Encountering God – Habakkuk 3:1-19 – Sermon Notes

The change we see in Habakkuk is the result of encountering God.

At the start, he struggles to comprehend the world around him. He feels there’s no response to his prayers. He hasn’t lost his faith in God but is struggling to see the point.

Now there’s a change in tone. He’s no longer complaining. It appears he’s seen that God has done something. Why the sudden change? In chapter 2, God shows his true might and power. This prayer is a direct response to a personal encounter with God.

Pray and declare

He prays and proclaims the God he serves. We are charged with these two roles. Often we are left with the question of how. Habakkuk looks at the world around him and is awestruck at who God is (v2). Instead of anger, he is rejoicing in the Lord. He tells us God accepts us feeling angry but we shouldn’t stay that way. We can allow our attitudes to shift. We need to pray asking God to show us his glory.

Pray for mercy

Witnessing God’s power is no easy thing. It’s changed Habakkuk. He comes away feeling physically ill. If we meet with God this way it will also change us. He was so affected that he describes it as decay creeping into his bones. After seeing the wrath of God and what he’s capable of, we can only turn inwardly and look at our sin. We see ourselves for who we are. Habakkuk will wait patiently (v16).

Look to the cross and be joyful

Habakkuk sees the God who delivers his people and is joyful and is able to call him Saviour (v18). He’s now rejoicing. At the cross, this is where God says he is committed to justice. It’s the cross where Jesus took our punishment. It helps us to pray for a broken world. We know God will act in a final judgement. No matter what situations we face we can pray to God knowing he will act.

Rest in the sovereign Lord

We can be content like Habakkuk (v19). He finishes by ascribing the place where has arrived with feet like a deer walking on the heights. The danger is still real. Habakkuk is now resting in God as his source of strength. We can be changed when we see God’s glory.

We need God to break our apathetic hearts and lead us to trust in the grace of Jesus. Knowing God through Jesus can allow us to be joyful. God is enough.

An End to Injustice – Habakkuk 2:4-20 – Sermon Notes

“Woe” is an appropriate response to our world. Politicians have tried to create a world without injustice. They haven’t sold the problem that Habakkuk brings to the Lord. They can’t. Injustice is our nature. Politics can’t change human nature. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of God’s glory when he acts to end injustice. We should pray for mercy. God will act to end injustice.

Pray with confidence that God will act to end injustice

The judgement that God describes is what he has decided will happen. He has done it in the past (Babylonians in Daniel 4-5). It’s deserved.

Pray with confidence that God’s response to injustice will be just

You can’t have a God who will judge others and not judge you. We see the God we really need. He isn’t just aware of the injustice. His response is proportional. We should bring our questions to him in prayer, asking him to bring the injustice he’s promised. The Babylonians were guilty of many charges. They’re charges that could be made of us. The desires are often acted out at the expense of others. Our world is full of injustice and is fuelled by these desires. God has a proportionate response. It’s having all the evil you’ve done to others brought back on yourself. We try to convince ourselves we don’t deserve it.

Pray for mercy because God’s justice will affect all of us

How much do we care about those who suffer? When we get success who do we credit? God’s judgement isn’t just guaranteed and just – it’s universal. When accused we all deny our guilt. That’s human nature, but that doesn’t happen here. We are all deserving of God’s judgement. God sees two distinct groups of people. His enemies and the righteous. The distinction is based on what they believe.

Jesus is the one person who has always been perfectly just. He has paid the punishment. God’s judgement is escapable. That’s our hope. Our faith and our righteousness. In his patience God is paving the way for people to put their trust in Jesus. There are yet more people to trust in him. We don’t need a political or philosophical solution because we have faith.

Faith in a Troubled World – Habakkuk 1:12-2:4 – Sermon Notes

Walking through fog is similar to Habakkuk’s experience as a prophet. It’s confusing and difficult. Habakkuk asks the question is God enough? He isn’t seeing great progress. It seems God keeps allowing evil to continue and to thrive. Do you feel you’re trying to keep going but there’s not enough light to carry on? As Habakkuk encounters God he journeys from doubt to trust. We are still troubled as to why the world is the way it is. His faith isn’t in understanding what God is doing, but knowing him well enough.

