Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Thanks for reading "Brother Bob's Blog." I have merged several of my blogs into my new site, www.bobrogers.me. On that site you can find Bible teaching, Holy Humor stories, articles about church ministry and Southern Baptists and a collection of other thoughts from this pastor. I hope to see you there!
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
You can follow the daily progress of the French youth group on my new blog at www.bobrogers.me
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Saturday, October 22, 2011
On Sunday night, October 23, we will have a special Lord's Supper service in English, French, and Spanish, as our Spanish-language mission church will join us in worship.
Follow this blog each day for photographs and updates.
Thursday, October 06, 2011
"Pray to the Lord your God on our behalf... that the Lord your God may tell us the way we should walk and the thing we should do."
-- Jeremiah 42:2-3, HCSB
After Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon, the temple burned, and most of the people deported, the remnant left in the land were devastated and sought God's will for their future. Should they remain in the land or go to Egypt?
So they asked Jeremiah the prophet to pray and seek God's will for them. In this scripture we learn four important lessons about praying for God's will.
1) If somebody asks you to pray for God's will, do it! Jeremiah told them, "I have heard, I will now pray to the Lord..." (Jeremiah 42:4).
We should take prayer requests seriously, and make them a high priority. Jeremiah had been willing to pray for the people time and time again, even when they were disobedient, and even when God told him to stop praying. (See Jeremiah 14:11, 19) The prophet Samuel said, "I will not sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you." (1 Samuel 12:23)
2) Don't get in a hurry when praying for God's will. Some people pray quickly and act impulsively, without truly seeking God's direction for their lives, searching the scriptures, considering the alternatives and consequences, and waiting on God's direction. If God's will has not been clearly revealed, do not rush the matter. Jeremiah spent ten days in prayer before God revealed His will to him. "Now at the end of 10 days, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah." (Jeremiah 42:7)
3) If you pray for God's will, be prepared to obey. When Jeremiah got an answer, it was not the answer the people wanted to hear. He told them that God said to stay in the land, but they wanted to go to Egypt. They called Jeremiah a liar (Jeremiah 43:2) and accused Jeremiah's scribe Baruch of inciting him to betray them into the hands of the Babylonian army (Jeremiah 43:3). But Jeremiah reminded them. "You have led your own selves astray because you are the ones who sent me to the Lord your God, saying, 'Pray to the Lord our God on our behalf.'" (Jeremiah 42:20) Their actual words to Jeremiah had been "pray to your God," but he was reminding them that the Lord was their God, as well, and they had an obligation to obey Him.
4) The safest place to be is in the center of God's will. When the remnant of Jews decided to disobey God's will, they went to Egypt and forced Jeremiah to go with them. Archaeologists have found there was a remnant of Yahweh worship in southern Egypt that existed for a time in the Elephantine community, but it ceased to exist, and by 410 B.C. they temple was destroyed and all record of this group of Jews was lost. Jeremiah had told them they would be destroyed in Egypt and never return to their homeland (Jeremiah 44:27-30), and his word came true.
Notice the word contrast between Jeremiah 44:27 and the famous and popular verse, Jeremiah 29:11. They are direct opposites. In Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord promised a future and hope; He promised good and not disaster. But in Jeremiah 44:27, they they refused to follow God's will, He promised disaster and not good. This is an important reminder that Jeremiah 29:11 is not a guarantee that all of us will have a good future. Many people who read Jeremiah 29:11 fail to keep reading in verses 12-13, which instruct us to pray to the Lord and seek Him with all our hearts. The Jewish remnant prayed, but their prayers were insincere. They didn't seek God's will with all their hearts. It may not be easy to follow God's will, but it is always the safest way to go.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." -- Romans 8:31,35, 37-39 (ESV)
Why did she commit suicide? Could I have done something to prevent it? Most of us have asked these questions. While there are no easy answers, the Bible gives us help in this time of grief.
Let me suggest several truths that can help us.
1) Guard against being judgmental.
This is not a time to judge the school, church, friends family, and certainly not a time to judge the one who took her life. No one knows the pressures or problems another person faces. Jesus taught us, "Judge not, lest you be judged." (Matthew 7:1, KJV) She had a forgiving heart, and turned the other cheek, and so must we. It will not help to judge others, nor to judge yourself.
