In the Spirit and Power of Habakkuk

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I began this article on the day when the Labour Party elected a previously little-known but popular “archetypal bearded leftie” as its leader. It was also the day after the British House of Commons voted against a Bill aimed at legalising assisted suicide. One can only wonder what effect either or both of these events will have on the future of Britain. Whilst I offer no predictions on the future of any political party, I will be bold enough to predict that as soon as it is expedient, another MP or Peer will try to introduce a follow-up to Rob Marris’ Assisted Dying Bill. Perhaps in this respect there may be a connection between these two events.

Think Again

Consider for a moment what took place in the Republic of Ireland when the population twice voted against new European Union treaties in referendums. In 2001 the Irish public rejected the Treaty of Nice and in 2008 they responded in a similar way to the Treaty of Lisbon. On both occasions they were asked to reconsider their decision. The situation in Northern Ireland over same sex marriage is still ongoing, where the NI Assembly has been asked to vote on the matter four times since October 2012. Each time the motion has failed, but in August this year Sinn Féin MLA, Caitriona Ruane stated, “We have committed to bringing a motion on marriage equality back to the floor of the Assembly and we intend to meet that commitment in the new Assembly term.” (Statement here.) In response to the recent questions about the future of the NI Assembly over on-going paramilitary activity, Ivan Lewis, the then shadow Northern Ireland secretary, stated “in the unfortunate and undesirable event of the current political crisis in Northern Ireland leading to suspension of the political institutions, my party believes the government should give serious consideration to introduce legislation at Westminster to extend same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland,” (Guardian report.)

We live in a world where people are asked to think again and if necessary again about their views when the wrong answer is given in a vote. One has to wonder how long it will be before the Labour Party asks its membership to think again about its choice of leader. However, being asked to reconsider one’s convictions does not happen only in the world. Having learned perhaps from repeated attempts to gain approval for female bishops, the Church of England has called for a period of “Shared Conversations” to answer the question, “Given the significant changes in our culture in relation to human sexuality, how should the Church respond?” Unfortunately for its leaders, the Methodist Church approached the issue of ‘same sex marriage’ without the caution of its Anglican colleagues. In 2014 they conducted a consultation on whether or not the denomination should change its teaching and practice in regard to same sex relationships. When it turned out that a majority of its membership were opposed to any changes in this respect, rather than calling an end to further discussions there and then, it was agreed “that there should be a two-year period of listening, reflection and discernment about relationships on a much wider basis, based upon thinking about living with contradictory convictions and the nature of the authority of the Bible.” (Report PDF) In other words, they did not get the answer they were hoping for.

I have noted these trends in order to highlight the fact that we live at a time and in a society where political correctness dominates public opinion. This is a strategy devised by the secular lobby with the intention of leading Western societies away from the influence of Judaeo-Christian standards upon their laws and morals. What is most striking is not that this has been an effective scheme in itself, but that despite continual intercessions by Christians, The LORD has not intervened to stop this process.

Successful Prophets

In early 2013 I wrote an article asking why so many prayers in this respect have remained unanswered. (Called The Question Christians are not Asking, it is still available.) That was written before the legalisation of same sex marriage, but despite this now being on the statute books I still hear and read of many Christian individuals or groups urging others to pray and protest in the hope that Britain, America and other Western nations will be brought to repentance. Indeed many were immensely shocked when the House of Lords did not reject the redefinition of marriage. On the other hand, I knew of several others who like myself sensed the Holy Spirit leading us not to pray against it becoming law. My own convictions were based upon Romans 1, which convinced me that approving of immorality in this way would be a clear outworking of The LORD’s judgement on our nation.

