Monday, May 04, 2015

Awestruck

My Sunday School lesson for May 3, 2015 ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

*** What is awesome?

This week, everyone in the Mid-South decided that was is truly awesome is the $191 million renovation of the Pyramid to put in a 535,000 square foot Bass Pro superstore.

In addition to the sales floor, there is a cypress swamp with live alligators, a bowling alley, archery and shooting ranges, a restaurant, an observation deck and a hotel. Ducks Unlimited has its own space for a museum. Right in the middle is the tallest freestanding elevator in America.

Today we’re going to continue our study of Habakkuk and figure out what is truly awesome.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** Habakkuk prophesied about the same time as Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zephaniah, around 600 B.C. as the Babylonians were taking over the region.

*** The book is essentially a dialogue between Habakkuk and God. Habakkuk had some hard questions for God, and God responded with even harder answers.

--- The prophet struggled to understand and accept the answers God gave him - namely that God would use the Babylonians as His instrument of judgment against Judah.

--- Habakkuk had two choices: he could either become proud and arrogant, refusing to believe God’s way was best, or he could choose to live by faith In the end, Habakkuk chose to believe God’s way was best and to live by faith in God.

STAND IN AWE (HAB. 3:1-2)

1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. According to Shigionoth. 2 Lord, I have heard the report about You; Lord, I stand in awe of Your deeds. Revive Your work in these years; make it known in these years. In Your wrath remember mercy!

*** The persevering prayer of Habakkuk.

--- Even as God in chapters 1 and 2 told Habakkuk of His judgment on Judah and the prophet has trouble accepting it, in this prayer poem we find how Habakkuk learns to praise the Lord anyhow, no matter what.

--- The meaning of the expression according to Shigionoth [shig ih OH nahth] is unclear. Some Bible students suggest that it designates a musical notation. It may be an instruction to recite the prayer with feeling or with a free flowing melody and rhythm.

*** Habakkuk reflects on God's past works.

--- Using the Holman Bible transition I looked up “awe,” “awesome,” awe-inspiring” at Bible Gateway and got 56 results, including:

Isaiah 8:13 - You are to regard only the Lord of Hosts as holy. Only He should be feared; only He should be held in awe.

Exodus 34:10 - And the Lord responded: “Look, I am making a covenant. I will perform wonders in the presence of all your people that have never been done in all the earth or in any nation. All the people you live among will see the Lord’s work, for what I am doing with you is awe-inspiring.

2 Samuel 7:23 - And who is like Your people Israel? God came to one nation on earth in order to redeem a people for Himself, to make a name for Himself, and to perform for them great and awesome acts, driving out nations and their gods before Your people You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt.

*** QUESTION - What were some of the deeds of God to which Habakkuk stood in awe?

*** Mercy!

--- At the end of verse 2, Habakkuk adds a little note to say, "God I want You to do Your work," and then he sort of adds a P.S. "God in wrath remember mercy." He says, "God I know You've got to do it, but could You just remember mercy?" You want to know something? God always does, doesn't He?

TREMBLE IN HIS SPLENDOR (HAB. 3:3-6)

3 God comes from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah His splendor covers the heavens, and the earth is full of His praise. 4 His brilliance is like light; rays are flashing from His hand. This is where His power is hidden. 5 Plague goes before Him, and pestilence follows in His steps. 6 He stands and shakes the earth; He looks and startles the nations. The age-old mountains break apart; the ancient hills sink down. His pathways are ancient.

*** "Theophany."

--- Theophany means a visible representation of the presence of God using the highest human terms possible.

--- His majesty is described as a brilliant glory of light and brightness. The mountains tremble violently; the earth quakes; the people are afraid.

--- The power of nature is one of the easiest ways we can understand the omnipotence of God. If He can control the force of a hurricane or destruction of an earthquake like the one that killed thousands in Nepal last weekend, then He can take care of me and you.

--- David wrote in Psalm 19:1 – “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands.”

--- As the VeggieTales sang, “God is bigger than the boogeyman, He's bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV, oh God is bigger than the boogeyman and He's watching out for you and me!”

CELEBRATE HIS VICTORY (HAB. 3:11-13)

11 Sun and moon stand still in their lofty residence, at the flash of Your flying arrows, at the brightness of Your shining spear. 12 You march across the earth with indignation; You trample down the nations in wrath. 13 You come out to save Your people, to save Your anointed. You crush the leader of the house of the wicked and strip him from foot to neck. Selah.

*** God is a Mighty Warrior.

--- Habakkuk knows that God would conquer His enemies, make everything right and vindicate His people.

