Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Unexpected Answers

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: God doesn’t do things as we would script them. If we knew how to write this script, then we would be God, and we wouldn’t need God.

But God says, “You’re not God. I am God. I’m writing the script. I know what I’m doing.” This is where you have to trust that God knows what He’s doing and that He has a purpose, and that His purpose is good.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, October 8.

Nancy’s been in a series called Habakkuk: Moving from Fear to Faith. It’s been amazing to see how the concerns of an Old Testament prophet so closely match those of our day.

Why does God allow bad things to happen? Is He really good? Can I trust Him? Nancy’s continuing to explore Habakkuk’s questions—and maybe yours.

Nancy: I hope that you’ve now found Habakkuk in your Bible—that little book toward the end of the Old Testament, written about 600 years before Christ.

We’re spending several weeks walking slowly, taking our time, going verse by verse, phrase by phrase, through the book of Habakkuk because in this little book, there are the seeds of so many powerful, biblical themes and New Testament truths.

In fact, we’re going to see the seeds of the Gospel in the book of Habakkuk. We’re going to see evidence of Christ in the Old Testament as we study the book of Habakkuk, and we’re learning so much about the heart and the ways of God.

We’ve seen that Habakkuk was a prophet of God. He is a man who had a burden on his heart as he looked around him and he saw all the violence and the injustice and the oppression and the strife going on among God’s people. He saw God’s people flaunting His Law, breaking laws and nobody doing anything about it, and people who were supposed to be in charge weren’t doing anything about it.

Then Habakkuk looked up and he said, “God, it doesn’t even look like You are doing anything about what’s going on.” He asked God some earnest, honest questions. “God, why are You letting these things go on among Your people? How long will I pray to You and You won’t do anything?”

Well, after Habakkuk has poured his heart out to God in the first paragraph of chapter 1, God answers Habakkuk, and God says (as we saw in the last session) in verse 5: “Look among the nations, and see.” In other words, “Open your eyes. Broaden your perspective. Get a bigger vision. You’ve been too tied up just looking at what’s going on right at your own feet. Lift your eyes up."

"Look out and see what I am doing among the nations . . . for I am doing a work in your day that you would not believe if told.” God is saying to Habakkuk, “This is something that if you could see and if you could know, you would wonder at. You would be astounded to see what I am doing.”

God challenges Habakkuk, “Look at what I’m doing. See that I am at work in your day. I’m not asleep. I’m not passive. I’m not indifferent to your plight. I am concerned. I am at work.”

I hope that encourages you to remember, as you look at your life. I think about some of the emails we get from women here at Revive Our Hearts, and we love getting those emails. We have a team of people who pray through those requests.

But some of them seem so hopeless—women who are buried in life’s circumstances that are just really, really desperate. Our hearts go out to them, and we cry out and say, “O Lord, help! What can be done?”

Sometimes it seems in these circumstances these women feel nothing is happening. Nothing is changing. I’m praying, but God’s not doing anything. God reassures us. He says, “I am doing a work in your days—in this world. I am at work. Trust Me. I know what I’m doing, and I’m at work.”

Now, as God answered Habakkuk and said, “I’m listening to your prayers, and I’m doing a work,” Habakkuk had a preconceived notion about how God would answer his prayers.

We’re not sure what he was expecting, but we do know that what God proceeds to tell him is not at all what he was expecting. Habakkuk may have been a child during the days of King Josiah, who was, if I recall correctly, the last good king in Judah.

He was a man who honored the Lord, and under Josiah’s reign, there was a revival. God brought back the people to a place of repentance—to loving the Law of God. It had been a time of spiritual revival in Judah.

I wonder, as Habakkuk now is a grown man, and if he’s crying out to the Lord, and he’s seeing that the people backslidden—again. I wonder if he might have been hoping God would answer his prayer by sending another revival to deal with the corruption and the wickedness among God’s people.

Whatever he was thinking, whatever he was hoping, he wasn’t prepared when God finally told him what the answer to his prayers would look like. God said in verse 5, “I’m doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told,” and that proved to be an understatement.

Because once God told him, Habakkuk said, “You’re right. I don’t believe this!” Look at verse 6 of Habakkuk chapter 1.

“Behold,” God says, “I am raising up the Chaldeans.” Some of your Bibles may say the Babylonians. It’s the same thing—the Babylonians are the Chaldeans.

