I’ve found that there are rarely coincidences when it comes to God, so when I noticed that my Great Grandfather had underlined two verses, one in Habakkuk and one in Acts that was a quote of the one in Habakkuk, I decided to ask God what He wanted to teach me through these verses.
One was written sometime between 612 and 599BC, the other when the Apostle Paul quoted the same verse almost 700 years later.
The verse is Habakkuk is found in chapter 1, verse 5.
“Look among the nations, and see;
Wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
That you would not believe if told.”
Habakkuk writing at a time when Babylon was on the rise, but hadn’t yet attacked Jerusalem.
Recognising that Judah had strayed far from God He enquires of God what He is planning on doing about it. Gods reply astounds Habakkuk. All the injustice, violence and idolatry that was Habakkuk’s daily experience was to be replaced by something that although not at the full height of its power was known to be much worse. God states that He is raising up the Babylonians to take care of things.
A foreign power coming to decimate Gods people, and at his command?
I wonder if Habakkuk was able to recall the words that Isaiah wrote “ for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8
It didn’t make any sense to Habakkuk, but he knew that God was trustworthy, and would redeem His people in time. He couldn’t comprehend how God’s plan could possibly have a good outcome, but was prepared to stand at the watch post to see. Confident that God was in control, Habakkuk would wait.
The widely taught lesson from Habakkuk is that we are to persevere through suffering, that God is in control and can be trusted to win through if we just persevere. I wonder if there is an additional lesson that God wants to teach us here. I believe it is a lesson that many do not want to learn, but thankfully gives great comfort to those who are willing to listen.
The question that I believe God is asking us to consider is whether the Church (generally, rather than individually local churches) has restricted Him because it has defined what a move of God looks and feels like, leaving no room for Him to do things that don’t conform to its very strict doctrine and theology.
Has the Church found ways of operating that limits what it is prepared to accept as “Gods way?” Has it so tamed Him into what we find acceptable, that it misses exactly what He is doing in these days. Has it become blinded to His love, his perseverance with those who claim to follow Him that it has decided what He is and isn’t allowed to do in our churches and in our lives.
Denominations across the world have developed processes and parameters to allow people to feel welcome, to ensure that their lifestyle is not challenged, and to make Church ‘comfortable’ but in doing so have created a place where God is impotent to move. In many churches the box in which God is permitted to operate in means that He rarely bothers to show up on a Sunday morning. The public and the media love it, because there is nothing demanding about going to a church like that.
God has declared that He is doing something in these days that we would not believe, even if we were told about it – and yet we refuse to hold Him at his word, often because that might mean change on our part. My experience is that when you have encountered the real Jesus, when you have felt the comfort, the conviction, the power of Holy Spirit, when the loving arms of the Father envelope you change is inevitable, even welcome. Have we so left God out of our Churches that even He doesn’t attend any more.
People who live what they believe is what the world is crying out for, often without realising it. They are tired of seeing the same dreary things being portrayed as ‘Church’. The media tells us that Church attendance is declining. If the worlds perception of what church is, is Songs of Praise on the BBC, or the odd Royal wedding I’m frankly not surprised. The world wants to feel alive, and if the message we are proclaiming is that Jesus is life, then those that are proclaiming the message should at the very least look alive.
My question is, have we learned the lessons that God was declaring over 2500 years ago? I think it is unlikely. 700 years after Habakkuk wrote, Paul had the same warning for the people of Antioch. Worship God. Stay in “the Way”. Don’t drift, don’t allow the warnings of the Prophets come about.
“Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish;
For I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.” Acts 13:41.
We have been told, yet we still do not believe. We hear stories of revivals, of healings and of divine visitations, yet we are quick to forget them, or our enthusiasm is diverted to other more seemingly tangible things. Sometimes the move starts small, almost as if He is checking to see if we will notice. A change of wind speed, glitter on the floor. Both likely to be caused by something other than a “move of God”, but if we are willing to notice them, to raise our awareness that He is present and desperate to meet us, it is just possible that noticing a speck of glitter on the floor, choosing to turn our eyes towards Him rather than trying to explain it away, will cause the Father to move in a way that will bring revival to our church, to our town and to our country.
God is still at work, He is still doing things in our days. Let’s not miss what He is doing because we are comfortable where we are and have a very carefully defined version of Him.
God doesn’t fit in our boxes. Sometimes the only way to really experience Him, is to step outside ours.