Monday, June 20, 2016

Re-establishing the Sanctity of Israel


Re-establishing the Sanctity of Israel

In Psalm 12:1, David desperately cries out to God “Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.”  Our world is filled with treachery, deceit, unholy alliances, and seemingly unlimited compromises.  Evil and its lies oppose righteousness oozing out from behind every dark corner disguising itself in noble, but deceptive terms.  Evil defiles everything it touches in a thousand different degrees of corruption. 

Godliness and faithfulness to the Word of God are humanity’s only hope of surviving the never ending onslaught of spiritual corruption that arrives at the doorsteps of our homes like the waves and tides of the sea.  The armies of evil are ever increasing by thousands each day as souls are corrupted through the false philosophies of this world.  Godly homes are being threatened at every side by the spreading fires of evil that threatened to consume Biblical civilization.  Every godly person has already been wounded with the innate desire for worldliness.  Our only hope for holiness is to cry out to God for help lest we utterly fail in our purpose for existence – BRINGING GLORY TO GOD!
         
Dispensationalism can be summarized as the history of the ever diminishing faithful remnant.  Every new dispensation is a new beginning with a small faithful remnant from the previous dispensation.  The constant and consistent factor remaining throughout all dispensations is the priesthood of the home with the husband/father spiritually leading his family to know the Creator God and His will for living life accountable to God’s will.  The Bible is a history of the successes and failures of fathers, who were kings, prophets, priests, and just everyday men in this common endeavor to know the Creator God and His will for living life accountable to God’s will.  Sadly, most of the historical record details the failures of men and the digression of their failures to raise their children in “the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).  

In many cases, the Bible records the exact moment when a man makes the one turning point decision that leads his generations into the oblivion of their own condemnation.  It might be said, these recorded turning points mark the very place in a man’s history where he sacrificed his own historical heritage of a godly seed to the idol of his heart.  The only historical success that is important to God is a father’s success in producing one more generation that will “love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.  And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart” (Deuteronomy 6:5b-6).  This is no small task because one moment of weakness can destroy a lifetime of a father’s faithful work.  This moment of weakness takes place when a man allows the infected wound of his desire for worldliness to touch his family and infect his children also.  We see this historical fact repeatedly throughout Scripture. 

Our greatest weakness as humans is that we continually try to justify our double heartedness.  David said, “They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak” (Psalm 12:2).  David is describing the corruption of king Saul’s court that sought to capture him and turn him over to Saul simply because God had chosen David to be the king of Israel.  David posed no threat to Saul, but Saul saw David through his own corruptions.  Saul saw David from the perspective of what Saul would do if he were in David’s shoes.  The point is that David WOULD NOT do what Saul would do if Saul was in David’s situation, but Saul’s corruption could not see David’s innocence. 

We see the historical struggle to create genuine faith, resulting in faithfulness in the lives of people, from the very beginning of time.  Genuine faith is trusting God by obeying what He tells us to do and not do.  Somehow, somewhere, the meaning of the word faith has been corrupted to mean merely believing.   However, the Biblical use of the word faith is always connected to believing to the point of obeying and doing what God commands.  Although we are saved by faith alone and not by our works, real faith works (Ephesians 2:8-10).  James defines faith in this way. 

“14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him {in this context, James is using faith to refer to a mere intellectual assent to the fact of God’s existence}? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled {merely helpless words not accompanied by real help to those in need}; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 {now the comparison} Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works {genuine faith always coexists with good works, used here to define obedience to God’s Word}. 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead {literally a corpse}” (James 2:14-20)?

James is addressing the very problem that was constantly repeated throughout the history of Israel.  This is the repetition of the four phase cycle of sin that is found throughout the history of the Bible.  In Judges 2:11-18, we see the four phase sin cycle of every succeeding generation of Israel after God’s miraculous delivery of the Promised Land into their custody under the leadership of Joshua.  We see Joshua rehearsing before Israel all of God’s longsuffering with them to bring them to this victorious place in history at the end of Joshua’s life in the first fifteen verses of the last chapter of the book of Joshua (chapter twenty-four).  However, Joshua’s history lesson is intent upon reminding the children of Israel of God’s faithfulness to His promises in the midst of the constantly repeated unfaithfulness to God of each of their generations. 

“1 And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God. 2 And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods. 3 And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac. 4 And I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt. 5 I sent Moses also and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to that which I did among them: and afterward I brought you out. 6 And I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and ye came unto the sea; and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and horsemen unto the Red sea. 7 And when they cried unto the LORD, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them, and covered them; and your eyes have seen what I have done in Egypt: and ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season. 8 And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, which dwelt on the other side Jordan; and they fought with you: and I gave them into your hand, that ye might possess their land; and I destroyed them from before you. 9 Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and warred against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you: 10 But I would not hearken unto Balaam; therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand. 11 And ye went over Jordan, and came unto Jericho: and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I delivered them into your hand. 12 And I sent the hornet before you, which drave them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow. 13 And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat. 14 Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. 15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:1-15).

This wonderful rehearsal by Joshua of God’s faithfulness took place in B.C. 1427.  Yet, just one generation later, we read in Judges 2:10, “And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.”
         
How could this transpire in just one generation (about twenty years)?  The hoary heads of Israel did not do what was necessary to create another generation of faithful children.  Or, the children of the faithful refused to learn of God and obey His commands.  Without resistance to the pagan corruptions that surrounded them, they were soon engulfed and captured by their own worldly, carnal desires.  This happens constantly in generation after generation according to what Hosea says about six-hundred and twenty years later.

“6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. 7 As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame” (Hosea 4:6-7).

Judges 2:11-18 records this constantly repeated four phase sin cycle within the generations of God’s people.  Within this text, we see the longsuffering patience of God with people that cannot even reproduce one generation of faithful people even from their own loins and homes. 

“11 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: 12 And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger. 13 And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. 14 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies. 15 Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed. 16 Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them. 17 And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so. 18 And when the LORD raised them up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them” (Judges 2:11-18).

Phase One of the Sin Cycle: Judges 2:11-13

This phase begins with apathy and complacency toward the things of God and His expectations of holiness and purity ending with the intermixing of pagan worship and worldly practices with the things of God.  Eventually this progression would end with “forsaking” or abandoning the Lord (verse 12).  Then they accept total paganism and worldliness by degrees as each generation allowed a little more of God’s absolutes to slip through their fingers.

Phase Two of the Sin Cycle: Judges 2:14

Once they began to move away from purity and holiness (separation), God’s chastisement would come upon them to the degree necessary to turn them back to Him and His truths (repentance).  The chastisement often took the form of famine, which was a lesser degree of chastisement than a conquering and oppressive nation that would attack, steal, and destroy their possessions, ravage their wives and daughters, and enslave those left alive.  In this second phase, God’s hand of protection and blessing is withdrawn.  It was God’s intention to prove to His people that they could not survive without His help.  We cannot survive without God’s help!

