12/04/S – Be Utterly Astounded!

Habakkuk 1:1-2:11; Revelation 9:1-12; Psalms 137:1-4; Proverbs 29:2-4

OT: “How long, Lord, must I call for help and you do not listen or cry out to you about violence and you do not save? Why do you force me to look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Oppression and violence are right in front of me. Strife is ongoing, and conflict escalates. This is why the law is ineffective and justice never emerges. For the wicked restrict the righteous; therefore, justice comes out perverted. Look at the nations and observe  — be utterly astounded! For I am doing something in your days that you will not believe when you hear about it… 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. The Lord answered me: Write down this vision; clearly inscribe it on tablets so one may easily read it. 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. Look, his ego is inflated; he is without integrity. But the righteous one will live by his faith.” (‭‭Habakkuk‬ ‭‭1:2-5, 2:1-4‬ ‭CSB)

Habakkuk lived during one of Judah’s most tumultuous and critical periods. His prophecy and vision was probably written in the interval between the fall of Nineveh in 612 BC and the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Under the leadership of King Josiah, Judah experienced one of the most profound revivals and time of reformation in its long history – but Josiah had died on the battle front. Upon Josiah’s death, with no righteous king to lead them, Judah fell from it’s spiritual high into one of its darkest and most oppressive times.

As Habakkuk looked around at the state of his nation, all he could see was iniquity, trouble, violence, strife, contention and injustice. He didn’t understand how a holy God could allow such unrighteousness and perversion to continue unchecked. In his angst and confusion, he dared to ask God why… and God graciously responded. In Habakkuk’s first question, he asked God, “Why do You tolerate wrongdoing? From my vantage point, it looks like Your law is completely powerless and ineffective, allowing justice to be completely perverted.” God responded by saying, “Watch the nations and be utterly astounded! I am about to do something that you wouldn’t believe unless you saw it with your own eyes.” In Habakkuk’s second question, he asked God, “Aren’t You holy? How can you use a cruel godless nation to bring about Your righteousness and justice?” At that question, Habakkuk positioned himself to watch for God’s answer and ready himself for God’s correction. God’s response to Habakkuk’s second question was, “Write down the vision I give you so that it can be easily understood by those who read it. What I show you won’t come right away… but it will come. Trust me and don’t lean on your own understanding. Those who are righteous will live by faith.”

God is holy, and He will does not tolerate evil, unrighteousness and injustice – though He is slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness. Justice delayed is not justice denied. God is fully able to bring about His righteousness and justice in the most astounding ways. Those who arrogantly reject the word, will and ways of God and open the door to evil and injustice in the world will receive their just reward. Though God’s promise may tarry, it will not be late. His justice will come at just the right time, and we need to stay vigilant and ready for it as we live by faith.

NT: “The fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth. The key for the shaft to the abyss was given to him. He opened the shaft to the abyss, and smoke came up out of the shaft like smoke from a great furnace so that the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke from the shaft. Then locusts came out of the smoke on to the earth, and power was given to them like the power that scorpions have on the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green plant, or any tree, but only those people who do not have God’s seal on their foreheads. They were not permitted to kill them but were to torment them for five months; their torment is like the torment caused by a scorpion when it stings someone. In those days people will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them. The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. Something like golden crowns was on their heads; their faces were like human faces; they had hair like women’s hair; their teeth were like lions’ teeth; they had chests like iron breastplates; the sound of their wings was like the sound of many chariots with horses rushing into battle; and they had tails with stingers like scorpions, so that with their tails they had the power to harm people for five months. They had as their king the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he has the name Apollyon. The first woe has passed. There are still two more woes to come after this.” (‭‭Revelation‬ ‭9:1-12‬ ‭CSB)

As the fifth angel blows his trumpet, a fallen star will be given the key to open the gates of hades. That fallen star is none other than Lucifer himself… the devil and accuser of the brethren. Though he is king of the abyss, even he does not have the authority to loose his demonic hordes on the earth. That in itself is an interesting fact. With all the evil, injustice, perversion, and demonic oppression we see on the earth – what we experience now in this day is not a full release of the evils of hell. Satan is prevented from being fully unleashed on the earth – that is until the fifth angel sounds his trumpet. Just as cruel, godless Babylon was released to enact God’s justice on a fallen and rebellious Judah in an utterly astounding way, the demonic minions of hades will one day be released to bring about God’s justice on the evil and rebellious people of the earth.

In the eighth plague that God inflicted on Egypt, God sent a swarm of locusts that completely devastated the land of Egypt, yet not the land of Goshen where the Israelites lived. In this first of three woes, God will allow Satan the destroyer (who comes only to rob, kill and destroy) to unleash his swarm of demons on the earth. However, they will not bring devastation to the land, but unbearable pain and suffering to the men and women of the earth who have not been sealed by the seal of God. John wrote that so great will the pain and suffering be, that everyone will want to die, but will not be allowed to. The pain and suffering of those who have rejected God will be utterly astounding… yet that is merely the first of three woes. Sin is a horrible thing. When we consider that God is completely holy in His righteousness and administration of justice, and that the just treatment of sin is so utterly astounding, we must conclude that sin is a most horrible thing that shouldn’t be trifled with and taken lightly. It also goes to show what a great salvation Christ has won for us – that we would be freed from sin’s grasp and the horrific judgement to come.

Prayer: Lord, I thank You that You are ever faithful to Your word. When You say that You will bring about justice on the earth, You will do just that – even if I don’t completely understand how You will do it, I can know and trust that You will do just what You have said. Lord, let the horror of the judgement to come be motivation for me to both continue walking in faith and to bring the message of the gospel to as many people as I can. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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