DECEMBER 18- TODAY’S READING FROM THE ONE YEAR BIBLE- HABAKKUK 1:1-3:19; REVELATION 9:1-21; PSALM 137:1-9; PROVERBS 30:10
TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- HABAKKUK 1:1-3:19
Habakkuk prophesied between the fall of Nineveh (the capital of Assyria) in 612 B.C. and the Babylonian invasion of Judah in 588 B.C. Babylon was becoming the dominant power as Jehoiakim reigns in Judah.
Habakkuk lived at a time when faith in God’s Word was being challenged by circumstances that appeared to contradict its promises. Where was the righteous government of God? Was God sleeping? How could He allow such violence, iniquity, perverseness, strife, destruction, and contention?
The prophet Habakkuk expresses not only God’s thoughts to man but man’s questions to God. Questions like:
Habakkuk 1:2-3 2 How long, O LORD, will I call for help, And You will not hear? I cry out to You, “Violence!” Yet You do not save. 3 Why do You make me see iniquity, and cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; Strife exists, and contention arises.
Habakkuk does the right thing as he experiences the tension between God’s promises and contradictory circumstances. He takes his struggle to God in prayer.
There was a short-lived period of religious reform under King Josiah, but by the time of his death in 609 B.C., when his son Jehoiakim succeeded him, the people of Judah had abandoned the ways of the Lord. The prophet Jeremiah contrasted the reigns of Jehoiakim with that of his God-fearing father, Josiah:
Jeremiah 22:16-17 16 “He (Josiah) pled the cause of the afflicted and needy; Then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?” declares the LORD. 17 “But your eyes (Jehoiakim) and your heart are intent only upon your own dishonest gain, and on shedding innocent blood and on practicing oppression and extortion.”
The leaders of Judah have ignored the law of God.
Habakkuk 1:4 4 Therefore the law is ignored and justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore justice comes out perverted.
As Habakkuk expresses his bewilderment to God in prayer, the Lord responds with an even more bewildering reply. God says that He is using this situation for His sovereign purposes, and because He is holy, He must judge the sins of His people, the nation of Judah. Therefore, He will use their enemies, the Chaldeans (the Babylonians), to bring disaster to Jerusalem. Afterward, He will bring judgment to the proud Babylonian Empire, ‘whose strength is their god’.
Habakkuk 1:11 11 “Then they will sweep through like the wind and pass on. But they will be held guilty, they whose strength is their god.”
Habakkuk concedes that God is right to bring judgment upon sinners.
He confesses that his understanding is limited and skewed. Yet he questions God further:
Habakkuk 1:13 13 Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You cannot look on wickedness with favor. Why do You look with favor on those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they?
In other words, Habakkuk wonders why it appears that believers seem to be suffering more than unbelievers. Habakkuk joins the chorus of those who throughout the ages have complained, “Why do the wicked prosper?”
Habakkuk expresses his resolve to adopt God’s viewpoint by faith. He has stated his difficulty, confessing his struggle to God in prayer. Now he takes his station, awaiting God’s further communication from the watchtower of spiritual alertness.
He is to take heed to God’s Word and record what God has shown him, knowing that the Word is true and will be fulfilled in God’s perfect time.
Habakkuk 2:2-3 2 Then the LORD answered me and said, “Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, That the one who reads it may run. 3 “For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay
The Lord then contrasts the life of the proud and the life of those who trust God’s Word. It may seem that the wicked prosper, but one day they will be brought to ruin. God can use them as His instrument to discipline His people, but in the end, their own pride will bring about their doom. Those who live their lives with faith in God’s promise will be rewarded with life eternal. The Lord states the ultimate reality,
Habakkuk 2:4 4 “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.
Mankind’s addictions will betray him.
Habakkuk 2:5 5 “Furthermore, wine betrays the haughty man, so that he does not stay at home. He enlarges his appetite like Sheol, and he is like death, never satisfied. He also gathers to himself all nations and collects to himself all peoples.
One day the hens will come home to roost, and the piper must be paid!
You wonder how many people fail to recognize that when they sin against God, they are also sinning against themselves? (Hab 2:10b)
The city of Babylon will be conquered, even as the Babylon system that opposes God at the end of the age will be destroyed. Man’s utopias will turn out to be disasters.