Phase Three of the Sin Cycle: Judges 2:18

Once the people were under chastisement, oppressed, and put into slavery, they would begin to remember the God they professed to know and worship.  They would begin to cry out to Him in prayerful repentance.  God would hear their cries and groaning and have mercy on them.

Phase Four of the Sin Cycle: Judges 2:16

 In this phase, God would raise up Judges to deliver them out of bondage and lead them back to righteousness, holiness, and purity.  According to Judges 2:19, we find the repetition of this cycle throughout the book of Judges and throughout the Old Testament.  (The cycle has also proven true of New Testament believers and within New Testament local churches as well.)  Without the strong leadership of fathers and pastors, every generation is doomed to repeat the failures of the past. 

“And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way” (Judges 2:19).

However, notice the progressive increase in wickedness with each repeat of the sin cycle.  This tendency continues today.  This is why each succeeding generation needs to be taught the same historic truths of God’s Word and commit themselves to obey and keep those truths.  These affirmations are often needed daily and weekly through the constant charges to be faithful. 

The tendency is to invite the world and its corruptions into the home and into the church.  When that happens, the Christian (individually) and the Church (corporately) begin to lose their distinctiveness and their power with God (separation from the world is critical to power with God).  That is why there is a constant battle for each new generation in the Church.  When fathers and mothers begin to become soft on the things of God, they are sealing the fate of the destiny of their children to live under God’s chastisement.

“In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

Needless to say, this is where the digression into apostasy and paganism began in the nation of Israel.  Although David united the tribes of Israel during his reign, that unity was spiritually superficial.  His son Solomon would lead almost all of the twelve tribes into idolatry and paganism.  In B.C. 1004, Solomon dedicated the Temple built for God (I Kings chapter eight) after which God magnified Solomon before all the great world empires to the degree that the great kings would travel to Israel to see if what they had heard was true about Solomon and the God of Israel.  God was being glorified throughout the world because of what Solomon was doing to exalt Jehovah. 

Then, there is a turning point in Solomon’s worship.  It is recorded in I Kings 10:14-29.  Solomon began to worship Solomon and exalt himself before the people stealing the glory that belonged to Jehovah.  Solomon began to use the wealth he was gaining for his own purposes and exalts himself before the world by building an elaborate and exalting throne of pure ivory over laid with gold (I Kings 10:18-20).  There seem to be no restraint upon Solomon’s selfish us of wealth in opulence and extravagancy.  How easily is a man’s heart turned from God!

“18 Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with the best gold. 19 The throne had six steps, and the top of the throne was round behind: and there were stays on either side on the place of the seat, and two lions stood beside the stays. 20 And twelve lions stood there on the one side and on the other upon the six steps: there was not the like made in any kingdom. 21 And all king Solomon's drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold; none were of silver: it was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon” (I Kings 10:18-21).

Of course, the birth of Solomon’s vanity would not be satisfied with avarice and opulence.  This is because trying to fulfill yourself with yourself is satanic by nature.  It would seem that every man from every generation has to learn this lesson by his own apparent foolishness.

Sometimes the most dangerous gift God can give a man is fame.  “23 So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom. 24 And all the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart” (I Kings 10:23-24).

As Solomon grows older, he begins to think of his legacy and heritage.  He wants to produce a large number of little Solomons He did this exactly according to the principle of reproduction found in Genesis 1:11 in the words “after his kind.”  Selfish, self-worshipping Solomon would produce thousands of children JUST LIKE HIM.  We are told in I Kings 11:3 that Solomon took “. . . seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.”  “Concubine” is another word for a sex slave intended for the sole purpose of making babies.  Israel is then lead into apostasy, paganism, and idolatry in every form of human wickedness imaginable during the next five-hundred years under the leadership of Solomon’s descendants.  Even though Solomon finally repents (the book of Ecclesiastes), his generations would not repent even after God sent the two great prophets Elijah and Elisha to warn them. 

Isaiah records God’s speaking to Israel for 62 years from B.C. 760 to B.C. 698.  The first thirty-nine chapters of Isaiah have the pending captivity in view.  Jeremiah covers the period from B.C. 629 and into the captivity by B.C. 588.  Ezekiel is in the captivity in his introduction in B.C. 595 going on until B.C. 574.  Daniel is in the captivity as well beginning with the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in B.C. 607 extending until B.C. 534.  Daniel is significant mainly because it was through his faithfulness to God, along with others of the faithful remnant of Israel, that God would touch the hearts of the kings of Babylon to restore Israel for the coming of the Messiah.  After seeing the mouths of lions shut by God and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego protected within the fiery furnace (Daniel chapter three), Nebuchadnezzar makes a life changing proclamation of His belief in the God of Israel. 

“29 Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort. 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon” (Daniel 3:29-30).

The Lord had informed Israel, through Jeremiah (25:11-12 and 29:10), that their captivity would end in seventy years.  These seventy years began at the first deportation of Jews to Babylon in B.C. 606.  Ezra begins exactly at B.C. 536 with the degree of king Cyrus to not only allow the Jews to return, but to outfit them with livestock, food, silver, and gold in abundance for both their survival and for rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem (Ezra chapter one). 

Ezra chapter two might seems like a boring list of names and numbers, but it is much more significant than that.  The names and numbers are the faithful remnant whose numbers were insignificant compared to the millions that went into captivity.  God listed the names of these families for all posterity to read and admire.  The rest of the Jews had prospered in Babylon and did not want to leave the comforts of their prosperity to go back to Israel.  Of all of Israel, there were ONLY 49,697 people wanting to return to Israel to rebuild the Temple of God - EVEN THOUGH EVERY SINGLE PROVISION IMAGINABLE WAS GIVEN THEM!

Very little attention is given to the remarkable leader God raised up to lead the faithful children of Israel back to Israel and restore the Temple.  Ezra was a remarkable man of God who was a “ready {proficient or skillful} scribe in the Law of Moses” (Ezra 7:6).  This meant his knowledge of the Law went to the extent of knowing exactly where every word was to be placed on a page and the exact number of letters and lines on every page.  Needless to say, Ezra knew the Law by heart. 

