Judgments Past and Coming
Habakkuk 1:5-13; 2:4-8
Introduction: Considering their duration, the judgments of God are either temporal or eternal; considering their objective, they are either corrective or punitive.
Temporal judgments are a constant reminder of a greater and eternal judgment to come. But in the administration of temporal judgments God often makes use of some men to punish others, over-ruling their evil motives to accomplish His own good purposes. Sometimes, as in our present lesson, this'procedure is hard for His people to understand.
All the judgments of God upon His children are corrective or disciplinary rather than punitive; but His judgments upon the lost are mostly punitive. In other words, saved people normally repent when chastised; but lost people naturally rebel against punishment with increasing wickedness.
Muddleheaded humanists object to the punishment of criminals (forgetting their victims) on the ground that social misfits should be cured, not punished. I suppose that everybody is in favor of curing them, if they can be cured. But the neglected truth is that sin must be punished because it deserves to be punished, and further that other people need to be protected from those who would injure them.
"When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." (Isaiah 26:9.) The prophet spoke of a time when the judgments of God will be more plentiful and obvious than now. But now is the time to learn from the judgments of the past and present if we would escape more severe judgments in the future.
Outlining the lesson from the first two chapters of Habakkuk, we may note:1. Beyond Belief, Habakkuk 1:5 2. Frightful Foes, Habakkuk 1:6-8 3. Victor's Vanity, Habakkuk 1:9-11 4. Pensive Prayer, Habakkuk 1:12,13 5. Fruit of Faith, Habakkuk 2:4 6. Greed and Grief, Habakkuk 2:5, 6 7. Ripe for Reaping, Habakkuk 2:7, 8Notes on the Printed Text:
Beyond Belief, Habakkuk 1:5.
To a remarkable extent, people believe what they want to believe, and refuse to believe what they do not want to believe, regardless of testimony. Even the clear testimony of God's word is rejected when it tells what people do not want to hear.
Here the reference is to a temporal judgment upon the nation of Judah. The people refused to believe that God would allow His holy city and temple to be destroyed. Yet He warned them plainly. Some centuries later the apostle Paul applied the words of the prophet (Acts 13:41) to people who refuse to believe the truth about Christ, Who suffered the greatest judgment of the wrath of God in all history. (Romans 1:18; Isaiah 53:4-10.) And there are still people, a lost world of them, who consider this beyond belief.
Frightful Foes, Habakkuk 1:6-8.
"That bitter and hasty nation," the Chaldeans, were most frightful foes In their day. "Terrible and dreadful" as they were, they needed no allies in their conquests; in human motivation and resources "their judgment and their dignity" were from themselves. Yet it was God that raised them up, permitting temporary success to their evil intentions in order that through them He might accomplish His holy purpose.
Swift and fierce horses enabled the invaders to "fly as the eagle that hasteth to eat" and to "spread themselves" quickly in occupying the country.
Victor's Vanity, Habakkuk 1:9-11.
Like a mighty windstorm destroying all in its path and gathering up the sand into clouds, the Chaldeans came "all for violence," killing or capturing as they pleased. They had no respect for kings and princes of the invaded land, and made fun of fortifications; heaps of dust afforded a way over city walls.
Easy victory brought a change of mind to the invader, a change for the worse. Filled with pride, he passed over ths bounds of reason to give credit for his great power to his false god; or rather, as others interpret, he made his power his god, instead of worshiping the God that made him, and gave him whatever power he had.
Pensive Prayer, Habakkuk 1:12, 13.
Thinking over all these things, the prophet has a little talk with God. Surely, he says, the everlasting God will not let His people die. The cruel Chaldeans are only an instrument in the hand of God for the chastisement of His people: God "ordained them for judgment" and "Established them for correction."
Yet there remains some perplexity. God is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity. Why then does He seem to look on in silence while the wicked "devour" those who, if not righteous, are at least more righteous than their persecutors?
Fruit of Faith, Habakkuk 2:4.
God's answer to a prayer of complaint is a call to faith. He does know and care about the difference between the righteous and the wicked, even though for a time He seems not to. The prophet was right the first time. The soul of tha wicked, though lifted up, is not upright Now if the righteous would live, let him live by faith. He claims to believe in God: can he not believe in the ultimate righteous judgment of God? Though ths vision be long in coming, can he not wait? The fruit of faith is a life of trust.
Greed and Grief, Habakkuk 2:5, 6.
Referring again to the Chaldean in ths abstract, or perhaps to the Chaldean king as personifying his nation, God tells us of the wickedness of this people: his wine drinking, his pride, his wanderlust, and especially his great greed that cannot be satisfied, no matter how wide his conquests. Though all nations and all people be brought under his rule, yet he lusts for more.
Pride goes before destruction, and greedy souls do but store up grief to come. The very people that he has oppressed will take up the taunt of woe to him that has caused so much woe to others; the material wealth that he has accumulated will be as a burden of thick clay to drag him down.
Ripe for Reaping, Habakkuk 2:7, 8.
There Is a time to sow and a time to reap; and though sometimes the harvest time seems a long while off, when God's time comes there will be no more delay. (Revelation 10:6.) New instruments of judgments will "rise up suddenly," and the spoiler will be spoiled.
"And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." Acts 17:30, 31.
Anthropomorphologically speaking, when divine judgment seems slow in coming, it is as if God winked at sin. But the times of idolatrous ignorance have given way to the light of the gospel age, which all men everywhere are commanded to repent. The day of final judgment already appointed is as sure to come as that Christ rose from the dead, which is the best attested fact of history.
"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." (Acts 3:19.) ===============
[From Ashland Avenue Baptist paper, Friday, October 28, 1971, pp. 2-3. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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