Faith is not impossible – we can bring our complaints to God

Habakkuk uses imagery of fish being swallowed up. He knows his people aren’t perfect. He sees that God is acting but complains he is using evil people. This question is ok to ask. We wonder how and why God uses evil people to achieve his purposes. Habakkuk feels uncomfortable. It wasn’t wrong for him to complain. God doesn’t rebuke him. We must take our complaints to God. The relationship God wants with you is honesty.

Faith is possible because we can depend on God’s promises

Habakkuk returns to the God he knows in his confusion. He has experience of depending on God. In the uncertainty he depends on the God he knows. Though we don’t understand all of God’s ways we can trust him. We can trust that he is sovereign over evil. He has revealed himself to us and given his promises. God has shown his righteousness (v13) since the beginning of time.

Habakkuk knows that God has promised to be with his people. He is for the Israelites, not against. Jesus died so we don’t have to. God is holy and keeps his promises. Habakkuk waits expectantly. He’s standing on the edge of the city and is expectant. In difficult situations we wait for God to work. Trusting God’s promises is the foundation of faith.

Faith is hopeful for the end

God replies with a revelation (2:2-4). God’s ways are often unsearchable. God shows that he sees the Babylonians’ evil. He will deal with it. In the end, God will judge evil. God is coming to set the world right. Faith leads us to righteousness. It’s through the faith that Habakkuk has shown that we can gain righteousness. There is enough light to keep going and to keep praying and speaking for Jesus. Will you relate to God through his promises? Will you wait hopefully for God to come back and put things right?

God is Enough – Habakkuk 1:1-11 – Sermon Notes

Are you tired of God not answering your prayers? You’re not alone. Perhaps you’re just like Habakkuk. It’s a book that’s easy to overlook. We know his complaint intimately. He was sent to pray for the nation. Sin and justice were rife. No one listens to him. Calling for help in the face of evil and feel like no one is answering. How many times you cried out ‘how long, Lord?’. It resonates with one of the deepest parts of us. It echoes our deepest struggles. Why doesn’t God act in the face of man made evil.

We know we need to speak and pray for the world, though a lot of the time we simply don’t want to. We’ve grown fatigued with our prayer life. We can see Habakkuk understands how we feel. He puts forward a different question. Is God enough for me to continue to pray and speak for the world in the face of evil? He goes from doubt to strength (3:19).

Knowing the active God is enough

God says he’s going to do something. He promises to act. He says he won’t understand. Perhaps the reason we think God isn’t doing anything is that we don’t see two seemingly unrelated things interact. Perhaps in our prayer life we don’t see God in the middle. We need to realise God is active even when we feel that he isn’t. Sometimes it will confuse us. God says even if he draws the line for us, we still won’t understand. God will act in ways we cannot understand. We can see we can trust him to do so.

The Babylonians are no joke. Is that how God is going to act?

Knowing the ruling God is enough

Habakkuk goes from wondering why God doesn’t act to acknowledging that he does and that he rules over everything (1:12b). We must come to know that God uses evil people to achieve his purposes, that he rules and governs over everything. Habakkuk doesn’t say God causes evil, but he does use it. He will judge it all in the end. Knowing God is sovereign is key for us to move from doubt to trust.

Knowing the trustworthy God is enough

On the cross God declares and shows us he can use evil for good. Though we are filled with sin, Jesus died and had all of God’s righteous anger poured out on him, even though he was perfect, so that we can have a relationship with him. It’s both God’s deliberate plan and it’s wicked (Acts 2:23). God has shown himself to be utterly trustworthy. It’s our mark in history that we can look back to.

Sometimes the answers to our prayers may not look like what we think they will. Truly knowing these three things is enough for us to keep praying in the face of evil. We can be sure that God will act in righteousness.

Judah’s Transformation – Genesis 38 – Sermon Notes

We have this story before the story of Joseph continues. The key is v26. Why does our view of sin and our view of righteousness seem so different from God’s? The Lord is the God of transforming forgiveness.

V1-5 hint that all is not right. Judah left his brothers, the people of God. He has married a Canaanite. They’re enemies of God’s people. Judah is able to force what he wants on others.

V6-11 show this is a wicked family. We’re not told why Er is wicked but God judges him for it. He will judge sin. Judah doesn’t show sadness and seems to not care about his family when his son dies. The Lord judges Onan and so he dies.