Ezra also had quite a heritage with his ancestry traced back to Aaron.  He was also a descendant of Hilkiah, the high priest under Josiah, who “found the book of the law in the house of the Lord” (II Chronicles 34:14-15).  He was also a descendant of Zadok, the faithful high priest under king David from whom a line of faithful priests descended.  However, one remarkable comment about Ezra is recorded in Ezra 7:10.  Although Ezra was one of the most trustworthy and knowledgeable men in Israel, God records of him three remarkable commitments:

“9b. . . the good hand of his God upon him. 10 For {or because} Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD {understand what God wanted by studying what God said}, and to do it {to do what God commanded}, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments {to teach another generation what he knew and to do that}” (Ezra7:9b-10).

Making these three commitments are essential for every believing father and mother of every generation.  Ezra and Nehemiah would be used of God to establish a remnant of faithful believers again in Israel that would continue up through the time of the coming of Christ.  The majority of these people would be those saved on the Day of Pentecost and thereafter.  Their descendants would become the Church Age believers and our fathers in the faith. 

Every generation must have these kinds of people willing to risk everything in order to produce another generation of faithful believers committed to understanding the will of God, doing the will of God, and reaching another generation that will do the same

Your sole purpose for existence in this life is to produce another generation of faithful believers that will live their lives to make God known in all His glory!

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Confronting Crippling Fear with Excelling Faith


Confronting Crippling Fear with Excelling Faith

“3 God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. 4 And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power. 5 Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet” (Habakkuk 3:3-5).

“When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops” (Habakkuk 3:16)

“18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19 The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.  To the chief singer on my stringed instruments” (Habakkuk 3:18-19).

Fear is always the enemy of faith.  Habakkuk chapter three is a revelation of the inherent weakness of fear that lies within even the greatest man of faith.  Yet chapter three is the answer to that fear as the man of faith confronts it by turning to the greatness and faithfulness of God.
         
There are three basic crippling responses of fear.  Courage can be defined as doing what needs to be done in the midst of danger disregarding the danger to yourself.  Faith-courage is different.  Faith-courage faces the issue knowing your life and soul in in the sovereign control of God’s eternal promises.  Faith-courage sees all physical dangers in the context of our own eternally sealed redemption in Jesus Christ.  Faith-courage is love motivated and is exemplified by a mother fighting off the restraints of three burly firemen trying to keep her from running into her burning home to rescue her children - “perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:18).

1. There is resignation.  Resignation says, “I suppose there is nothing I can do about it.  Everyone suffers.  Everyone dies.  I might as well resign myself to it.” This may be better than crying, screaming, and pulling your hair out, but it is not a response of faith.
2. The second response of fear is detachment. Detachment says, “I don’t want to think about such things, it will depress me.  Maybe if I ignore it, it will go away.”  This type of person will fill their life with amusements, hobbies, work, or anything to keep his mind occupied and off of the problem.
3. The third response of fear is bravado.  This is the chin up, let’s face this with courage scenario.  This is quite difficult to do in a hopeless situation like the one Habakkuk faced.  

When your knees are shaking because the axe is about to take your head off, the last thing you need is a pep talk.  You need faith in a God Who is able to take your life beyond the circumstances, even death itself.  It is to this God that Habakkuk flees in chapter three.  We should learn some lessons of faith from Habakkuk.

Fear develops and evolves from unknown outcomes.  Most people are control freaks in that they want to involve themselves only in known outcomes.  The only way known outcomes can be controlled is by controlling every aspect of every situation.  Consider for a moment how ludicrous this kind of thinking really is.  In every situation of life, there are a thousand variables with each of those variables having thousands of other variables. 

The more people that are involved, the more complex and difficult any situation is to control within the myriad of variables.  Consistency can only be achieved when everyone involved has common beliefs, understand the objective purpose of the group, and share a common methodology to accomplish the objective task.  None of these things existed within the children of Israel.  In the corruption of their pluralistic views of God, their diversity was so extreme that the only thing they had it common with God’s will was false doctrine. 

Habakkuk abandons the unknown for faith in the known.  Faith escapes the unknown by immersing one’s self within God’s eternal constancy.  Habakkuk’s faith escapes fear by turning to what he knows of God.  Deliverance is the central theme of Habakkuk’s turning in faith to God.  He turns in faith to the memory of the miraculous way God delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage.  Now, because of corruption, Israel was in spiritual bondage.  God was going to use physical bondage to reveal to them their spiritual bondage. 

When Habakkuk speaks of “Teman” and “Peran” (Habakkuk 3:3), he is speaking of two mountain ranges bordering Sinai in southern Israel.  He is remembering that it was God Who initiated contact with Moses to raise up a deliverer to deliver the nation of Israel from Egypt.  This point of remembrance is significant because Israel’s deliverance was not based upon men’s prayer or their faithfulness, but upon God’s desire and faithfulness to His covenant promise.  It is to this constant of God’s faithfulness that Habakkuk flees in faith.

Remembering what God has done reminds us of what God can do.  When Habakkuk speaks of God’s glory covering the heavens, this fact can refer to either what Israel saw covering Mount Sinai or the pillar of cloud that led them by day or the pillar of fire that led them by night.  Both truths would be significant things to think about and remember when confronting fear with faith. 

“21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: 22 He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people” (Exodus 13:21-22).

“15 And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount. 16 And the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 And the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel. 18 And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights” (Exodus 24:15-18).

The news of God’s presence with the nation of Israel filled the world, and the “earth was full of His praise.”  In other words, the news of God’s deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage had traveling like a grass fire on a windy day through the nations.  Egypt possessed the greatest army in the world at this time and God had drowned most of them in the Red Sea as they pursued the children of Israel.  For the next forty years, the children of Israel wandered in the Wilderness and every nation in the Promised Land lived in fear of the God of Israel fortifying their cities against Israel’s pending invasion of their lands and city-states.  The very fact that a nation of about three and a half million people could survive in the dessert for forty years was a testimony to the power of their God to the nations of the Promised Land.  The point is there no food or water in the dessert, and most people would die there in a few days.  Yet, three and a half million people survived and thrived because of their God. 

“8 And before they were laid down, she {Rahab} came up unto them upon the roof; 9 And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. 10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. 11 And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath” (Joshua 2:8-11).

Habakkuk 3:4 could be paraphrased, “His brightness was like the rising sun, and lightning flashed from His hand, where His power was hidden.” 

When faith begins to fade behind the looming clouds of fear, the believer needs a vision of God in power and glory.  The picture Habakkuk paints on the canvas of his faith is the looming radiance of the Person of God as He fills the horizon like the rising of the Sun.  As God’s hand is raised in action, the lightning bolts of judgment flash in a steady stream.  Yet, not all of God’s power is revealed, but only a small portion.  Habakkuk’s faith reaches out and grabs onto the God of his dependence, just as you and I can do by faith.  When faith sees God as real, it acts upon that reality.  God has given us a word picture for strengthening our own faith in Revelation 19:11-16.  The next time you think the world might be winning read this text.

