Though the Nations Collapse…

We live in distressing times. But given our historical amnesia, we forget that so have many other people. Indeed, history is full of desperate and difficult times. And history is also the story of God at work. The short book of Habakkuk is a great illustration of all this.

In its three brief chapters we learn of major shakings among the nations, God’s people asking hard questions, and the Lord of the nations declaring his purposes. The setting lies between two momentous events for ancient Israel: the fall of Israel (the northern kingdom) to the Assyrians in 722, and the fall of Judah (the southern kingdom) to the Babylonians in 597.

Nineveh (the Assyrian capital) had already fallen to the Medes and Babylonians in 612, and these new bad boys on the block were about to target Judah. Indeed, Yahweh told Habakkuk that this was going to happen, and with his express purpose as well.

The prophet had been crying out to God about all the sin and evil in the land, and God turns around and tells him even more bad news: the nasty Babylonians (Chaldeans) are coming, and they will be the instrument of His wrath. Not exactly the sort of news Habakkuk was looking for.

He was quite devastated about all this, and asked God some hard questions. Yahweh responded again, and then the prophet gives his final word. It is this last word of confidence and trust I wish to speak to here. Earlier he was asking where God was, and where his justice was. But after Yahweh’s second reply (2:2-20), the prophet had seen the light.

He had learned to trust in God and his purposes, even though we do not always understand his dealings with us. So he comes to accept that a righteous God can even use an unrighteous pagan nation as an instrument of punishment on his wayward people. The concluding verses I will address are these:

I heard and my heart pounded,
    my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
    and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
    to come on the nation invading us.
 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 I will rejoice in the LORD,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights. (Hab 3:16-19)

He has learned that the ‘righteous must live by their faith’ (2:4) and at the end of the day, we must trust a sovereign God who is too wise to make a mistake and too loving to be unkind. We may not have all the answers, but He does, and he is still in control.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones did a series of sermons on this book just after the Second World War, when England was still reeling from what had transpired. He offers many gems (as he so often does) but let me just quote one passage which focuses on the prayer of ch. 3, especially v. 2:

LORD, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD.
Repeat them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy.

He says, “There is no request whatsoever that God should hold His hand, or spare Israel. We find, rather, a recognition that what God says He will do is perfectly right; that God is absolutely just, and that the punishment which is going to come upon Israel is well deserved – an attitude of complete submission to the will of God. There is no attempt to defend Israel or himself, but frank admission of sin and recognition of the righteousness, holiness and justice of God. ‘To us,’ he says, ‘belongs confusion of face.’ Not a vestige of self-righteousness remains, just complete admission of sin and utter submission to the judgment of God upon the nation.

“How was Habakkuk brought to such a position? It would seem that it was when he stopped thinking of his own nation, or of the Chaldeans, and contemplated only the holiness and justice of God against the dark background of sin in the world. Our troubles can nearly all be traced to our persistence in looking at the immediate problems themselves instead of looking at them in light of God.

“So long as Habakkuk was looking at Israel and the Chaldeans, he was troubled. Now he has forgotten Israel as such, and the Chaldeans, and his eyes are on God. He has returned to the realm of spiritual truth – the holiness of God, sin in man and in the world – and so is able to see things in an entirely new light.  He is now concerned for the glory of God and for nothing else”

I was just about to close this article with a few thoughts on the US election results, and what we can learn from Habakkuk, when at the very same moment I was alerted to another piece written by US evangelical Dutch Sheets. It seemed fitting to offer a bit of it here. He looks at five responses to the election outcome. Let me pick up on number four:

4) The fourth explanation offered is that America is being judged, and that Barack Obama and his policies are part of the judgment. The reasons given for the judgment are the inevitable result of God’s laws of sowing and reaping, and His determination to “wake us up” as a nation. Many of these individuals believe the results were inevitable—no amount of hard work or prayer could have turned the tide.

I certainly believe America is and will continue to reap judgment. And I believe the fruit from the reelection of Barack Obama will be our most severe judgment to date. Let us not forget that the political party Americans just voted back into power boldly favors abortion, homosexuality, homosexual marriage, and that they voted God and the support of Israel out of their platform. And, I might add, boo-ed when God was put back in the platform after the potential fallout was realized. God is not mocked, however, and will have the last word.

Our economy will suffer greatly. The financial devastation and quality-of-care deterioration associated with socialized medicine will be staggering; more liberal, pro-abortion, Constitution disregarding, anti-God Supreme Court justices will be appointed (meaning more babies will die, marriage will be dishonored and immorality will be defended); Islam will be emboldened; our military will be weakened; and devastation from natural disasters will continue and perhaps increase. This is the short list.

