Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: If you’re a child of God, when God’s discipline comes into your life, it is not punitive. He does not intend to destroy you. His goal for chastening is to restore you—restorative, chastening, to make us more holy.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, October 11.

When bad things come into your life, do you ever find yourself thinking God must be angry? out to get you? Today we’ll find out if that view is accurate as Nancy continues a study called, Habakkuk: Moving from Fear to Faith.

Nancy: We’re in the midst of grappling with some tough issues along with Habakkuk, the prophet in the Old Testament, who looked around him and said, “God, there are so many things going on among Your people that I’m really concerned about. What really troubles me,” Habakkuk says to God, “is that it doesn’t seem like You’re doing anything about it. I’m praying. I’m crying out to You, but You don’t seem to be active. You seem passive.”

God said, “Wait a minute, Habakkuk. I’ve been listening. In fact, I am doing a work in your days. I want you to look. I want you to see. Open your eyes, and you’re going to see that I am at work. But when I tell you what it is that I’m doing, you may not believe it.”

In the last session we saw God’s description of the Chaldeans (the Babylonians is another name for the Chaldeans)—this fierce, terroristic group of violent, vicious, ruthless people that God said He was raising up as the answer to Habakkuk’s prayers. God says these Babylonians, these Chaldeans, they’re going to take over the world. They’re going to take over Judah. They are going to be My instruments to chasten My people. Now, that was not the answer Habakkuk was praying for!

After our last session, Kendra came up to me and reminded me that so many people are afraid to pray because of fear for how God is going to answer their prayers. Kendra, why don’t you just share what you shared with me because I thought it was such a good observation.

Kendra: Well, just a response that I’ve had so many people say to me, “Be careful what you pray for.” My response to that is just heartache because we don’t need to be careful about what we pray for. God has perfect love for us. Perfect love casts out all fear.

We don’t need to be afraid of what God is going to do in the life of the people that we love. We are free to pray that God will do whatever He needs to do. He may raise up Chaldeans in our loved ones’ lives, but He has a perfect love for us. He is holy. He’s not going to be doing things, having the same kind of motives that we might have, so we can trust in God.

Nancy: Thanks, Kendra. I think Kendra has tapped into something there that probably every mother has felt at times. “If I pray for God’s will to be done in my children’s lives, if I pray for my children to come to repentance and to faith or for my husband or somebody else I love, what might it take? What might God do?” There’s sometimes this fear, this holding back on God.

We’re going to see in Habakkuk that the person who believes God does not have to be afraid. You do not have to draw back in fear if you trust that God is good, and God is great, and God is sovereign, and God is wise, and God loves your loved ones more than you could. He knows exactly what is needed in their lives. So if it is the Chaldeans that He raises up to answer your prayers, you don’t have to be afraid of that.

Now, we’re going to see that Habakkuk does tremble. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, but it means your feet will be solidly planted. You can have confidence in the Lord even as the Chaldeans are being raised up.

At this point in our account in Habakkuk, chapter 1, Habakkuk is deeply disturbed by God’s response. God has said, “I’m raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation.” This was not at all the answer to prayer that he was expecting or hoping for.

It’s incomprehensible to Habakkuk that God would use people as wicked as the Chaldeans to deal with the sin among God’s people. So God’s response to Habakkuk’s questions has in fact raised more problems than it solved.

We said early on that Habakkuk means "wrestler, one who wrestles." He’s wrestling with these questions, and he’s wrestling with God trying to comprehend in God’s inscrutable wisdom what is going on here and how could God do this.

So in verse 12 of Habakkuk, chapter 1, Habakkuk responds to God. God has just said, “I’m raising up the Chaldeans.” Habakkuk says in verse 12, “Are you not from everlasting?” I just imagine that after God finished this whole big, long description of what the Chaldeans were like, there was this pregnant pause. It’s like Habakkuk's breath is taken away. Then he says, “Are you not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die.”

So what does Habakkuk do? He goes back to the things he knows to be true when his whole world is shaken here, and God gives him this astounding answer. God had said, “When you see this, when you hear about this work I’m doing, you will not believe it.” Habakkuk’s going, “You’re right about that one. I mean my breath is taken away here. How can it be that God would raise up these terrorists to come and take over our nation?”

All of a sudden he’s not as concerned now about the sin of his people as he had been originally. Now he’s really concerned about the devastation that’s going to happen to them. So in this whirlwind, in the swirling emotions and thoughts, Habakkuk goes to the things he knows.