“11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. 12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. 13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:11-16).

Habakkuk 3:5 is dualistic in its vision.  It looks backward to remember the national deliverance of Israel from Egypt.  It looks forward to the spiritual restoration of Israel and God’s deliverance of the nation of Israel from the Satanocracy of the Antichrist during the tribulation.  “Plagues” or pestilences were God’s method of purifying the nation of Israel after the Egyptian deliverance to bring them to repentance.

“31 And there went forth a wind from the LORD, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day’s journey {probably about a radius of ten miles or about 800,000 acres} on this side, and as it were a day’s journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high {the quail were thrown to the ground in heaps about 3 feet deep} upon the face of the earth. 32 And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least gathered ten homers {homer is about 8 bushels, so 80 bushels}: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp. 33 And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague. 34 And he called the name of that place Kibrothhattaavah {kib-roth' hat-tah-av-aw' = a sepulcher for the greedy}: because there they buried the people that lusted” (Numbers 11:31-34).

How often has the greed of man led him to the sepulcher of the greedy!  In fact, many people spend their lifetimes living in the sepulcher of the greedy.  We must remember that it was the “mixt multitude” living inside the nation of Israel that were the complainers.  “4 And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? 5 We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: 6 But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes” (Numbers 11:4-6). 

The “mixt multitude” were those that believed in the God of Israel, but infected Israel with worldliness.  This infection with worldliness is what defines the corruption of the “mixt multitude.”

The “burning coals” (Habakkuk 3:5) from God’s feet literally refer to lightning flashes from His feet and refers to the consuming fire of the presence of the glory of God.  The “burning coals” describes God moving in judgment.  In other words, God’s judgment is to be viewed as already in progress.  When we read the prophesies of God’s future judgment, we need to be cognizant of the fact that those judgments are already in motion.  They are already released into the plan of God.  They will ultimately and finally reach the destination to which they are directed. 

The person who believes in a real God can have a real faith and that real faith becomes the substance of a real hope.  Confronting real fear requires real faith in a real God.  The reality of God’s existence is a matter of recorded history.  The real God is a reliable constant in an ever changing universe.

Trust Him!

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Repentance is the Seed for Change


Repentance is the Seed for Change

All the Old Testament prophets were used of God to call the children of Israel to repentance.  However, few of the Jews repented and fewer still were those that actually separated themselves from the licentious practices of worldly paganism and idolatry.  In our present time, we are seeing an almost exact repetition of this in modern Christianity and the worldly practices of the Emergent Church and most of Evangelical Christianity.  There is really little that is held sacred in the Post-Modern Christianity. 

There is very little that resembles the holy separation demanded in the epistles of the New Testament.  We are seeing the rapid replacement of the Judeo-Christian heritage of our nation replaced with New Paganism.  The world is rapidly turning Secular Humanism and new cultural absolutes that are completely contrary to the Word of God.  In most cases, these new cultural absolutes are anti-Christ in every way. 

Repentance is a forgotten word and a forgotten doctrine in Post-Modern Christianity.  Anyone preaching against sin these days is labeled as a judgmental legalist!  What nonsense!  There will be few who take the attitude of Habakkuk in Habakkuk 3:2.  Most will follow the way of Cain until they taste the wrath of God’s judgment.  Very few will do what is necessary to bring about the much needed revival within the Church.  Revival is for local churches, not nations.  Nations and communities will never become serious about holiness until local churches become serious about holiness. 

“O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2). 

As Christians, we watch almost helplessly as our nation moves farther and farther away from the foundations upon which it was built.  We think, if only we could somehow stop abortion, or make homosexuality illegal, God would return His blessing on our nation.
         
Revival always begins in the heart of one individual wanting to be a blessing to God more than he wants God’s blessings.  Such a person understands that the primary attribute of God is holiness.  The revived person will want holiness in his life more than any other passion.  Revival is returning believers to love the Lord with a zealousness for serving Him and living to His glory. 

Jesus sent an epistle to the church at Ephesus through the Apostle John.  This epistle is recorded in Revelation 2:1-7.  In that epistle, Jesus said, “4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” 
         
It is critically important to see the difference between leaving our “first love” and losing our “first love.”  The Church at Ephesus had a very serious problem.  They were wrongly motivated.  They had “left” their “first love.”  Serving in love had been reduced to a service of duty.  As a result, Christ viewed this Church as “fallen.”  They were not fallen in doctrine or in works, but in their love for Him.  This scenario creates a subtle form of hypocrisy.  Jesus spoke of this as recorded by Matthew:

“This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8).

It is obvious that the first criterion for acceptable Christian service is a heart right with God and one that is filled with love for Him.  To remedy this failure at Ephesus, Christ gave them two steps.  They are told to (1) “remember, therefore from whence thou art fallen” and (2) “repent and do the first works.”  They were to stop and remember where they should be, change the way they were presently doing things, and go back to the original.  This was all done internally (in the heart) in order to get the external (walk or actions) doing things the way they should be done.
         
When we speak of revival, we are speaking of a rekindling of a fire inside of us that has waned and no longer burns the way it once burned.  Psalm fifty-one is the Psalm of David’s repentance after his adultery, lies, and manslaughter.  The historical context of the Psalm is given to us by David, the author of the Psalm.  In other words, David is not hiding his sin.  He publicly proclaims the historical context in his Psalm of repentance.  “To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba” (Psalms 51:1).

“7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. 9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. 13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee” (Psalms 51:7-13).

The first step to the restoration of a nation is when God’s faithful remnant humble themselves before the Lord and begin to fulfill their responsibilities to Him. Even though a nation may never turn to God, the faithful remnant’s responsibility is to be right with God under any and all circumstances of life, even under the administration of immoral and amoral governments.  Revival always begins with the passion of the faithful for the will of God to be done no matter what.  This is the substance of Habakkuk’s prayer, “O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known” (Habakkuk 3:2).
         
As was often the case with prophecies of pending judgment spoken by the prophet to the people in rebellion, the prophets were ridiculed by the unbelieving of the children of Israel.  If these people had believed in God and His commandments, they would not have been involved in the worldly practices that brought God’s chastisement upon the nation.  The phrase “in the midst of years” refers to the days of the fulfillment of the prophecies given to Habakkuk to communicate to the nation of Israel coming near and the evidence of the captivity becoming an apparent reality.  Habakkuk’s prayer is that these people that once professed to believe in God would repent and return to a living, obedient faith once they felt the fire of God’s chastisement. 
         
People of real faith hear God’s warnings and they immediately act upon those warnings by faith.  In other words, believers expect that what God says will happen will happen and they begin to pray.  Believers begin to prepare for what God says will happen. 

