Date: February 7, 1999
Bible Text: Habakkuk 3:2 | Roger Voegtlin
Series: Transcribed Sermons
If you will, please turn in your Bibles to Habakkuk 3:2. Habakkuk comes on the scene unannounced. Who he is, what tribe he’s from, what family he was born into, we’re not told. We don’t know very much about the time of his ministry either. His name is obscure. But scholars tell us that his name means an “ardent embracing,” or a “wrestling.” And there’s no doubt that he wrestled with God. As you look through this short book, over and over again we see him begging God to send revival, begging God to rend the heavens. I believe that this book answers the question of when we can see revival. Habakkuk 3:2, “O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.”
The first point I see is that revival always comes in God’s time. We know it, but we need to remind ourselves sometimes that revival comes in God’s timing. He is always working. While here on earth, Jesus said in John 5:17, “...My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” Only the sinfulness of man hinders God’s work; but He will finish His work, and He will finish it on time. There will be nothing to stop God’s work. The Apostle Paul expresses that in Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
When God works in His reviving power, He does it first of all with a suddenness. In Habakkuk 3:3, He says, “God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.” Remember when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost? It was with a suddenness. Turn with me to Acts 2:2, “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.” Verse 4, “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost....” From there those people went from city to city until the whole world had heard the gospel. So He works in a sudden way.
He also searches. Habakkuk 3:4-5, “And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power. Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet.” At Pentecost we read that he appeared as tongues of fire on top of their heads. Now these tongues of fire not only symbolize the purity of God but also the searching of God. And it is no wonder that the preaching that followed Pentecost pricked men and women in the heart to the place where they cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” There was a searching. There was something as they preached that searched the hearts of those who heard, and they said, “What must we do to be saved?” Revival can never come without an exposure of sin. That’s our problem. We want to hide our sin. I believe with all my heart that is where we are today. Good people are trying to hide sin, trying to cover sin. But again, revival can never come without an exposure and a judgment of sin.
Then also God is solemn in His working in revival. In verses 6-12 Habakkuk brings up instances to illustrate the solemn dealings with His people. He shows God marching through the land in indignation, whipping on those who were sinners. And in chapter 1 verse 13 he points out that God is of purer eyes than to behold evil. I want to say again, if you feel you can fast for God’s blessing on your life but hide your sin, you will never see God’s blessing. I’m not saying you have to confess it to your neighbor; but if you hide your sin, if you try to cover your sin, blessings will never start. Why do we want to cover our sin? The word is pride. Your neighbor has no business knowing your sin. Private things are to be kept private, but if you cover your sin from God, you can forget revival. We cannot expect revival if we are not prepared to humble ourselves before the mighty hand of God and expect judgment on every appearance of sin.
Then, finally, God saves in His reviving power in Habakkuk 3:13, “Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed...” This pictures the mighty saving activity that follows in the wake of revival. But again, in this first point we are looking at His timing. Look again at verse 2, the second part, “... O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.” We certainly cannot understand everything that is given in these Old Testament books, but one thing we can be sure of is that God is always working, and He is always on time—to the second. After Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead, He was about to return to heaven. His disciples wanted to know when He would come back and when He was going to restore His kingdom. The Master replied, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power.” But there was one thing they could be positive about, and that was that He was going to come back in time. Read the Bible, and you will see He has never been a second behind the time. Don’t get discouraged.
I know if there’s any problem I have, it is impatience. We will pray for a month or two, three, or four months. And then we get impatient. We stop, and we say, “I guess God doesn’t want it.” No, no, no. Whether it is for souls, whether it is for righteousness, whether it is for revival, we need to keep on keeping on. We have to have faith.
You see, He was on time in creation. We read, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” He was right on time. Jesus, when He came to this earth, was exactly on time, the precise time. When the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son. God knows exactly when everything has to happen. When we need revival, or more than that, when we are ready, I personally believe He is waiting on us. He wants it more than we want it. We read about the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 1 and 2 where Luke says, “when the day of Pentecost was fully come,” then suddenly there came the sound from heaven. What a blessing to know that God has planned the exact time to send revival. He knows, and He will send it. It is up to us to prepare for it. It is as simple as that.
