Monthly Archives: January 2021

A WILD CELEBRATION!

A WILD CELEBRATION! 

A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet on shigionoth.

“Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy (Hab. 3: 1-2).

What is the meaning of shigionoth?

“Shiggaion, from the verb shagah, “to reel about through drink”, occurs in the title of Psalm 7. The plural form, shigionoth, is found in Habakkuk 3:1. The word denotes a lyrical poem composed under strong mental emotion; a song of impassioned imagination accompanied with suitable music; a dithyrambic ode.”

http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/shiggaion/

A dithyramb is a “usually short poem in an inspired wild irregular strain” http://i.word.com/idictionary/dithyramb

Why am I probing the meaning of shiggionoth? I believe it is significant to explore the wild emotion of Habakkuk’s prayer. This was his response to the revelation God gave him regarding his problem. This was far more than an intellectual issue. What he wrestled with touched him to the core of his being. Why did God seem not to care about the moral mess his people were in?

God’s response shook him because he was not anticipating the horrifying thought that not only did his holy God tolerate the actions of heathen nations against His people, He actually admitted to being directly responsible for raising them up to punish Israel. How could He? It was as though Habakkuk was betrayed by a trusted friend. His second dilemma was even worse than the first. What God was doing was unthinkable – He was in bed with the enemy!

Only when God revealed the final phase of His reply did the prophet get it. Aha! God placed every individual, heathen or Israelite, on the same footing – accountable to Him and responsible for his actions. No one was off the hook. His people could not hide behind their collective covenant relationship with Him and the heathen could not use the excuse that they were God’s instrument for dealing with His people.

It was this truth that sent the prophet into a frenzy of anticipation. He remembered God’s deliverance of His people from slavery and His judgment on Egypt. This great event in the history of His people marked the beginning of their life as a nation. In graphically poetic language, he related the effects of God’s coming on the natural world and on the enemy who seemed invincible.

With his confidence in the sovereignty of his God restored, he celebrated God’s mighty victory over the Egyptians. Surely, just as He fought for His people over their oppressors then, He would stand by them again against the Babylonians when His purposes for them were complete.

God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens and His praise filled the earth. His splendour was like the sunrise; rays flashed from His hand, where His power was hidden. Plague went before Him; pestilence followed His steps. He stood, and shook the earth; He looked and made the nations tremble. The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed – but He marches on forever (Hab. 3: 3-6).

God is unstoppable in His power. Nothing stands in the way of His march towards fulfilling His purposes. He demolishes every natural obstacle with ease. Even the mighty waters give way when He passes by.

I saw the tents of Cushan in distress, the dwellings of Midian in anguish. Were you angry with the rivers, Lord? Was your wrath against the streams? Did you rage against the sea when you rode your horses and chariots in victory? You uncovered your bow, you called for many arrows. You split the earth with rivers; the mountains saw you and writhed. Torrents of water swept by; the deep roared and lifted its waves on high (Hab. 3: 7-10).

He proceeded to review the horrendous and systematic destruction of Egypt through the eyes of a worshipper. From the other side of the Red Sea, in the land of Midian His people watched God come in majestic splendour to sweep away the Egyptian army through the writhing waters of the Red Sea.

As the prophet remembered, he worshipped. It was this God, this mighty Sovereign whose power was unstoppable, who would intervene again to rescue His people from the devastation of the Babylonians. Just as Egypt has served God’s purposes and then were crushed like bugs in God’s hand, so He would mete out judgment on another nation which thought it was God.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

THE WOES OF WICKEDNESS

THE WOES OF WICKEDNESS

Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion! . . . Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain, setting his nest on high to escape the clutches of ruin . . . Woe to him who build s city with bloodshed and establishes a town with injustice . . . Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbours, pouring it from the wineskin ‘til they are drunk, so he can gaze on their naked bodies . . . Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ (Hab. 2: 6b; 9; 12; 15; 19).

