Day 272: Habakkuk 1-3; Habakkuk's complaint to God

For the most part, we have seen the prophets in one primary function of the prophetic office, the function bringing the Word of God to the people.  Often times this was a message of warning or judgment, a call to repentance or a description of what was to come for God’s people.  There were, of course, also the times when the prophets would deliver messages for or against other nations as well, warning them of the coming judgment that would be upon them if they did not repent.  This is the way that I’m sure 95% of people view the prophets.  Habakkuk kind of puts a spin on that view of the Hebrew prophets giving us a glimpse of the other side of the prophet; the side in which they also go before the Lord and take with them the cries and laments of the people.

However rare this is to see in the prophetic literature, it is not actually new to us.  We see this rather often in fact in the writings of Jeremiah as he both delivers the messages of God to the people and the surrounding nations, but also laments before God the coming calamity.  Laments like this could also be seen in many of the psalms that we read a couple months ago, pleading with God to save them from the struggles that they are currently facing.  Dr. Tom Boogaart, a professor at Western Theological Seminary writes this in relationship to this dual role of the prophets,

“The prophets were travelers on the road between heaven and earth.  Like the angels, they deliberated with God and carried the words that help the world together.  First they ascended to the throne room and pleased the people’s case before God in the words of laments, many of them now collected in the Psalms.  Second, they descended and pleased God’s case before the people in the words of indictments now collected in the books of the prophets.”  -Dr. Tom Boogaart, Travelers on the Road Between Heaven and Earth.

Habakkuk brings a complaint before God that the oppression of the Assyrians is too great.  Violence and destruction are all around him and it seems as though the Lord has forgotten His people.  The answer that God gives the prophet though, it rather unexpected; God even says that it is something that would amaze the people.  God says that He will raise up the Babylonians, even though they are a wicked people, and they will execute judgment upon the Assyrians and upon the nations of the world.

Even in this though, Habakkuk protests.  How is it that the Lord can use the wicked to punish his own people?  Are they just another fish in the sea?  To this God shows him the way that He is going to work.  While He may use wicked people to work His own will, He will not reward their wickedness.  Even Babylon the great will fall before the Lord.

As I read this, two things come to mind. First, the way of the Lord is indeed mysterious.  We cannot and do not know how it is that the Lord works in the lives of His people or in the larger world either.  It seems like things continuously go south, everything just being negative and destructive.  However, in reading this, God tells Habakkuk to pay attention and see what is to come because the Lord is working in ways that will shock and amaze him.  Second, even after God gives Habakkuk a direct answer, he still protests before the Lord bringing more complaints and questions before God.  Too often I think that we are simply resound to “playing the hand we are dealt” or just “taking it like a man,” but Habakkuk shows us that it is ok to bring our complaints before God.  Like many of the Psalmists, he goes straight to the source, not accusing but asking and petitioning.  Habakkuk knows and understands his place in the presence of God, but he also knows that God is not one who is uninterested in him either and invites the questions.  We too can come before God with questions and concerns… and should do so because God wishes to hear them.  Perhaps God will indeed change His mind, perhaps He will act on our behalf.  He might say “no” or “wait,” but the fact is that when we turn toward God in a time of difficulty, we are correctly oriented to face that trial by keeping our focus on God.

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.



Day 270: Micah 5-7; What Does the Lord Desire?

In one verse, Micah summarizes pretty much the point of the entire message of all the prophets:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

This is indeed what the Lord is calling the people back to.  Idle repentance, veiled holiness, and pretend religiosity is nothing to the Lord.  Actions without inner change are worthless.  God does not want their sacrifices or offerings, He does not desire festivals or celebrations.  God desires those who walk along the path that He has set out for them, the path of justice and mercy, in a humble and contrite manner.

What is at the core of this statement?  The fact that this is exactly what the people of Israel were not doing.  In fact, as we read in Micah and other prophets, the people of Israel were acting unjustly towards all, especially those who were poor, downtrodden, and could not defend themselves.  The original call of God to His people was both to love Him with all of their heart, soul, and mind, but also to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  This idea was in contrast to that which the world seeks, motivated by self-interest and the desire to promote the self at the expense of others, particularly the poor.  This is not how God created the world and God wanted to show the world through Israel the right way to be in relationship with others, and the mercy that He shows to all those who are downtrodden.

Going along with this was the Lord’s desire to love mercy.  For many this goes along with the idea of acting justly, but in many ways it is completely different.  From a strictly justice standpoint, debtors that are indebted to someone should have to pay them back and when the loan is called, the debt collector is justified in taking a person’s belongings to satisfy the balance of the loan.  But to do this heartlessly, without understanding is not what God has in mind either.  In fact, the Law is full of examples of when loans are to be forgiven, slaves are to be set free, and land is to be returned to its original owner, no matter what the circumstances are.  This is what true mercy is… this is the way God has called us to live… and it is in response to the way that He has shown mercy on His people as well.  Whether it is freeing them from bondage in Egypt or dying for their sins on the cross, God has shown us mercy upon mercy, grace upon grace.  There is really no two ways about it.  We are to be merciful in the same way that we have been shown mercy.

