What should one do when disaster strikes? When one’s own nation is sinking and enemies are about to invade, when total crop failure are imminent and the financial system collapses? No, this is not about the present day (though it very much applies!). It’s about the situation in the Jewish nation of Judea 2600 years ago, shortly before it was overthrown by Babylon. Habakkuk, God’s prophet, complained first about the corruption in his own nation and then about the drastic measures (foreign invasion) God was going to use to address it.
At the end of this short book of the Old Testament, Habakkuk acknowledges God’s power and wisdom, and he prays a beautiful prayer. I want to adopt for myself his threefold response to impending disaster:
1) Wait patiently for God to set things right.
2) Rejoice in the Lord.
3) Find my strength in God no matter what the circumstances.
(Notice how God is the focus in all of these!)
I will wait quietly for the coming day
when disaster will strike the people who invade us.
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign LORD is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights. (Habakkuk 3:16b-19)
I woke up this morning with joy, thanking God for 39 years of marriage to the most wonderful man in the world–my prince, my soul-mate, my best friend and lover and much, much more.
Then we got sobering news about our granddaughter who is terminally ill, and the tears came. The past few days have been rough as the tumor ravages her body. When we get back there after 2 1/2 weeks away, we’ll really notice the difference. Yet as our hearts grieve, we also rejoice in the confidence that God is good and loving, He is powerful and in control, He is wise and is working out all things in amazing ways we can only catch a glimpse of presently. But here’s one of those glimpses, written by her mother:
Last night she was coughing a lot. Firstly, she can’t make her self cough hard so she wasn’t able to clear her airways well, and then I felt like what she did cough up she couldn’t effectively clear from her mouth. So today, I called about getting a suction machine. Tonight she got chills all over, then she started throwing up mouthfuls when she coughed. It was 8:00 pm when I was thinking of taking her into the ER just to suction her, chest x-ray if needed, etc. when a man showed up at the door with the suction machine. What a relief. I couldn’t believe they got it here so quickly and even after “business hours”. What a gift from God.
And here’s another:
Last night a friend called and said she would like to bring a meal to us tonight. She ended up bringing the very thing Emmeline has asked to have for her birthday next week, tortellini soup and homemade rolls. My friend had no idea. So even though the eating was tough for Emmeline, she was very happy and it was a reminder to me of God’s personalized blessings for each of us.
In these bittersweet days, God’s love, power, and wisdom are our comfort. He is there for you, too!
The Lord’s Prayer has taken on new meaning for me. It is a concise and beautiful picture of what my true concerns should be as a subject of God’s kingdom. God takes priority.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
God, may You be honored! People today are ignoring You, denying You, shaking their fists in Your face. But one day every single person will have to kneel and acknowledge that You are the only true and sovereign Creator and King of the universe. (Philippians 2:10-11) I can hardly wait until You restore this earth to what it was meant to be and directly rule it graciously, justly, and powerfully!
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
Then my personal concerns—
provision of my basic needs for life (i.e. food),
forgiveness of my sins,
harmony and unity with others,
protection from Satan and his power.
Nothing here about convenience, choices, safety, health, wealth, prestige, and all the other things we consider so important. Lord, please keep my eyes on what’s truly important and remind me that this earth is only my temporary home.
Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!
From favorite-son status
to a pit, victim of treachery
to a top managerial position
to a dungeon on a trumped-up charge
to the position of Prime Minister!
Joseph’s life was a roller-coaster. While others might emerge from these experiences bitter and angry, the effect on Joseph’s character was quite different. He went from being a cocky younger brother to being a man of integrity, wisdom, and a tender heart that could truly forgive and love those who had hurt him so badly.
Why? The Lord was with Joseph in his slavery (Gen. 39:2-6),
in the dungeon (39:21-23),
and then before the king who promoted this prisoner to prime minister in one fell swoop! (41:38-40) And Joseph acknowledged that his hardships were part of God’s bigger plan to do greater things. (45:5 & 50:20)
So why do I complain? Joseph’s God is my God too.
Reading a book of the Bible in one sitting gives amazing perspective. A view of the forest which we miss out on if we dive in prematurely. (Pardon the mixed metaphor.) The book of Daniel has amazing messages for today. No, I’m not thinking primarily of all the prophesies with their strange creatures and the endless back-and-forth battles of the kings of the North and the South.
Daniel is well-known in Sunday School stories, especially for his escape from the lion’s den and his friends’ from the fiery furnace. But what is the significance of these stories and how do they fit together with each other and the other chapters of this book? Too often “Bible stories” are told without showing how they fit into God’s one great story.
So what is Daniel all about? Think of the three tests of faithfulness—refusing to eat the king’s food, worship the king’s image, or pray to the king instead of to God.
Think of the three kings of this book who were forced to acknowledge that their power was nothing compared to God’s. That their kingdoms could be removed like a puff of dust in the face of God’s eternal kingdom and almighty sovereignty which will demolish and outlast them all.
This encourages me today when faced with arrogant rulers or powerful pressures to conform. Like Daniel, I am a citizen of that Eternal Kingdom that will outlast them all. I determine to be courageous and faithful like he was.
Standing by a purpose true,
Heeding God’s command,
Honor them, the faithful few!
All hail to Daniel’s band!
Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone!
Dare to have a purpose firm!
Dare to make it known.