Monday, July 11, 2016

Rehearsing God’s Forgotten Blessings

Rehearsing God’s Forgotten Blessings

The Bible is a detailed and accurate history of God’s miraculous intervention within the affairs of humanity.  The intent of the Bible as a history is to record God’s dealings with people and establish what we can expect from God under various circumstances of life.  For instance, in I Corinthians chapter ten, Paul rehearses numerous historical events of Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage and their later faith failures in the wilderness.  He says, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (I Corinthians 10:11).  This is what Habakkuk chapter three does for the children of Israel about to be taken into captivity due to their faith failures.  The point is that faith failures have consequences both immediately and in the future.
Habakkuk 3:9 presents God as ready and prepared to defend national Israel in order to insure His promises in the Abrahamic Covenant.  Habakkuk 3:10 reminds them of the severe wrath of God upon total individual unbelief and rejection of His grace.

“9 Thy bow was made quite naked, according to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word. Selah. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers. 10 The mountains saw thee, and they trembled: the overflowing of the water passed by: the deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high. 11 The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of thine arrows they went, and at the shining of thy glittering spear. 12 Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger. 13 Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck. Selah. 14 Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages: they came out as a whirlwind to scatter me: their rejoicing was as to devour the poor secretly. 15 Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses, through the heap of great waters” (Habakkuk 3:9-15).

The last part of Habakkuk 3:9 and verse 10 most probably refers to the flooding of the earth at the time of Noah with the waters of the deep.  The emphasis is that God is consistent in His dealings with corruption and generations that abandon faith in Him and begin to live after the lusts of their own hearts.  The degeneration of faith in the generations of faithless men has a destiny that ends in the hands of a righteous God.  Every new generation chooses how they will live.  They therefore choose their own destiny.  The fact that God will consistently and constantly purify unrighteousness from our lives and from the earth is a historical constant within fallen creation. 

“9 There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah. 10 And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth. 11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. 12 And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights” (Genesis 7:9-12).

It is important to distinguish between God’s dealings with national Israel and the individuals that make up national Israel.  The Abrahamic Covenant promises that God will preserve a nation through a remnant of faithful believers.  This criterion does not protect unfaithful and faithless individual Jews from God’s judgments. 

The reference in Genesis 7:9-12 is to the fact people were warned before God’s judgment came.  They had every opportunity to repent, but the hardness of their hearts to the righteousness of God would not even allow them to hear the warnings of God’s pending judgment.  Unbelief is both blind and deaf to the will of God and to God’s warnings.  At every instance, God did exactly what He warned He would do and He did so without mercy.  For a redeemed soul to live like the world is perhaps the greatest abuse of grace that is possible.  Such an abuse of God’s grace is a disgrace to everything that is righteous. 

“28 He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite {is an insult} unto the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:28-31).

The flooding of the earth and the destruction of the whole of mankind, other than eight souls in the Ark, is a constant reminder that God says what He means and means what He says.  The warning of God’s pending judgment continues to all people of all ages.  God will not allow His Name to be blasphemed and His commandments to be ridiculed.
Habakkuk 3:9-10 reminds us of one simple truth.  If you know nothing else of God, know enough to fear Him.  A biblical faith, a faith based upon understanding God by His revelation of Himself through Scripture and history, knows God is as much a God of wrath as He is a God of mercy and love.  He is both the Creator and righteous Judge of this world and all that relates to it.
The only way to escape the coming wrath of God upon this world is to be saved by placing faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.  While the lost world continues to “treasurest up... wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5), the person whose faith is in the finished work of Christ has already been “delivered... from the wrath to come” (I Thessalonians 1:10).  This is why the book of Habakkuk leads us from fear to faith.  God is faithful. “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24). 

The point is that sin, regardless of how it might seem for the moment, is not good for us.  In other words, sin will harm us and destroy our children.  God must correct the corrupting influences of sin that we allow into our lives.  God’s correction of unrighteousness with chastisement is an expression of His loving grace. 

“5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not” (Hebrews 12:5-7)?

The real question of every difficulty in life comes down to one thing - can God be trusted?  If God can be trusted, the believer must believe that God continues to work and intervene on behalf of His children.  Although this is a matter of faith, it is also a matter of fact.  Habakkuk gives us one major instance of that fact in God’s involvement in bringing the children of Israel into the promise land and miraculously defeating their enemies.  God became personally involved in the horrors of human atrocities towards one another on behalf of His children.  His involvement has never ceased.
The consistency of the activity of the sun and the moon are a continual reminder that God has established an ordered creation.  Creation is so ordered that man can know to the second when the sun will rise and set.  We know the exact days of the moon and the effects it will have on the tides.  The sun and the moon are prominent examples of God’s created order.  Yet God is sovereign over His creation.  In other words, God controls His creation for His purposes.  There is consistency because God is consistent.  God can interrupt that consistency at any moment!
Even though God has established a physiological system of laws (physics), He can override those laws and still maintain order.  Faith understands that God is not bound by the laws of physics.  Man is.  When God does something that transcends the laws of physics it is supernatural.  Humanity calls that a miracle, because we cannot explain it.  Sometimes man calls such things impossible because he does not believe in supernatural events.  In that case, he must seek for an alternative explanation.
Habakkuk’s faith overcomes his fear by addressing what he knows of God.  Accurate theology can rescue the believer from worry and fear.  In these few verses of Habakkuk 3:9-15, Habakkuk draws upon the historical facts of God’s supernatural intervention on behalf of the children of Israel as they entered the promise land.  These historical facts reinforce his faith and help the believer face the difficulties of life.  To understand Habakkuk 3:11-13 we must look to Joshua 10:5-14.