The situation British Christians now find themselves in is one not unfamiliar to the Old Testament prophets. We often forget that there were just two prophets who saw a significant change for the good as a result of their ministry. These were not the better-known figures such as Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah or Jeremiah. We find the experiences of these two preserved amongst those we call the minor prophets. The major prophets were men whose words consistently fell on deaf ears and only rarely made their way into a few rebellious hearts to turn them to The LORD. Yet these are the prophets whom we tend to idolise. As one popular song seeks to mistakenly assert, we live today in the days of Elijah, Moses, Ezekiel and David – days which it suggests were days of revival. Any serious study of the Scriptures will show that Moses led a rebellious people, who had rejected the LORD as their king by the time of David. Elijah spoke to a nation devoted to the worship of Baal, and though he prayed for revival, found himself disillusioned and depressed when it did not come about. Ezekiel only began to prophesy when the two tribes of the Southern Kingdom had been driven into Babylon because they refused to listen to The LORD.

What then of the prophets whose words did bring repentance to many? Jonah was a reluctant prophet to a Gentile nation, reluctant because of his own pride. Even though Jonah did not want the people of Nineveh to repent on hearing his message and seeing his condition after living inside a fish for three days and nights, they did humble themselves before God and He stayed His hand of judgement upon them. This revival was not permanent though, for around one hundred years later Nahum was raised up as a prophet to that same city and told its people that they had become “empty, desolate, and waste!” (2:10) Consequently he warned this “bloody city” that the emptiness of its moral character would spread to its structure until people would lament “Nineveh is laid waste!” (3:7)

The other prophet whose ministry triggered community repentance was Haggai. He was a prophet to the Jews who had returned from captivity in Babylon and were commissioned with rebuilding the temple. However, due to opposition from the people around them they had become discouraged and had begun to busy themselves with their own things rather than with the work The LORD had prepared for them. Eighteen years after they had first returned, God sent Haggai to tell them that they had taken their eyes off the ball! He called for practical repentance requiring the collecting of the materials to complete the task they had begun a long time ago. Haggai is unique among Old Testament prophets for one key reason – the people of Judah listened to him! Their response was to return to work with such determination that through Haggai The LORD was able to encourage them with the promise “The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former.” (2:9)

Although Jonah’s experience was later to become a sign to unbelieving Jews, he was in reality a prophet to a Gentile nation. Haggai, in contrast, was sent to the remnant of Israel to call for repentance amongst God’s people. Do either of these men provide us with insights as to what The LORD is doing in Western nations today, or do we have to look amongst other “minor” prophets for a man with a burden which illuminates our current situation as much as it did his own? We cannot look to Jonah in the hope of the nation repenting, because the present condition of the Church would immediately undermine any revival which happened in society. Is it time therefore for those who are called by His name to take notice of Haggai’s pleas to stop panelling their own houses and to concentrate on building The LORD’s house? About forty years ago I would have said that it certainly was! Whilst I believe that such priorities are an essential for every believer, no longer do I have the confidence that the majority of British Christians will embrace this message, nor even that if they were to do so, we would see revival first within the Church and then in the world around us.

Accepting the Unacceptable

Over the last four decades The LORD has slowly but surely caused me to forsake my own ambitions for His kingdom and to embrace a reality for the days in which we live which I now believe to be His. It is a reality which frighteningly I witness being steadily worked out as news from around the world and at home makes its unrelenting way into our lives. My journey began as I joined regularly with others to pray for revival both in Britain and especially in the city where we lived at that time. Though I heard and read of many prophecies of revival throughout these decades, those revelations which found an authoritative response within my own spirit, and the “Amen” of the Holy Spirit, were those which spoke of hardship and persecution ahead, along with those through which The LORD declared that He would not be sending revival to Britain.