The fact that Obama is a judgment, his policies will increase judgments, and this will be used by God to turn America is clear to me. What is not so clear is whether or not the outcome was controlled by God as a part of His judgment, or if He was giving us another choice and we rejected it. I cannot agree that because America had gone too far, God mandated the outcome. I believe He was still offering America an opportunity for grace. We chose judgment, not God.

And his final point:

5) The fifth and final explanation is there simply wasn’t enough desperation, prayer, repentance and humility on the part of the church in America. Others disagree, contending that millions prayed concerning this election, and there was enough. One leader boldly proclaimed he was positive there had been enough effort; therefore God caused Obama to be elected for other reasons.

Of course, only God really knows for sure if this is true; the rest of us are merely offering educated opinions. Personally, I’m not so certain there was enough effort by the church. I don’t believe God was looking for quick, easy, one or two sentence prayers offered up during our quiet times or normal church services. I’m afraid most believers in the United States are still looking for convenient, inexpensive answers to our plight. There are none. God was looking for sacrifice, passion and desperation.

He concludes:

Finally, I want to address the question, “Were the efforts and prayers of those who did offer them simply wasted?” The answer is a resounding NO!

I woke up Wednesday, the morning after the elections, thinking of Wilberforce, the great English statesman who spearheaded the effort to remove slavery from the British Empire. It took him 40 years, but he and his co-laborers won the battle. They did so incrementally. God gave the same one-word encouragement—“Wilberforce”—to two other friends of mine on the same morning. Just as He did for Wilberforce and his fellow reformers, God is storing up every prayer we prayed, and every act of obedience we performed. Nothing was wasted.

It would also be appropriate to think that our prayers and worship accomplished nothing at the present time and will only be used later. The Holy Spirit spoke to another friend of mine the morning after the election saying, “Your prayers and worship did prevail…though not in the way you wanted. Because of them, however, I will now deal with this man who has mocked Me and My laws.”

Two more friends of mine had dreams in which Barack Obama was named Belshazzar (see Daniel chapter 5). This was the ruler in Babylon who saw a hand writing on the wall of his palace—as he and his friends were mocking God. The ominous message written by the hand of God was, “You have been weighed on the scales and found deficient.” The writing went on to say Belshazzar’s reign would end.

I don’t know what form the judgment of the Lord will take, but I am quite confident that God has put up with all of the mocking He intends to from Barack Obama, and that Daniel 5 is now his passage. I say this without malice or ill will, but nonetheless, confidently.

I encourage those of you who prayed and worshipped over this election—your prayers were not in vain. Just as surely as slavery became illegal in Great Britain—the day Wilberforce died!—we will prevail in our efforts to see America awakened. “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary,” (Galatians 6:9).

We do not have all the answers as to why God allows things like the re-election of one of the most anti-Christian, anti-life and anti-family American presidents on record. But we do know we have a wise and sovereign God who is working to achieve his purposes. Like Habakkuk, we must trust him and worship him, even if all the answers are not in yet.

www.dutchsheets.org/electionresponse.html

[1820 words]

18 Replies to “Though the Nations Collapse…”

  1. Thank you, Bill, for this posting. It is good to be reminded that God is on His throne and He is in control of everything even if at times it feels like world events are spinning out of control.
    Alison Stanley

  2. Amen and Amen! God is great, Awesome, Indescribable, Holy, Just, Loving and Forgiving, thank God! But he will not be mocked. I shall pray for Obama and his cohort that they will repent before it is too late for them. Better to be saved with the smell of sulphur about them than to spend eternity in Hell.
    Mike McMeekan

  3. Bill,

    When we get into discussion about “what God allows”, it opens up a whole can of worms. It assumes that God intervenes in the world, and then we are left to ponder which events involved Godly intervention and which did not.

    If God does intervene, where does that leave free will?

    Furthermore, it seems self-indulgent to assume that one’s personal political leanings are the same as God’s.

    Analysis of voting patterns in the recent elections has shown that many evangelicals voted for Obama, for a host of reasons.

    Ian Thompson, Canberra

  4. Thanks Ian

    But I am a biblical Christian, not a deist, so I of course believe that God intervenes in the world. How can any believer not accept this basic Scriptural truth? What do you call the Incarnation for starters? That there is difficulty in fully grasping the exact relationships between divine sovereignty, his dealings with us, and human free will, obviously goes without saying. Entire libraries have been produced on such topics. But these are truths affirmed hundreds of time each in Scripture, so real Christians accept them, even though we cannot always fully figure out how it all works.

