The Problem with Many Christian Formulas
Another synonym for Disillusion is Disenchanted, to remove an enchantment, a spell that hides the truth. Habakkuk is in crisis. His concepts of God are being challenged and it all started because Habakkuk was angry with God because He appeared to not care as much about injustice as the prophet did. Now Habakkuk is challenged to learn that not only did God care and not only was God watching, but God shows him a much larger problem that concerns the nations. Habakkuk also is made aware of the fact that God has not only been aware, but God has set in motion the remedy. The crisis that Habakkuk is experiencing has now become a complete collapse of his understanding of God. Habakkuk 1:12-17 sum up Habakkuk’s complaint and in Habakkuk 2:1 it’s as if Habakkuk has determined that the next response of God will settle the issues.
Let’s first look at the beginning of Habakkuk’s final complaint, Habakkuk 1:12-14 “Are you not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O LORD, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof. You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he? You make mankind like the fish of the sea, like crawling things that have no ruler.” The first statement of Habakkuk is a strong statement of faith. Habakkuk rightly declares that God is “from everlasting” and therefore, “we shall not die”. He also acknowledges that God has ordained the Chaldeans as His means of punishment. When Habakkuk declares the everlasting reality of God coupled with the faith declaration that His people will not come to a final demise, he is standing on the covenant faithfulness of God.
The Biblical reality of the term everlasting is awesome! Everlasting is a term that can only be applied to God Himself and His eternal purposes! The covenant of God is often referred to as an everlasting covenant (Genesis 9:16; 17:7-8), but the concept of everlasting can only be in effect because God Himself is everlasting. The Psalmist declares in 90:2, “from everlasting to everlasting you are God”. When you consider the exactness of these words it is incredible to realize that the Psalmist is saying from eternity forever to eternity forever you are God, in other words, from before eternity to after eternity you are God!!! How God can exist from before forever and after forever is impossible to comprehend. It’s as if God in order to relate to creation, first created eternity, then stepped into eternity in order to create the universe and time. But God then sent His son into the universe and the finite in order to save His creation that man had corrupted. The condescension of Jesus that is described in Philippians 2 then becomes amazing to consider, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Jesus first created eternity, then stepped into eternity as God, then he stepped into the universe as God, then he stepped into human form laying aside his deity, then he stepped into the role of a servant, then he humbled himself further to suffer and die in humiliation at the hands of his creation. Thank you, Jesus, for your everlasting love and faithfulness.
Because of God’s proven faithfulness and His everlasting covenant of salvation, the one thing that Habakkuk clings to and is certain of is that the people of God will not cease to exist. Habakkuk is convinced that whatever God is up to, it must culminate in the covenant people of God surviving! As we will see in chapter 2, when Habakkuk questions God for enduring the evil of the Chaldeans, he is completely wrong. In fact, as soon as Habakkuk sarcastically challenges God for allowing a greater evil to punish the seemingly lesser evil of the people of God, he knows he has crossed the line. In Habakkuk 2:1 we realize this awkward moment as Habakkuk literally says, “I will stand at my watch post, and station myself on the tower, and look out and see what He will say in me, and what I will say when I am reproved.” There are a few interesting points to make concerning this verse.
First, the prophets often refer to the role of the watchman in relating to their responsibility before the Lord and also before the people of God, (Isaiah 21:8-11; Jeremiah 6:17, it should be noted that this is a reference to the failure of prophets who had been placed on the wall as watchmen and then refused to fulfill their responsibility; Ezekiel 3:17, Ezekiel 33:1-9). The concept of the watchmen is a concept of being lifted into the heavenly to view from a heavenly perspective in order to provide safety and security for God’s people. Habakkuk is declaring that he is fulfilling his responsibility and will faithfully stand his watch. It is from this position of heavenly perspective that Habakkuk expects to hear from the Lord. In other words, the instruction of the Lord will bring understanding to the situation.
The second thing we notice from this verse is that Habakkuk literally says that when God speaks, it will not be by the hearing of the ear, but it will be in his innermost being. When God speaks, it will be in him. And, Habakkuk knows it will require a response from him because it will be a reproof. In other words, Habakkuk knows that he is the one who is in the wrong, that God is always right and that he will surely need to repent when the conversation is over. It’s not usually wise to argue with God, but it’s not always wrong. Sometimes it’s best to speak your mind and heart to the Lord even if it’s a complaint. Some versions actually interpret Habakkuk 2:1 to say that Habakkuk is waiting to hear how God will respond to his complaint. I remember once when I was pastoring in Granite City Illinois laying on the floor of our auditorium and crying out to God that I did not want to pastor the church any longer and that if He would just send someone else to be the pastor, I would be the most supportive and faithful saint in the congregation. I was serious and I was angry and yet I knew I was crossing a line, but it was truly how I felt. The Lord’s response to me was not to remove me but to reprove me. He made it very clear to me that the crushing experience I was going through was to make me into a better man of God in the future. At the time, that seemed unreasonable, unbearable, and as if it would last forever. Today, the only thing I would change about that experience is my response to the situation. I look back on it and realized I failed the test, and yet, that was the whole purpose of the test, to fail. I could not have learned the lessons nearly so deeply if I had not failed. Does that sound confusing? How often have we wished that people would take our advice so that they could avoid the pressures and failures that we have learned through our own experiences? But as hard as it is to digest, the reality is that the best-learned lessons are the lessons we learn through failure. Being an overcomer does not mean that we never fail the tests, it means that we refuse to stay down when we fail. Habakkuk had failed the test of patience and trust, but he is about to learn the most valuable of all lessons, that God is faithful.
I titled this teaching, the problem with Christian formulas. I think in some ways, that’s what Habakkuk was facing, the failure of one of his formulas. Habakkuk felt that God should act a certain way because that was how Habakkuk related to God. He makes a statement that many Christians often wrongfully quote, that God is purer than to look of evil. That was one of Habakkuk’s formulas. We Christians also have many formulas that we love to quote about how God should always act. For example, we love to quote James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” We often quote this verse as if by only asking, we will receive a computer download into our thinking and we will become another more modern version of Solomon. Is that really what that context says? Is the context even primarily emphasizing wisdom or is it actually emphasizing faith? Verses 2-4 seem to be talking about the lessons learned from the pressures of life’s experiences and how faith grows through those pressures, into steadfastness, patience, or endurance which will make you a mature man or woman of God. Then James introduces the idea of wisdom as an example of how that mature enduring faith can acquire wisdom. Notice that the following verses continue with the theme of persevering faith. James 1:6-8, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” It sounds to me as if a person who asks for wisdom without faith is worse off than if he had not asked. My point is that we have used this verse as a formula for wisdom when it seems to me that what James was saying was that through the hardships of life, we obtain strong unwavering faith and that through these experiences we can gain wisdom. Wisdom never comes easy; it comes through the path of persevering faith. When our formulas fail us, He remains faithful! There are many such formulas that we treasure and that are often contextually wrong. When they fail us, too often we think that somehow we have failed and that we just need to try harder, but the reality is that we may need to step back a reevaluate whether we are in a God-ordained moment of disillusion and disenchantment that might actually set us free.