V12-19 shows grief and deception. For once Judah mourns someone. His grief isn’t very long. Tamar dresses herself up to sleep with her father in law. What does that tell us about the kind of person Judah is? Clearly it’s not the first time for Judah (sleeping with a prostitute). He’s wicked and selfish. God blesses Tamar with a child (and later another). Children in Genesis are a sign of God’s blessing. Judah tries to cut his losses to avoid embarrassment (v20-23).

V24-26 shows judgement and forgiveness. Both the man and woman deserve judgement.

Judah and his sons were wicked and evil, not just to Tamar but to God. They went against what God’s good plans were. They were fighting against God and that’s true of our world. Ignorance isn’t an excuse. Tamar is doing everything she can to follow God. She’s been trying to bring about God’s plan. He recognises that and gives her blessing. She is allowed to have her two children. God brings about his plan of rescue through Jesus through the family line of Judah.

God can save anybody but our actions can say otherwise. Judah is transformed by God’s forgiveness. We can never write anybody off. God’s forgiveness is complete and is for all people. We need to recognise and repent of our sin. How do you treat others? Shouldn’t we treat everyone with the compassion and love that Jesus does?

If we are quick to judge others, that shows we think we shouldn’t be judged ourselves. Real Christianity is knowing how much we fail God again and again, but knowing that his forgiveness is complete.

God Meant it for Good – Genesis 37:1-36 – Sermon Notes

What can we learn about Jesus?

There are similarities between the life of Joseph and the life of Jesus. He can only be a shadow of what Jesus would be like. He was a beloved son acknowledged by his father. The dreams that God gave to him were fulfilled. Joseph knew what it was to experience rejection by his family. How much more was Jesus rejected? We see Joseph suffering in a way that he didn’t deserve. Jesus didn’t deserve his suffering. Joseph was sold for a price. Jesus was also betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered.

What can we learn about salvation?

This is the prelude to Israel’s rescue from slavery in Egypt. Salvation doesn’t come without suffering. Our salvation was purchased through the suffering of Christ.

What can we learn about ourselves?

The family of Jacob is dysfunctional (rival wives, jealous brothers). God’s grace is available to them. There are dangers to parental favouritism. There is an arrogance about Joseph. Jealousy has a corrosive effect. Jacob may have grown closer to God but that didn’t mean his children were godly. Without God’s grace our children will produce the worst aspects of our character. At the end of Genesis (50:20), Joseph said his brothers intended to harm him but God intended it for good.

All the wickedness that mankind poured out on Jesus, God meant it for good. We don’t choose our sufferings, but God means it for good.

What’s in a Name? – Genesis 35-36 – Sermon Notes

Jacob means heel grabber. He likes to grab things that aren’t his. Bethel means the house of God. Jacob was assured of God’s presence in that place. Jacob has joy at the new son he has been given (Benjamin). Here we see the beginning of someone who engages with God all the time.

Jacob is himself a failure. He doesn’t trust the God who has blessed and is with him. He had been given promises by God but he doesn’t trust him (Genesis 28). Jacob tries to do everything in his own strength. He tries to deceive his own brother. He won’t protect his own daughter. None of us are any better than Jacob. It’s easy to judge him.

Our failure is like Jacob’s failure. We don’t trust the God who has blessed and is with us. To trust God is to say that he knows better than us. It’s to recognise that he knows how bad we are and our only hope is in Jesus. God has blessed all of us. Every good thing has come from him. He will provide all you need. Do you live for God’s kingdom each day? Why do we fail to live in the way Jesus says we should?

We see God’s grace in Genesis. He continues to faithfully bless despite our repeated failures. God draws closer to Jacob and reminds him of all he’s done. He’s with them and protecting them just as he had promised. He gives Jacob a better name (Israel – the one who wrestles with God). It’s not just Jacob being given this new name. His whole family become the people of God. People do great evil, but despite that God brings blessing.

We’re told about Esau. God, in his grace, blesses him. He also becomes a great nation. God blesses not just his chosen people, but all people. He isn’t a God of just one family. He is the God of the whole earth. He knows us by name. He invites each of us to trust him. Jesus comes to us in our failures. We should respond like Jacob. Whenever we fail to trust God there is always grace.

Does Jacob’s name being changed to Israel make a difference? It’s a reminder of the chances God gave him. It’s the same for us. If we trust God we are given a new identity. Our identity is someone trying to be like Jesus. It’s a good name to have. Let’s live up to it.