    As to Christianity and politics, I have already said often enough that God is not tied down to any one political party. Having said that, there are obviously some parties or policies or politicians which are closer to biblical values than others. But I have written about this extensively elsewhere, so no need to repeat myself here. See eg:
    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2007/09/13/religion-and-the-political-spectrum/
    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/08/24/what-is-conservatism/
    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2011/12/27/conservatism-libertarianism-and-christianity/ https://billmuehlenberg.com/2007/01/05/conservatism-and-liberalism-christianity-and-secularism/

    Thus I will leave it to my readers to determine who is being self-indulgent here.

    As to Christians voting for Obama – of course some did. So what? Some Christians also voted for Hitler. Christians often do dumb and irresponsible things. But the case against Obama I have made plenty of times elsewhere, so again no need to go over old ground here.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  5. Analysis of voting patterns in the recent elections has shown that many evangelicals voted for Obama, for a host of reasons.
    Yes and none of those reasons were abortion. Maybe they just didn’t know what they were doing, or worse still, didn’t care.
    Daniel Kempton

  6. But there’s a downside to that kind of thinking. If we look for God’s influence in everything that happens in the world we can become disillusioned about our power to influence anything, since everything that happens is assumed to be God’s will, not ours.

    I have read many of the works on this subject, but I still come away with a sense of unease.

    I wish I could be as comfortable with the biblical position as you seem to be.

    And who defines what a “biblical Christian” should believe? Dogma comes down to a particular interpretation of the Bible, which I guess is why the church is so fractured. Everybody thinks they have discovered the truth and all other Christians must be wrong.

    Keep up the good work.

    Ian Thompson

  7. Thanks again Ian

    But who is talking about “God’s influence in everything that happens”. As I say, the interplay between God’s sovereignty and our free choices is ultimately a mystery. Whether or not every single thing is or is not due to his direct influence is beside the point. Scripture makes it clear that we are to concentrate on doing our part, and God will certainly take care of doing his part. So let God be God, and concentrate and what you are commanded to do. Leave the rest up to him.

    As to who a biblical Christian is, I would have thought that a good working definition is someone who is “comfortable with the biblical position” as you put it. How can it be otherwise? Either God is God and his Word is true, or we are all just left to our own devices, and left floating in a sea of relativism and subjectivism. Of course interpretation comes into play here, but we are also promised to be led into all truth if we let him. But I deal with this elsewhere as well, eg: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/12/01/on-the-perspicuity-of-scripture/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  8. Bill;

    Greetings from the west coast of Canada’

    Re # 4 I just thought I would relate what happened a few months ago when a friend and I got together to pray about the then upcoming US election. When we sought the Lords direction as to what and how we should pray, We were given very clearly…..’Do not pray or otherwise interfere with my judgement of the US, Obama is my chosen instrument to bring the US to her knees…’

    I would also add that I think that its a mistake by too many to think that judgement is coming about because of all the evil going on presently rather than understanding that most of the evil is just a sign or symptom of the impending judgement brought on by much earlier ‘ turning away from God’

    The US became the most powerful country on earth due to the very Godly constitution implemented over two hundred years ago and is now being taken down due to the gutting of same shortly after……” I will punish those that hate Me down to the third and forth generation….”

    Its interesting to note when reading through 2nd Kings how punishment or judgement for the idolatry under a particular King did not take place until several Kings later and still took place despite revivalist kings in the interim

    Hans Madsen, Sointula BC Canada

  9. Thanks for your perspective on God’s judgement of Israel. America has been in spiritual decline long before Mr Obama came on the scene and will be well after he has gone. When are we going to stop blaming one political leader over another? The people of God have ALWAYS been persecuted. If your were around when Ahab & Jezebel, Manasseh, Nero, Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao ruled their societies then you would blame them for the demise of God’s church. The list is endless. The church throughout history has not been dependent on which despot rules the day, rather, relies on its strength through the rulership of Jesus Christ. Its about time we stopped making excuses for the evil that prevails but rather focus on how we can shine as lights in this world of darkness.
    With respect, Kevin McDonald