Arising from the burden to pray for the people I lived amongst, I found myself becoming involved in ministry focusing on Biblical creation and answering the claims of evolution. But The LORD was making something else clear for me through this period. I became more and more aware of the progress of secularism in the mindset of Western societies. To many the attraction of evolution is, as Richard Dawkins put it in The Blind Watchmaker (1986) page 6, “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” Whilst not all atheists are militant secularists, my engagement with the creation-evolution debate highlighted to me how secular humanism has influenced society to the extent that that which was once unacceptable in so-called “Christian” nations has now become the standard by which others are judged. My article of eighteen months ago (mentioned above) was in part written to explain why The LORD had not stepped in to prevent this imposition of a secular world-view on societies like Britain. Though we crossed a Rubicon with the legalisation of same sex marriage, our society has not come to the end of its journey given that the majority have united “against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.’” (Ps. 2)

Just as I believed that Haggai held out hope to the Church in the mid 1970s, today I find myself identifying with Habakkuk as the prophet with a very relevant word for today’s Western Church. Habakkuk prophesied after Jonah and before Haggai. Though he does not specify exactly when he spoke, it appears from his record that he was speaking to Judah shortly before they were taken into exile to Babylon. In fact he foresees the Babylonians’ successful invasion of what remained of Israel. However, the prophecy of Habakkuk is remarkable and unique because it is not a message to either Jews or Gentiles. Instead it is a record of this prophet’s own personal struggle with God firstly about His lack of action against evil in Judah, then about what He said He was going to do in response to that evil. Like the Psalms it is written as poetry, to convey not only insights into the character of God, but also the prophet’s emotions as God shares His own feelings about the unbelieving hearts of those called to be His people. The book of Habakkuk opens with an enquiry by the prophet about His God’s apparent failure to intervene. Just as Job’s encounter with his Creator led him to humble himself, we go on to read how Habakkuk had to humble himself to accept that which had previously been unacceptable to him. God’s people were to be uprooted from their land and forced to live in a godless society.

The Frustrated Prophet

Can I encourage you to take a break at this point and read the whole of Habakkuk. It is just three chapters long and I encourage you to approach it as a poem rather than as a exercise for study. Ask The LORD to help you appreciate the prophet’s feelings as he was given unexpected answers by his God. Ask Him also to share with you some of His own feelings about the remnant of Israel at that time, and how these might be reflected when He looks at His Church today. What follows is only a summary of Habakkuk’s encounter with God.

The written record of his burden opens with Habakkuk’s complaint against The LORD; he complained that despite his intercessions God had not intervened to stop the wickedness he witnessed all around him. This probably finds an echo in many Christians’ hearts today as we witness secularism having become the dominant world-view in society. We have been told for some time now that Western secular values with their apparent love of democracy will lead to world peace, yet like Habakkuk we witness iniquity, trouble, plundering and violence! The current crisis caused by the mixture of refugees and economic migrants flooding into the European Union has certainly caused strife to arise between nations as their immigration laws prove powerless.

Next we read The LORD’s initial response to His servant’s frustration (1:5-11). “Watch and be flabbergasted at what I am about to do! You will not believe it even though it is I who are telling you this in advance!” Habakkuk is then shown that his God is about to use a vicious pagan nation to bring judgement on Judah. You must read His description for yourselves as I cannot do it justice in summary. Here is a violent invader who will not leave a stone unturned as he moves with The LORD’s authority across nations, Judah included. However, there is also a warning that this hammer of God’s judgement has an Achilles’ Heel: “Then his mind changes, and he transgresses; He commits offence, Ascribing this power to his god.” (1:11) We will see the importance of this later.

At this point Habakkuk could very easily have given up on his quest to understand God’s work in his days. This was not the answer he wanted; it was the very opposite of the one he expected, the one he hoped for and was praying for. Yet he did not throw in the towel. We read his response from 1:12 to 2:1. The God he knew did not delight in wickedness, yet whilst He is often silent when men do evil, Habakkuk knew He had appointed a time for judgement. His objection was that when The LORD uses one nation to judge another, the conquerors become arrogant both towards the people they have subdued and towards God.

