Monday, December 18, 2017

December 18: Habakkuk 1 – 3; Psalm 137; Proverbs 30:10; Revelation 9



Overview

            Habakkuk: The prophet Habakkuk had a vision from God. In it he asked the Lord how long there would be violence and other evils in the land with the wicked prospering. The Lord answers telling him to look at the nations and what he will do. He will raise up the Babylonians. They are vicious and will dispense their own justice as they defeat nations and take captives. They worship their own power.
            Habakkuk asks why the Lord, who lives forever and is holy uses these evil people to judge. Why does he let evil people swallow the righteous? Is he not going to stop killing nations like fish in a net? He will wait for an answer.
            The Lord tells Habakkuk to write the answer so other may read it. The prophecies are for a future time. They will have to wait for it. The one who thinks God’s justice is slow is prideful and not righteous. (But the righteous live by faith.) He loves wine, but it betrays him and it takes people captive. He will be taunted and scorned. People will recount all his evils in taking over other nations and the Lord asks if they won’t turn on him.
            Woe to him because of the misery he has brought on others. Their evil labors will only be fuel for their fire. The knowledge of the glory of the Lord will fill the earth.
            Woe to those who destroy his neighbor with drink, it will come back upon him so will Babylon’s violence to Lebanon come back on them.
            Idols are of no value because they are manmade. Woe to those who think idols are alive and can guide them. But the Lord is in his temple and the earth should be silent before him.
            Habakkuk prays in a song. He has heard of the Lord and asks that he work as in the past. He asks that the Lord’s glory shine and fill the earth. Plagues were before him and disease followed, the nations trembled at his steps and the mountains crumble. The nations were in distress. He asks if God was angry with the rivers, seas, and mountains as they were shaken. The sun and moon stopped at his wrath when he delivered his people. He killed those who tried to scatter his people.
            The vision caused Habakkuk’s heart to race and he nearly fainted as he saw the day of the Lord. Yet, he will patiently wait for it to be fulfilled. Even if all his provisions are gone, he will still rejoice in God his Savior. The Lord is his strength
            Psalm: The captives in Babylon lament that they have been taken away from Jerusalem and are even forced to sing songs about Zion for their captor’s entertainment. They have great difficulty doing that in a foreign land. Yet, they don’t want to forget Jerusalem and would want to lose all their musical skill if they did. They want to set Jerusalem as their highest joy. The Psalmist asks the Lord to remember the desires of the Edomites who wanted Jerusalem destroyed and the Babylonians who did it. He wants God to bless those who will kill all the babies of Israel’s enemies.
            Proverbs: Don’t bad mouth a servant to his master. He knows his people and will hold you guilty.
            Revelation: The fifth angel blew his trumpet (the first woe) and John saw a bright being fall from heaven. He had the key to the bottomless pit, which he opened. Smoke rose that darkened the sun. In the smoke, locust-like beings spread across the earth with power like scorpions. They didn’t affect vegetation. They stung people who did not have God’s seal on them. They did this for five months tormenting people. People wanted to die from it, but they didn’t because God kept them alive.
            The locusts were dressed like horses ready for battle. They had gold crowns on their heads, human faces, long hair, teeth like lions’, iron breastplates, and noisy wings. Their tails stung people like scorpions. Their king was an angel from the pit named Abaddon (Hebrew) or Apallyon (Greek).
            The sixth angel blew his trumpet (second woe) and a voice came from the altar telling the angel to release the four angels bound at the Euphrates. These angels were ready for this very specific time. They killed a third of all the people on the earth. Mounted troops came, the number of which is literally two times an innumerable number times an innumerable number (translated as 200,000,000). The horses and riders had breastplates colored red, blue, and yellow. The horses’ heads look like lions while shooting fire, smoke, and sulfur from their mouths. They had tails like snakes with heads to injure people. They killed a third of the people on the earth.
            The rest of the people on earth who were not killed refuse to repent. They continued to worship demons and idols while they continued in murder, sexual immorality, thefts, and sorceries.