Here again, is the stated reality. The wicked will not prosper. God’s kingdom will come. God’s Will will be done. This is the reality to which every human being is called to bring themselves into alignment through repentance and faith in the gospel.
Habakkuk 2:14 14 “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea.
Chapter 3 is a prayer. It emerges from Habakkuk’s communion with the Lord and the insights he has received. As we feed upon God’s Word and are reminded of His purposes, we can pray a similar prayer:
Habakkuk 3:2 2 LORD, I have heard the report about You and I fear. O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years, In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy.
We know we all are deserving of God’s wrath. But God’s Word reveals that He is also a God of mercy. He offers forgiveness through the cross of Christ.
Mt. Paran, according to some scholars, is another name for the Sinai Peninsula, or Mt. Sinai itself. Teman is another name for Edom. In highlighting these two locations, Habakkuk is retracing God’s presence in the cloud by day and fire by night, accompanying the nation of Israel on its march through the wilderness to the Promised Land. But His glory extends far beyond one episode in history or one people on the planet.
Habakkuk 3:4 4 His radiance is like the sunlight; He has rays flashing from His hand, and there is the hiding of His power.
He was glorified in the plagues that fell upon the Egyptians as well as the deliverance He provided for the Jews (3:5-6). Verse 6 reminds us that the gates of hell cannot prevail against what God is building. Who can stand against Him?
The nations between Egypt and the Promised Land are described in the phrase ‘the tents of Cushan’ and ‘the land of Midian.’ The Lord caused His enemies to tremble.
Habakkuk uses poetic imagery to describe God’s faithfulness to His people in the past. This should remind us that we can trust Him for the future even when our faith is challenged by present circumstances!
Habakkuk 3:17-18 17 Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, 18 Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – REVELATION 9:1-21
The fifth angel sounds the fifth trumpet, and it appears that ‘hell is let loose’.
Revelation 8:13 13 Then I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”
The descriptions of these three ‘woes’ from the remaining three trumpets are more than triple the size of the descriptive texts of the previous trumpet judgments. Whereas the first four judgments were described in one or two verses each, the fifth trumpet judgment is described in 12 verses.
The previous judgments affected mankind indirectly (impacting the earth, trees, sea, waters, and light). The next three affect mankind directly (personal torment). The previous judgments were brought about by the forces of nature. The next judgments are brought about by supernatural forces. The fifth trumpet releases demonic forces under the command of Apollyon, the angel of the abyss (Rev 9:2-11).
Verse 1 describes a ‘star’ falling from heaven. Stars refer to different things in the Bible. In Revelation Chapter one, we saw how the ‘stars’ referred to the 7 messengers of the seven churches. In Chapter 2, Jesus is referred to as the bright morning ‘star’ in verse 28 and Revelation 22:16. The word ‘stars’ referred to natural heavenly objects such as asteroids or suns in Revelation 6:13; 8:10-11; Here, however, the word ‘star’ refers to a personage, described as ‘him’ and ‘he’ (9:1-2).
Some commentators see this star as Satan, yet others see this star as an angel of heaven on assignment who rapidly descends to earth with authority to open the pit- the shaft of the abyss.
The abyss is a place where the demons have been incarcerated before being cast into the lake of fire. For them, it is a hell, before hell. We don’t know that much about it, only that the demons abhorred it. When Jesus cast the demons out of the possessed man in the country of the Garsenes, living in the cemetery, the demons pleaded not to be sent to the Abyss (Luke 8:31).
In the Book of Revelation Chapter 20 and the Book of Jude (1:6), we learn that the Abyss is where demons are imprisoned and where Satan will be locked up during the thousand-year reign of Christ.
Powers of darkness and spiritual oppression are unleashed in this judgment. The demonic powers are described in the apocalyptic language as ‘locusts’. Locusts are symbols of judgment in the Bible. They are agents of destruction; they destroy. They devour. They darken the land. They swarm. You can’t get rid of them (Exodus 10, Joel 1:4). These are certainly not like locusts that we know. Locusts feed on vegetation and have no king (Prov 30:27). These are subject to a demonic power.
