We Can Still Be Grateful

As many of you know, I love to read the books of the Prophets. You can see Yahweh’s patterns for disciplining and correcting bad behavior. You have to remember that He is the same today as He was back then. He made that clear through the Prophet Malachi when he said, “I, Yahweh, never change . . .t” (Malachi 3:6). So we can read the books of the Prophets and see the previously established patterns for judgment and correction, and learn how He will judge our nation.

So the last few days I have been reading and meditating the book of the Prophet Habakkuk. Now interestingly, in Hebrew, the book is titled qyqbj, which is the name of the prophet. It probably comes from the verb qbj meaning “to fold one’s hands” or “to embrace.” The implication is that Habakkuk embraced God and his people. As a Prophet, you would presume he would love Yahweh, but he also seemed to love Yahweh’s people. That is significant.

Solomon wrote, “People can make all kinds of plans, but only the Lord’s plan will succeed” (Proverbs 19:21). And by the time Habakkuk came on the seen, the people of Judah had chosen a path and made their plans, and those plans did not include Yahweh. The leaders as well as the people had long stopped seeking the Lord’s counsel—and were now colliding with it. Their entire society had become evil and corrupt. Oh sure, there was a time when the people of Judah had pursued justice and truth, but now the entire country had degraded into selfish greed and corruption.

But the Lord had a plan of His own, one that would scuttle any godless agendas of His people, and would reveal a desperate need for the Lord’s unchanging counsel. As Habakkuk warned, very soon the two most powerful nations in the world—Egypt and Assyria, would be defeated by a new ruthless superpower—the Babylonians. That new enemy would eventually attack Judah, and destroy the beloved Jerusalem, and take all of the people as prisoners.

When Habakkuk saw this, he cried out in his sadness and confusion. Yes, the prophet realized that the nation needed to be disciplined, but he couldn’t understand why an enemy had to be used to bring that correction? Why would a loving God allow evil to be the tool that would bring the nation back to Himself? (see Habakkuk 1:12-17).

The Lord’s response reminds me of the promise of the Psalmist, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). In a gracious response to the cries of Habakkuk, Yahweh explained that yes, the Babylonians would indeed punish the people for their sins. BUT (Ooh, I do so love that word) BUT one day those “foreigners,” the Babylonians, would punish the nation for their sins.

So yes, tough times of correction and discipline were coming. BUT (There’s that word, again!) BUT the Lord was allowing heartache for the ultimate good of His the people He loved so much. It wasn’t enough for them to repent and let go of their sins: they must grasp hold of the Truth! That’s when Yahweh encouraged Habakkuk to spread this word of encouragement:”the righteous person will live because of his faithfulness” (Habakkuk 2:4)

It is that faith that encouraged Habakkuk to speak an inspiring word of Thanksgiving:

Even if the fig tree does not bloom
    and the vines have no grapes,
    even if the olive tree fails to produce
    and the fields yield no food,
    even if the sheep pen is empty
    and the stalls have no cattle—
even then,
    I will be happy with Yahweh.
    I will truly find joy in God, who saves me.
Yahweh Adonay is my strength.
    He makes my feet like those of a deer.
        He makes me walk on the mountains (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Read that again: despite everything going bad and turning sour in your life, you can still celebrate your life! You can rejoice in your Lord! Despite all of the terrible conditions and the coming judgment, Habakkuk proved we can still offer Thanksgiving! He saw terrible sorrow, pain and trouble coming, but he also knew, through the eyes of faith, that Yahweh would make a way to overcome each looming enemy!

My friends, we must accept the reality that our Lord does not always move the mountains in our way. Sometimes, the obstacles we face are consequences of the sin, the mistakes, or poor choices we have made. Other times they are a natural part of the landscape of this fallen world. But all of it can be avenues for us to grow in our faith. As the late Ed Cole encouraged: “Yesterday’s dung can be tomorrow’s fertilizer!” That’s right! Regardless of the events in your the past: financial failure; a horrible childhood; time in jail;  or any of the many things you did in the past—it doesn’t matter—our God can take that dung and, by his transcendent glory, turn it around and convert it into fertilizer for His honor He will give you the strength to overcome every difficulty.

I want this to sink deep into your heart so read that last verse again

Yahweh Adonay is my strength.
    He makes my feet like those of a deer.
        He makes me walk on the mountains

I am suddenly reminded of one of my favorite song:

Our Father, our King, and Lord will produce in us the spiritual agility to climb where others might stumble. Or as the song declares, “To dream the impossible dream. To fight the unbeatable foe. To bear with unbearable sorrow. To run where the brave dare not go. Oh brothers and sisters, where some people might tremble in fear at the size of the obstacle ahead, we can express gratitude to our God. He will strengthen our step and can give us the confidence to stand strong! Our Father has equipped us, through the work of the Holy Spirit, to be just as secure and safe on a steep, treacherous peak as we are on the bank of a quiet stream. Like Habakkuk, we can face any unexpected calamity with a spirit of thanksgiving. All we have to do is make a decision to live by faith. Our God can even use our enemies to bring about His loving and perfect will in our lives.

With everything that is going on in your life, just remember Habakkuk’s prayer. It will remind you that you can still celebrate the Lord’s sovereignty because He is good, and His will is best, no matter what lies ahead. Okay, maybe He won’t remove every mountain in your life, but He can give you the ability to climb over every mountain! What matters the most is that you keep moving on; walking, leaping, rejoicing and celebrating with Him!

This Holiday season, give Him a chance to prove Himself to you. Begin to rest in His care and tender Mercy. Allow Him to work on your heart. Allow Him to soften it and allow you to forgive those who have offended you. Begin to draw out of His Spirit the courage to face another day, even if it looks too daunting for you. His might; His strength; His wisdom and His insight in your situation will blow your mind. Be at peace and watch Him work!

Nickolas

With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.

The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.

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