There's probably not a person here who hasn't said the word "if." If only I had said something or done something different, perhaps she would not have taken her life. Martha used the word "if." In John 11, Mary and Martha's brother Lazarus was dying and they sent for Jesus to heal him, but Lazarus died before Jesus arrived. In John 11:21, "Martha said to Jesus, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.'" But "if" is about the past. "If" cannot bring her back, and it will not help us in the present.
Instead of asking "why?" or wondering "if," we need to ask "what." What can I do now? Jesus told Martha what she needed: "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live." (John 11:25, ESV)
So instead of asking, "why," let's ask "what." What can we do to be better because of this?
2) Hold on to our hope in Christ.
There is no point in ignoring the elephant in the room. Her parents have encouraged me to speak openly about suicide, because they don't want anybody else to suffer through this.
So let's address the matter directly. Is suicide a sin? Yes, it is. Is suicide the unpardonable sin? No, it is not. There are so many reasons why we should not take our own lives, which I will discuss in a moment, but the Bible does not teach that suicide cannot be forgiven. Mark 3:28-30 says that all sins can be forgiven, except for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Jesus said these words because the Pharisees were resisting the tug of the Holy Spirit on their hearts to follow Christ, and in fact they had accused Christ of having a demonic spirit.
Our salvation is not based on the way we die, but based on the one who died for us. John 3:16 (KJV) says, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life." He died for our sins on the cross, so that everybody who believes in him does not have to perish, but will live forever.
3) God brings good out of the bad.
When the apostle Paul was in prison in Rome, he wrote from the jail cell to the church in Philippi, "I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel." (Philippians 1:12, ESV) In fact, we read in Acts 16 that when Paul was in jail in Philippi, God used Paul to lead the jailer to faith in Christ, and now he was reminding the church in Philippi that God was doing it again in Rome.
When Jesus died on the cross, the disciples thought their world had come to an end, and Jesus had been defeated. But instead, God was using it to forgive our sins, and then God raised Jesus from the dead to pave the way for us to have eternal life. God is in the business of bringing good out of bad!
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Jesus Christ is the permanent solution who makes our problems temporary!
"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but he things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ESV)
4) Let's examine our own lives.
Life is a gift. We should not waste our lives by suddenly taking it, or by wasting it slowly by degrees, with meaningless living. Make your days count. Hug your children. Hug your parents. Say, "I love you." Listen to one another. Reach out for help when you are in despair. Talk about your problems. We have a choice to be bitter or better because of this. If we can draw closer together as a community and with our families, we can be better.
Storms will come in our lives, but those who withstand are those who have strong roots. Years ago, a powerful storm blew down an oak tree in front of our youth center. It crushed the roof and did major damage to our Middle School department. Thankfully, it happened at night when nobody was inside. The reason it happened was that tree did not have deep roots. A tree that has deep roots can withstand a bigger storm.
The way you get deep roots is by a personal relationships with Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. As you grow in your relationship with Him by faith, your roots get deeper and deeper, and you are more able to stand against the storms of life.
We will never understand all of the reasons why there is tragedy in life, but if we are rooted in Christ, we can hold on despite the tragedies we face.
The contemporary Christian group, 4Him, wrote a song about the tragic death of a friend, saying,
"When the reasons aren't clear to me
When it all is a mystery
I want to know why.
And though down here I may not understand
I won't let go of the Unseen Hand
For it holds the reasons why."
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
I grew up an Army chaplain's son, worshiping in a Protestant chapel, so I have a love and appreciation for other Christians, but my father was appointed as a chaplain by Southern Baptists, and I have always been a Southern Baptist. Like the old saying, "I'm Southern Baptist born, Southern Baptist bred, and when I die, I'll be Southern Baptist dead."
Recently, Bryant Wright, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, appointed a task force to study the possibility of changing the name of the denomination. (Read more here: http://www.baptistpress.org/bpnews.asp?id=36165)
Regarding the possible SBC name change, I understand the reason for the suggestion, but I think it is unwise.