  10. Thanks Bill. This is exactly the same conclusion I reached after the re-election of Obama. I am encouraged to see God is giving wisdom to His people everywhere. As an American and a follower of Jesus, I am still deeply saddened by America’s wicked choice on November 6th. I tried to figure out “why?” I considered it to be the result of a biased media and/or the promise of ‘free stuff’ through entitlements. And this is partially true. But I think it comes down to the decline of the Church in America and the systematic rejection of the Judeo-Christian ethic since the 1960’s. America’s only hope, economically, morally, and politically is a third Great Awakening. We need pastors who will set their congregations on fire, preach sermons with meat, and mobilize their flocks to aggressively preach the gospel. Only the gospel of Jesus can fix America. Not new laws, not one man, or a political party. Repentance and faith in Jesus is our only hope. My prayer is that God will grant me increasing faith and fear of Him to face the battle to come.
    John Moss, US

  11. Ian, I believe dogma is what the bible reveals about God, not our interpretation of it. However, in order to know the true picture of the character of God and what He has done and will do in the world, which is, what I believe dogma is, we have to maintain an intimate and deep knowledge of the word of God, which alone gives us the picture of who God is on this side of eternity. That involves prayer and meditation as well as the actual reading of the word. You can read the bible a few times through and still not see Jesus. Paul told Timothy to “watch his life and doctrine closely”. That suggests to me that doctrine is not some fixed thing that, once in place can not change, move and doesn’t need to be attended to any more. We must at all times be willing to have our doctrine adjusted as a result of deeper understanding of God through study, prayer discussion with godly people and meditation, knowing that it like truth is not up to us to define, but to receive from God in more and more clarity.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  12. John, I so agree with you that America’s (and the West’s) systematic rejection of the Judeo-Christian ethic since the 1960?s (and even well before with many turning from God right throughout the 20th century) is now resulting in such moral confusion, even in the Church.
    Interesting that Dutch Sheets mentioned “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary,” (Galatians 6:9) because that verse has been haunting me since the election.

    Angela Parham

  13. Bill,
    The comments by Dutch sheets and particularly Hans Madsen’s comment, “Do not pray or otherwise interfere with My judgement of the US…” have left me a little confused. “Do not pray…” for what or about what? If “Obama is My chosen instrument to bring the US to her knees..”, am I and every other Christian in the world not to pray for his salvation and that of America as per 1 Tim 1-4 and 2 Pet 3:9?

    It is clear that Hans and friend believe God is judging America (even those who voted against BHO?) as evident by “God’s” response to their prayers. I and millions of other Christians have no guarantee that this is God speaking at all, particularly in view of the “don’t pray” bit.

    On the surface, their conduct is being guided by this personal revelation (?) and apparently in defiance of Scripture. “Don’t pray” fits very nicely into satan’s will for every Christian. And how is praying “interfering” with God’s will for the US?

    I cannot take these personal revelations as equal to Scripture as some appear to do, nor do I believe I should. We have already been given what is God’s will for President Obama and America as written above. As Dutch Sheets apparently goes onto to say, ” Let us not lose heart in doing good…”What doing good means has already been revealed, it is to pray “for all men, kings etc…” I may have misinterpreted Hans’ comment, so I am happy to be corrected here if necessary.
    Robert Greggery.

  14. Thanks Robert

    The short answer is this: I, Dutch, and every person commenting on this are fallen and finite individuals – none of us have the inspired word of God on all this, and I at least have never claimed as having such. Only the Bible is the infallible, inspired word of God – end of story. So we all can get things wrong here, and even disagree and differ from one another.

    As to not praying for people at times, that of course is fully biblical. God gave that very command many times, eg., 1 Sam 2:25; Jer. 7:16; 11:14; 14:11; 15:1; 1 John 5:16, etc. As to whether it is appropriate and applicable here or not is another matter of course.

    And as to the general idea that the re-election of Obama is part of God’s judgment on America, that I tend to go along with, although again not claiming any inspired word on it.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  15. Robert

    I in no way meant to infer that you or anyone else should not pray, that word was strictly meant for myself and my friend and was not an unusual experience for us. Everyone must seek their own direction as when to pray
    Both my friend and I walk very humbly and fearfully before our Lord, praying that our surrender would be complete .
    Praying, beyond ourselves, is very serious business and there we pray only when prompted and only as directed and with full understanding as to our authority and legal jurisdiction with regards to the specific prayer. ( Two very important considerations )
    So by Christian standards we may not pray all that often, but the results when we do….well I could write a book, but I think a lot of Christians would have a hard time with it
    The Lord was just reminding us that He had EVERYTHING under his control, wasn’t calling us to pray anything specific at that time and by using the word ‘interfering’ I felt the Lord was gently reminding us of the power of some of our past prayers and humbling us at the same time

    Hans Madsen

  16. It is a disgusting disgrace here in the US. Please pray for the few Christians left. Many claim but so many lack the power thereof. Our pulpits lack power and spread “tolerance” lies to itchy ears.

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