Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It Makes You Wonder

Earthquakes (5.6 in San Jose), fires (throughout Southern California), drought (all over the west), increased crime in otherwise "safe neighborhoods, tainted food sources (spinach in the Salinas Valley), infestation of destructive insects (Light Brown Apple Moth) and I'm preaching through the Minor Prophets...It really makes you wonder.

This week I am sitting before the writings of the worrisome prophet Habakkuk. A man, not unlike myself, who has cried out to the Lord to do something about the injustices in the world around him., and a man, not unlike myself, who did not like the answer he received from the LORD.

He prayed for God to see the injustice, and God did. He prayed for God to listen to his cry, and God did. He prayed for God to act, and God did. Habakkuk did not like the answer.

The LORD made it clear that His judgment is not hindered by national borders. God judges all people by the same standard. If Babylon was to be judged so too was Israel. And at one level, we, like Habakkuk, understand this, but what is "unfair'" to us is that God would use the "ungodly" (Babylon) to judge the "righteous" (Israel).

So, it make me wonder...what about today? Whether here in the Golden State, or across the sea in Iraq (modern day Babylon?), how will God carry forth His justice? I guess that means I better be careful for that which I pray.

It does make me wonder.


Anonymous said...

As I notice all the things you mentioned, they seem to me like labor pangs getting closer and closer together and I guess I would be more apt to notice the similarities between the prophecy Jesus gave his disciples in the 21st chapter of Luke where he tells us to look up for our redemption draweth nigh and warns us to guard our hearts and be ready for his return.

Habukkuk I believe has an essential message for us though. Habakkuk is essentially is asking God, “Hey, I know you have to punish sin, but why use a very unrighteous people to punish a more righteous people?”

And God answers the same way he always has and always will.

"Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith."

The American Standard version says "Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith

Which brings us right back to the age old discussion about how we are saved by faith and not by works. It is not downplaying sin or encouraging license, but rather emphasizing the fact that we are not powerful enough to resist sin by relying upon ourselves, but only able to walk in holiness by relying upon God (through faith) for the strength to live a holy life.

It’s like the song we used to sing as children.

Jesus loves me this I know
for the bible tells me so
little ones to him belong
I am weak, but he is strong

Where we get into trouble is where we either use God’s grace to practice license or when we get all proud and puffed up and start beating our chests about how righteous we are compared to others. We must always remind ourselves that we walk in holiness because of his sacrifice on the cross enabling us to be reborn (through faith) so that his Holy Spirit can live inside us and lead us and guide us and even then we are only spotless enough to escape eternal damnation because his blood cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

What all the fires and wars and earthquakes and labor pains tell me is that I need to believe with all my heart and act on my faith by living as Jesus would have me and then when I look at what is going on in the middle east especially, I wonder if the time of the gentiles is close to being fulfilled and if at any moment, we might look up see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. (21:27).

In heaven, we will all be gathered around the lamb of God worshipping him, calling him holy, holy, holy and worthy, worthy, worthy of praise. We will not be standing there saying, "Weren't we ever so much more righteouse than some other people? huh?"

That's when we will really get it. Really get what God has done for us if we "only believe."


Just a postscript though. I used to live in Southern California many years ago and the fire came within a block or two of the house I used to live in.

Pastor Randy said...

gentle dove,

Good points, all.
One other passage that grabs my attention in Habakkuk, among others, is 3:2 --

LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.
Renew them in our day,
and in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.

How I too, desire to see God work in the midst of His power, and yet I realize that I can be swept up in that consuming fire. I know my end is secure, like the three boys in the fiery furnace, but that still doesn't mean I look forward to the process. ;o/

So, like Habakkuk, I shall endeavor to sit and know the reality that

The LORD is in His holy temple;
let all the earth be silent before Him.

Anonymous said...

Hello. May I join in?

During so-called troubled times (Pastor Randy mentioned quite a few) my mind is usually drawn back to “believing” what it says in Psalm 91. Part of it reads (v.5-10):

”Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; BUT IT SHALL NOT COME NEIGH THEE. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.”

These words, “But it shall not come neigh thee” and “neither shall any plague come neigh thy dwelling” are certainly comforting.

But this “thy habitation” or “thy dwelling” mentioned has multiple definitions, I think. One may be the world we dwell in. But it is not likely this is the dwelling place being referred to, but it could be. Our world is largely a product of what we have been thinking about our surroundings, I feel. And some, with bad thoughts, may be enjoying temporary peaceful surroundings. But they’re like ducks who by chance alight in a game preserve and - if they stay there – can be secure from shots being fired at ducks alighting elsewhere.

Another dwelling place may be our home/shelter in Felton, in Iraq or elsewhere. This is getting closer to the dwelling place where we live much of the time. Yet some of these physical dwelling places have had evil befall them, like in the Southern California fires, some still burning.

Or, and this is the most likely dwelling place being referred to in Psalm 91 – although all three secure dwelling places could be true for any particular individual – our dwelling place can be that mental space directly behind our eyeballs through which we are looking out at the world. This is where we live full-time, all the time. All the accumulated thoughts of our consciousness dwell here, including our understanding of God’s presence and our willingness to follow His leading.

If our mental dwelling place is where God lives too - “the secret place of the Most High” (v.1) – then all the promises of Psalm 91 are true for us, absolutely. It is presumed, perhaps erroneously, that “born-again” Christians dwell in this place. Only God knows for sure, though, who is dwelling in His House and who isn’t dwelling there … yet. In God’s house “there is no darkness at all.”

This Psalm, incidentally, it is now occurring to me, was written many years prior to the time God’s Spirit was given to men following Jesus’ crucifixion and ascension. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was necessary before, as gentledove said, “his Holy Spirit can live inside us and lead us and guide us,” which is the indispensable ingredient of being born-again. So the psalmist was not knowingly talking about Christians who have had a conversion. Interesting.

I presume Psalm 91 was initially being directed towards those who were being led by God’s Spirit from the outside, like Habakkuk and the other prophets of God. I’m glad we can be blessed today by having Jesus’ glory (“I in them, and thou [Father] in me”) welling up from within our consciousness in an ongoing flow, if/when we are willing and have the trust to let it Be.

Pastor asked, “How will God carry forth His justice?” God’s response is most likely, as it was in Isaiah’s day, “My ways are not your ways!” However I know that love and mercy and forgiveness are available for those who continue to give out these jewels in good measure.