As a teenager, as I was a member of an SBC church in Staten Island, New York, when my Dad was in the Army. I remember that the "Southern" name was not helpful to our outreach in New York. We now have churches in every part of the country, so "Southern" is somewhat of a misnomer. However, I think most churches outside the South can easily handle that by simply using the name "Baptist" without putting "Southern" on their sign. Many churches don't even use a denominational name anyway. Those churches can simply put "Affiliated SBC" on their sign to inform those who are looking for a Southern Baptist church.
Southern Baptist is a name we have had since 1845, and that brings with it a strong name recognition which should not be tossed aside without long and careful consideration.
Even if a name change is needed, this is not a good time to add the burden and expense of replacing signs, letterheads, logos, stationery, etc. in the middle of a recession. Our churches and agencies are hurting enough financially, and we do not need to add a new expense that would take away from evangelism and missions.
It seems to me there are many more important things that we need to change before we consider a name change. If we would allow God to change our hearts and our churches and work a revival among us, if we would change our focus from selfishly trying to meet our own felt needs to reaching a world with the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ, then I question whether we would even feel a need to change our name.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
* God brings hope to any and every situation.
Lamentations 3:21-23 “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
* Hope is knowing that life is worth living because as a Christian I will be in heaven when God chooses to take me home. (I am not in charge of when I go to heaven, it is not my choice.)
Colossians 1:23 “Do not be moved away from the hope held out in the Gospel”
* Even though life’s situations may be difficult, God has made a way to save me from these burdens by making a plan of salvation in His Son Jesus Christ. God’s plan for my life is to be in His hands.
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
* Time is guaranteed to change your circumstances, but change does take time.
Isaiah 40:31 “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run, and not be weary; and they will walk, and not be faint.”
* I can still live in this world, but not be of it.
John 17:15-16 “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.”
* This world is not supposed to offer you satisfaction, only God fills the void in our hearts and provides our worth and significance.
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
* Because of God’s sovereign (complete control) and loving care for me in every situation, remember:
- I have freedom from the power and penalty of sin
- In any difficulty, I have the promise of victory that Jesus Christ has already attained through His death and resurrection
- I have personal support from the Lord Jesus Christ
- I have the promise that God will work out trials for my benefit as I live according to His Word
- I can have God’s peace and joy in any situation
- I have no biblical responsibility to change others—only myself
- I can have hope renewed, even if I fail.
Bryan Gilde is Minister to Students at First Baptist Church, Rincon, Georgia. He is a graduate of Berry College and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. You may email him at email@example.com.
Friday, September 09, 2011
"Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know." -- Jeremiah 33:3, HCSB
Some say God's "phone number" is JER 33.3, referring to this great promise of Jeremiah 33:3 that God will give great answers to our prayers. The context of this promise is the great prayer of Jeremiah in 32:16-25. In that passage, we notice three characteristics of great prayer:
1) Pray to a great God.
Jeremiah speaks of God's great character in verse 17: "Oh, Lord God! You Yourself made the heavens and earth by Your great power and with Your outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for you!" He speaks of God's great covenant in verse 18: "You show faithful love to thousands..." He speaks of God's great counsel in verse 19: "the One great in counsel and mighty in deed..."
2) Pray believing God still acts today.
Notice that in verse 20, Jeremiah not only remembers God's signs and wonders in Egypt, but goes on to say that God continues to "do so to this very day."
3) Pray believing God keeps His promises.
Jeremiah prayed in verse 24, pointing out that God was allowing the city of Jerusalem to be conquered just as He had promised would happen. God warned them that they would be punished, and they were, as Babylon laid siege to the walls of Jerusalem (see Jeremiah 32:2). But God also promised that after 70 years, He would punish Babylon and bring them home, so they had a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:10-14). Jeremiah reasoned that if God kept His promise of punishment, He would also keep His promise of grace. Thus, believing they would come back one day, Jeremiah told the Lord in verse 25 that since God told him to buy property for the future in the land of Judah, he would buy it, even as they were about to be taken to Babylon in exile.
Can you pray believing God when all hope seems lost? If you can, you can pray a great prayer!
