 6:3-4)
    • Is your name on high? “On high” refers to “heaven” where the Book of Life is kept until Judgment Day (Rev. 20:11-15).  In it are the records of all people considered righteous before God.  Our name is in the Book because we have Christ’s imputed righteousness. (2 Cor. 5:19).
    • Has your name been changed? Our name is the source of our identity.  Biblical name changes were the result of spiritual identity changes in the life of those who have been with God, i.e., Abram to Abraham, Sari to Sarah, Jacob to Israel.  Our spiritual identities are changed when we become new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).
How would we respond?

If God were to pose the six questions contained in our song today, can we say emphatically. “Certainly Lord?” What would be our proof?

F.B. Meyer, noted theologian shared this description on religion—I offer it as my definition of “good religion.”

In Matthew 15:16, our Lord teaches that true religion is certainly not a matter of eating and drinking or outward ceremony.  It is the intention of the soul, the continual drawing from Christ the life power needed for our work and ministry to others.  

Is our life a witness to God’s power and love?  Have we joined Jesus in His work to serve in this fallen world?   If we can say, “Certainly Lord!” then our life and works become a testimony of our “good religion.”  (2 Cor. 5:14-15).

Although and Yet: A Prayer of Faith

 

Although and Yet: A prayer of Faith

Wickedness leads to judgment

Last week we were introduced to Habakkuk the prophet.  Habakkuk lived and prophesized in the reign of king Manasseh, when wickedness abound.  Destruction by the Chaldeans was imminent.  God would use them as an instrument of His judgment.

If God were to assess the moral condition of our nation, would we be prepared to receive His punishment?  Last week, we listed the “sins of Judah” that resulted in its fall.  Disobedience is a slippery slide that leads to a continuum of sins (James 1:13-15).

What’s in a name?

Before being taken into captivity, Judah would experience the loss of all its material wealth and property.  All the blessings of God (Deut. 28:1-14) would be eliminated because of the wickedness and rebellion of Judah (Deut. 28:15-68).

How was Habakkuk to respond to God’s pending punishment on the nation of Judah? Habakkuk is an unusual name which means “to embrace or cling”. In the final chapter of this book, his name becomes apparent as Habakkuk chooses to cling firmly to God regardless of what happens to his nation.

Although and yet.  These two conjunctions reflect how devoted Habakkuk was to his God and the trust he would need to navigate through the dark days that lie ahead.

Habakkuk’s declaration

In the final chapter of the book, Habakkuk concludes with a prayer confessing his continuing trust in the rightness of God’s dealing with Judah (Hab. 3:17-18).

Though the fig tree may not blossom,

Nor fruit be on the vines;

Though the labor of the olive may fail,

And the fields yield no food;

Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,

And there be no herd in the stalls—

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

May I digress and spend a moment on the grammar Habakkuk used in this prayer.  Though is a conjunction meaning “in spite of the fact that”.   When used at the beginning a phrase, clause, or sentence, it offers a contrast to the main sentence.   Yet is also conjunction that means, in this context, “nevertheless.”  What are you saying, Habakkuk?  Put it in 21st century language we can understand!

In spite of rising costs and inflation,

And drought burned crops and dying cattle in the fields,

In spite of fires, floods, and ravaging storms,

And our shrinking GNP and personal investment accounts,

In spite of doing more with less

And receiving little in return

Nevertheless, I will rejoice in my Lord!

I will be joyful and trust in God.

He is my salvation!

That is the kind of faith we need today. Our world continues to shift from the familiar to the unrecognizable.  These lead to uncertainty and fear.  How will we respond?  Take a moment and write your own declaration of faith.  What is your “in spite of” and your “nevertheless”?

Habakkuk’s faith

Habakkuk concludes his prayer by living up to his name.  He praises God’s wisdom even though he doesn’t fully understand God’s way.  Habakkuk chooses to cling firmly to God regardless of what happens to his nation.

That faith and trust is captured in his closing statement (Hab. 3:19, NLT):

The Sovereign Lord is my strength!

He makes me as surefooted as a deer,

able to tread upon the heights.

In the King James version of this verse, two different words are used for “make”.

  • “He will make my feet like hinds’ feet” or “to transform into”.
  • “He will make me to walk upon my high places” or “tread, bend, or march”.

The deer in this verse was not the domesticated goat we see on farms today but was a wild mountain goat that was equipped the move through the rugged terrain of the mountains.  Narrow openings and ledges, crooks, and jagged rocks.  This is where the deer lived, yet they moved confidently knowing they were created for that world.