Unbelievers are empirical.  Unbelievers must see some evidence before they act.  Unbelievers must feel the fire of God’s wrath before they are moved.  However, by the time they feel the fire, it is too late to do much about it but be burned.  By the time unbelievers feel the fire they have no defense against it.  A prayer for revival can be difficult when we know that the touch of the hand of God upon the unrepentant will often leave those people physically crippled and with scars that they will bear for their lifetimes.  When the fire of God’s chastisement is released upon the unrepentant, that chastisement can be brutal. 
         
Ezekiel chapter eight reveals the heart of the hypocrisy of contradiction between belief in God and the occupation with the forbidden wickedness offered by the satanic forces of worldliness.  The vision God gives to Ezekiel is what God sees in the secrets that men harbor in their hearts.  Externally we worship God and speak of righteousness, but internally, in our hearts, we lust for the things and practices of this pagan idolatrous world.  Though we may not have actual idols erected in our homes, we have a secret room in our hearts and minds where we fantasize about the pornographic and licentious practices of the pagans.  The contradiction of duplicity is that the vision given to Ezekiel reveals that Israel’s priesthood was hypocritical because they did have some form of belief in God or they would have been doing publicly what God revealed was going on in their hearts. 

“7 And he {God} brought me to the door of the court {the inner court of the priests and Levites, which were the private chambers of the ministering priests}; and when I looked, behold a hole {the crevice of a serpent} in the wall. 8 Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall {secret places}: and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door {the discovery that men create a secret access providing admission and permission to what God has forbidden}. 9 And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here” (Ezekiel 8:7-9).

If men would only recognize the wickedness of our own hearts and all the images we have looked upon that are stored away there.  At the weakest moments of our flesh, Satan projects those stored images of the idols of the lusts of our hearts and minds that become so vivid it is as if we are reliving the moment.  Just because, for a brief moment, we caught the glimpse of some wicked thing that we allowed before our eyes, Satan will haunt us with that image a thousand times a thousand.  We think it but a small thing before God.  It is not!  This is what the whole text of Ezekiel chapter eight is about.  Ezekiel chapter eight gives us a glimpse into what God sees when He looks upon our hearts.  As Ezekiel 8:10 says, those corrupting images are carved into our minds and hearts like the Egyptians carved their pagan hieroglyphic images into stone.  A life of faith and repentance refuses to allow any more corrupting images to be carved into our psyche.  A life of faith and repentance hates those images already carved there.  The unrepentant person spends a great deal of time engraving forbidden images upon his psyche. 

“10 So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, pourtrayed upon the wall round about {similar to the Egyptian hieroglyphics engraved in the temples and tombs of Egypt}” (Ezekiel 8:10).

The “idols of the heart” will be spoken of again in Ezekiel chapter fourteen.  In this text, the “idols of the heart” are willfully “set up.”  The issue of idolatry has very little to do with the idol itself.  The issue of idolatry is about the vile practices involved in the worship of an idol.  Some of these practices are too vile and morally filthy to even discuss among civilized and cultured people.  Some involved human sacrifices and the sacrifice of little children and babies.  We would think ourselves too cultured to sacrifice babies to some idol these days.  However, this is exactly what modern Feminism does in the abortion industry so that women can have sexual freedom to live sexually promiscuous lifestyles, pursue their careers in the worship of Mammonism, and be free from the shackles of social bondage to men.  This is an idol of the heart that is as real and corrupting as any Old Testament idol (Ezekiel 14:1-8).

“1 Then came certain of the elders {patriarchal leaders} of Israel unto me, and sat before me {the prophet Ezekiel}. 2 And the word of the LORD came unto me {right at that very moment}, saying, 3 Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them? 4 Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the LORD will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols; 5 That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols. 6 Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. 7 For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to inquire of him concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by myself: 8 And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 14:1-8).

“11 And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand; and a thick cloud of incense went up. 12 Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery {in their fantasy thought life}? for they say, The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth. 13 He said also unto me, Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations that they do. 14 Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the LORD’S house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. 15 Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these. 16 And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD’S house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east. 17 Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose. 18 Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them” (Ezekiel 8:11-18).

Much of the corrupted priesthood of Israel had taught the children that as long as they offered the appropriate sacrifices, they could practice the pornographic and licentious wickedness of idolatry as well.  In other words, they taught that God understood that we are all just sinners and that the various sacrifices were just the means for us to communicate our recognition of our failures to Him.  This is the corrupted message of the corruption of the doctrine of grace that abounds in Evangelicalism and New Evangelicalism.  This falsity of grace enabling is nothing more than ancient Antinomianism reborn. 

The first essential element for revival is humility before the Lord.  C.S Lewis wisely said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”  Pride is the opposite of humility and demands preeminence in every situation of life.  Preeminence wants the first consideration in every decision of life.  Only God deserves such consideration.  Humility understands this and therefore does not expect, nor does it want, first consideration in the decisions of life. 

Humility is an attitude.  The first evidence of humility is the desire to obey from the heart everything that God commands.  Humility is always manifested by a submissive spirit.  Humility knows and lives in a reality where we understand we can always do better than what we are doing or we can do what we are doing better.  The humble person knows that he can always learn something from everyone and any one.  The humble person understands that regardless of how menial our position in life, we have more than what we deserve.  Humility is not about being self-deprecating.  Humility is an honest and healthy perspective of ourselves. 

In II Chronicles 7:14, God states a prerequisite to His forgiveness and removal of chastisement upon the disobedient children of Israel.  The statement is made during a highlight in the history of the nation of Israel right after the completion and dedication of Solomon’s Temple built for the dwelling place of God.  There is a sobering reality revealed in the statement in that God knows the future and God knows that the children of Israel will be led into the pornographic practices of idolatry and paganism by the very king Solomon who had just provided the grandiose ceremony of dedication of the Temple in II Chronicles chapter six. 

Humility is always preceded by the honest evaluation of ourselves and our character compared to God and His expectations of us as His children.  The reason humility is preceded by such a comparison is because only such a comparison will create the right opinion of ourselves from God’s perspective. 

“12 And the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice. 13 If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; 14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 15 Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place” (II Chronicles 7:12-15).

Solomon spent seven years building the Temple of God.  Then, Solomon spent the next thirteen years building an even more extravagant palace for himself and the many wives he began to acquire.  This extravagance led Solomon into a life of decadence and perversion of everything that is holy.  In fact, we should see the book of Ecclesiastes as a thorough confessional of Solomon’s decadent lifestyle that led the nation of Israel to forget God. 

“3 God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. 4 And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power. 5 Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet” (Habakkuk 3:3-5).