Notice what "great and incomprehensible things" God showed him in chapter 33. In Jeremiah 33:7 God promised a return from captivity, and in 33:15 God promised a Messiah: "In those days and at that time I will cause a Righteous Branch to sprout up for David..." God always does more than we can imagine.
So let us pray great prayers to our great God!
Copyright 2011 by Bob Rogers
Thursday, September 08, 2011
More than eight months ago, Wayne Robertson from Valdosta, Georgia, announced that he would nominate me as president of the Georgia Baptist Convention when Baptists gather for our annual meeting this November. If elected, I welcome the chance to come alongside Dr. White, executive director of the GBC, to encourage him and to support him in his work. I want to bring a fresh, new vision to our state convention where all pastors from every part of the state feel involved and connected to the work of God’s Kingdom through Georgia Baptists.My vision to lead the GBC flows out of the Great Commission. Georgia Baptists of all types and styles can come together for the common work of the Great Commission, recognizing that a cooperative, unified work is necessary to be faithful to the Scriptures. With the lostness of Georgia growing greater each year, I want to call for “all hands on deck” to reach the lost, strengthen churches, grow disciples, and serve our communities. Instead of labeling or grouping pastors into categories such as young, old, contemporary, traditional, etc., I will ask Georgia Baptist pastors to commit to a unified category—“Great Commission pastors.” As president, I trust that each pastor can look into the mirror and judge for himself whether or not he’s being faithful to the Great Commission call of Christ. I would encourage pastors to pursue the Great Commission in whatever church or ministry context they find themselves. A church in Atlanta may accomplish it differently that a church in Ringgold. A small, rural congregation will go about it in a different way than a large, suburban congregation. A church plant inside the I-285 perimeter will flesh out the Great Commission is ways that are unlike the approaches of a county seat church in south Georgia. But the unifying factor in all of our work is a commitment to the Great Commission. As president, I will encourage pastors to be champions of the Great Commission and to be faithful to the call upon their lives. When “all hands” are on deck together, churches will be strengthened, the lostness will be penetrated, and lives will be changed.
The time is too short, the need is too great, and the call is too clear for Baptists not to be working together, in a spirit of inclusion and cooperation greater than we’ve ever seen before. As GBC president, I want to bring a renewed sense of unity and agreement among the pastors of our state, casting a fresh vision of what we can do together as the Body of Christ.
Monday, September 05, 2011
Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4 (HCSB)
This week, people all across America are preparing for a time of remembrance as the tenth anniversary of the attacks on September 11 draws near. As I hear stories of where people were when they first heard the news, it got me thinking: What was the most common question asked that fateful week in 2001? The question was “Why?” In the heat of the moment, when we face trials or difficulties, it is so easy to default to asking the question why. It’s only natural. We all want to know the reason behind the challenges we face.
As I look back at my life, I can see markers of “life lessons learned the hard way”. It seems that every test or trial that I have faced throughout my life has taught me a spiritual lesson. It’s unfortunate that we can’t always see these lessons until we endure them to the end. I guess that is why they say “hindsight is 20/20”.
If you look at James 1:2-4, it is not referring to hindsight. That is the challenge that I struggle with. James is preparing believers to consider it great joy WHEN you experience various trials. When implies that trials WILL come; it is not a matter of IF. Second, we are supposed to count it JOY in the midst of the trial, not afterwards when we have had time to think about it. That is very hard to do. Our first inclination is to put up our defenses and begin questioning God as to why He let this happen in the first place.
In James’ day, the early followers of Christ were faced with uncompromising persecution from various sides. The problems that I spend so much time complaining about seem small and petty in comparison to what the early Christian church experienced. I need to gain a little perspective and thank God that I can count what I am going through as a source of great joy in my life. I need to spend more time appreciating my trials as the means God has chosen to mold me more into His character, and less into what I want for myself.
In looking back at these life lessons learned, I need to use them to encourage those around me who are facing similar trials. God does nothing haphazard or random. The “Why?” that we are so eager to answer during our trials is producing endurance in the life of every believer. We are to use the maturity that results to encourage those around us in similar circumstances. If God brings you through a trial, use that experience to better relate to others who don’t have the benefit of hindsight. God is calling all of us to be a part of his plan and part of that plan is impacting the lives of people we come in contact with.
