Tag Archives: Bible Study

Profiting from the Prophets–Habakkuk

The past several months have shown us the fortunes and misfortunes of our country.  We see moral decay abounding, abundance of wealth for some, political distention, conflict over values, wars and conflicts, etc.

As I have been studying and teaching several of the Prophets, I am again struck at how relevant and current those 2000-3000 year old prophets really are.

Habakkuk is a classic example.

Habakkuk looks around him and sees rampant sin and evil and questions God’s lack of action (Habakkuk 1:1-4).  He asks the natural question–“Why?”

While his challenge of God may not be the right response–I am challenged by his concern or consternation over sin.  And I have to ask myself, “Do I morn over sin?” “Am I becoming comfortable with the sin around me?”  “Have I become comfortable, accepting of my on sin?”

God responds to Habakkuk 1:5-11, in essence–“look out, I’m going to act; I’m bringing a foreign power to judge Israel.”

Not the answer Habakkuk had anticipated–he challenges God’s methods based on his understanding of God’s character (Habakkuk 1:12-2:1).

Here is another challenge.  Habakkuk is correct theologically in His understanding of God’s character, but God’s implementation of His plan is beyond Habakkuk’s perspective.  Which makes me ask, “Do I understand God?”  “I’m I willing to allow God to be God?” God’s methods are not always what we expect and He is more concern with accomplishing long term change which results in His glory than He is in fulfilling my demands.  God sees and paints the big picture.

So while Habakkuk is not pleased with God’s methods, God explains that He is in control and must be trusted (Habakkuk 2:2-20).  This section reminds us that God is patient with sinners but that sin must be dealt with.  And while most of this section is a statement of judgment to come on the Babylonians, God makes two theological statements which help us understand His plan and purpose.

Habakkuk 2:14
God’s goal–His glory.
Habakkuk 2:20
God’s control–man’s submission.

Habakkuk gets the message and responds with a humility and worship (Habakkuk 3:1-19).  Highlighted in this pray psalm is Habakkuk’s self-description–“I fear what is coming, but I will trust” (Habakkuk 3:2, 16).  His plea “Don’t abandon us, in wrath remember mercy.”   And his declaration “I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:19).

The challenge?  When we naturally or instinctively ask why?  when we face of uncertainty, or in the face of lose, or in the face of sin–we must trust God.
We must trust His justice.
We must trust His timing.
We must trust His methods.
We must trust His purpose.

The answer to our “why?” is usually not a comforting “because. . . ” but “who!”  And while we really want answer, God is more interested in use seeing Him than giving us answers.

So the answer to “why” is who.  Who is God, what is His character, what are His promises, what is His primary purpose?

Will I trust Him?
Will I worship Him?!

Profiting from the Prophets: Daniel–Part 2

Miscellaneous thoughts on the biographical section of Daniel.

Daniel 2:4b through the end of chapter 7 are written in 3rd person by Daniel in Aramaic.  These chapters contain the “story” of Daniel and his three friends.  Within these stories are messages of judgment (related to Gentile kings) wrapped in lesson of conviction, commitment, courage, confidence in God and calm in the face of conflict–all pointing to what integrity is.

This makes we wonder–how did Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah develop this integrity?  An integrity that did not waver even in the face
–a challenge to their identity and therefore a commitment to their God (Daniel 1)
–a challenge to their lives due to their commitment to their God (Daniel 3 and 6)
–and the other challenges of living and working in a pagan society and maintain their commitment to God–for a life time (see Daniel 1:1 and 27; 6:1-2 and 28).

While I would love to know how their parent raise them (until they were deported to Babylon), we don’t have that information.  But Daniel does gives us three clues to developing and maintaining integrity.

First, in the early chapters when the four men were faced with a difficult situations and decisions–they stuck together, supporting and praying (Daniel 1; 2:17-18; 3:16-18).

Second, Daniel is a man of prayer.  We see this when he faces difficulty (Daniel 2:17-18; 9:3-19). But also how being a man of prayer (devoted to God) was the cause for him to encounter difficulty, because prayer was a personal discipline (Daniel 6:5, 10).

Third, Daniel is a man of the Word.  Even though he held a very significant office (busy?) and was probably in his 70s or 80s, he made time to study God’s Word (9:1-2), it was another of his personal disciplines.

Lesson

To develop integrity we must spend time with God.
To develop integrity it helps to pursue God with others (2 Timothy 2:22).

Profiting from the Prophets: Daniel–Part 1

The story of Daniel in Daniel 1, is a wonderfully encouraging and challenging story of commitment and courage.  It is also a familiar story to many and often relegated to “it’s a kid’s story.”

And yes, it should be taught to kids–not because it is simple or simplistic–but because it is profound.  And though it is appropriate for kids because it is profound–it should also be taught to adult because it is simple.

The book of Daniel as a whole could be summarize as teaching the sovereign plan of the One true providential God.  That sounds lofty.  And yes, it deals practically and prophetically with the Kingdom of God during Gentile times.

But right now I am interested profiting from the prophet, the man Daniel.

Daniel 1 tells the story of Daniel abduction, exile to Babylon, the attempts of his captors to brainwash–transform him into a productive member of the Babylonian society.  They assumed that for him to be a productive member, he needed to be Babylonian.  So they changed his location, name and dress. They wanted him to have a Babylonian world view so they put him through their educational system.  They wanted him to develop a taste for their foods and customs so provided him with the best.