What is certain? Okay, first of all, the thing that’s certain is the character of God. “Are you not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One?” (verse 12). What is Habakkuk saying? “God, I know You. You are everlasting. That’s one thing I’m sure of.”

  • You are immutable is the implication there.
  • You don’t change.
  • You have unchanging character.
  • You’re faithful.
  • You keep Your promises.

Then he says, “You’re the Lord.” That means the sovereign Lord. He says, “You are my Holy One. You are fundamentally holy.” It’s just like he’s rehearsing to himself, coaching himself: "This is what I know is true about God."

That’s a good thing for you to do when your head is spinning and you’re in confusion about what’s going on around you. Go back to the things you know are true. One thing is the character of God. What do you know about God’s character? Rehearse it. Tell God what you know.

Then the covenant of God. He says, “You are my God. We have a covenant-relationship. You are a covenant-keeping God. You will keep Your covenant with Your people.” That’s why he says, “We shall not die.”

“God, you may discipline us. You may chasten us, but You’re not going to destroy us. There’s not going to be cataclysmic judgment, final judgment against those who are truly Your people. We shall not die, of this I’m sure. We’re children of the covenant, those who believe in You.”

So he rehearses the character of God, the covenant of God, and then the choices of God. In verse 12 he goes on to say,

O LORD, you have ordained them [that’s the Chaldeans] as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof.

So he’s processing in his mind what God has just told him. He’s acknowledging what God has just told him.

“Okay, the Chaldeans are an instrument in God’s hands to chasten, to discipline, to reprove His people. You have ordained them as a judgment. You have established them for reproof.” This is God’s doing. It’s like he’s repeating back to God what God has just told him.

“Let me see if I got this straight, God. I’m agreeing with You. I’m acknowledging that what You said is true, that Your hand is in this. This is not an accident. You have not fallen asleep. You have not fallen off Your throne. You have not abdicated Your rule over this world. You have ordained them.” He acknowledges God’s sovereignty.

He recognizes the need for reproof among God’s people, for chastening, for discipline. He realizes that God is not going to let His people continue in their sin indefinitely. Isn’t that what Habakkuk had been concerned about at the very beginning?

“God, how can You look at all this and not do anything about it?” God said, “I am doing something about it.” Habakkuk says, “Oh yeah, I see what You’re doing is You’re going to reprove. You’re going to discipline. You’re going to chasten Your people.” Keep in mind as you read this passage, and Habakkuk has it right, God’s intent is merely to discipline and to chasten His children, not to demolish or destroy them.

If you are a child of God, when God’s discipline comes into your life, it is not punitive. He does not intend to destroy you. His goal for chastening is to restore you—restorative, chastening, to make us more holy. That’s what Hebrews 12 talks about—the discipline, the chastening of God. He chastens us so that we may be partakers in His holiness.

So Habakkuk is identifying with the purposes of God here. “Lord, You have ordained them as a judgment. You have established them for reproof, for chastening. We will not die, but You are going to discipline us.”

Then be reminded that God chooses the means and the method of discipline that He knows is best. You’ve got to leave that choice with God. Habakkuk would not have chosen for God to use the Chaldeans to chasten the Jews. Oh, maybe to chasten all the other pagan nations. “Lord, I know we need chastening, but I would have chosen a different instrument.” God said, “Let Me choose the instrument.”

So Habakkuk says, “Okay, God, I’ve got this. I know that You’re God, and I know that You don’t change. I know that You keep Your covenant. I know that You’re chastening Your people. Lord, I don’t understand this, but I believe it. I see it, that You’ve ordained the Chaldeans as a judgment, and You have established them for reproof. This is not an accident. It is not out of Your control.”

But he still doesn’t understand. It doesn’t seem right that a holy, righteous God would work in this way. So he says in verse 13, “[Lord, help me understand this.] You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong. [That’s something I’ve always known about You. You’re holy.]” Habakkuk has a strong, deep sense of the holiness of God.

That’s one of the reasons, by the way, I think we don’t grapple today more deeply with spiritual issues is because we have so little sense of God’s holiness. So what goes on in the world doesn’t bother us a whole lot because we’re just inoculated. We’re accustomed. Our eyes are used to the dark. Habakkuk had not gotten his eyes used to the dark. He still knew that God was pristine holy.

“God, You can’t look on evil. You cannot look at wrong.” We read this in Psalm, chapter 5, verses 4-5, where the Psalmist says,

You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.