Application for us.  Our sovereign God has created us for such a time as this.  He is transforming us and bending us so that we will be able to not only survive but thrive.  But our ability to walk upon “our high places” is dependent on our faith and trust in God—even if we don’t understand His ways.  We must live by faith (Hab. 2:4).  If we do, then we too will be able to walk on our high places (Hab. 3:19).

What’s Going On?

What's going on?

What’s going on?

One of my favorite songs (past and present) is by American soul singer, songwriter, and producer Marvin Gaye.

It was released on May 21, 1971, by Motown Records.  The narrative established by the songs is told from the point of view of a Vietnam veteran returning to his home country to witness hatred, suffering, and injustice. Gaye’s introspective lyrics explore themes of drug abuse, poverty, and the Vietnam War. He has also been credited with promoting awareness of ecological issues before the public outcry over them had become prominent (Mercy, Mercy Me).[1]

As I look around our nation and world, I ask the same question. What’s going on?  And I even ask where is God in all this confusion?  And why doesn’t God intervene?  Such was the case with the prophet Habakkuk as he looked upon the nation of Judah.

The consequence of sin

The prophetic book of Habakkuk shares the dialogue between a “gracious God” and an “anxious prophet”.  As is true with both the major and minor prophets, we are given great insight as to how a holy God deals with an unholy and rebellious nation.

Although the nation of Judah was God’s “covenant people” (Deut. 7:7), God was now prepared to meter punishment on them like they had never experienced. The prophet Habakkuk has been chosen for “such a time as this”—a time when time has runout!

Judah was guilty of extraordinary sins.  Habakkuk inquired of God how long He would allow the wickedness of Judah to go unpunished.  They would not go unpunished.  God would use the nation of Babylon as His “chastening rod”.

We often think that our wrong behavior is not being seen by others.  While that may be true for a moment, the fact is, God sees!  What is done in the dark, will always come to light (Luke 8:17).  Many of our ousted elected officials and fallen religious leaders can attest to that truth.  However, there are always consequences for sin and it’s usually not good.

The cost of sin

God lists for Habakkuk the sins of Judah in five (5) “woes”.  God “had” indeed taken notice of Judah’s crimes (Hab. 2:5-20).  They included:

      • greed and aggression (vv. 5-8)
      • exploitation and extortion (vv. 9-11)
      • violence (vv. 12-14)
      • immorality (vv. 15-17)
      • idolatry (vv. 18-20)

We live in a world like Judah.  Look at the woes!  We sin both individually and collectively, as a nation.  God’s standard for righteous living has not changed (Micah 6:8; Mal. 3:6). Does God see what we’re doing?  Of course, He does (Ps. 33:13-14; Ps. 139:8-12).  The question is, are we willing to deal with the consequences of our sins?  Are we willing to accept the cost?

The cost is being realized as we see the immediate impact sin has on our children, our families, and our communities.

    • The hungry. Hunger is a very real issue for 12% or 41 million people in the United States.
    • The homeless. Why are people homeless? Because of “lack”!  Lack of affordable housing, income, employment opportunities, and healthcare.
    • The abused. Domestic violence.  Sexual abuse.  Human trafficking.

But what do these impacts have to do with sin?  Re-read the “five woes” and see how they fit in our 21st century culture.  If we are not guilty by “commission”, perhaps we are culpable by “omission”—by what we don’t do to make life better for others (Prov. 3:27).

The just shall live by faith

Although God’s judgment was hard for Habakkuk to accept, he recognized the only “proper response” in the midst of this dilemma.  He was “to live by faith, not by sight” (Hab. 2:4).

As we look at the world we live in, it is easy to be disillusioned and in despair.  Just like Habakkuk, we may question how long God will tolerate sinful and evil behavior from both individuals and nations.

Regardless of who sits in the White House or State House, we as believers in Christ are to do our part to speak truth and justice.  We are to engage in our world to represent Jesus as He ensures God’s will is accomplished (2 Cor. 5:15).  We are to live by faith.

Like Habakkuk, we have an ordained purpose to accomplish (Eph. 2:10).  We are to pursue our purpose trusting that God sees and is always in control.  He is constantly, through every historic event moving us to His divine plan of salvation for mankind.

Knowing that, our purpose should not focus on our personal agendas.  But instead let us join God in His plan.  Like Habakkuk and Esther and all those who have gone before us, we were created for such a time as this.  Let us not be in despair but let us “go forth” in the strength of the Lord (Ps. 71:16).

[1] Wikipedia