What Stood Out

            Habakkuk: “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” (Hab 3:17-18 NIV).
            Psalm: “O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed, blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us!” (Ps 137:8).
            Proverbs: “Do not slander a servant to his master, lest he curse you and you be held guilty” (Prov 30:10).
            Revelation: “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Rev 9:20-21).

Insight

            Habakkuk: The Lord has an answer for all of us who ask why he lets evil exist in the world without putting an end to it. The question is asked by people who love him as well as those who want to prove he doesn’t exist by his inaction. The answer is the same to both of us. Be patient. What he has decreed will happen. It isn’t for this time. It is for some time in the future. He will end injustice and pay back evil in the way it was payed out. It will not be good for the unrighteous as, “the people's labor [evils] is only fuel for the fire” (Hab 2:13 NIV).
            We may be talking about the distant future but for some of us, the time may be much sooner that we expect. Those who do evil and think God will not punish because he doesn’t see, doesn’t care, or doesn’t exist, death will most likely take them before that great and awful day of the Lord that made Habakkuk shake in his boots. The fire of hell is reserved for them if they don’t turn to Jesus for their salvation.
            Those of us who do know the Lord are not guaranteed that we will escape hardships in this world. Some may come because we are collateral damage when the Lord punishes evil. Others may be persecuted because of our faith. Others may simply suffer because the world is broken by sin. We need to trust the Lord our Savior in the same way as Habakkuk. Note what he says, “Even though … he will rejoice in the Lord” (Hab 3:17-18).
            Psalm: This is a Psalm of lamentation over the status of Jerusalem and the captives that were taken away to Babylon. It is full of emotion as they remember Jerusalem. We could probably relate to some great loss in our lives. Perhaps is a relationship or a loved one who has died. However, this lament also reveals a couple of ungodly attitudes. The first is the reason that they were sent into captivity. They had placed Jerusalem ahead of God. If you read Jeremiah, you find that they worshiped the temple but not the Lord (Jer 7:4). They didn’t express any repentance but placed their hope in returning to the city instead of returning to the Lord. The second ungodly attitude was vengeance. While the Lord takes vengeance on those who wickedly do his bidding, they were dictating some gruesome violence against the people the Lord had sent to punish them. When we face tribulation that is a result of our sin, may we face it with repentance and not ungodly attitudes.
            Proverbs: Slandering anyone at any time is wrong. But slandering a person to one who knows the person better is a sure way to be caught and suffer the consequences. When we slander, we are doing exactly that before God. He knows all and everyone is his servant in one way or another. When we slander people, he will know and we will suffer the consequences.
            Revelation: God’s judgment is increasing in intensity as the trumpets are sounded. At first, there is destruction on the earth and then many people are killed (Rev 8:11). The woes, which are the last three trumpets, intensify God’s judgement with a third of all the people on the earth being killed in the second woe. What is even more astounding is that no one repents. The implication of this is that no one is coming to the Lord and being saved anymore. It doesn’t mean there are no more Christians because the locusts from the pit are only allowed to harm people who are not sealed by God.
            This is a good reminder that we should be doing everything we can to spread the gospel while we can. There will come a day when people will not listen. In some ways, that day has already happened. Many people today are so focused on their sexual immorality that they don’t want to have anything to do with Christianity, which condemns their actions. Think about it, two people of the same sex get married. If they repent and turn to Christ, they will be convicted and they would have to end the “marriage.” That is so overwhelmingly negative in their eyes that they most likely would rather go to hell than repent. Gay marriage makes it even harder for us share the gospel with them.
            What will it be like when people are worshiping demons, when murder is even more common than it is now – maybe even ignored? What will it be like when witchcraft and sorcery is part of the regular religious environment? If it is hard to witness to them now, it will be harder then. People’s hearts will be hardened beyond what we can imagine. We need to do more to spread the word now.

Application

             Come what may, whether it is property or austerity, sickness or health, I want to be able to say with Habakkuk, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Hab 3:18). I want to be able to share the good news of Jesus more, before it is too late for other.

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