Sunday, April 22, 2012

Holding Onto the Vision

This is a sermon written by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett and preached at Resurrection Baptist Church (Montpelier, VT) on April 15, 2012 and at Faith Community Church (Barre, VT) on April 22, 2012. It is part two of a three part series on the Old Testament book of Habakkuk.

Introduction:
Habakkuk was a little known prophet who lived about 700 years before Christ. He would have served as a prophet about the same time as the prophet Jeremiah, who was more well-known. This was a time in which the nation of Israel was in midst of being destroyed, mostly due to their unwillingness to serve the Lord wholeheartedly. It was a period of general deterioration of religious principles and conviction. Personal relationship with God had reached a new low in their culture. Our modern culture has a lot of similarities to Habakkuk’s day, which is why we should study this small book that hardly anyone reads.

Scripture Text: Habakkuk 2:1-4, 14-16, 18-20
1
I will stand at my guard post and station myself on the lookout tower. I will watch to see what He will say to me and what I should reply about my complaint. 2 The LORD answered me: Write down this vision; clearly inscribe it on tablets so one may easily read it. 3 For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it testifies about the end and will not lie. Though it delays, wait for it, since it will certainly come and not be late. 4 Look, his ego is inflated; he is without integrity. But the righteous one will live by his faith. 14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD’s glory, as the waters cover the sea. 18 What use is a carved idol after its craftsman carves it? It is only a cast image, a teacher of lies. For the one who crafts its shape trusts in it and makes idols that cannot speak. 19 Woe to him who says to wood: Wake up! or to mute stone: Come alive! Can it teach? Look! It may be plated with gold and silver, yet there is no breath in it at all. 20 But the LORD is in His holy temple; let everyone on earth be silent in His presence. (HCSB)

Explanation of Each Verse:

Verse 1 - I will stand at my guard post and station myself on the lookout tower. I will watch to see what He will say to me and what I should reply about my complaint.
             Habakkuk poured out his heart to God over the complex problems he saw around him and then he waited for God to respond. Habakkuk did not have a casual attitude toward waiting on the Lord, he was serious. The verse uses a military illustration to demonstrate the clarity of focus that Habakkuk had while he waited on God. He was like a guard on duty watching earnestly to see what would happen. Even in the midst of all the struggles he saw around him, he had faith that God was going to do something, even though he did not know what that something would be.
             We can learn a lot from Habakkuk’s attitude. When we cry out to God and he does not respond as quickly as we want, or in the way we want, we must resist the temptation to give up on our faith and stop trusting. We must remain diligent in believing that God will respond, in the right way and right time. We must continue to wait on the Lord. Waiting on God is not idle time to do nothing. Waiting on God involves spending time in His Word and in prayer seeking answers from Him. It also involves being with God’s people so we can get godly advice from them.
             A key component to waiting on the Lord is to be watchful. We must have faith that something will happen and then be watching for it so that we do not miss it. Only the Lord knows how many times we missed something big that He wanted to do.

Verse 2 - The LORD answered me: Write down this vision; clearly inscribe it on tablets so one may easily read it.
             When the Lord responded to Habakkuk, He told him to write down what was said so everyone could read it. It was common practice in those days to place public notices at key crossroads or at the gates of a city so everyone could read them. These notices were written with large letters so a person rushing by could still read it. Though God often remains silent longer than we would like Him to, when He does respond, He usually does it in ways that everyone can see. Remember when God told Noah to build an ark to save his family from a worldwide flood? But God waited 120 years to send the rain. But when it came, no one missed it! Remember when Joshua and the Israelites marched around the walls of Jericho for a week, but when the walls finally fell down, it got everyone’s attention. Remember how when Jesus walked the earth, He performed miracles that astounded the crowds and no could deny were from God.
             God may work behind the scenes for weeks, months, or even years, but when He is ready to display His work, it will be very hard to miss! In fact, the only people who will miss God’s activities are those who have become so wrapped up in the world that they are no longer paying attention to God.

Verse 3 - For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it testifies about the end and will not lie. Though it delays, wait for it, since it will certainly come and not be late.
             Though God wanted everyone to know what He was going to do, God also made it clear that it would not happen until the time was right. Despite Habakkuk’s deep burden, God still made him wait until the timing was right.
             Sometimes God puts a burden for something in our hearts, and we know clearly that it is from Him, but the timing is not yet right and we have to wait. As time passes, it is tempting to let the vision begin to fade, or even forget about it completely. We must not let that happen. If it is really a vision from God, then it will certainly come to pass. We must cling to the clear visions that God has put on our hearts and believe that when the time is right, they will happen.