So Habakkuk says, “God, if You’re holy, this perplexes me. It doesn’t make sense.” He’s looking for a logical explanation. He goes on to say in verse 13, “[If You’re so holy,] why [there’s that why question again] do you idly look at traitors and are silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?”

He started out by saying, “Lord, I know that my people aren’t righteous. I know they need to change. I know they need to be disciplined, but now You say the instrument of Your reproof is going to be these wicked, wicked Chaldeans. I mean, God, we’re wicked, but they are wicked, wicked. How can You stand idly by and be silent when these wicked Chaldeans swallow up those who are more righteous than they?”

When he started out his complaint in the beginning of the book, he wasn’t calling the Jews righteous. But now he’s changed his tune a little bit. All of a sudden compared to the Chaldeans, the Jews look pretty good even though the Jews have destruction and violence and strife and contention and all those things he had named in the first paragraph of the book. Now they’re looking pretty good by comparison with the Chaldeans.

So God’s behavior in using the Chaldeans to discipline the Jews doesn’t seem consistent with what Habakkuk knows about the character and the ways of God. Here’s where you wonder if there’s not a tinge of self-righteousness that creeps in. I know it does to our hearts. Because the prophet feels that the people of Judah are more righteous than the Chaldeans, I think it’s showing that he doesn’t realize how seriously God views the sin of his own people.

In fact, God’s people are even more accountable because they have the law of God. They know God. God has revealed Himself to them. God takes perhaps even more seriously the sin of His people than He does the reprobation and the wickedness of the pagan nations.

God takes all sin seriously, but there’s something in us that says, “God, we may have issues and needs, but I’m not as bad off as the instrument You’re using to deal with me.” So you have here a wife who, yes, she knows she’s got spiritual needs and she wants God to deal with those needs, but then she’s flabbergasted when God uses a less godly husband as an instrument of her sanctification. “God, that doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t seem fair.”

It goes both ways, by the way. I got an email not too long ago from a husband—we have a few men who write to us at Revive Our Hearts—and he was pleading with us to pray for his marriage. He and his wife had been separated, maybe even divorced now, if I remember correctly.

He’s just pleading with God to reconcile this marriage. He wanted us to know that he was serious about this. So he sent this two-page long typed letter listing for us, first, he said, “My sins are . . .” He was pretty honest about his failures and faults in this marriage. Then he said, “My wife’s sins are . . .”

Well, as I looked at the list, and I’m sure this was not intentional, but she had more sins than he did. Hers were as bad as his plus a little worse. Now, wives do this too. I’m not pointing fingers at that husband. I’m just saying isn’t it our tendency to say, “Okay, I’ve got issues, but my mate really has issues.”

So as I read this letter, he was saying, “I want to go to counseling. My wife doesn’t. I’m willing to deal with our issues. My wife isn’t.” It was kind of this comparison thing, and I think coming out of a genuine heart, but it’s kind of the way we think. “Lord, I have issues, but how can You use somebody who’s worse off than I am to be Your means of dealing with my life?”

As I think about that email, I’m thinking God has brought a Chaldean into his life, a wife. Of course, if you could ask her, chances are she would say, “Here are my few sins and here are his many sins,” so it’s in the eye of the beholder.

Even if he’s totally 100% accurate in his assessment, God is wanting to use his maybe more wicked wife than he is as an instrument of bringing him to brokenness and humility and repentance. It seems topsy-turvy, doesn’t it sometimes, that God would work in this way?

So Habakkuk says to God in verse 14, “[This is just hard for me to understand.] You make mankind like the fish of the sea, like crawling things that have no ruler.” You have there a picture of just helpless insects and fish swimming around in the sea.

Then verses 15 and 16: “He [and he’s speaking here of the Babylonian empire] brings all of them up with a hook; he drags them out with his net; he gathers them in his dragnet; so he rejoices and is glad. Therefore he sacrifices to his net and makes offerings to his dragnet; for by them he [that is the Babylonian empire] lives in luxury, and his food is rich.”

So here you have these wicked, wicked people who are being used as an instrument of God to chasten God’s people, and the wicked, wicked people are getting off scot-free. In fact, they’re getting rich in the process.

We’re like these fish swimming around in the ocean or like these helpless little insects crawling around, and here comes the king of the Babylonians. He throws in his hook, and he just pulls us out one after the other. I mean, we are just being slaughtered, and he’s getting rich off this game.