Let’s move on and look at man’s extremity. “...O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years...” Let that sink in. “...In the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.” Here is the longing of a man in dire straits. We don’t know this, but when I read this, I can hear the cracking of his voice. I think if we could see him, we would see tears in his eyes. In what I know of revival, God always visits His people when they reach the point of desperation. We are too satisfied in America today. We are not near that place of desperation.
Habakkuk starts his prophecy in the first verse of the first chapter, “The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.” Then follows a description of the desperate condition of the people. He sees the high mountains of sin around the people and wicked people circling the righteous. In verses 5-11, God shows the prophet what he must do. God says that because His people are so wicked, He will have to raise up a nation even more wicked than they are to punish them and to whip them into submission, into repentance. In verse 6 He says, “For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwelling places that are not their’s.” God had to do that again, and again, and again in years gone by. He had blessed the nation, and the nation had become haughty in God’s blessings, thinking that they deserved those blessings. He had dealt with them and sent preachers to preach to them and try to convict them, but it did nothing—until He had to raise up a wicked nation to destroy and to punish God’s people and to bring them to their knees.
It makes me wonder. We think that we are just so strong in America. We don’t even have a defense system, but “we’re ready.” Little nations that are starving to death like North Korea are popping missiles out over the ocean. I praise God that President Reagan had the intestinal fortitude to win that Cold War with the Soviet Union. But immediately our soft nation said, “We have nobody to fear.” Well, just look at the nation of Red China, popping their missiles up and out, and we’re giving our technology to them.
I’m not trying to get you to fear; I don’t live in fear. I’m waiting to see the prophecies of God come true. If you are living right, you will be on the victor’s side. You will be excited because no matter what happens, the worse it gets, the more exciting it is for those who are right with God because God will be with them. But I can’t help but believe that God will allow some nation to come in and overrun America. We will get to the point that we will know what it is like to have an underground church. We will know what it is like to have a persecuted church. Habakkuk cries out in utter desperation in chapter 1:12-13, “Art thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O LORD, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.” And God will do that for America. Just as much as we are to discipline our children, He will discipline us, or He’s not truthful. “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity...”
We have a government that not only disregards God’s Word but despises it. We live in a country that makes fun of the Bible, a country that laughs and ridicules anything to do with Christianity. And we, in fundamentalism, are “playing” church in most cases. How much do we really believe when we have to convince people that adultery is a sin? How much do we really believe when we have to convince people in our churches that robbing God of His tithe is a sin? You say, “Oh, we’re good Christians.” Robbing God! Committing adultery! What kind of Christianity do we have when we have to shout from the pulpit, “Stay away from pornography!” We are in bad shape. We are living in the midst of the destruction of the independent Baptist movement, and all I see in people’s lives is, “What will my friends think?” Or, “Am I going to hurt someone’s feelings?” We better wake up!
We will never have revival until we in good churches get to the point of desperation. Not depression. There’s a big difference between depression and desperation. I’m a sinner; you’re a sinner. We’ll make statements like that, but in reality in our lives, people only want to point their fingers at other people’s sin. They want to point at other people and say, “See! He’s a sinner!” You can point to me, I’m a sinner. You wouldn’t want to know my sin. It would make you sick just like it makes me sick. What we need to do is stop pointing our fingers at other people’s sins and look at our own sin and fall down before God and cry out, “Oh, woe is me!” If we would really look at ourselves, we would stop looking at others. We would be in sackcloth and ashes, as it were.
As long as we trust in religious organization (and that’s the problem today—big men in fancy suits with a big vocabulary), as long as we depend on material wealth, shallow evangelistic campaigns, things that we can brag about, then we will not see revival. Because we are not going to see revival until we are totally dependent on Him. I’m not trying to be hyper-Calvinistic here. We need to be soulwinners, we need to work; but we can do nothing without Him. If we could just get a few of you to come to the place where you will stop pointing your finger at others and look in the mirror. When the confidence of our flesh is smashed and we come to God without excuses, seeing our desperate, wicked, blind condition before God, then and only then will God break in.
Then there must come a point of not only desperation, but desperation that leads to intercession. Look at chapter 2 verse 1, “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.” I don’t know exactly, but it sounds like he had a tower or a place where he could hide. He is saying, “I’m going to get alone with God.” Habakkuk had come to the place where he had to shut himself up with God. There was nothing else to do but watch and pray and wait until God answered from heaven.