From the background and culture of his day, Habakkuk encapsulated the evils of his own nation and the nation that was about to capture and enslave them. Israel was no better than Babylon. Its people were just as corrupt and unjust as their heathen neighbours. Why? Because the people of Israel loved and worshipped the same idol gods of their neighbours.

Habakkuk pronounced woes on them all. Regardless of the covenant that God had with Israel, which they had long disregarded and forsaken, they were now under the same pronouncement of judgment as the godless nations around them. God is no respecter of persons. He will use the same measure for every person who disregards His holy standards and breaks His laws.

Habakkuk recognised that God had His answer to the problem of evil, but only for His own people but for all the nations of the earth. Although people refuse to acknowledge Him and choose to worship their own gods and set up their own standards, God does not absolve anyone from accountability to Him. His word is not only for believers but for everyone because all are answerable to Him as their Creator, and the Creator of the universe.

Two verses in this prophecy stand out as universal and timeless truths. They shine as beacon lights in the darkness of a rebellious, evil and corrupt society. It would be well for the world of people who ignore God, side-line Him and treat Him as irrelevant, to wake up to the truth that God will not be treated as an intrusion because:-

Each of us will give an account of ourselves to God (Rom. 14: 12).

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Cor. 5; 10).

What was God’s response to the arrogance of humans who think that whatever they have achieved, even if through wickedness, is impressive? Even the best that human beings have done will be judged worthless in God’s time.

Has not the Lord determined that the people’s labour is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2: 13-14).

People choose to reject God and worship whatever they have made for themselves, be it some image they have created and tried to bring to life as a substitute for Him, or their achievements or work of their hands. However noble or great they may think they are or what they have done, when they stand before God in the light of His indescribable glory, they will have nothing to say.

The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him (Hab. 2: 20).

This is God’s response to the blustering defense of every human being: “Just shut up and realise who God is!” Whatever excuses men may offer, whatever defenae they may have against the irrefutable truth of God’s presence and glory, everyone and everything will be silenced in His presence

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God (Rom. 3: 19).

No one must ever think that, because he or she does not acknowledge God, they will not need to have anything to do with Him. Like it or not, they will be judged. Like it or not, they will receive what they wanted. If they want nothing to do with Him, they will be shut out of His presence and everything that He is to endure for the rest of eternity the darkness they thought so enjoyed in this present life.

Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows (Gal. 6:7).

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

PAY BACK TME IS COMING

PAY BACK TME IS COMING

Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying, ‘Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion? How long must this go on?’ Will not your creditors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their prey. Because you have plundered many nations, the people who are left will plunder you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them. (Hab. 2: 6-8).

Who says that God is indifferent to what goes on in the world?

I wish that the greedy politicians and civil servants, yes, even the criminals who prey on the public in my country would read this pronouncement! Would they be so quick to plunder the national coffers and then charge exorbitant amounts for passports and licences, and every other government service that the citizens have no option but to pay for, to recoup what they have stolen and will steal again? Would the lawless ones be so quick to prey on the householder and the man in the street,  and take not only his goods, but often also his life if they knew what was coming to them?

Habakkuk was reassured that God was not sitting on His hands, as he thought. There is a day of reckoning coming – perhaps not always in this life, although the consequences of sin will eventually catch up with the perpetrators – but as certain as night follows day. People may think that, because they get away with their wickedness for a while, the day of reckoning is not coming. God always takes the long look. Death is not the end as some believe or hope but the doorway into the final phase, the destiny of every human being in a place for which they have prepared in this life.

David realised this when he wrote:

But to the wicked person God says . . . ‘When you see a thief, you join with him . . . When you did these things and I kept silent. You thought I was exactly like you. But now I arraign you and set my accusations before you.’ (Psa. 50: 16a; 18; 21).

I cannot help but think of what the Nazis did to the Jews in Europe during WW2. What was the motivation for the slaughter of six million Jews in the death camps in Poland and Germany? Was it pure hatred for the people of God or was it something more sinister than that?