From Abhorrence to Anticipation

Habakkuk’s answer has unfortunately been split into two by the insertion of chapters. His own response to the storm clouds on the horizon is found in 2:1. This prophet was not prepared to desert his post for fear of what he had seen, but declared that he would continue to watch and listen. “And watch to see what He will say to me, And what I will answer when I am corrected.” Here is an important point; Habakkuk recognised that his own thinking needed correcting by The LORD – we can often be tempted to think that we need to correct God’s thinking! Through this commitment Habakkuk demonstrated his humility of heart before his God. Yes, he protested at what he had been shown, but rather than trying to persuade The LORD to change His mind, Habakkuk put himself in a place where God could rectify his wrong thinking. This is an attitude Christians would do well to embrace in today’s relentlessly changing world.

The LORD respected Habakkuk’s humility, giving him a two part answer. The first part is found in just three short verses (2:2-4). Remarkably this was to provide a foundation block for the Gospel of the New Testament. It is a revelation which Habakkuk was told to headline before his peers, even though it would not be fulfilled until a long time in the future. Patience would be needed by those waiting for this promise to come to fruition, but he was assured that the day would come when it would do so. That promise is: “Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.” The LORD agreed with Habakkuk that human arrogance is a real problem for those who seek to trust God, but this should not rob the godly of hope. It was to Habakkuk that our God made the promise that the upright will possess life through their faith! This promise is quoted several times in the New Testament. Paul identified it with the Gospel and God’s righteousness (Rom. 1;17); he also contrasted this excellent news with the bad news of the Law (Gal. 3:11-12), and the writer of Hebrews connects it to a warning of the danger of falling away from Christ! (Heb. 10:38). Though it is amongst the very best revelations that any man could hear from The LORD, this vision is about judgement as well as life. Besides promising life to those who believe, it also warns of the dangers of being proud before God.

The rest of chapter 2 (v5-20) is a warning to the ruler whom The LORD was about to use as a rod of discipline towards Judah. Here God expands on what He had already told Habakkuk about this invader mistakenly “ascribing this power to his god.” (1:11). This further condemnation builds on the warning of the first sentence in v4, “He is a proud man, And he does not stay at home. Because he enlarges his desire as hell, And he is like death, and cannot be satisfied, He gathers to himself all nations And heaps up for himself all peoples.” Besides condemning this leader of the Chaldeans (Nebuchadnezzar), this is also an appeal for that man to learn wisdom and humility sooner rather than later. That proved to be a hard lesson for this emperor, one which he only grasped years later after a series of extraordinary events recorded for us in Daniel 4. There we find the account of an amazing conversion culminating in this once proud ruler declaring, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.” (v37) This part of the revelation which Habakkuk received also contains two statements which are more familiar to us, though they too are implicit warnings to the proud. People often forget the context in which these declarations of God’s authority are found. They are: “For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea.” (v14) And, “But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.” (v20).

This revelation seems to have had a profound effect on the prophet, for his initial response was very brief, “O LORD, I have heard your speech and was afraid; O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy.” (3:2) He followed this with a description of what he had seen – The LORD at war! (v3-15) Habakkuk had come to understand that this glorious God was not at war with the rivers and seas, but that He “went forth for the salvation of Your people, For salvation with Your Anointed.” (v13). Having initially been terrified by what The LORD had shown him, Habakkuk found himself able to embrace the judgement coming on his nation which had been revealed to him. Confessing his overwhelming fear as a result of the revelation, this man prayed for the faith to trust The LORD in the midst of the coming tribulation. “When I heard, my body trembled; My lips quivered at the voice; Rottenness entered my bones; And I trembled in myself, That I might rest in the day of trouble.” (v16) It was as a result of this prayer that he might rest in God’s faithfulness in the midst of affliction, that this prophet was able to respond with the famous declaration that no matter what happened in Judah, no matter how much the crops or herds failed in that farming community, he personally would “rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.” (v18-19)

