14 June: God at work in unprecedented times

Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
14 June 2020

Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.


We live in unprecedented times. We are regularly hearing on the news such phrases as “In all my time as …….. I have never seen anything like this before.” If someone had stood up in a church in November 2019 and given prophesies to the effect that in a few months the world would be in lockdown and there would be global demonstrations regarding bringing an end to racism, who would have taken them seriously? Most people would have regarded them as extreme to say the least. But here we are! Jesus taught us that such things will happen and our response should be to stand firm for righteousness, justice, and the gospel of the kingdom, Amen!


Thanks to Margery:

Like all of us I do find these are difficult days, but also times of blessing. I found this booklet in the reception area of Bethel one Sunday and it has been such a blessing to me during lockdown, especially this prayer which I offer for everyone at Bethel: “May the Lord watch over you when you get up each morning. May the Lord be with you in all that happens to you through the day. May the Lord be at your side in your resting and your sleeping. May the Lord be your friend and your guide to care for you today and every day, Amen.”


With thanks to Dylys

“Abide with Me” is a Christian hymn written by Scottish Anglican Henry Francis Lyte. He wrote it in 1847 while he lay dying from tuberculosis; he survived only a further three weeks after its completion.


‘Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told’

Habakkuk 1:5

To understand the book of Habakkuk, we have to keep our focus on this, that it is first and foremost about the purposes and will of God being worked out, not only locally, in Judah, but in the whole world. God has, is, and always will work out His plans and purposes, here, there and in the whole universe. He has done in the past, He is doing so in the present and He will do so in the future and throughout eternity – nothing and no-one can stop Him, Amen! Whenever, a person, people, nation or nations, resist that will, plan and purpose, and pursue evil ways it will eventually come back on them. The word ‘Justice’ appears 425 times in the OT – something very important to God and is prominent in Habakkuk: “The result of the abandonment of God’s justice in Judean society is chaos” (Achtemeier). The consistent teaching in Scripture is we reap what we sow:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

Gal 6:7

cf. God giving over a people to their sins (Romans 1:18, 32). Cf. Jesus parable:

But Abraham replied, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony”

Luke 16:25

(1) The Burden and Prophecy that Habakkuk received

I’m combining both the NKJV and the NIV because it is clear that Habakkuk was burdened and he received prophecy from the Lord. The word for burden is the same as that used for a load that a camel or donkey may carry. Habakkuk’s burden was formulated by 2 questions:

  1. How long? (Hab 1:2),  and
  2. Why? (Hab 1:3)

Habakkuk has to face the difficulties of seemingly unanswered prayer, and of being a righteous person who has to watch as the nation, and the world around, becomes a more evil place. Habakkuk is frustrated knowing the peace, joy and abundant life that God so wants to give and yet seeing all the sin, misery, pain, and evil around him. This is an age-old problem for righteous people e.g.

Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked …16 When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply …

Psalm 73:2, Psalm 73:3, Psalm 73:16

Cf. Nehemiah – re. the state of Jerusalem and the remnant being in great trouble and disgrace – he was burdened:

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.

Neh 1:4

Cf. the cry of the martyrs:

When he opened the 5th seal, I saw … the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.

Rev 6:9-11

(2) Take it to the Lord in prayer

Habakkuk is forthright in prayer and suggests God is

  • not listening
  • not saving
  • allowing injustice to continue unabated
  • tolerating wrongdoing such that the law is paralysed, justice never prevails, and justice is perverted

(3) Be attentive to the Lord’s answer

There is a need to not only unburden ourselves before the Lord but also to listen to Him. We can all say our many prayers, but we all find it harder to simply wait on the Lord and to listen to what He has to say! Habakkuk eventually does this and like others heard the answer from the Lord. The Lord also is very forthright and truly shocks Habakkuk: I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people …” God is going to use a nation in whom there is more evil and injustice than in Judah, to chasten Judah. If Habakkuk spent more time listening to the Lord, he might hear the Lord pointing out a few more things. Here is Habakkuk asking the Lord, “How long?” Maybe the Lord would want to point out that from the very earliest of days He has been asking the same question of the people of Israel:

Then the Lord said … ‘How long will you refuse to keep my commands …?