Fear of the future and the pending judgment of God can be a crippling thing to live with.  Yet they are effective tools of God to prompt believers to pray and turn to Him in faith.  For many people, prayer means bargaining with God. They are in some dilemma of life out of which they cannot escape (if they could, they wouldn’t need God).  They come into God’s presence saying, “God, I am not perfect, but I try harder than so and so.  You should listen to me.  I work hard for you.  I have attended church faithfully for most of my life.  I have given much.”  This type of person is bargaining with God.  Even worse than that, he is praying in his own name.
         
Habakkuk had learned what every effective prayer warrior needs to learn.  He learned what it means to pray in Jesus’ Name.  To pray in Jesus’ Name is an attitude.

“Lord. I am a sinner.  I do not deserve anything from you.  I don’t even know how to pray or for what to pray.  I wouldn’t even pray if your Spirit had not prompted me to do so.  I come because you have invited me to come.  I come solely on the merit of what I am in Christ and with no merit of my own.  Father, on the basis of what Christ has done for me and the position that is mine before you because of salvation, I bring my petition to you requesting that you answer according to your will and not mine.”

This type of prayer exemplifies praying in Jesus’ Name.  Excellent prayer comes from excelling faith.  Excelling faith looks to an omnipotent and victorious God.  That is what we see Habakkuk doing in Habakkuk 3:3-19.  In these few verses, we see excelling faith confronting crippling fear (Habakkuk 3:16 and 3:18-19).

“When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops” (Habakkuk 3:16)

“18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19 The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.  To the chief singer on my stringed instruments” (Habakkuk 3:18-19).


Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
 Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Monday, May 16, 2016

“In Wrath Remember Mercy”



“In Wrath Remember Mercy”
 
Christians are saved solely “by grace” . . . “through faith” according to Ephesians 2:8 (and numerous other Scriptures).  This means God continues to extend His loving offer of redemption to the lost souls of this world.  People need to simply trust in what God has done through the Cross-work of Jesus Christ.  However, God’s undeserved supernatural operations (grace) do not end with the salvation of our souls.  God continues to be merciful and longsuffering even though we continue to fail and sin against Him.  Nonetheless, we remain in a cursed creation and God’s mercy and longsuffering will one day come to its end.  This is where Habakkuk is at in Habakkuk 3:2 where he says to God, “in wrath remember mercy.” 
         
If any of us were to hear the voice of God speak to us out of the blue, we would fall on our faces trembling in fear at the mere thought of being in His presence.  We often speak of God’s omnipresence as something that has no tangible realities.  Yet, we know that He has spoken to us by the inspiration of His Scriptures.  Why then do we not fall down in awe each time His Book is opened or His Word preached to us?  Why is it that we can come into the congregation of meeting of a local church assemble with little or no thought that we will be in the very presence of our Creator in a very special way.

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name {Jesus}, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).  After speaking with God in Habakkuk chapters one and two, Habakkuk shows us what the faithful should be doing when faced with God’s pending judgment. 

“1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth. 2 O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:1-2).

For over two centuries now, the United States has enjoyed the blessings of being somewhat a Christian nation.  The foundations of this nation were carved out of rock with the sweat and courage of a people willing to risk their lives for one simple thing that we often take for granted.  We forget that people fled Europe to escape religious persecution in order to enjoy the freedom to worship God the way they believed was right without fear of persecution or death.  Once on the continent of North America, there were many struggles to establish that freedom even here.  Baptists were persecuted, beaten, and jailed for preaching without a license from the State denominations.  Many fled to Rhode Island where so many Baptist resided that some considered making Baptist the Rhode Island state denomination.  Vote to do so was soundly defeated by Baptist leaders who wanted liberty of conscience for all.  We know this doctrine today as individual soul liberty.  This was the foundation of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States in what we know as the Bill of Rights. 
         
Most people are almost completely ignorant of the role early Baptists played in the struggle for separation of Church and State, which essentially was intended to keep the new country from adopting a state religion and keeping the government from interfering in the internal affairs of churches.  

As a result of ignorance of those early struggles, Christians have allowed the reinterpretation of the words separation of church and state.  The original meaning was that the government should be neutral regarding the establishment of either a state or national denomination of Christianity.  The meaning of the words separation of church and state have evolved to mean the government is to be free from being religiously influenced regarding policy and establishment of laws.  Of course, this whole premise is both ridiculous and contradictory to historic documents that state just the opposite.

Laws governing people are based on values established through religious and moral principles.  Satan has used the same tactics that he used with king Balak in Numbers chapter twenty-two in getting God to chastise the children of Israel.  Knowing God would not remove His blessing upon them while they remained faithful, the corrupt prophet Baalim instructed king Balak to simply tempt them with the pagan women until they were living in sin and God’s blessing would be withdrawn.
         
What we are seeing in our nation today is the result of a national segregation policy towards Christians and their influence in government.  This nation’s Judeo/Christian heritage has been attacked at its very roots.  Every year another generation of young people graduate from government schools having been indoctrinated into increasing degrees of neo-neutralism regarding their Christian beliefs.  They have been told that if they must have religious beliefs, they must keep them to themselves.
         
Discussion and the free exchange of religious ideas and beliefs are now taboo. Religious beliefs have been relegated to basements and backrooms, but certainly not welcome as part of public debate on matters of policy and law.  “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do” (Psalm 11:3)?  This is the question answered by Habakkuk chapter three.  What should Christians do knowing the religious foundations of our nation have been destroyed, God’s blessing is being withdrawn, and His judgment is eminent?
         
Habakkuk chapter three is a psalm intended to be sung by the faithful remnant during the coming captivity of the pending Chaldean curse.  The Hebrew word Shiggayonah (shig-gaw-yo-naw’) is understood by some to mean a wandering song that details the errors of Israel that brought them to the predicament of God’s chastisement.  As we face the pending judgment of God upon this nation and the present withdrawal of His blessing, as Christians we need to be a constant reminder of why we are where we are and a continuing testimony of faith to a world quickly losing hope.
         
A Shagionoth psalm intricately weaves together the elements of the fear of God and faith in God.  We must honestly learn to fear God for what is going to happen to this world.  This demands that we must be willing to make some extreme sacrifices to bring people to saving faith in Jesus Christ.  If we are not willing to make those sacrifices, we cannot honestly say we believe the Word of God and fear the Lord for the judgements He is about to release upon them.

A Shigionoth (shig-gaw-yo-naw’) psalm is both a song of prayer (faith) and a song of lamentation.

A lamentation is a remembrance of what brought a people to their present dilemma resulting in deep sorrow and remorse.  A lamentation is a spirit of broken repentance before God while understanding why He must deal so harshly with people who call themselves His children, but live as if He does not exist.  Yet, throughout this lamentation, there is the continual permeation of both praise and confidence in God.  In other words, the psalmist excepts God’s chastisement upon the nation as a necessity intending to trust in Him through whatever happens.