I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own.

Now, look at the picture here. Habakkuk is in Judah pouring out his heart to God about the condition of God’s people. He’s grieved over the corruption of the injustice going on among God’s people.

At the same time, 900 plus miles away in Babylon, God is orchestrating events to answer Habakkuk’s prayer—but in a way that Habakkuk would never have dreamed.

God says, “I’m raising up the Chaldeans.” Now, at that point, as we said earlier in the series, the Assyrians were the dominant world power, but the Babylonians were just beginning to come into power.

They were beginning to conquer nations. They were going to, about 15 years or 20 years later, take over Judah. But they were still a little-known people to Habakkuk. He wasn’t really familiar with them. It's kind of like some countries of the world when you hear about a war going on, and you think, “I think I’ve heard of that somewhere in eighth grade, but I’m not sure exactly where that country is.”

It starts to come to prominence as they become more powerful, and then God goes on to describe (since Habakkuk’s not really familiar with the Chaldeans) what they’re like.

I want to read verses 6-11, and as I do, listen for the characteristics of the Chaldeans. God said they were a:

Bitter and a hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. They are dreaded and fearsome; their justice and dignity go forth for themselves.

Their horses are swifter than leopards, more fierce than the evening wolves; their horsemen press proudly on. Their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swift to devour.

They all come for violence, all their faces forward. They gather captives like sand. At kings they scoff, and at rulers they laugh. They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it. Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!

That’s God’s description of the people He is raising up to answer Habakkuk’s prayer. They were corrupt, aggressive, cruel, vicious, fierce, forceful, and brutal. They were bent on world domination. You see them taking over like a storm—just sweeping in and taking over the known world

Invincible—at least they thought they were. Irresistible. Everyone fell down like little pawns beneath their attack. Unconquerable, indomitable, impregnable, overpowering, overwhelming—that’s the feeling you get.

Arrogant, proud. They worshiped their own strength, “Whose might is their god” (verse 11). They think they are God. This is an arrogant, ruthless, cruel, world power, and these are the instruments God has chosen and intends to use to fulfill His purposes in the world.

God says, “I’m at work in your day, and here’s what I’m doing. I’m raising up this ruthless, arrogant, violent group of terrorists to fulfill my purposes and to answer your prayers that I will deal with the sin and injustice in Judah.”

God’s doing a work, but it’s not what we would have expected. It’s not the way we would have scripted it because it is a work of judgment. God is going to exercise wrath and judgment, and He’s going to use this violent, vicious, arrogant nation—the Babylonians—to do it. People are astounded. That’s why God said, “Wonder and be astounded.”

They can’t believe it. This is not what they would have expected God to do. God says, “I’m going to deal with the sins of my people by means of a people who are even more wicked.” God said, “I am raising up a wicked, pagan, godless, ruthless, violent nation to accomplish My purposes with My chosen people.”

You have to wonder, as Habakkuk did—and we will see that—why did God use the Chaldeans? I wonder if perhaps it was intended to be a picture of what Judah would become if left unchecked; if she wasn’t chastened by God. This is where sin will lead you.

I was with some friends (a family on vacation this past summer), and we studied the book of Habakkuk together, and there are some teenagers in that family.

As we were discussing Habakkuk, we raised this question, “Why would God have chose the Chaldeans, a people like this to accomplish His purposes?” One of those teenagers said, “God must have been awfully upset with the sin of His people to use people like the Babylonians to deal with them.”

I thought there is probably a good insight in that. God said, “This is how much your sin bothers Me. This is how much it concerns Me. This is how troubled I am by your sin. I’m going to raise up a people that are fierce and treacherous and violent and vicious and ruthless to come and chasten you.”

If we were writing this in modern-day times, it would be as if God said to us, “I am raising up the North Koreans, or Al Qaeda, or the Iraqis to terrorize your nation, to conquer the United States, to persecute and imprison all the believers.”

“They’re going to come. They’re going to take over the world, and they’re going to take over your country, and they’re going to take over your families and your land.” We’ve been praying for revival, and we say, “Lord, that’s not quite how I imagined You would do it.”

Well, perhaps it wouldn’t be a great world power such as those nations we just named. Maybe God would be saying, “I’m going to raise up corrupt judges, public officials, lawmakers, an abusive mate, an ungodly, wicked boss, a godless school teacher or coach in your child’s life.”