A Lesson from Life

I have written this article because it is my conviction that the days in which Britain (along with most Western nations) now finds itself are very similar to the times in which Habakkuk lived. It is a concern to me that the majority of Christians are apparently unwilling to grasp the reality of what The LORD has allowed to happen in this society. This is seemingly because they are committed to one of several collections of doctrine which deny that the human race will markedly increase in rebellion against its Creator in the lead-up to Christ’s return. Others it seems are allowing themselves to be deluded by the false hope that Britain is “special” in The LORD’s eyes. The roots of this deception appear to me to be, if not the same as those of British Israelism, at least closely entwined with them. As far as I can see from the Scriptures, there is no exception for Britain (or America) from being included amongst the nations which David (Ps. 2) and Zechariah (12:3) prophesied will unite “against the LORD and against His Anointed.” Nor are their names absent from the list of all the nations which will hate Christians for Jesus’ name’s sake, delivering believers up to tribulation and killing many of us. (Mt. 24:9)

The reality which had overtaken Judah by the time of Habakkuk is clearly expressed in one of the most terrifying passages in the Old Testament. 2 Chronicles 36:11-21 describes the reign of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah. It appears that this was after Habakkuk had come to terms with what The LORD was about to do, but it describes the point where the balance tipped from God’s longsuffering to His righteous discipline. This was the pinnacle of a rebellion which had been building up since the days of Moses. It was not new, but it was now complete. In v14-16 we read:

Moreover all the leaders of the priests and the people transgressed more and more, according to all the abominations of the nations, and defiled the house of the LORD which He had consecrated in Jerusalem. And the LORD God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy!

Until there was no remedy! God had tried and tried to bring His chosen nation to heartfelt and lasting repentance. There had been revivals, but soon another generation came along which turned away from Him once again. The Old Testament details their many rebellions, from a few days after leaving Egypt through the books of Judges and Kings, until it reaches the deportation of the two remaining tribes. We are assured in this chapter that The LORD continued to have compassion on His people throughout this journey, repeatedly sending prophets to plead with them. Yet they had despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, and the time had now come for His anger to be expressed!

Britain and the other nations which were once called Christendom, plus what are now our one-time colonies with white majority populations, have reached a similar point in their histories. Europe was indeed once blessed by The LORD as the home from which many missionaries took the gospel to diverse places. We should remember though that not many centuries earlier we had been burning dissenters from one form of churchmanship or another at the stake, and had also violently oppressed those Jews who lived amongst us. Even the wave of missionary endeavour was used by the worldly to advance opportunities for trade and with it to oppress men and women made as much in the image of God as any European. On the whole the churches remained silent about the oppressions of trade and empire until Wilberforce and his companions raised their voices and when they did so, they confined their objections to slavery.

Over the last two millennia Britain has displayed fallen human nature at best, held in check at times by an acceptance of God’s guidance. For a few short periods our ancestors were influenced by the light of Scripture, but even then many of our leaders have been proud men as selfishly ambitious as Nebuchadnezzar. Even the great missionary period happened at a time when unbelief and secularism were on the rise behind the scenes. Through first the Renaissance (14th-17th centuries) then the so-called Enlightenment (17th-18th c.), European and British thinking turned away from a Judaeo-Christian world-view, embracing instead Greek philosophy. Charles Darwin was no pioneer of new thought, just one who found a way to ride the crest of a wave which had been rolling in over previous centuries. His ideas did, however, as noted above, make it possible for secularism to gain a respectable foothold in a previously Christianised society.

How Should We Then Live?