One wonders whether it was not pure greed – many of the Jews were wealthy people. Think of the plunder the Nazis took from the hapless people who were stripped of clothing and jewellery and sent to the gas chambers naked. Who benefitted from the wealth that was stolen? How can it be that this terrible blight on the human race is even being expunged from the history books and from the memory and denied that it even happened?

God’s answer to these things is “Woe!” He has not forgotten. When Paul wrote to the Romans, he assured them that it was not their place to take revenge on wrongdoers because vengeance belongs to God and He will repay.

Do not take revenge, dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. (Rom 12: 19).

Perhaps one of the scariest things in the Bible is the perfect justice of God. He gave mankind the freedom to choose, and the warning that what he chooses will define who he is and where he is going. He gives us the option to choose to obey Him and to enjoy the benefits of relationship with Him or to go our own way and take the consequences. More than that, He even confirms the choices we make.

Think of Pharaoh, for example. He chose to reject God’s instruction to let His people go. Five times Pharaoh hardened his heart in spite of the ever-increasing intensity of the plagues that hit his people. Then five times God hardened his heart. Is that not fair or what! God gave him exactly what he chose – and the consequences were horrific.

No one will escape the end result of his choices. Just imagine – a person who is greedy and steals what belongs to others will forever burn with unfulfilled passion for greed and dishonesty. An adulterer, a sexually promiscuous person, a homosexual will forever burn with unfulfilled sexual passion. A murderer will burn with a passion to kill. They will become what they chose to be.

That is the awesome perfection of God’s justice. He does not have to do anything but allow every person to be forever what he chose to be in this life.

They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason, God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness (2 Thess. 2: 10b-11).

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

THE BABYLONIAN ASPIRATION

THE BABYLONIAN ASPIRATION

See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright – indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples (Hab. 2: 4a; 5).

What was the aspiration of Babylon’s ruler? He wanted to own and rule the world. The Babylonian army was raised up and trained to fulfil his dream. King followed king with the same ambition – to be the ruler of the greatest empire on earth. They were accurate representatives of the god they worshipped – Satan – the deceiver of men and usurper of God’s throne.

What is the spirit of Babylon? Greed! Babylon represents the drive to possess – in this case not only things but people. Death and the grave are perfect pictures of the spirit of Babylon – never satisfied; always wanting more. Hitler, Stalin, and even some of the modern religious sects and cults are Babylonian at heart – and so is every individual who has the insatiable desire to control and to possess.

Satan spawned Babylon because, through Babylon, he aspired to rule the world and to hold every human being captive to his ambition to take the throne from God and to be Lord. Babylon is symbolic of every person and everything that is anti-God and anti-Christ – every person who wants to control and, in the end, every individual who dominates others by intimidation or manipulation. The spirit of Babylon is the spirit of witchcraft.

But Babylon not only symbolises the spirit of the world; it also symbolises the counterfeit church – the great prostitute of John’s visions in the book of Revelation. Babylon, the city and the false religious system, was the source of every false religion which still infests and infects the world today.

Nimrod and his evil wife, Semiramis, set out to defy the living God by establishing cities to keep the people together and a tower to rescue the population from destruction by any further flood and to get nearer to heaven by their own efforts. It was a fist shaken in the face of God. It was the spirit of Frank Sinatra’s song, “I did it my way.”

However, God was always in charge, now as then. He had instructed them to fill the earth with people, not to stick together in cities. Confusion drove them apart and sent them out to populate the earth.

They went, taking their false religion with them. Instead of obeying God’s instruction to manage their earth for Him, they went out as representatives of Satan to sow disobedience and destruction wherever they went. Every nation in the Old Testament had its own form of the Babylonian mystery religion, symbolised by the mother and child cult – and all over the world today the same ancient religion is practised under many names.

What is the fate of Babylon?

“Woe! Woe to you, great city, you mighty city of Babylon! In one hour, your doom has come!” (Rev. 18: 10).