God is not for a moment approving of these wicked deeds, but God is saying, “I can use any instrument to fulfill My purposes in the lives of My children.” Sometimes, God chooses and uses the most unlikely instruments of all, and that’s one of the keys to understanding the book of Habakkuk. God often works in unexpected ways.

God doesn’t do things as we would script them. Again, if we knew how to write this script, then we would be God, and we wouldn’t need God.

But God says, “You’re not God. I am God. I’m writing the script. I know what I’m doing.” This is where you have to trust that God knows what He’s doing and that He has a purpose, and that His purpose is good.

Now, let me make some observations and some takeaway points that I think have application for us. First of all, it’s obvious from this passage that God knows all about our oppressors.

The circumstances and the people in life that are oppressing us do not take God by surprise. God is the one who gives the description that we just read in chapter 1. This is not Habakkuk’s description of the Chaldeans, this is God’s description.

It sounds like God knows these people pretty well. God is the one who said they are ruthless; they are vicious; they are terrifying. God described them, and God knows all the detail and description of the people and circumstances that are oppressing you.

Sometimes we wonder if God knows how bad the wicked really are or how bad we have it or how badly they are affecting us or what the wicked are up to. I just want to assure you from this passage—God does know.

You don’t have to wonder when you’re in the midst of being buried by these terrible circumstances, “Does God have any clue what’s going on here?” He knows. God’s the one who described this.

God knows. He sees. Sometimes He allows evil men to go on the rampage. Can I remind us that even the wicked are a part of God’s plan for the righteous? Even the wicked are a part of God’s plan for manifesting and displaying His glory in the world.

God says, “I will someday cause even the wrath of men to praise me.” It’s not like God has this plan, and God is trying to accomplish His purposes in the world, but all these wicked men and nations and circumstances are interrupting God’s plan. They don’t catch Him off guard. God does not have to be on the defensive.

“Oh, how am I going to get around the Chaldeans?” or, “How am I going to get around this wicked boss or this coach or this person or this nation?” No. God actually uses the wicked as instruments and tools in His hand to accomplish His purposes.

Now, don’t ask me to fully understand or explain this. I can’t, and you can’t either. But you can trust that it’s true. God says, “I am raising up the Chaldeans.” God is the one who is ordering and ordaining and orchestrating the circumstances here to accomplish His purposes.

We see the sovereignty of God over all world affairs. God is sovereign over nations, over kings, over events, over history. Every nation in this world and every person in this world ultimately is under the hand and control of God.

There is not a person or circumstance or a nation or a terrorist or a burglar or anything that can come into your life, if you are a child of God, apart from the permission and the plan of God.

Now, that raises some tough issues. Did God order this wicked thing to come into my life? God never makes sin happen, but it is a fallen world and fallen planet. God is in the process of redeeming and making all things new. Part of that process is that God works sovereignly—even through wicked people and wicked circumstances and events.

It’s troubling to our theology, to our puny minds, to read a verse that says, “I am raising up the Chaldeans.” It would be one thing if God said, “The Chaldeans are coming up, and I’m going to work in spite of them,” but that’s not what it says here.

God says, “I am raising up the Chaldeans—those nations, those wicked kings, those wicked rulers.” God is moving them like pieces on a chess board and using them to accomplish His sovereign purposes.

The Chaldeans thought they were sovereign, independent, and powerful. They didn’t realize they were just pawns in the hands of a sovereign God and that God was wielding them in His hand and raising them up in a way that would have a significant impact on His people and would fulfill His purposes in the world.

So God is sovereign. Remember that God sometimes answers our prayers by letting things get worse rather than better. Sometimes, things do get worse before they get better, and we screech and scream and drag our heels and say, “No, God! This isn’t what I meant! This isn’t what I had in mind! How could You do this? I don’t understand.”

We cry, and we whine, and we fret, and we stress, and we struggle, and we wrestle with God. But know that God sometimes answers our prayers in the very ways that we’re resisting.

You can’t tell God how to answer your prayers and how to handle your concerns. Habakkuk said to God, “Why don’t You do something?” God answered and said, “I am doing something.”

Habakkuk’s going to say, as we get to the next session, “This isn’t quite what I had in mind, God. This isn’t the way I wanted You to act.” We’re praying for revival, and God says, “You want revival? I may choose to chasten and purify My people in this nation by suffering, by affliction, by financial disaster, by terrorism.”