Exodus 16:28

The Lord said “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?”

Numbers 14:11

Note we also need to examine ourselves because it is a question Jesus asked of His disciples from time to time:

“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.”

Matt 17:17

Wow! We need to get into the Presence of God with our “How longs?” and listen to what He says. Cf. the dramatic change that came upon the Psalmist in Psalm 73, the one above who had almost slipped and nearly lost his foothold until:

till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. 27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. 28 But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.

Psalm 73:17, 27-28

However, that said we find it doesn’t quite happen like this at first with Habakkuk:

(4) Habakkuk is even more burdened following the Lord’s answer

“Lord, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One … You, Lord, have appointed them to execute judgment; you, my Rock, have ordained them to punish. Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”

Hab 1:12-13

God has already urged Habakkuk to broaden his horizons! Literally, “Look! See! Be astonished! Wonder!” (Hab 1:5) almost in preparation for what He has further revealed to him. And raise up the Babylonians He does:

“It is rather remarkable to note the ascendancy to power of this nation, the extent of their domain, and their equally rapid decline in prominence … underscoring the prominence of the divine hand in raising them up and also bringing them down … Astounding indeed are the ways of God among the nations.”

“Not by their own instinct, but by the hidden impulses of God do the nations rise and fall.” (Calvin).

But Habakkuk is deeply troubled!

(5) Habakkuk again waits on the Lord

“I will look to see what He will say to me”

Hab 2:1

There is not space to go into any detail about the remarkable things the Lord reveals to Habakkuk some of which stretch out to the very end of the age:

(1) The coming of Christ

“For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though He linger, wait for Him; He will certainly come and will not delay”

Hab 2:3

Taken up in Hebrews 10:37:

“In just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay”

Heb 10:37

“Christ shall soon appear and bestow the promised glory”

(2) The great truth of Justification by faith

Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith

Hab 2:4

“the one who trusts God’s grace for his existence every moment shall live. He shall survive the devastations of God’s judgment … Continuation in trust alone can assure continued possession of the gift of life”

(3) The devastating judgment on the Babylonians themselves

“Now it’s your turn” (Hab 2:16).

(4) Jesus the Messiah will one day slay the wicked with the breath of His mouth

(cf. 2 Thes 2:8) so that “… the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2:14; cf. Isaiah 11:4, 9).

(5) The need for the whole world to observe the Sabbath rest of the Lord and be silent before Him

“The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.”

Hab 2:20

Habakkuk, in a completely different place than when he started, has matured in the faith, come round to seeing things God’s way and is able now to praise and worship the Lord:

“yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. 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 3:18-19


Are we able to take a verse from a prophet that was written around 610 BC (some 2,630 years ago) and apply it to our modern era? Definitely yes – the apostle Paul quotes this very same verse in his sermon in Pisidian Antioch to speak about their response to Jesus:

“Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you”

Acts 13:41

And we only have to look today at the nations of the world and watch and be utterly amazed because our God is definitely on the move, Amen!

Verse of the Week

‘Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and His glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn”

Isaiah 60:1-3

Let’s Pray

Our loving Heavenly Father, we worship, praise and thank You for the hope that is ours in Jesus Christ and that when He returns He will bring to an end all wickedness, violence and hatred and establish His righteous rule and reign of love.

Lord we commit this world to You and pray Your will be done, Your kingdom come.

We especially pray for George Floyd’s family and friends and for all those who have been deeply hurt through racist acts, injustice, and hatred. Lord bring Your comfort, strength and restoration into their lives. Lord banish the evil of racism from the nations of the world.

Help us Lord, not only, not to be racist, but also anti-racist, Lord to stand for what is right, for justice, and for righteousness. Lord that parents might instil into their children Your values, Your love, Your respect for the dignity of every human being. Help us all to love You, our neighbours, and even our enemies. We pray for the Governments of the world that they might have moral courage to do what is right despite the cost.

Lord You teach us that in Christ Jesus there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female for we are all one in Christ. Lord help us in the Church to live our this truth that the world may see that in You it can be done. Change our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh, not just in some areas, but in all areas. Lord that we might not walk on the other side but like the Good Samaritan get our hands dirty in helping others, in and through Jesus Christ, Amen!