Friday, October 3, 2014

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday October 5, 2014

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(We can choose to rejoice in the LORD)
(Habakkuk 2:1-5 & 3:16-19)

The name “Habakkuk” (Huh-BAK-uhk) means “embraced by GOD”. The Scripture does not mention anything about the ancestry, or place of birth, of this pre-exilic prophet. He was both a poet and a prophet whose hatred of sin often compelled him to cry out to GOD for justice. Ironically, that same sense of justice also led him to challenge the LORD’s plan to judge the nation of Judah by using the evil forces of Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian fighting machine to annihilate them in 586 B.C.
Habakkuk’s three-chapter book mostly deals with the age-old problems of evil and human suffering because of that evil. Each chapter presents a very striking contrast, as in the first two chapters, the prophet’s complaining and questioning technique is used to drive home a powerful message concerning the coming judgment of the Almighty GOD. However, in the third chapter, the prophet pens one of the most beautiful psalms of praise to be found anywhere in the annals of Old Testament literature.
This terse book begins with a cry of woe as Habakkuk sees injustice running rampant in Judah, and the righteous ones being overtaken by the wicked. The law seems powerless to stop this madness, and it also seems that the LORD HIMSELF has abandoned HIS chosen people of Israel.
Many of the earlier prophets had also seen the societal injustices in Judah, and vehemently spoke out and objected to them. However, years ago, while still under the 55-year reign of King Manasseh, the father of Josiah, the nation of Judah had become committed to the idolatry and evil practices of the pagan nations around them. Those prophets were not able to convince the people to abandon those practices any more than Habakkuk would be able to, with his warnings in his day.
Like Isaiah, Hosea, Micah, and Zephaniah, Habakkuk ministered during the reign of King Josiah, Judah’s last GODly king. Josiah came to the throne at the incredibly young age of eight, and with the help of his queen mother, he was able to grow up with a moral compass to guide him. As a result, when he was older he initiated many religious reforms, and a spiritual revival, in an attempt to move the people of Judah back towards GOD.
Sadly, Josiah was not able to root out all of the deeply entrenched evil that had dug its way into Hebrew society, and Habakkuk pleaded with GOD for an explanation as to why HE had allowed this wickedness to persist, and the innocent to suffer, for all those years. He wanted to know why GOD would use a less righteous people (Babylon) to punish, what he considered to be, a more righteous nation (Judah). And even though there was already a precedent established with the downfall of northern Israel to Assyria in 722 B.C., Habakkuk was still troubled by what he felt was an overbearing moral issue.
In fact, even today, that is a concern about GOD that still troubles a lot of Christians, that age-old question of “why HE allows evil to exist and prevail in the world”. However, the answers we find in this message of Habakkuk clearly shows us that no one, good or evil, can escape the disciplining hand of GOD when HE decides to apply it.
In Habakkuk 2, verse 1-5, as Habakkuk awaits in a “watchtower” (“mismeret” in the Hebrew) for an answer from the LORD to his second complaint in chapter 1, the LORD tells Habakkuk to write HIS answer in large, clear letters on a tablet so that even a man running by can read it, and pass the message on to everyone he meets.
The LORD warns Habakkuk that the things HE planned will not happen right away, however, slowly but surely, the time nears when the vision HE shows him will be fulfilled. And if it seems slow, just be patient, because it will surely come to pass.
The LORD then tells Habakkuk to look around at all the confident, arrogant faces of those who trust in themselves, even though their lives are crooked. By contrast, those who are humble and righteous will simply “live by faith”, depending only on GOD for their survival. They will be faithful to GOD, and because of their faith and patience, they will live eternally with GOD at the end of this earth’s history. Those who trust in themselves, on the other hand will die by their own hand, and join satan in the pits of Hell following the “White Throne Judgment”.
Verse 5 describes wealth as being “treacherous”, and the arrogant as being “never at rest”, or, “never satisfied”. It is a comparison that pits these two together, with “greed and death”. Wealth and arrogance combined together, are like greed and death, neither one is ever satisfied.
In Habakkuk chapter 3, verses 16-19, Habakkuk concludes his message with a powerful poetic rendering that exudes all the confidence, patience, and faith that a person, who is under duress from a life-threatening siege can exhibit. Here he faithfully declares that;
I trembled inside when I heard this;
    my lips quivered with fear.
My legs gave way beneath me,
    and I shook in terror.
I will wait quietly for the coming day
    when disaster will strike the people who invade us.
 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
    and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
    and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
    and the cattle barns are empty,
 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
    He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
    able to tread upon the heights.”

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

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