But Daniel teaches us how to be resident aliens. How to be influential and productive in the country we live in, while never forgetting where we are from.

Jeremiah 29:4-9 helps us understand that though we are resident aliens, we are to make an impact on our host country.

How did Daniel distinguish himself as a resident alien?

He determined or resolved not to defile himself (Daniel 1:8).
He wanted to do what was right personally–that’s purity
He wanted to do what was right before God–that’s piety
He wanted to do what was right before other–that’s propriety

He was not content to simple be anonymous and keep his “religion” to himself.  He understood that purity and piety, though developed from the inside must give evidence on the outside.  So when he approached the individual under whose care he had been placed, he requested–not demanded, he sought a win-win compromise–instead of projecting a defiant attitude.

That is a great lesson.  Daniel was a man of integrity.

Integrity is a word we through around often without thinking about it definition, it is being true, whole, undivided.  It is being what you are whether in private or public.  Or we could define integrity as a math problem:
Conviction + Courage – a concern for consequence = Integrity.

That is Daniel.

There is so much more–like the “behind the scenes” activity of God (Daniel 1:2, 9, 17).

But one more simple, practical and convicting lesson from Daniel 1.

Daniel 1 ends on an editorial note.  The story teller interjects a historical notation, which presents us with another lesson.

When we compare the dates in Daniel 1:1 and Daniel 1:21 (and add to it Daniel 10) we find that Daniel serve a series of different kings for a total of no less than 64 years.

Daniel finished well.

He not only determined not to defile himself at one point in his youth, but for his whole life.  He did not take a vacation from being a God-follower.  He remained consistent and committed throughout his life.

Oh, that that be true of me.

The Supremecy of Christ

 From a message by John Piper

I say that all the pictures of the supremacy of Jesus in the book of Hebrews are pictures not only of the perfection of the all-sufficient means of our salvation, but also of the all-satisfying goal or end of our salvation, namely the supremacy of Christ himself experienced with all-satisfying joy. He is the Great Reward. He is the one we know in the “better resurrection.” He is the light of the city to that is to come.

Therefore everything this epistle says about him intensifies our love for him now as our Treasure, and our desire for him later as our final Reward.

He is

  • God’s final revelation (1:2).
  • The heir of all things (1:2).
  • The creator of the world (1:2).
  • The radiance of God’s glory (1:3).
  • The exact imprint of God’s nature (1:3).
  • He upholds the universe by the word of his power (1:3).
  • He made purification for sins (1:3).
  • He sits at the right hand of the Majesty on High (1:4).
  • He is God, enthroned forever, with a scepter of uprightness (1:8).
  • He is worshipped by angels (1:6).
  • His rule will have no end (1:8).
  • His joy is above all other beings in the universe (1:9).
  • He took on human flesh (2:14).
  • He was crowned with glory and honor because of his suffering (2:9).
  • He was the founder of our salvation (2:10).
  • He was made perfect in all his obedience by his suffering (2:10).
  • He destroyed the one who has the power of death, the devil (2:15).
  • He delivered us from the bondage of fear (2:15).
  • He is a merciful and faithful high priest (2:17)
  • He made propitiation for sins (2:17).
  • He is sympathetic because of his own trials (4:15).
  • He never sinned (4:15).
  • He offered up loud cries and tears with reverent fear, and God heard him (5:7).
  • He became the source of eternal salvation (5:8)
  • He holds his priesthood by virtue of an indestructible life (7:16).
  • He appears in the presence of God on our behalf (9:24).
  • He will come a second time to save us who are eagerly waiting for him (9:28).
  • He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (13:8)

All of this supremacy of Christ is poured into the word “him” in Hebrews 13:13: “Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.” To him!

Truth through Story

I have spent much of the last two years studying and teaching through the wonderful book of Romans (that material will be posted on this site soon). This requires looking at doctrine, wrestle with concepts. These truths are very important and necessary for a firm foundation. But not all truth was given through or in a didactic form/genre. Most of the Bible teaches truth through narrative-through story. These truths are not less important, just harder to identify.

Stories are actually more effective for communicating certain truths and for motivating individuals toward action.

Think for instance of a paradox.  It is one thing to state a paradox (i.e. God is loving. John 3:16; 1 John 4:8; God is Righteous, just and wrath. John 3:36; 2 Thessalonians 1:8). Another to tell a story were the paradox is in full view but where we must wrestle with the truth (see Habakkuk).

This is also true for motivation.  We are told, “love your neighbors.” But that doesn’t seem to be as motivating as the story of the Good Samaritan.

In spite of this, we often relegate stories to Children’s ministry–as though they are less important, less meaningful or too familiar.

So for the next few weeks I will be seeking to learn not only through stories, but through characters.  And though these “stories” are familiar-there is much to learn.

The series will be:
Profiting from the Prophets

Daniel 1 and 6 (2 lesson)

Decisions and Dedication

Jonah and Psalm 15 (2-3 lessons)

Decisions and Disappointment

Habakkuk        (1-2 lessons)

Disappointment to Faith

Fear to Faith

Worry to Worship

Haggai (2 lessons)

Possessions, Priorities, Purity and Providence

Conviction, Courage, Cleanliness and Consummation