The purpose of this lamentation psalm was that it was to be incorporated into the regular part of the Temple worship as a continuing reminder to the faithful remnant (only the faithful remnant continued to frequent and participate in Temple worship).

The emphasis of Habakkuk chapter three is the redemptive power of God.

When a believer thinks redemptively, his mind escapes the temporal existence and transcends this present world with all its trials and difficulties.  This psalm leads the believer outside of this world in his thinking.  When the faithful remnant learns to think redemptively, they learn to praise God for their salvation and for the relationship they have with Him.  Therefore, the psalm becomes a psalm of praise even while facing pending calamity.  Habakkuk chapter three is the present conditions of a society under God’s chastising judgment written on the backdrop of their past failures regarding preserving the Mosaic Covenant (cause and effect).

Habakkuk 3:1 tells us this is a musical prayer of faith and trust.

When the foundations of a society seem to be crumbling and falling away at your feet, people need faith in something or Someone beyond themselves.  The purpose of God’s chastisement is to bring the thoughts of believers back to the holiness and righteousness of God in repentance.  God wants faithful people to look to Him, to know Him, and return to following His commands.  We have no control over the unfaithful, but we can deal with our own thoughts. 

Therefore, as God’s faithful remnant, true Christians should learn to praise God as He destroys the sources of corruption in a corrupt society.  Picking up the pieces of broken lives is an opportunity that never would have existed in a society pre-occupied with chasing an elusive dream of happiness in materialism and hedonism.  The character of this song of prayer in Habakkuk chapter three is more than a petition to God.  It includes many elements of prayer such as praise, thanksgiving, remembrance, repentance, and adoration.  The very idea of petitioning God for mercy while in the midst of His wrath upon the nation of Israel reflects these attitudes that should be part of the prayers of the faithful in connection to national judgment.

Great prayers warriors are those who have learned to frequently make statements of faith reminding themselves of what God has done in the past.  They learn to increase their faith by basing their faith on the history of God’s past dealings with His children and the world.  Rehearsing what God has done causes to reflect upon what God can do and might do. 

We live in a culture much like Habakkuk’s and under similar circumstances.  Many faithful Christians are asking questions similar to those of Habakkuk.  Why does God allow some societal practices to go unjudged?  How can God tolerate the continuing murder of millions of innocent babies each year?  How can God allow a society that endorses and promotes perversions like homosexuality to continue?  How can God allow the blasphemy and heresy continually being preached by apostates?  Why doesn’t God revive His Church?

There is one essential truth necessary to establishing a national and world view that is the answer to all of these questions: God must always purge before He blesses.

The attitudes of prayer essential to the purging of sin from a society

First, the believing and faithful remnant must humble themselves before God (Habakkuk 3:2).  This is the humble recognition that a society deserves what it is about to receive at the hands of God and accepts what God is going to do knowing you are a part of that society.  In this attitude of prayer, there is no petition to God that He reverse His judgment, but rather there is a recognition that God is absolutely just and that the judgment is deserved and necessary before revival can take place.  We see this principle in Leviticus twenty-six.  As we read this text, we must remember that this statement is connected to the covenant promises of God to national Israel and not specifically to any other nation.  Therefore, we have no certainty that these conditions are applicable to any other nation.  However, the underlying principles are sound doctrine.

“40 If they {the present generation of the children of Israel under God’s chastisement} shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me; 41 And that I also have walked contrary unto them {chastisement}, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: 42 Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land {promises}. 43 The land also shall be left of them, and shall enjoy her sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them: and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity: because, even because they despised my judgments, and because their soul abhorred my statutes. 44 And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the LORD their God. 45 But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am the LORD. 46 These are the statutes and judgments and laws, which the LORD made between him and the children of Israel in mount Sinai by the hand of Moses” (Leviticus 26:40-46).

Leviticus 26:41 gives three requisites before God would return blessings to the nation of Israel.  They must:

1. Repent
2. Humble themselves by recognizing they will get what they deserve
3. Accept whatever punishment God determines necessary 

These three things are essential attitudes of prayer in that they take our eyes off of the problem and from ourselves and puts our focus upon the justice of God necessary to set things in order.  When this takes place, we return our minds to focus upon the realm of spiritual truth and the holiness and righteousness of God.  Without this humbling of ourselves before God, we continue to see sociological problems only in relation to ourselves.  In so doing, we tend to put ourselves on a pedestal of rightness with God separating ourselves from responsibility for the existing conditions of our society.

The reality is that this society is in the condition it is in because Christians have failed to fulfill the Great Commission.  Christians have become apathetic towards the lost and contemptuous towards sinners.  Our society is not in the condition it is in because Christians have failed in their responsibilities of citizens of this nation, but because they have failed in their responsibilities as citizens of Heaven and servants of the living God.

Abortion is not the issue in the fall of our society.  Neither is pornography, homosexuality, divorce, or any one of a hundred other things on which people place blame.  These are all just symptoms of a deeper corruption of men’s minds and hearts.  The fall of our society is due to the fact we are a nation that has forgotten the God of the Bible.

“11 Can the rush {bulrush or papyrus} grow up without mire {swamp}? can the flag {marsh grass} grow without water? 12 Whilst it is yet in his greenness, and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb. 13 So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite’s hope shall perish: 14 Whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider’s web. 15 He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand: he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure” (Job 8:11-15).

The point of Job 8:11 is that the faithful require immersion in spiritual truth in order to even survive spiritually.  Without large quantities of spiritual nourishment, even the greatest of believers will soon wither away.  We need to be immersed in the Word of God lest we forget the part God plays in our daily lives and spiritual growth.  If we do not immerse ourselves in the Word of God in order to know the God of the Word, we will be relegated to similarities of the spider that is dependent upon snaring an occasional careless morsel in his web (Job 8:14). 
         
If we want to return this nation to a place of blessing, there is only one way to do that.  We must return people to knowing and loving the Lord Jesus Christ. Regardless of what happens to our society, our responsibility remains the same.  We must bring people to salvation and disciple them to be followers of Jesus Christ.  If we are not doing that, we are part of the problem not part of the solution.
         
As Christians, we watch almost helplessly as our nation moves further and further away from the foundations upon which it was built. We think if only we could somehow stop abortion, or make homosexuality illegal, God would return His blessing on our nation.  These things are but symptoms of the dearth of spirituality and power with God.  Christians have lost their influence because they have lost their peculiarity. 
         