*** The sun and moon obey Him.

--- Recall when Joshua prayed for the sun and moon to hold in place so that Israel might completely defeat God's enemies (Joshua 10:12-13).

--- The Lord had promised David that if his descendants were faithful, He would preserve David’s dynasty (see 1 Kings 2:4). This led the line of David to pass to Jesus, the Messiah. In contrast, God's wicked enemies would be crushed.

*** God battles on His terms.

--- He never tires, he never lets His guard down. Whatever the enemy is God's ready, God is vigilant, God is ready. It’s a tremendous picture of God's defense of His people.

--- We should never rely on ourselves to fight His battles. We get tired. Our determination wanes. Remember the song "The Warrior is a Child" by Twila Paris?

Lately, I've been winning battles left and right
But even winners can get wounded in the fight
People say that I'm amazing strong beyond my years
But they don't see inside of me, I'm hiding all the tears

They don't know that I go running home when I fall down
They don't know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
'Cause deep inside this armor the warrior is a child

Unafraid because His armor is the best
But even soldiers need a quiet place to rest
People say that I'm amazing never face retreat
But they don't see the enemies that lay me at His feet

They don't know that I go running home when I fall down
They don't know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and and cry for just a while
'Cause deep inside this armor the warrior is a child

They don't know that I go running home when I fall down
They don't know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and look up for a smile
'Cause deep inside this armor, deep inside this armor
Deep inside this armor the warrior is a child

*** QUESTION - Does it scare you more or encourage you when God talks about leaving His throne to come down to earth and do battle?

REJOICE IN FAITH (HAB. 3:16-19)

16 I heard, and I trembled within; my lips quivered at the sound. Rottenness entered my bones; I trembled where I stood. Now I must quietly wait for the day of distress to come against the people invading us. 17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit 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. 18 yet I will triumph in Yahweh; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! 19 Yahweh my Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights!

*** Habakkuk rejoices in faith as he commits himself to God's purposes.

--- The Book of Habakkuk began with Habakkuk questioning God because of injustices but closed with Habakkuk praising God and recommitting himself in faith to trust God in the difficult times to come.

--- Think of Job 13:15 when Job said, "Though He slay me, what, yet will I trust Him."

*** Trembling.

--- Habakkuk confessed that the thought of what God's judgment would do to him and to Judah shook him to the core. His lips quivered, his bones ached, he trembled. Have you ever literally felt sick about something troubling you?

*** No matter what.

--- Even under the worst possible scenarios, Habakkuk chooses to triumph in God and rejoice.

*** QUESTION – What scenarios today can we choose to walk in faith and trust in His plans, no matter what?

(Financial troubles, failing marriages, job losses. Nationally, the gay marriage debate, religion under attack in the schools. Internationally, Christians killed for their faith.)

--- Follow up question - When we choose to trust God in all our circumstances, how will it impact our attitude and actions?

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Sometimes your life can seem like a Memphis Grizzlies game. Sometimes you're Vince Carter diving for a loose ball, sometimes you're Courtney Lee draining a critical three-pointer, and sometimes you're Mike Conley getting your face broken by a dude's elbow.

Whatever adversity the Grizzlies find, they know you have to grit and grind to win. Nothing's handed to you.

Habakkuk stood alone against the injustices of his day, but he realized God was in control and is worthy to be praised and worshiped.

James writes in chapter 1, verses 2 and 3: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Someone once wrote, “Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional.” There will be trials, oppression, and misunderstandings. And when you become a Christian, you do not become immune to these things.

Trials are a part of life, but how Christians behave in response is what causes an unbelieving world to sit up and take notice.

Now, open yourself to some accountability and get someone to judge you honestly: “How would you rate the way I have responded to trials in my life this year on a scale of 1-10? ‘One’ means I’ve been thankful for the opportunity to learn patience, and ‘10’ means I’ve been resentful for every speed bump my vehicle of life had to pass over.”

How are you responding this week to the difficulties in your life? Thankful for the opportunity to learn patience? Or resentful for every speed bump your vehicle of life has to pass over? You can tell the size of a Christian by what it takes to stop him.

*** Do we act as Christians like we truly believe God has the power as described in Habakkuk's prayer? If not, what would it take for their belief in God’s power to grow?

*** What insights into God’s power do you have? What is some of the awe you have experienced?

*** It is a challenge for believers to choose to trust God when they look around and see virtually no reason to do so. But when they do so, they have won the victory.

Say it loud and proud: "I don't care what happens, I will rejoice in the Lord. I will joy in the God of my salvation."

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