Friday, March 26, 2010

Faith in the Famine

The last couple Sundays, we've been meeting some of the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament. (These men, of course, are not considered "minor" because they are any less important than the Major Prophets, but because their books are much shorter. The terms "minor" and "major" were foreign in the Hebrew Bible and Septuagint, and didn't arrive on the scene until Augustine and the Latin church.)

Two weeks ago, we were introduced to Haggai and Zechariah, a "tag team" commissioned by God around 520 BC to spur on Israel and its leaders to rebuild the temple after the Babylonian exile. We were reminded that joyful obedience to the commands of God comes "not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit" (Zech. 4:6).

Then, last Sunday, we turned over to the prophet Habakkuk, who ministered almost a century earlier, before the temple had been destroyed. When Habakkuk grieved over the sin of Israel (Hab. 1:1-4), God told him He was going to use Babylon to discipline His people (Hab. 1:5-11). This came as a total shock to Habakkuk, who couldn't imagine how a holy God could possibly allow an even more wicked people to "swallow up" God's chosen people (Hab. 1:12-2:3)! God then reassured Habakkuk that the righteous would endure by faith (Hab. 2:4), and that Babylon too would be severely humbled -- as soon as they completed God's assignment (Hab. 2:5-20). Habakkuk closes the short book with a song describing God's glorious appearance (Hab. 3:1-15) and a commitment to trust in God no matter what (Hab. 3:16-19).

Last Sunday, we focused on the final four verses of the book. We noticed three points:
  1. The prophet's fear (Hab. 3:16). Habakkuk staggered as he saw the vision of God (vv. 1-15) and considered the full weight of the judgment that was about to land upon Judah. But he resolved to wait quietly for whatever trials the Lord had prepared.
  2. The nation's famine (Hab. 3:17). God was about to devastate Israel not only with an invading army, but with a severe famine. Things would gradually worsen as figs, grapes, olives, grain, flocks, and cattle all died. Habakkuk paints a bleak picture, but doesn't stop to worry. He immediately takes these concerns and says, in spite of it all, "I will trust in God!"
  3. The prophet's faith (Hab. 3:18-19). Here we have a dramatic shift in tone, to one of triumph, victory, safety, and joy. God becomes the focus, rather than Habakkuk's circumstances. Just like a deer or a bighorn sheep, we are kept safe in dangerous places. We can "rejoice in the God of our salvation" even in life's darkest moments.
Questions for thought and discussion:
  • The name "Habakkuk" means "one who embraces." Why is that significant in this book?
  • Have you ever "trembled" inwardly like Habakkuk (3:16)? When?
  • What are your greatest fears in life?
  • What are your greatest physical, financial, and spiritual difficulties?
  • Try re-writing verses 17-18 in your own words, inserting trials that you have or could face
The last two week's sermons have been uploaded to our  podcast site and are available for free download.

Photo credit: brtsergio

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