Everyone has a story. This next week, take time to listen to someone else’s story of a trial they may be going through. Resist the temptation to speak or give advice until they have had the opportunity to share what is on their heart. It could be that you will have an open opportunity to interject how God carried you through a similar situation and you will be used by Him to bring a portion of peace and joy to someone else’s life.
Jason McNair and his wife, Brittany, serve on staff with the Utah Idaho Southern Baptist Convention. He is the Religious Education and Collegiate Consultant working to strengthen the discipleship and Sunday school/small group ministries of 150 churches and missions. He has been with UISBC since 2009, after serving five years at First Baptist Chuch in Rincon, GA and nine years at First Southern Baptist Church in Salt Lake City, UT. He also contributes regularly to the blog, www.SundaySchoolLeader.com, where he oversees social media for the site. This blog is a partnership with the state Sunday school departments of all 42 SBC State Conventions.
Monday, August 15, 2011
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior."
-- Habakkuk 3:17-18, NIV 1984
Copyright 2011 by Bob Rogers
Our nation has suffered hard economic times since 2008, and now there are new concerns, as our nation’s credit rating was downgraded last week, followed by a drop in the stock market that was the worst since this crisis began in 2008. Unemployment continues to be high, at 9.1% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, August 5, 2011).
The prophet Habakkuk also lived in hard times, and in the final chapter of his prophecy, Habakkuk 3, he prayed a prayer about it, a prayer for hard times which was a psalm that was sung to the Lord. Notice it begins in verse one with a musical notation "shigionoth," just like is found in Psalm 7, and it ends with a statement, “For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.”
Shortly after we went into the Great Recession, the pop/rock Christian band, Needtobreathe, wrote the same theme as Habakkuk in their song, “These Hard Times.” They sing:
“It's clear enough to me
The ugliness I see
Is evidence of who I need
Give me an answer
Give me the way out
Give me the faith
To believe in these hard times
(“These Hard Times,” from album The Outsiders, by Needtobreathe.)
So string up the guitar, string the harp, and let’s learn to sing this prayer for hard times. This ain’t the blues, this is God’s word:
I. Repeat Your deeds (v. 2)
Habakkuk lived in hard times: war was on the horizon, the politicians were corrupt, the courts favored the rich with their bribes, the people lived in moral anarchy, and the economy was in shambles. The army of Babylon sat to the north, intending to invade Judah. Meanwhile, the evil king of Judah was allowing the rich to get whatever they wanted from the judges with bribery, while families were falling apart from failed marriages and failed crops.
Habakkuk long for Israel’s glory days. He said in verse 2, “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known…”
He had read the stories in scripture; Habakkuk knew about how God led Abraham and Moses and Joshua and David; he wanted to see the Lord do it again! He wanted God to renew the glory days in his day. His prayer to God was, “Repeat your deeds.”
After the tragedy of 9/11, Christian author Max Lucado wrote a prayer, called “Do It Again.” Here is part of his prayer:
We're still hoping we'll wake up….What a horrible dream.
But we won't, will we, Father? What we saw was not a dream. Planes did gouge towers. Flames did consume our fortress. People did perish. It was no dream and, dear Father, we are sad. … And so we come to you. … We've pondered the stories and now we plead, Do it again, Lord. Do it again.
Remember Joseph? You rescued him from the pit. You can do the same for us. Do it again, Lord.
Remember the Hebrews in Egypt? You protected their children from the angel of death. We have children, too, Lord. Do it again….You changed Daniel from a captive into a king's counselor. You took Peter the fisherman and made him Peter an apostle. Because of you, David went from leading sheep to leading armies. Do it again, Lord, for we need counselors today, Lord. We need apostles. We need leaders. Do it again, dear Lord.
Most of all, do again what you did at Calvary. What we saw here on that Tuesday, you saw there on that Friday. Innocence slaughtered. Goodness murdered. Mothers weeping. Evil dancing. Just as the ash fell on our children, the darkness fell on your Son. Just as our towers were shattered, the very Tower of Eternity was pierced.
And by dusk, heaven's sweetest song was silent, buried behind a rock.