What is God’s prescription for His church?

Then I heard another voice from heaven say, “‘Come out of her, my people,’ so that you may not share her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues, for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes (Rev. 18: 4-5).

Yes, God raised up the Babylonians in history just as He revealed to Habakkuk. What they did to God’s people was no happenstance. He intended to be a wake-up call to His people to separate themselves from the spirit of the world. God has raised up today’s “Babylons” to awaken and purify His church. His word to us today is still the same:

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? . . . Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor. 6: 14; 17-18).

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God (2 Cor. 7: 1).

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH

THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH

. . . The righteous person will live by his faithfulness (Hab. 2: 4b).

I cannot leave this verse without giving it fuller treatment because of its importance in Scripture.

“This great principle – “the just shall live by faith” – so inflamed the soul of Martin Luther that it became the watchword of the Reformation. It occurs first here in the small prophecy of Habakkuk but is then quoted three times in the New Testament. The term “just”, of course, means “justified” or “righteous”. God says a person is enabled to live righteously by his faith.” http://www.icr.org/article/just-shall-live-by-faith/

Paul’s first reference to Hab. 2:4, found in Rom. 1: 17, highlights God’s way of achieving righteousness. It comes through the gospel of God’s salvation. God’s righteousness is revealed through the gospel, a righteousness that is received as a free girt through faith. The great theme of Romans is God’s righteousness. How can a holy God forgive and receive sinners into His presence?

Through the atoning sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, He has revealed His justice in punishing sin, and at the same time justifying the sinner, absolving us from all guilt because the debt has been paid by one who had no sin of His own. His justice has been fully satisfied. He is free to impute righteousness to those who are unrighteous and receive us back into His family as His beloved sons and daughters.

Paul’s second reference to Hab. 2:4 is found in Gal 3:13, a companion letter to his letter to the Romans. Galatians was written to deal with a serious error that was being broadcast by a group of Jewish believers called Judaisers. They were insisting that Gentile believers be circumcised first before they could become Christians and identify with the church. Paul was adamant that anything added to faith in Christ for salvation nullified God’s grace and put them back under the law.

Just as they could only be counted as righteous through faith in Christ, so they could only be declared innocent through faith in Him. The two truths are closely linked. Without justification which we receive by faith in Christ’s finished work and the righteousness which He freely gives us through the same faith, we cannot approach and have fellowship with a holy God. We can do nothing to absolve ourselves from guilt and the punishment we deserve for our imperfection in God’s sight. He did it all to bring us back to Himself, and we receive it by faith and act on what He has done for us.

The third reference, Heb. 10: 38, emphasizes the importance of the life that flows from faith in what God has done for us. It leads into chapter 11, the great “faith” chapter in which the writer gives a resume’ of the heroes of the faith who obeyed God because they believed in Him. Faith that does not issue in obedience is sterile and useless.

Paul emphasised faith as the basis for salvation. James emphasised “works” as the evidence of faith. The two themes go hand in hand. Jesus applauded Zaccheus because he bore witness to the change in his heart by his willingness to make restitution for his greed and dishonesty.

The point of this revelation to Habakkuk was that every individual must take responsibility for what he does and the way he lives. Those who, like the Babylonians, were cruel and ruthless were accountable to God for what they did not only to God’s people but to all people. The problem was the attitude of their hearts. They treated others with contempt as lesser beings than themselves and thus they wiped them out or enslaved them with impunity. They would not “live” in the sense that their wickedness would take them to an eternal “death”.

Those who, by faith in God, live in dependence on Him, will be reckoned as righteous and will continue to experience true life when they pass from this life. Righteousness is imputed to those who believe God’s promises.

Abraham believed the Lord and it was credited to him as righteousness (Gen. 15: 6).

It does matter what we believe because our destiny depends on believing what God has done for us and living our lives on the basis of His promise.

“Those who by faith are righteous, shall live.”

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.