How to Fight Injustice: Part 2 – Habakkuk 3

“Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
(Habakkuk 3:17-18, NKJV)

Habakkuk was concerned about the prevalence of injustice in his nation, the kingdom of Judah–God’s chosen people. Habakkuk wondered why God allowed injustice to proliferate among His people: “Therefore the law is powerless and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore perverse judgment proceeds” (vs. 1:4).

God responded that He was, in fact, planning to do something about the injustice in the land by sending the Babylonians to invade Judah and take its people into captivity.

Habakkuk probably had something less calamitous in mind than the downfall of his country when he addressed God about injustice in Judah. So, Habakkuk asked God why He would use the wicked (Babylonians) to punish the righteous (Judahites)? “Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he?” (vs. 1:13).

God replied: “The just shall live by his faith!” (vs. 2:4). In other words, there was no entitlement for being God’s people. Nobody had an inherent claim to God’s name. God’s chosen people were those whom He justified–those who chose to believe in Him and His Mercy and live accordingly!

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How to Fight Injustice: Part 1 – Habakkuk 1-2

“Then the Lord answered me and said: ‘Write the vision and make it plain on tablets that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it because it will surely come; it will not tarry. Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith'” (Habakkuk 2:2-4, NKJV)

The book of Habakkuk is one of my favorite in the Bible. We know Habakkuk wrote his prophecy some time before the siege and capture of Jerusalem in 586 BC by the Babylonians because his prophecy was actually a prediction of the Babylonian conquest of Judah.

In this short book Habakkuk asked God two challenging questions and God answered both in Chapters 1 and 2. Then, Habakkuk offered an inspirational prayer that concludes with a memorable proclamation of faith in Chapter 3 that we will consider in the following post.

But the significance of the book of Habakkuk is that it contains one of the most familiar (and powerful) verses in the Bible–both Old and New Testament–that is a fundamental premise of our Christian theology. And, you know it, whether you know it comes from Habakkuk or not!

Like many good citizens today, Habakkuk was concerned about injustice in his nation, the kingdom of Judah. Habakkuk wondered why God allowed such oppression to proliferate among His chosen people: “Therefore the law is powerless and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore perverse judgment proceeds” (vs. 1:4).

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Faith And …. Philippians 3

“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write to you again about this is no trouble for me and is a protection for you. Watch out for ‘dogs,’ watch out for evil workers, watch out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, the ones who serve by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:1-3, HCSB).

Most Christians today are probably more concerned about learning correct doctrine than they are about avoiding incorrect doctrine. And, as a result incorrect doctrine can sometimes weave its way into our theological understanding if we don’t beware of incorrect teaching about our salvation in Jesus Christ.

Avoiding false doctrine and its dubious teachers was a big deal to the Apostle Paul. So much so that he used some pretty strong language to call out these teachers of false doctrine.

Specifically, the teaching Paul was castigating in these verses was legalism–salvation that is rules-based and works-oriented. These deceitful teachers told the Philippians that as Gentiles they not only needed to accept Christ as Savior but they also needed to be circumcised and obey the law of Moses in order to be saved.

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Untold Tenets: A Quick Look – John 3:1-21

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (John 3:14-15 NIV).

Untold Tenets is a series of devotions that captures its lessons from lesser-known and sometimes overlooked scriptures embedded within or immediately following a well-known bible story or biblical text.

John 3:1-21 records the well-known story of the conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Jewish ruling council. This story contains what are probably two of the most recognizable and often quoted verses in the New Testament: John 3:7 – “You must be born again” and John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son….”

Although the illustrious verses 3:7 and 3:16 usually draw most of the expository attention in the Nicodemus story, the more obscure verses 14 and 15 are actually the focus of this discussion. In these verses Jesus refers to an event in Numbers 21 in the Old Testament and uses it as a lead-in to His dramatic pronouncement in John 3:16.

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Savage Faith – Lessons from John 6

CrucifiedWithChrist“Jesus said to them, ‘I assure you, unless you eat the flesh of the Human One and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me lives because of me’” (John 6:53-57, CEB).

I’m not so certain that in these verses Jesus is just talking about taking communion. Certainly, communion celebrates the flesh and blood sacrifice of Jesus through the imagery of the bread and the wine. I suppose these verses might even be used to support the notion that the bread and wine of the Eucharist is somehow changed into the body and blood of Christ.

But I don’t think that’s at all what Jesus had in mind here.

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Emancipation Proclamation – Hebrews 13:1-8

Emancipation_Proclamation“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:7-8, NASB).

Recently in the men’s Sunday School class I attend, the lesson was from Hebrews 13. And, this lesson from Hebrews 13 helped me resolve a long-standing theological dilemma I had wrestled with from Romans 6-8.

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Wait Training, Part 3: Wait Watchers – Isaiah 40:31

HawkWatching&WaitingBut they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31, KJV).

When we wait upon the Lord, our faith is actually strengthened because the act of waiting develops God’s perspective in us. In other words, it’s Wait Training!

So, wouldn’t you rather be having faith for what you know God wants to do and wants you to do instead of hoping that what you want to do is what God wants you to do?

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Wait Training, Part 2: The Inscrutability of God – Isaiah 40:28-29

Waiting_For_God“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power” (Isaiah 40:28-29, NASB).

When we wait upon the Lord, our faith is actually strengthened because the act of waiting develops God’s perspective in us. In other words, it’s Wait Training!

“Waiting upon the Lord” causes you to rise above your present circumstances to get a higher view, a more objective view, a God-view of them. From that vantage point, you can gain perspective about what it is that you are hoping and trusting God to do and thereby develop a better understanding of God’s plans and purposes for you.

When you follow the advice to “wait upon the Lord” (vs. 31), it’s easy to see why you must wait on God to act and to perform His will when you consider it within the context of the previous verses. God is the Everlasting Creator of the universe. Time and space exist only within His Infinite realm (vs. 28). So, He proceeds about the business of performing His will at the perfect pace!

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Wait Training, Part 1: Strengthening Your Faith – Isaiah 40:31

wait-trainingBut they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31, KJV).

When I was younger, we often sang this verse at prayer meetings or Bible studies as a song. Then, at the end of the verse we added this refrain to the song: “Teach me Lord, teach me Lord, to wait.”

The Hebrew word that is translated “they that wait upon” in the KJV finds its root in another Hebrew word that means to wait or look for, to hope for or expect. The sense of the waiting in this verse is eager expectation or anticipation. So, the NIV translates it as “those who hope” and the HCSB translates it as “those who trust.”

Unfortunately, when we talk about “waiting upon the Lord,” it’s not necessarily waiting with hopeful anticipation, but more like waiting with dreaded apprehension! For us, waiting upon the Lord is exceedingly distressful and practically unbearable. Instead of eagerly waiting upon the Lord, we impatiently wait upon the Lord.

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Faith That Works – James 2:14-26

faith_that_works“Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:17, NASB).

James maintains that faith is a two-step process. Belief is the first step of faith and works is the last step.

According to James, faith is not completed without works because works is belief put into action. Faith starts with belief, but works is the culmination of belief. Belief is faith sitting down. Works is faith walking!

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