But you did not waver, O Lord. You did not waver. After three days in a dark hole, you rolled the rock and rumbled the earth and turned the darkest Friday into the brightest Sunday. Do it again, Lord. Grant us a September Easter..."
This was Habakkuk’s prayer, as well, for God to do it again, to repeat the great deeds of the past.
II. Remember Your mercy (v. 2)
In the last part of verse 2, Habakkuk added another plea: “in wrath remember mercy.”
Habakkuk knew that God was allowing the armies of Babylon to come against Judah as punishment for their sin. He knew they would suffer God’s wrath, so he pled for God to have compassion and mercy on them.
A guy had his picture taken. He was very upset with the photographer and very upset with the picture. He rushed back in to the photographer and said, “Look at this picture of me! This picture does not do me justice!”
The photographer looked at him and said, “Mister, with a face like yours, you don’t need justice, you need mercy!”
That’s exactly the situation that Judah was in during Habakkuk’s day, and it’s still the same for us today. We don’t need justice, but because of our sin, we need a whole lot of mercy. (Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations, p. 211)
III. Reveal Your glory (v. 3-16)
In the longest part of the chapter, the psalm paints a picture of God marching from Mt. Sinai in the south, where Moses had received the Law, and going northward as if to meet the enemy. The psalm seems to have a double meaning, alluding back to how God guided Israel in the exodus and wilderness wanderings as they came out of Egypt and went into the Promised Land, and the psalm also appears to show how God was with them still in Habakkuk’s time, as they faced a new enemy from the north, the army of Babylon.
In verse 3, “Teman” was a village in Edom, south of the Dead Sea, and “Mount Paran” is mentioned along with Mt. Sinai, where Moses received the law (Deuteronomy 33:2).
In verse 5, the plagues and pestilence reminds us of God’s judgment on Egypt through the Ten Plagues (Exodus 7-12).
In verse 7, he refers to the Arab tribes of Cushan and Midian in the territory of Edom, where the Israelites came at the end of their wilderness wanderings.
In verse 8, he makes poetic allusions to the plague on the Nile river, and the parting of the Red Sea and the Jordan River as the Lord guided Israel to freedom.
In verse 11, he makes reference to the time when Joshua asked the sun to stand still as he conquered the Promised Land (Joshua 10:12-13).
In verse 13, the reference to God crushing “the leader of the land of wickedness” could refer to Pharaoh in Egypt or to the nations of Canaan or could even refer to Babylon in Habakkuk’s time.
With majestic language, Habakkuk’s song reminds me of the Battle Hymn of the Republic:
“He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored,
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
Our God is marching on.”
Back in verse 2, Habakkuk had said he had heard about God but never experienced God. Now in verse 16, Habakkuk says, “I heard and my heart pounded… yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.”
Like Job, who said he had heard rumors of God but it was nothing like actually encountering God in the whirlwind, so Habakkuk is saying he had heard stories about God before, but now he has actually experienced a revelation of God’s glory. So bring on the Babylonian invasion if it has to come. He has learned, as he said in Habakkuk 2:4, that the “righteous shall live by faith.” So if Babylon comes to judge Judah, so be it. He will wait patiently, knowing one day God will bring judgment on Babylon.
We can do the same. Trouble may come. Hard times may be here. But if we can get a glimpse of God’s glory, we can handle it, because we know He is in control. Thus we come to the most inspiring part of the song…
IV. Refresh my joy (v. 17-18)
In verses 17-18, the prophet brings the song home, in one of the most inspiring passages of the Old Testament.
“Though the fig tree does not bud
And there are no grapes on the vines
Though the olive crop fails
And the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen
And no cattle in the stalls,
Yet will I rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
As King David said in Psalm 51:12 when he repented of his sin, “Do not take away the joy of my salvation.”
As the apostle Paul said from a jail cell in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”
David could say it in grief, and Paul in jail, and so could Habakkuk in hard times. Habakkuk was praying for a refreshing of his joy, despite his circumstances. He had learned the lesson of 2:4, “the righteous will live by faith.”
Habakkuk could say today,
“Though I work for years without a raise
And the stock market crashes
Though my business fails
And interest rates fall
Though I get laid off
And nobody is hiring,
I’m still singing a song of joy
Because the Lord has saved me.”