Peter posed this question to his readers in the light of the coming replacement of this universe with a new one. (2 Pet.3:11-14) My conviction is that Britain, along with most other Western nations, is now experiencing the fruit of divine judgement, but it seems that many Christians are holding on to a hope that The LORD’s displeasure with this nation is not as advanced as the Scriptures indicate. To such the suggestion that we in the Western world are living at a time similar to the days of Habakkuk in the history of the Southern Kingdom is seemingly a message of defeat. Yet even as I write, we are witnessing the continued advance of secularism under the guise of multiculturalism and political correctness. Having introduced the former in the hope of undermining a heritage influenced by the Bible, secularists (including the leadership of the Conservative Party) are grasping at straws of political correctness in the hope of stemming the upsurge of fundamental Islam which they had not allowed for when they declared Britain to be a multicultural society. As I write there are reports (e.g. The Christian Institute here, here, & here) that the new counter-extremism strategy will include a requirement that church leaders, rabbis, imams and other religious leaders be subject to Government training and security checks. The reports indicate that they will have to enrol in a “national register of faith leaders” if they want to engage with the public sector, including schools and universities.

Under David Cameron’s premiership we have witnessed a redefining of “British Values” to approve immorality which The LORD has declared to be sin. Should this proposed register come about, it will no doubt require those who are “accepted” to embrace and promote these modern “morals”. With church leaders already seeking ways to move with the times and approve same sex marriage, the fear of being barred from key positions and establishments as well as losing government funding will no doubt entice many (including some evangelical and charismatic leaders) to bend with the breeze. Will this be the way to bring Britain back to God, or will it be a sign that The LORD has given up the churches as well as the nation to their own desires? (Rom. 1:24, 26 & 28) How should we respond to what God is doing? Should we, like Jeremiah’s audience, dismiss the prophetic word with responses like “The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD are these.”? (Jer. 7:1-8)

There are a number of prophecies given through the late Lance Lambert published on a website dedicated to his ministry. The last of these is entitled “Prophetic word for Great Britain - Saturday 6 August 2011. As with all prophecy outside of Scripture I encourage you to read and test it for yourselves, but I quote it here because since I first read it I have had a witness to its authority in my spirit. It offers no hope of revival in Britain, no hope of these islands returning to past ways through which The LORD was able to spread the Gospel. Instead it promises that The LORD “will prove to her that the way of the transgressor is hard and terrible.” It then adds “I will allow demonic forces held in check erstwhile by My Word and Gospel, and the living faith of so many, to become rampant in her social life, to the destruction of her society.” The most terrifying question in this word is however, “Will you who know Me and love Me go blind and dumb and deaf into this judgement?Given the seemingly wilful blindness amongst many Christians, I fear that the answer is “Yes, the majority will!”

As I said above, I am all too aware that any message that Britain is now beyond the pale will be rejected by many Christians. It seems they will fall into despair if they even consider that this nation will not buck the trend clearly laid out in the Scriptures and predicted for all nations. Consequently and despite the evidence, false hopes are being sown amongst God’s people that with prayer and protest our society can be turned around. “If Britain cannot be ‘saved’, what is the point of living?” I can almost hear some asking! The above prophecy through Lance Lambert answers that question. It is time for God’s people to stand in the gap, to intercede, not for the structures nor the institutions nor the churches of these islands, but “that there will be those who turn from darkness, from sin, and be saved. For whosoever shall call upon My Name in the midst of these judgements, I will save!It then ends with these words:

It will cost you everything to stand in the gap, but you will enter into My heart, and know deep fellowship with Me. Such travail conceived in your heart by My Spirit will cost you deeply, but it will end in My Throne and Glory.”

I close by urging you again to test the words of Lance Lambert’s prophecy and also to weigh what I have written in this essay. Is there a danger that many in the Church are deaf and blind to what The LORD has determined for Western nations like Britain? Are we dumb, unable to proclaim the Biblical Gospel to those encased in the darkness of secular Britain? Do we love our nation more than we love The LORD our God? Are these really the days of Elijah, Moses, Ezekiel and David or do we live at a time more like that of Habakkuk? Are we able to accept the will of The LORD who is in His holy temple, knowing that no matter what happens in our nation, no matter how hard and terrible the immediate future may be, through such days the will of The LORD will be done here and elsewhere until “the earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of The LORD, as the waters cover the sea!”

Randall Hardy – October 2015
www.amen.org.uk


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