Wealth and Poverty – Proverbs – Sermon Notes

There are many reasons we might be rich or poor. Lazy or hard working (Proverbs 10:4-5). Wasteful or frugal (21:17). Lucky or unlucky (17:5). We might be poor because bad things happen or rich because good things happen. Injustice (13:23). Even if we’re not actively taking advantage of others, we still do it without realising (clothes made by forced labour).

Our temptation is to think of ourselves in a positive light and of others in a negative light. All of these reasons will apply to different extents to all of us. We might have wealth for all kinds of different reasons. It’s important to not judge others by their wealth or poverty. We’ll be judged in the same way. All of our situations are complex. We shouldn’t put our hope in wealth. Money can easily be our fortress, or longing for it. It might appear to be a strong fortress, but it’s not on this earth. If it is, we’re not trusting in Jesus.

We should be generous with what we have. We need to look at ourselves. What are you doing with your money? There is no threshold for being generous. We are called to be generous with all that we have. If we are generous to others, people will be generous to us. We should care for the poor (14:31). Do you look at the poor around you and realise they are people made in God’s image? It’s easy to be generous to each other.

We can’t succeed if we just try harder. We’ll never grasp Proverbs unless we grasp what God has done for us in Jesus. In God’s eyes we can’t bring anything of worth. As we look at Jesus and his love, our love for others can grow.

Words and Silence – Proverbs – Sermon Notes

What we say and what we don’t say matters. We can be heartbroken by words. Every choice we make is a step towards life or death. Proverbs is full of advice about our words. They can bring blessing or destruction.

We should listen to the wisdom of others to discern what to say (11:14, 15:5). It’s human nature to think we know best. The world knows that listening to the wisdom of others leads to blessing but sometimes it’s hard to accept. Our first response is to try to justify ourselves. We should accept correction graciously. Even if we think it’s wrong there will be elements we can learn from.

We should listen to the wisdom of God. Knowing and trusting Jesus is the only sure foundation for a wise life. Even less do we like to be corrected by God. We need to stop defending ourselves and accept the correction from God that we have sinned. Jesus has done everything for us.

We have to use our words carefully to bless others (15:1, 25:15, 26:20). We can persuade people. Sometimes it’s hard to take criticism and not give it back. When we start grumbling we don’t deal with the problem. Our goal with everything we say or write is to point others to Jesus. We are to offer forgiveness because we have been forgiven much more. We are to be gracious because Jesus has shown grace to us. We are to repay evil with love. Jesus has served us far more than we could ever give.

Every situation is different (26:4-5). We should work out how to bring blessing in a situation. We’ll get things wrong, but if we’re patiently trying, God will help us and will enable us to point more people to Jesus. Our responsibility is to consider that.

The Path to Wisdom – Proverbs 9:1-18 – Sermon Notes

There are two women, wisdom and folly. Wisdom is someone who works hard and wants to do the right thing. At first glance they seem the same. ‘Simple’ means normal people. As far as God is concerned, wisdom leads to life and foolishness leads to death. It can be hard to tell the difference. Foolishness can be really attractive. It seems a good idea at the time. Other people do it. Adam and Eve knew they shouldn’t eat the fruit but it looked attractive.

The true path to wisdom begins with following Jesus

The only true path is fear of the Lord. It’s a respect, an awe, a recognition that God knows best. He made us and cares for us but we’ve made choices to reject him. We do what we think is right instead of listening to God. One death can be enough to pay for all of our debts. God gives us a choice. He invites us to follow Jesus. It’s only by following Jesus that shows we fear the Lord.

The path to wisdom means listening to teaching

How do you respond to teaching? Even good teaching isn’t always easy to listen to. We are to listen to correction. If you refuse you’re a wicked man. How we respond is a sign of whether we are living a wise life or a foolish life. Sometimes someone tries to correct you when you know you’re right. Listen graciously.

The path to wisdom ends with life

It’s generally true that if someone lives a wise life, they will live a longer life. The opposite is also true. One day Jesus is going to come back. Biblical wisdom ultimately leads to life. Christians think the most important thing to do is to follow Jesus. We all try to live a wise life but if the foundation isn’t Jesus, ultimately it’s a foolish life. Whatever wise choices we try to make, we make wrong decisions all the time. There is grace and forgiveness.

How are you going to respond to God’s teaching? Will you live a life of wisdom with the foundation of Jesus?