Take a dirty, filthy bum off the street.  Wash him up spotlessly clean.  Get him a haircut and a shave.  Buy him a new suit, a new shirt, new shoes, new socks and underwear.  You can even get him a good job.  If his inner problems are not corrected, what will you have again in 30 days?  That is right, you will have the same dirty, filthy bum.  He will have traded his new suit for a bottle of cheap wine or a hit of crack cocaine.  There is only one way to change this type of person.  You must introduce him to Jesus Christ.  When he gets saved, God will change his heart.  When he gets a new heart, he will want a new head.  He will begin to study God’s Word and get his life cleaned up by the “washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:26). Once God has the heart and the head, the body will follow.   

The first step to the restoration of a nation is when God’s faithful remnant humble themselves before the Lord and begin to fulfill their responsibilities to Him. Even though a nation may never turn to God, the faithful remnant’s responsibility is to be right with God under any and all circumstances of life, even immoral and amoral governments.  Revival always begins with the faithful. The first essential element for that revival is humility before the Lord.

“12 And the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice. 13 If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; 14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (II Chronicles 7:12-15).

The second essential element for revival is a reverential fear of the Lord (Habakkuk 3:2). “O Lord, I have heard thy speech and was afraid.”  The word “afraid” is translated from the Hebrew word yare' {yaw-ray'}, which means to revere, to stand in awe of, to inspire reverence or godly fear.  It does not mean that Habakkuk was afraid about what was going to happen to his nation.

Habakkuk was in reverential awe of God and His ways.  This is the natural result when anyone fully realizes the awesome power and holiness of God.  When a believer comes to finally realize the power of God, that realization will completely change his outlook on life.  Even more than that, it will completely change his outlook on prayer.
         
God has not changed from the Old to the New Testament!  Hebrews 12:25-29 emphasizes the consistency of God throughout Scripture.  An essential element of faith, and therefore an essential element of prayer, is the fact that God is consistent and unchanging.  God is a constant in the universe where the corruption of sin seeks to distort every truth in every imaginable manner.  The Word of God constantly calls those who have been led astray back to the attribute of God’s constancy.   

“25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: 26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. 27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: 29 For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:25-29).  

The very concept of God’s chastisement upon unfaithful believers, or His judgment upon the Antichristism of a Christ rejecting world, seems to be a concept foreign to most people these days.  Unbelievers hate the very idea of a God that hates sin and who judges sinners.  However, these facts are highly resisted by many in the circles of evangelism as well.  Most seem to have lost the Biblical doctrine that humanity exists within the longsuffering grace of God.  If it were not for God’s longsuffering grace humanity would have been consumed by His judgment long ago. 

“For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6).

We can only understand how the world will so easy welcome the Antichrist when we understand that the majority of the humanity is already anti-Christ.  They are just waiting for a leader who will lead them to conquer the world and form an anti-Christ one world governance.  The natural cause and effect of theological Liberalism is rejection of Biblical absolutes and the complete opposition of all that is holy and righteous in the world because of faith in God’s Word. 

Another essential of the prayer of faith is the faith-ability to see the power of God in respect to the impossibility of our problems.  Faith sees worldly problems in the light of God omnipotent presence.  When the problems of the world and the problems of our lives are compared to God’s power, these problems are brought into a spiritual perspective.

“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27)

Before God will do what we ask, we must ask.  Petition is another essential element of prayer.  Do you think there was ever something that was not done simply because you did not ask for it to be done?  Petition is more than telling God what you want.  Petition is joining your will with God’s will.  Petition is joining your wants with God’s wants in a particular matter of need.  This is what it means to pray “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” 

“And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14).

Notice Habakkuk does not ask for deliverance from the pending judgment.  He does not ask that Jerusalem and the Temple be spared from the pending devastation of God’s chastisement. Why?  Habakkuk understood things from God’s perspective.  Because of that, Habakkuk understood that the coming judgment was inevitable, well deserved, and necessary for Israel to return to the Lord.  Therefore, Habakkuk does not pray for God to change His plan.

There is a similar example in the book of Acts 4:23-31 after Peter addressed the Sanhedrin and was forbidden to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ under the threat of public scourging and possible execution.  Notice the Apostles did not pray that the trial or difficulty be removed.  They prayed for boldness in the difficulty.

“23 And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. 24 And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: 25 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? 26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. 27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, 28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. 29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, 30 By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. 31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:23-31)

The person of faith as a prayer warrior is not primarily concerned with his own physical well-being.  His burden is to see God’s cause fulfilled.  His burden is to see God’s purpose accomplished.  His burden is to see God’s work done so that God’s plans for Israel and the world can be realized.

When Habakkuk prays “revive they work,” we know revival was a central concern of Habakkuk because he knew revival is always a central concern of God.  Christians do not pray for revival because they are afraid of the methods God might employ to bring it about.  Christians do not pray for revival because they are unwilling to make the personal sacrifices necessary to see it take place.  Christians are the very people who are the greatest hindrance to revival because they pray that God will stop what He is doing because it is bringing them some discomfort.  When they do so, they are praying against God.

The first concern of a faithful believer should not be that he is protected and pampered, but that the cause of Christ goes forward regardless of what it might cost him personally.  What is the chief concern of Christians facing pending judgment such as that of the book of Habakkuk?  Their chief concern is usually if the conditions of sin and degradation continue in a society, God will judge that society and since they are part of it, they will lose their freedoms, wealth, and the comforts they enjoy.  The reality is it is those selfish concerns coupled with our indifference to the holiness of God that has brought our society to where it is in the first place.
         
The primary meaning of the Hebrew word chayah (khaw-yaw'), translated “revive” is to preserve.  Revival is like a person with a piece of food stuck in their throat and are dying.  The only way to revive them is to first remove the obstructive so they can breathe freely again.  There must be a purging before there can be revival.  Most Christians are unwilling to pay the price purging might cost them.
         
What price are you willing to pay to see God’s purpose accomplished?  What personal sacrifice are you willing to make?  Are you willing to join yourself with the plan of God regardless of what that plan might cost you personally?
         
Our nation will be judged of God.  His blessing is being removed.  There will be Christians who will lose their businesses and jobs.  Pain and suffering may become a part of the Christian life in a way not seen in this nation for hundreds of years.
         
Or, in any twinkling of your eye, you might find yourself removed from this world and translated into the Kingdom of heaven at the rapture of the Church.  In the moment of your translation, will there be a regret that you never got around to doing that something you promised to God? Will there be a moment of regret for that person with which you were always going to share your faith in Christ, but never could seem to find the time?
         
Time is all you have that matters.  When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time will be no more, what will you have accomplished that will last for eternity or share eternity with you?  When the things of this world are being consumed at the final day of the consuming fire of God’s wrath, what will you have rescued from the flames?

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.