Neither of these have any traction without a true posture of humility that comes with following God and walking with Him.  The true purpose of the people of Israel was not in the actions of justice or mercy that they took, but in the posture in which they took them.  As the Psalmist writes,

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

Actions can be empty.  Anyone can fake niceness or happiness when they want to.  God desires something much deeper from His people: their heart.  Micah uses the word and in this verse as well… like the commercials about ‘and‘ and ‘or’ say, “and is better.”  All of these are what the Lord desires of us…

To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.



Day 188: Proverbs 20-22; More on Wisdom

I admit that the title of today’s blog is not overly inspiring, yet really that is what today is about… more wisdom.  As I was reading today I again asked the question of what in the world I am going to write about today.  I kind of felt like I was running out of things to say towards the end of the Psalms, and we’re a little over halfway through the Proverbs and I don’t feel like I have much more to contribute.  There are so many things that Solomon covers here, I don’t think that I could do any one of them real justice considering he was indeed the wisest person that ever lived.  So I guess today’s post will be a bit shorter than normal.

One thing that has struck me, that I mentioned a few days ago, is the nature of pursuing wisdom.  Solomon covers this time and again, which as we learned yesterday means that he is trying to emphasize it a great deal.  One of the major things that he repeats is the rewards of pursuing wisdom vs. the rewards of pursuing wealth.  This is clearly demonstrated in the Solomon’s life as well.  When the Lord comes to give Solomon whatever he asks for, Solomon could have chosen great wealth, power, strength, or even long life, yet instead he asked for wisdom and discernment.  God was pleased with this choice, the result of which actually brought to Solomon great wealth and power.  Ultimately though it wasn’t wealth or power that Solomon sought after; he didn’t choose wisdom so that he would get rich.  Solomon chose wisdom so that he would be a wise king.  His pursuit of wisdom though brought the rewards of great wealth and influence which Solomon used well… for a time.

This clarity of pursuit is covered time and again in the proverbs of Solomon and, as we’ll see in the coming days, in other’s proverbs as well.  The pursuit of riches will eventually bring one to ruin.  We see this time and again with people that spend so much time trying to get rich and then loose it all.  Just think of how many people have won the lottery and are filing for bankruptcy.  The numbers are staggering, and incredibly sad.  Yet there are many out there with extraordinary wealth that really haven’t made wealth their full pursuit.  Instead, they have slowly built their lives and laid them on the foundation of God, as Solomon has suggested.  These are wise people whose wealth is not found in money or things, though they surely have more than enough, but is found in relationships, giving, and glorifying God in their actions.  These are the people that we should look to.  They are happy and content with their lives, with all that God has given them, and are bringing honor and glory to Him with all that He has blessed them with.  They have taken the wisdom of Solomon to heart and recognized the true source of their blessings as we all should.



Day 128: 2 Chronicles 17-19; King Jehoshaphat

King Jehoshaphat was arguably the first of the great kings of Judah.  As we have read throughout the books of 1 and 2 Kings, the spiritual state of Israel goes up and down based on the king that is reigning at the time.  We saw how the actions of Rehoboam and Abijah lead that Southern Kingdom wars and even servitude to other nations, and now with Asa and Jehoshaphat we see the flip side of the coin.  When the people follow God, worship Him, and do not go after other gods, the blessings shower down once again.  We see this very clearly with Jehoshaphat and the wealth and fame that is given him and how the “fear of the Lord” descended on the nations around Judah.

Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Joram Photo Credit: www.chinaoilpaintinggallery.com

Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Joram
Photo Credit: www.chinaoilpaintinggallery.com

We read today about the many reforms that took place during the time of Jehoshaphat as well.  Interestingly, he does, in some ways, exactly what our Deuteronomy 17 passage about the Kings of Israel says he should do.  I think that this is the first time I have said this since we started reading about the Kings of Israel.  For us, this has been one of the laws that has guided our vision of what the kings shouldn’t be doing when they are walking in the ways of sin… kind of a “see, I told you so” thing from the Law.  However, there is a section in this chapter that also talks about what the king should do, and this is kind of what Jehoshapaht does, with a little extra on the side!

And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests.  And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them,  that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.

Not only does Jehoshapaht follow the laws of God, he appoints people to take the book of the law with them out to the people of Israel, to teach them the ways of the Lord.  Some of these names might be familiar to you as they were people mentioned in 1 & 2 Kings.  People like Obadiah, Micaiah, and Adonijah were also prophets that were mentioned as folks that talked to the King’s of the Northern Kingdom, particularly Ahab.  While he isn’t named here, this is also the time of Elijah and Elisha, who would be making appearances before Ahab and trying to bring back the ways of the Lord in Israel.