You see, we cannot even think about revival, let alone taste it, without intercessory prayer. If you want to really get down to the bottom of the problem of fundamentalism in America today, it is prayerlessness. John Rice said it fifty years ago, and nothing has changed. The problem is prayerlessness. Yes, praise the Lord, there are individuals praying for revival, and God is meeting with them and blessing their personal needs. If there is anything that is a blessing to me and that I encourage myself with, it is the dozens of people in this church who are having revival personally. I don’t know, I can’t get inside of them, but I honestly believe that they are really praying for revival, and I can see by their lives that God is meeting their personal need.
But most of us can’t even remember to pray for revival during our personal devotions. You can only judge yourself. We pray for a while, and then we just forget. Now why would we forget? Because we have our health and because we have our jobs and our family, we are pretty good people, and we are satisfied. Isn’t it a shame? I praise God for my health, and I praise God for His taking care of me, and I praise God for my family. Why be satisfied when God wants to give us so much more? I don’t mean in a selfish way. We see all that sin and debauchery around us, and we’re satisfied.
Oh, we talk about Clinton, we’re disgusted with homosexuality, we listen to these conservative talk shows and we get riled up. We’d like to see more saved, and we’d like to see our family be better, but what I’m asking you to personally ask yourself is, where is the desperation? And where is the intercession? Where are the prayer groups that come together to beg God to rend the heavens and have the mountains of sin flow down, to cause the hindrance of sin and unbelief to fall down before His presence. Habakkuk prayed this way in chapter 2:2, “And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.”
God gave him a vision in two parts. The first part was the sinfulness of man in verses 3 through 19. God said, “Now you write this down and make it plain.” It is so vivid and so wicked that Habakkuk is brought to the depths of despair. We shouldn’t get to that place, but we’re human. Habakkuk really got down. Until we understand God’s pronouncements on human sinfulness, until we really understand sin—and that means our sin and our family’s sin, that means the sin of the people who are holding back revival and the sin of the nation that will bring judgment upon it—we’ll never be serious about praying for revival.
Secondly, he saw a vision of God’s holiness in chapter 2 verse 20, “But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.” Because of our sinful nature, we don’t normally see our sin aright. Now, you know that and I know that. We have a sinful nature which makes excuses for our sin, so we really don’t see it. I’ve seen people in such wicked sin, and it seems like the more wicked they are, the more they say, “I’m more right with God today than I’ve ever been.” Our sin blinds us. God must bring us to the point of desperation.
Look at Isaiah 6:5. Isaiah is pronouncing woes on everyone, but he’s unaware of his own need until he catches a vision of the holiness of God in chapter 6 verse 5. And then he said, “Woe is me!” He’s railing on everybody else, but then starting in verse 3 he says, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory... Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” You have to get to that place where you are desperate, and the only way you will get there is when you see your sin.
As I said this morning, I think there are a lot of people who were “saved” at five or six years old who never see their sin because they have never seen the Savior. Their parents keep on saying, “You’re saved, you’re saved.” I was saved at five. But there are too many young people who grow up in churches like ours who can just grin about sin and have no conviction whatsoever; they’re hardened. Whether they are saved or not, only God knows. If they don’t see their desperate condition, God will judge their sin. You see, again, we’ve got to get to the place of desperation and intercession because of our human sinfulness and because of divine holiness.
The last point to me is exciting—an opportunity through faith. Look again at Habakkuk 3:2, the last half, “O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.” Until revival comes, there is only one attitude that a true child of God can have, and that is to be strong in faith and righteousness. You may say, “God has not sent revival.” It’s not up to us to say when it should come, but we can be strong. We better be strong in faith. You cannot live, friend, without faith. Be strong in faith, a faith that is righteous. Not puffing our chests out, but righteous before God. In chapter 2 verse 4, it says, “Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.”