“5 Therefore the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, the king of Eglon, gathered themselves together, and went up, they and all their hosts, and encamped before Gibeon, and made war against it. 6 And the men of Gibeon sent unto Joshua to the camp to Gilgal, saying, Slack not thy hand from thy servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us: for all the kings of the Amorites that dwell in the mountains are gathered together against us. 7 So Joshua ascended from Gilgal, he, and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valour. 8 And the LORD said unto Joshua, Fear them not: for I have delivered them into thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee. 9 Joshua therefore came unto them suddenly, and went up from Gilgal all night. 10 And the LORD discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that goeth up to Bethhoron, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah. 11 And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Bethhoron, that the LORD cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword. 12 Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. 13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher {probably an historical commentary on the events of Joshua’s leadership}? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. 14 And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel” (Joshua 10: 5-14).

God’s purposes overrule all the laws of physics.  Therefore, faith and prayer enable the believer to ask God to do things that are impossible if we are willing and able to believe Him for those requests.

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

The faith application of Habakkuk 3:11-13 is that it was God’s intended purpose that Israel be instantly victorious over these five Amorite kings.  These pagan kings were not to have the opportunity of darkness to regroup and continue fighting another day.  This portion of Scripture teaches us the only limitations on God are those limitations which weak faith for which cannot trust Him.  Faith and prayer allow the believer to escape the limitations of this world. 
Faith allows man to trust God for supernatural intervention.  Faith allows man’s heart to soar on the wings of prayer to places his hands could never reach.  Faith allows man to trust God to do anything within the boundaries of His will.  Faith transcends human boundaries and limitations.  Faith is not a matter of determined human will or the strength of the human mind (Transcendental Meditation).  This kind of faith is the ability to trust in the power of God to do what man deems impossible.

“14 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, 15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. 16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. 17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. 18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. 19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? 20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:14-21).

Habakkuk 3:12 reveals to us Jehovah Sabaoth.  This Name of God refers to God’s power being present with His children.  An historical faith allows the person of faith to see God as the LORD of hosts.  God’s omnipotent presence is constantly with the His children when He sends them to fight spiritual battles.  When a believer goes forth in faith, being obedient to God’s command, he joins himself to the innumerable hosts of God.  That believer is numbered as a warrior/servant of God’s heavenly host.

Jehovah Sabaoth (LORD of hosts) is the is the name God repeatedly uses of Himself to comfort the hearts of His faithful remnant as they faced pending captivity.  (Used in Jeremiah about 80 times, in two chapters of Haggai 14 times, in Zechariah about 50 times, and in Malachi about 25 times)

“6 The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. 7 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. 8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth. 9 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. 10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. 11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah” (Psalm 46:7-11).

The truth of this Psalm was essentially the same promise God gave to Joshua.  Be assured, this is God’s promise to all faithful believers. 

“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:9).

The truths of Habakkuk 3:11-13 are of great importance because they establish faith on the foundation of established historical facts.  This faith does not require human might or large numbers.  This faith allows one man to confront anyone or any number, because this faith transcends what might happen to him physically.  This is the substance of Exodus chapter fifteen in what is commonly called the Song of the Redeemed.  Notice the substance of the hymn. 

“1 Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. 2 The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him. 3 The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name. 4 Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea. 5 The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone. 6 Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy. 7 And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee: thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble. 8 And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea. 9 The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them. 10 Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters. 11 Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? 12 Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them. 13 Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation. 14 The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina. 15 Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away. 16 Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till thy people pass over, O LORD, till the people pass over, which thou hast purchased. 17 Thou shalt bring them {the children of Israel} in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O LORD, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established. 18 The LORD shall reign for ever and ever. 19 For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the LORD brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea” (Exodus 15:1-19).

“17 If thou shalt say in thine heart, These nations are more than I; how can I dispossess them? 18 Thou shalt not be afraid of them: but shalt well remember what the LORD thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt; 19 The great temptations which thine eyes saw, and the signs, and the wonders, and the mighty hand, and the stretched out arm, whereby the LORD thy God brought thee out: so shall the LORD thy God do unto all the people of whom thou art afraid. 20 Moreover the LORD thy God will send the hornet among them, until they that are left, and hide themselves from thee, be destroyed. 21 Thou shalt not be affrighted at them: for the LORD thy God is among you, a mighty God and terrible. 22 And the LORD thy God will put out those nations before thee by little and little: thou mayest not consume them at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee. 23 But the LORD thy God shall deliver them unto thee, and shall destroy them with a mighty destruction, until they be destroyed. 24 And he shall deliver their kings into thine hand, and thou shalt destroy their name from under heaven: there shall no man be able to stand before thee, until thou have destroyed them” (Deuteronomy 7:17-24).

Habakkuk 3:13 portrays God as One Who is continually involved in the spiritual struggle of mankind.  This representation of God is intended to comfort the faithful believer.  He fights for and is in cooperation with His redeemed. 

Through the finished work of the sacrifice of Christ for salvation, God has laid bare the neck of Satanic opposition which only awaits the final day of execution at Armageddon.  The intent here is that the victory is already won.  All that happens intermittently in history is solely for the purpose that the lost might be recovered and saved.  Everything else is inconsequential.

“4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God” (I John 5:4-5).
The only way the forces of evil can be victorious is when they are not confronted by faith.  When confronted by people of faith, they flee in fear back into the shadows and darkness from which they come.  They have no power in the realm of light, truth, and faith.  They are completely overcome by faith. 

“7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. 9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:7-10).

The only weapon evil has over the believer is fear.  When circumstances cause us to fear what might happen to us physically, we must confront that fear with faith in God.  Faith takes away evil’s weapon of fear.

“In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me” (Psalm 56:4).

“So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6).

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Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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