Ahab Killed in Battle Photo Credit: www.jesusfootprints.wordpress.com/

Ahab Killed in Battle
Photo Credit: www.jesusfootprints.wordpress.com

Speaking of Ahab, we encounter once again, the deviousness of the Northern Kingdom under king Ahab.  The narrative of Ahab and Jehoshapaht going up against the army of Ramoth-gilead is ultimately the culmination one of the worst kings in the Northern Kingdom.  Why it is that Jehoshapaht decides to go up with Ahab we will not know.  However, what is primarily pointed out here is how the leader and the people of the Kingdom of Israel have indeed fallen away from the way of the Lord.  Again, this is a narrative of contrasts, seeing Jehoshapaht’s desire to seek the way of the Lord in the face of Ahab’s false prophets.

Ultimately, given the context and the audience that is being spoken to here, the writer is pointing out the dangers of taking counsel with sinners.  There are many echoes in this narrative to Psalm 1.  Jehoshapaht is clearly a king that is living for God, but even so he finds himself in a situation where he must stand for his beliefs in the face of one who certainly doesn’t want to hear it.  Yet the King of Judah stands up for his beliefs and seeks the face of God in spite of Ahab’s displeasure, and it winds up saving his life.

PSALM 1

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.



Day 94: 2 Samuel 21-22; David's Song of Deliverance

If the whole of David’s life were to be summed up into a single phrase, it would arguably be “God is always Faithful.”  Therefore, if we could sum up David’s song 2 Samuel 22, it would be something akin to “God is Great.  God is always Faithful.  Thanks be to God for His Faithfulness.”  Neither of these summaries do justice to the incredible story that is the story of King David’s life, nor the abundant providential faithfulness that God shows time and again throughout David’s years.  They also don’t do justice to the beautiful song that David has written here.  I hope that these two summaries can give us a starting place for thinking about today’s reading and reflecting on David’s life as he enters into is waning years.

Before we get more into the song though, there are some other things that should be mentioned here.  Our reading starts with a famine in the land due to Saul’s unfaithfulness to a long standing covenant with the Gibeonites.  This agreement goes all the way back to Joshua 9 when Joshua is deceived by a group of people pretending to be from a distant land.  This happened during Joshua’s southern campaign, but this is the first and only time we hear about Saul’s actions.  What is interesting about this, I think, is the direct impact this breach of the covenant has on the land, literally the land of Israel.  David seeks after God and the Lord reveals to him the atrocity that has taken place here.  Sometimes I think that we don’t put much stock in agreements that we make anymore.  We have politicians that promise us the world and deliver next to nothing.  Large companies promise great things while delivering shoddy workmanship.  Everything comes with small print…  I wonder what this world would be like if we saw the outwardly direct impact that these breaches have on the world by way of famine, disease, war, etc?  I certainly wouldn’t wish this on us… but it might get a few people’s attention.

We see some of the signs of David’s aging and frailty in chapter 21.  David is in battle and he grows weary?  This isn’t the mighty warrior that we remember from our readings over the last 2 weeks.  David is aging, yet the Lord remains faithful to him in his twilight years.  Other great warriors rise up to defend Israel against what seems like a whole army of giants that come out of the philistines.  There’s even another one named Goliath.  You’d think they’d of avoided that name after what happened to the last one.  However, no matter what their names or what their size, they are no match for the God of Israel.  We once again see God’s faithfulness in action providing for and defending the people of Israel at every turn.

Finally, let us turn our attention once again to the song of David.  As a worship leader, I often struggle to listen to music, especially Christian music, without wanting to hear the lyrics.  I often focus on things like who is this song about, or who are we singing to, or what are the theological overtones of this song.  I think a lot about music, especially worship music, because of the incredible impact that it can have on our lives and on our beliefs as well.  Sadly, there are many “worship songs” out there that really have much more to do with us, the supposed worshiper, than on God who should be the one who is worshiped.  While this could probably be debated a great deal (and I would love to talk about it more), I want to direct our attention back to that of the song of David here in 2 Samuel 22.

David starts out the song with 11 attributes of God right in a row, praising God for who God is.  He then spends the equivalent of 2 lines talking about his own calling out to the Lord and 4 lines referring to why he called out to the Lord, followed by 34 lines of song about the Lord’s answer.  The song continues much in this fashion, focusing more on who God is and the work of God than on the actions of himself.  For David, whether it be safety from Saul or defeat of his enemies, all these things are works of the Lord, faithfulness of God almighty.  For David, everything begins and ends with God.  There is no middle ground here.  We’ll see this more in the Psalms when we get there.  However, for David, as we see here in the twilight of his life, the Lord’s anointed one is giving all honor, all glory, all praise, and all credit to the only one due it: The God of Israel; the God of His fathers, the Holy One and only True God.  May it be so in our lives as we reflect each day on God’s faithfulness to us as well.