But God is sovereign over them (Psalm 105:34). He puts limits on their destruction.
Revelation 9:5 5 And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man.
Psalm 105:34 34 He spoke, and locusts came, And young locusts, even without number.
There is a hidden mercy in this judgment.
Revelation 9:6 6 And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them.
Death, in their case, would not be a relief from suffering, for the torments of hell are far worse. The Lord still calls humanity to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
The sixth angel sounds the sixth trumpet and unleashes a judgment that will bring death to a third (a fraction) of mankind. The four angels that are bound at the Great River Euphrates may speak of world powers. Some commentators believe that they refer to the four empires of Daniel Chapters 2 and 7 (Babylon -Iraq; Persia – Iran; Greece and Rome). In Daniel 10, we learn that there are angels that are identified with Empires/world powers. There is a battle going on between holy powers and unholy powers.
It is near the River Euphrates that sin began, the first lie was told, the first murder committed, the Tower of Babel built, and false religion was established. The River Euphrates is the eastern boundary of the Promised Land. The region near there was the location of three countries that oppressed Israel- Assyria, Babylon, and medio-Persia. The river people will cross to engage the battle of Armageddon.
The extraordinary number of the 200 million horsemen would indicate supernatural forces at work. The destructive forces of fire, smoke, and brimstone are released from these hellish creatures (Rev 9:18).
The tragic story is that with all this evidence that our survival is dependent upon submission to God, the people who dwell on the earth still refuse to repent.
Revelation 9:20-21 20 The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; 21 and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS – PSALM 137:1-9
This Psalm describes the experience of God’s people when they are exiles. They have been taken away from Zion and are now strangers in a strange land. They are sorrowful and oppressed. Their songs were meant to be sung while at the temple in Jerusalem or while on pilgrimage to go there. How can they sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? (Psalm 137:4).
Yet the believer clutches the truth that God has made a covenant with His people in which He has promised to be their God and salvation.
Psalm 137:6 6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, If I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.
The Psalm ends with a desperate plea for retribution. The Scriptures remind us that we are not to take revenge because vengeance belongs to God. We trust that in His wrath, He will remember mercy.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS – PROVERBS 30:10
Proverbs 30:10 10 Do not slander a slave to his master, or he will curse you and you will be found guilty.
We are warned not to meddle in domestic affairs that we know little about. We may be guilty of slander.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS – VIETNAM
Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Area: 331,653 sq km
Long, narrow country occupying the entire eastern and southern coastline of Indochina.
Population: 89,028,741 Annual Growth: 1.15%
Official language: Vietnamese Languages: 106
Largest Religion: Buddhist
Challenges for Prayer
The country is increasingly opening up as economic progress continues. Most of the population was born after the Vietnam War and are more interested in capital gain and the outside world than Communist propaganda. They are proving responsive to the gospel – for reasons good and bad. At the same time, newfound prosperity has opened the door to rampant materialism and other competing ideologies. Pray that the Truth might be clearly and effectively proclaimed, particularly among the growing masses of young professionals.
All open Protestant missionary work ceased in 1975. CMA had labored for 64 years (for 50 years as the only Protestant mission). Other agencies arrived in the 1950s, notably WEC, IMB, and UWM. In 1974 there were 280 missionaries in South Vietnam from about 20 organizations. Those years of sowing are today reaping an abundant harvest. Current economic development gives opportunity for Christians in business as well as for English teachers. Christian NGOs who propose legitimate aid projects are increasingly invited to work here. Literally, hundreds of organizations from both Asia and the West now claim some kind of work in Vietnam. Many of these organizations work in deliberate partnership together. Pray that Vietnam may become fully open to Christian workers and that many committed and prepared workers may respond.
PRAYER: Father, it is ‘in Christ’ that we can sing our new song and sing it freely, knowing that He has delivered us from our captivity to sin and death. In this world, we are faced with a spiritual battle, forces of evil, including our own propensities to sin. We cleave to Your promise and choose to walk by faith and not by sight, for the righteous shall live by faith. May we not be deceived by the apparent prosperity, the ease or comforts, of the wicked. We know that Your promises are real. Keep us from presumption. Keep us from sinning with our reactions. Help us in times when we struggle with unbelief. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.