Praise God, the only way you will survive as a Christian today is by faith. The just shall live by faith. Until revival comes, there is only one attitude for a true man of God, and that is to be strong in faith and in righteousness. The Apostle Paul writes about this attitude in Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”
One of the strongest factors in bringing about churchwide revival is righteous behavior. It’s living for God. It’s individual Christians, one by one by one, living with the determination to do all of God’s will in His strength. Why don’t you stop being a denominationalist? “I’m a Baptist, and I go to Fairhaven. And we believe this and this and this...” Why don’t you stop being a denominationalist and be a Christian? Be brokenhearted about the world and be brokenhearted about souls going to hell. You wonder what is wrong. You’re just going through the motions, maybe coming down the aisle every once in a while and making a decision. Why don’t you get serious about things? Why don’t you get into the excitement of the Word of God and living for God? Of course, you will be thought of as a nut. Carnal Christians (and that’s the majority today) cannot stand Christians who are right with God.
We’re living in the deterioration of what was once a great movement of great churches of soulwinning and separation. Take soulwinning. Barely one church bus ministry in 25 that existed 20 years ago still exists today, and most that exist are a shadow of what they once were. I’m not saying a bus route makes you spiritual, but I think it shows you how soulwinning is just falling by the wayside. It’s just a statistic. And separation? You know that when it came to the issue of mixed swimming, or watching filthiness, or pants and walking shorts on girls, that these things were unheard of among independent Baptists. Now, we are nuts! Expect to be a nut. Don’t live like a martyr. I don’t mean have a martyr complex, but expect people to poke at you. Expect people to gossip about you. Expect people to lie about you. Because as people deteriorate, they want to point at others. They can’t stand it when somebody’s doing right.
Can you imagine those three men standing— Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? Can you imagine those of God’s people who were bowing and then they looked up and saw them? Do you think they said, “Oh, what great men”? I think they pointed; I think they gossiped about them. Nobody in sin wants to have other people stand; it makes them look bad as they are bending their knees. But God’s Word is clear. The just shall live by faith. And this faith not only will do right but it is going to believe and it is going to rejoice. Look at the last three verses in chapter 3, verses 17-19, “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls...” [That’s a bleak picture.] “...Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Now stop. We want to keep depending on the herds, and the oils, and the olive trees, don’t we? It’s a big thing to us. “Praise God, He’s blessing me financially and materially.” Well, I praise God, I do. I don’t take it lightly. But that’s the least of what we ought to praise God for. If everything falls apart around us, we worry. “Oh, if America falls!” America will fall in God’s time. It’s already troubled. It’s no longer the country I was born into. I was born into a country you could be proud of. I was born into a country you would be glad to fight for and die for! Can you say that today? No. Can you say you would want to send your son on a ship with women and homosexuals to fight for our president as commander in chief? For a country that murders millions of babies? Our country has already crumbled. I praise God for the freedoms that we have because of our past, but our country has crumbled. It will continue to crumble. God has sent us Clinton to judge us, and we have embraced him.
Look at verse 19, “The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.” G. Campbell Morgan called the passage that we just read the greatest of all prophetic poetry. In verse 17, Habakkuk gives us a picture of a country laid in waste. A picture of America; a picture of fundamentalism. But faith, real faith, looks at a hopeless situation and rejoices. Why? Because we have faith in God! Those who were here during our court case know I said many times, “You can’t have victory without a battle.” So don’t sit around praying for a soft life; pray for God’s strength and victory. Pray for God’s will. Faith, real faith, looks at a hopeless situation and rejoices in victory. No matter what shape an individual, a church, or a country is in, God can restore, and God can revive.
Verse 18 could say, “I jump for joy” or “I’ll spin around for joy.” When a man of faith lives righteously and rejoices, waiting for revival, this text says his life can be an exciting one. He can be energized in the Bible and through the Holy Spirit and in the power of God to the place where he says, “I’m happy!” I’m not saying you will never get down, but it is tremendous being able to see God bless. And when the government says that it isn’t going to happen, God can manifest His miracles much more so in hard times than easy times. “The LORD God is my strength,” Habakkuk said in verse 19.
If we study the lives of men such as Moses, and Elijah, and Joshua, and John, we see that despite the fact they lived in terrible times, God gave them strength and victory. They stood! What made them stand? God made them stand. They stood in His strength until God came upon the scene. That’s exactly what I’m preaching about tonight. We, as Christians, can have a tremendous outlook on life, we can be victorious, we can see miracles, and we can see wonderful things happen. We can have that marriage the Bible talks about, and those children the Bible talks about.