Verse 4 - Look, his ego is inflated; he is without integrity. But the righteous one will live by his faith.
             Verse four can be hard to understand unless we remember what God said in chapter one. In Habakkuk chapter 1 God explained how He was going to use the Chaldeans, an evil and treacherous people, as a tool for furthering His Kingdom work. Habakkuk struggled with this idea because the Chaldeans were such a terrible group of people. It was hard to understand how God could use them to accomplish part of God’s overall plan. We must remember that God can and does use all things to accomplish His ultimate purposes.
             The Chaldeans arrogantly thought they were the ones running the show, when really it had been God’s plan all along. Even now there are many groups around the world that do terrible evil. They think they are in charge of  their little sphere of influence. But they are only pawns in a much larger plan that God is working out for His ultimate good purpose.
             Like the Chaldeans, we often think we are in charge and the fulfillment of our God given dreams depend solely on us. But God is the one who is in charge and He will decide when, where and how His vision for our lives will be fulfilled. We must learn to live by faith, trusting that God knows what He is doing. Living by faith means holding true to the visions God has put in our hearts even when it seems like God has forgotten us or like the bad guys are winning. This can be a real challenge, but the rewards for living by faith are so rich that they cannot really be described, they can only be experienced. 

Verse 14 - For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD’s glory, as the waters cover the sea.
             Just as we cannot miss the ocean when we drive by, those with eyes to see and ears to hear cannot miss what God is doing. Though the wicked may think they are in charge, anyone who is filled with the Spirit and living by faith knows better. Everywhere those who live by faith look, they see evidence of the Lord’s power and might. Someone said, “Those who leave everything in God’s hands, will see God’s hands in everything.” This takes great faith, but it also relieves a great deal of stress.

Verse 18 - What use is a carved idol after its craftsman carves it? It is only a cast image, a teacher of lies. For the one who crafts its shape trusts in it and makes idols that cannot speak.
             The people around the Jews loved to make up their own gods. They would spend great amounts of money to have someone carve a fancy statue out of wood or sculpt one out of stone. At first, the person who makes an idol knows it is fake, after all, he is the one who made it. But then he gets impressed with his own abilities to make such a pretty piece of art and in time he forgets it is just a chunk of wood or stone. He begins to trust in it, even though it has no power to help him and cannot give answers to any problems in life.
             We may not carve physical idols, but we do carve out ideas and attitudes that we know do not come from the Lord. At first we struggle inwardly because we know the idea is not from the Lord, but in time we become comfortable with it. We replace God’s ideas with our own and begin to trust in our own wisdom. Though this is tempting, there is no lasting power to be found in our own ideas.

Verse 19 - Woe to him who says to wood: Wake up! or to mute stone: Come alive! Can it teach? Look! It may be plated with gold and silver, yet there is no breath in it at all.
             When the idols of old did not help people, instead of abandoning them, they spoke to them even more. They tried to make them prettier by covering them in gold and silver. But none of that helped because it was just a chunk of wood or stone!
             When we realize that some of our ideas are not from God, we should abandon them and cling to the visions that God has placed in our hearts. But our pride often gets in the way and we try instead to make our own ideas look better. We work hard to convince ourselves that we are smarter than God, knowing all along we are not.

Verse 20 - But the LORD is in His holy temple; let everyone on earth be silent in His presence.
             The Lord is not in the false idols carved by men, no matter how pretty we make them look. The Lord is also not in the ideas and methods of our modern world, no matter how “rational” and “sophisticated” we make them sound. Though we tend to get focused on our own ideas and the world’s philosophies, what we need to do is focus on the Lord. We need to stop making such a big deal about ourselves and make much of Jesus instead.
             Remember, in Habakkuk’s day, the temple was a physical building where the people worshipped the Lord. In our modern times the “temple” of the Holy Spirit is our bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Even in times in which it seems like God is silent, He is present in the temple of our bodies. He has not gone anywhere. God is ready to fill us with His Spirit and empower us for His service anytime we are willing to stop, listen, and respond to Him.

Conclusion:
             When God puts a vision in our spirit, we must cling to it no matter how long it takes to fulfill.
             Despite what we observe around us, God is always at work behind the scenes in our lives.
             We must have faith to trust Him while we wait on Him to bring about the dreams He has given us.
We must not get sidetracked by the world’s philosophies or ideas, but stay focused on the Lord while we wait for His plans to happen.

6 comments:

  1. John Issac MarottaApril 22, 2012 at 7:53 PM

    I like this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Mick ShortsleevesApril 22, 2012 at 7:54 PM

    I was impressed with your sermon Terry.

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  3. so the sermon was good today and so was the music.thank you everyone.

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  4. I'm waiting on you Lord and it is not easy but I know Your time is the right time!

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  5. Great service today,
    It's nice to have time have a great church and time to spend with family and friends and enjoy the Lords day :)

    ReplyDelete