In fact, the Babylonians are worshiping themselves because of their prosperity, their military might. They’re self-sufficient. They think they need no one and nothing. I mean they are godless. Habakkuk is saying, “God, this does not make sense that You would use people like this.”

Verse 17: “Is he then [that is the Babylonian empire] to keep on emptying his net and mercilessly killing nations forever?” There’s that how long question again. “Lord, is this going to go on forever? Will it go on indefinitely? Is there no end?”

Have you ever found yourself crying out in the midst of your marriage or your issues with your children or your situation at work, “Lord, is there no end to this? I’m getting worse off. They’re getting better off. We’re going the wrong direction. How long is this going to last?”

In protesting what seems to Habakkuk to be an unfair, incomprehensible act on God’s part, Habakkuk runs the risk of forgetting how very sinful God’s people are and how deserving they are of God’s discipline because they don’t feel so bad next to the Chaldeans.

The problem is that Habakkuk’s only seeing it from his own perspective. If he could see from God’s perspective, he would see what we said a few moments ago that God’s people are even more accountable. In God’s eyes their condition is as serious as that of the Chaldeans.

Isn’t it easy for us to excuse our own behavior? You say, “But, Lord, my husband committed adultery. I’m just proud.” The Scripture says God stiff-arms the proud. God hates pride. It’s listed as one of the very worst sins. Adultery isn’t on that list in Proverbs chapter 6, but pride is.

So we tend to compare ourselves to those who are worse as a way of escaping our own responsibility and protesting, saying, “God, it doesn’t seem right that You would use these wicked, wicked people when I’m just . . . just proud.” God wants us to see that that pride or whatever it is in our lives is a huge issue, and it needs to be dealt with. God knows what instrument it will take to deal with it.

It’s at this point that some people become bitter at God. They cut God out of their lives. “I’ve had it. If that’s the way God’s going to be, if that’s the way He’s going to act, if that’s the kind of instrument He’s going to use, I’m not dealing with Him.”

Or they keep acting like they’re dealing with God but just going through the motions. “Yes, I’ll keep going to church. I’ll keep working hard. I’ll keep doing my Christian thing, but I’m not going to stay engaged with a God who acts this way.” That’s the pathway a lot of people choose. They draw back instead of pressing forward in faith.

Habakkuk finds himself here at a crossroads. He can choose fear and anger, or he can choose faith and hope and surrender. Habakkuk sees that this incomprehensible situation is really an opportunity to get to know God better. So he says by faith, “I’m going to press on. I don’t understand this, but I’m going to stay engaged with God.”

Because he does, we have a chapter three of Habakkuk. Feel free to go ahead and look at the end of the chapter and look at the end of the story and see the incredible joy that erupts from Habakkuk’s heart. You know why? Because he was willing to walk through the process, to stay engaged with God, not to get bitter, but to say, “I’m going to press on in faith even when I can’t see.”

So Lord, I pray that You would help us to press on to know You, to see You, to explore Your ways, to search out Your heart and that we would let You have Your way in our lives whatever that means, whatever that looks like, whatever it takes. Have Your way, O Lord. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been helping us make sense of some difficult passages in Habakkuk. Like she just said, we’ll see that joy erupts in Habakkuk’s heart. If you need some joy to erupt, stay with us.

Also, dig into Habakkuk for yourself. To help you walk through this important book, our team has put together a study on Habakkuk called Worry, Woes, and Worship. It’ll help you spend some time reflecting on the verses Nancy’s been teaching. It will take you through some projects to dig into Habakkuk deeper and see what it’s saying to your situation.

We’ll send you the study Worry, Woes, and Worship when you make a donation of any size to Revive Our Hearts. Ask for it when you call 1-800-569-5959. You can also visit ReviveOurHearts.com. If you’re signed up for the Revive Our Hearts Daily Connection, click on the quick link in your email. That might not make sense if you aren’t subscribed to the Daily Connection, but you can easily fix that.

The Daily Connection is basically Revive Our Hearts delivered by email. Each day you’ll get a message with key quotes from Nancy’s teaching and information I provide on helpful resources. If you want to explore Nancy’s teaching further, you can click on the quick links to visit the transcript, hear the audio or order a resource. It’s easy to sign up. Just visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

In Habakkuk’s day, soldiers stood on a watchtower to keep their eyes open for an approaching enemy. Find out why a prophet climbed up one of these towers and find out why you should, too. Nancy will talk about it tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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