Times may be hard, but don’t let the devil steal your joy. Live by faith.
V. Renew my strength (v. 19)
Yet Habakkuk concludes the psalm and concludes his prophetic book with one more prayer, for the Lord to renew his strength.
“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”
The words translated in the NIV as “Sovereign Lord” are literally the words “Yahweh Adonai.” Yahweh is the proper name of the Lord, often indicated in the Old Testament with all capital letters: LORD, because whenever a Jew saw the word Yahweh, he didn’t want to take the name of the Lord in vain, so instead of saying the name, he said Adonai, which means Lord. But how do you translate it when the two words are used together? The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates it exactly as it says, “Yahweh my Lord.” The NIV translates it with the idea that Adonai is stressing the Lordship of Yahweh, so it is translated “Sovereign Lord.” The point is that the Lord is that things may be bad, we may be in hard times, but God is still the sovereign Lord, in complete control. Yahweh is still on the throne as king of kings and Lord of Lords.
Because of this, he gives me strength and makes me sure-footed in my confidence, like a deer that can prance upon the mountain heights.
CONCLUSION: Linh Huynh learned how God can give refresh our joy and renew our strength. In 1980, Linh Huynh‘s parents worked in Saigon, in the South of Vietnam. Vietnam had been sending soldiers to force young men into their military service. Her younger brother was 15 so the family sneaked him out of the country by way of a small boat. After her brother escaped, her parents left their business in Saigon and escaped by boat to Indonesia. They lived in a refugee camp awaiting a sponsor to America.
In 1981, a pastor in Rincon, Georgia sponsored her parents and four children to America. They visited the church but Linh spoke no English and remembers only a tall man with grey hair. Anyway, the sponsor found an apartment for them in nearby Garden City, Georgia. Sixteen year old Linh attended Savannah High School and quickly learned English. Her parents established a business and eventually moved to Atlanta where they still live. Linh attended college. Taking advantage of her language skills and her parents’ business contacts in Asia, she traveled and built an import/export business in Florida. While visiting Hilton Head she met the man she would later marry, a man from Iowa. They moved to Pensacola, Florida where they now reside.
Last Saturday (August 6, 2011), Linh was riding down I-95 with her son, Carson, who is planning to attend the University of South Alabama and pursue an education in the field of medicine. She was thinking about how far they had come, thanks to the love of Christians in Rincon, Georgia. At one time she was a boat person, a refugee of Vietnam. Now she was living a blessed life, riding a yellow Corvette through Georgia. So she got off the interstate and drove 8 miles north to Rincon, and saw some people at First Baptist Church of Rincon. She met Lenny & Beth Pye, and Bill & Lucia Gammon, who were at the Sunday School office that Saturday, and told her story.
Bill Gammon asked the question that had been on my mind…”Do you attend church in Pensacola?” Sadly, we didn’t get a resounding “Yes!” Even though Carson attended a Christian school and remembers being baptized, they were not active in a church. They encouraged them to find a Bible-believing church and get involved. Bill recommended a church to them. They had heard of it and Carson said he would check it out. Bill asked if we could pray with them before they left, they said yes so we did.
As they drove off , Linh had tears in her eyes as she whispered, “I just wanted to say ‘Thank you.’”
Andrae Crouch wrote a song years ago called, “Through It All.”
“I've Had Many Tears And Sorrows,
I've Had Questions For Tomorrow,
there's Been Times I Didn't Know Right From Wrong.
but In Every Situation,
God Gave Me Blessed Consulation,
that My Trials Come To Only Make Me Strong.
through It All,
through It All,
I've Learned To Trust In Jesus,
I've Learned To Trust In God.
Through it all,
Through it all,
I’ve learned to depend upon His word.
i Thank God For The Mountains,
and I Thank Him For The Valleys,
i Thank Him For The Storms He Brought Me Through.
for If I'd Never Had A Problem,
i Wouldn't Know God Could Solve Them,
i'd Never Know What Faith In God Could Do
through It All,
through It All,
I've Learned To Trust In Jesus,
I've Learned To Trust In God.”
Habakkuk would agree. How about you?
Copyright 2011 by Bob Rogers