When I read that phrase in verse 10 about the Babylonians, “They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it . . . At kings they scoff, and at rulers they laugh.” I thought of that picture of 9-11 and of the terrorists going after our most impregnable fortresses and just laughing as they blew them to smithereens.

Wicked people doing godless things. And we thought we were invincible. God says, “You think you’re invincible? Let me just show you, you’re not.” We pray for revival, and God says, “I’m going to take down the things in which you trust.”

We still trust in money in this country. We trust in ourselves. Actually, we’re not so unlike the Chaldeans. We’re not so unlike the Babylonians, and God says, “I know how to deal with you. I know how to chasten you. I know how to accomplish My purposes in Your life.”

You pray for revival, and then God sends famine or peril or sword or financial disaster or plagues or diseases. And we say, “Lord, that’s not what we had in mind. That’s not how we expected You to answer. That’s not what we thought You would do.”

God says, “Let Me answer. Let Me do it in My way. I’m doing a work in your day. It’s My work. Trust Me.” Do you want God to deal with your ungodly husband? Do you want God to change him? You pray for him.

You pray, “God, save this man,” or, “God, save this child,” and then God brings a disaster into their life. Maybe they get worse before they get better. If your husband loses his job as a result of being falsely accused, or he gets an ungodly boss and your husband’s miserable, and you’re thinking, “O God, I don’t want him to be miserable. I just wanted him to get saved.”

God’s saying, “I may have to make him miserable before he comes to the end of himself and gets saved.” Then we see the people we love and we see them miserable, and we want to rescue them from the Cross.

God says, “No. I’m doing this work. I’m raising up this boss. I’m raising up this circumstance. I’m raising up this situation. Let Me be God, and let Me answer the prayer in the way I know is best.”

God can be trusted. He knows what He’s doing. He’s doing a work in our day. Wonder and be astounded. He’s doing a work that if we could see and know it, we’d be amazed. We wouldn’t believe it.

When God tells us what the work is, He gives us the insight. “I’m bringing these circumstances, this situation, this evil, this horrible atrocity, this thing into your life or your world or your home or your church.” Let God be God.

Let Him use the Chaldeans, if He wills, to accomplish His purposes. Now, that’s not the end of the story, and that’s why I hope you won’t stop listening to this series here because it’s not the end, but it’s a chapter.

It’s an important chapter. It’s an important concept. Know that beyond God using the Chaldeans, He has far greater and grander and more wonderful plans. Wonder. Be astounded, and trust.

 

Leslie: If you’ve been asking God to answer your prayer, today’s teaching from Nancy Leigh DeMoss might help you broaden your idea on what the answer might look like.

Today’s teaching is part of a series called, Habakkuk: Moving from Fear to Faith. We’ve been studying Habakkuk’s fear, but we haven’t gotten to the faith yet—so stay with us.

Like Nancy just mentioned, we’re looking at some of the most difficult parts of the book, so don’t quit here. To listen to the complete series, you can order it on CD. Hear about the journey from fear to faith as slowly or as quickly as you want.

When you order, some of the teaching segments will be longer than those on the broadcasts, so you’re getting some additional material from Nancy. This CD series will be so helpful to you when you’re tempted to fear.

You can order it by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com , or call 1-800-569-5959. When you call, you can pick up the companion piece to this series. It’s a personal Bible study through Habakkuk called, Worry, Woes, and Worship.

It’s yours when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Call 1-800-569-5959 to make your donation and ask for the study, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

When God disciplines you, it’s never out of a sense of revenge. He doesn’t make you pay before He’s willing to forgive—so why does He discipline us? What purpose does it serve? We’ll explore that Monday.

To close today’s program, let’s pray with Nancy.

 

Nancy: Lord, these things are so beyond our comprehension, and they just remind us that we’re not God, but You are. We trust You. We want to trust You more. We need to trust You more.

Lord, I just want to pray for some woman listening today who is feeling like she’s being overcome by the Chaldeans. Help her to see that You have raised up circumstances in her life, and that You are using them for Your purposes.

You will not bring the chastening for any longer or any more intense pain than what You know is absolutely needed to accomplish Your purposes. In the midst of the difficulty, in the midst of the challenges, I pray that You’d help us to trust and to know that You are God, and You are accomplishing Your purposes. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

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

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

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