How Long, Lord?

How Long, Lord?

Quite a few people in the Bible have asked God, “How long do I have to put up with this?” Even Jesus asked this question when his disciples and the Pharisees (religious leaders) were arguing. Mark 9:19 He was human as well as divine and knows how we feel.

Habakkuk was a prophet during a time when the king and leaders of Jerusalem were especially wicked. This was in the late 500s BC. The Bible doesn’t tell us anything about Habakkuk, but we can see what he is like through his prayers.

“O LORD, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?

Why do you make me see iniquity,
and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law is paralyzed,
and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
so justice goes forth perverted.”   Habakkuk 1:2-4

God answers and tells Habakkuk he will punish these rulers of Jerusalem by sending the Babylonians to destroy them and the city. The Lord had told many prophets this and had warned the people of Jerusalem for years.

God said, “They have built high places to Baal on which to burn their children in the fire as offerings to Baal—something I never commanded or mentioned, nor did it even enter My mind.” Jeremiah 19:5

Isaiah the prophet wrote about the people of Judah: “Your hands are the hands of murderers, and your fingers are filthy with sin. Your lips are full of lies, and your mouth spews corruption. No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity. They hatch deadly snakes and weave spiders’ webs. Whoever eats their eggs will die; whoever cracks them will hatch a viper. Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood.

They pursue evil schemes; acts of violence mark their ways. The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks along them will know peace. So, justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.”
 Isaiah 59:3-9

I’m not so sure Habakkuk was happy with God’s answer. At first, he acknowledges the right of God to punish, but then he told God what he thought of the Babylonians and asked, “Is he to keep destroying nations without mercy?”

Then Habakkuk says something bold,

“I will take my stand at my watchpost
and station myself on the tower,
and look out to see what he will say to me,
and what I will answer concerning my complaint.”

We can also pray like this. We can ask God anything and then wait for an answer. I’ve done this many times and he has always answered my questions. Either he puts the answer in my mind, I find it in the Bible or gives me a dream. My sister Liz asked God a question about 15 years ago and recently got the answer. She laughed about that, but it just shows that God will answer one day. We must be patient.

God tells Habakkuk to write down what he is going to tell him so many can read it. His answer to this question is long and I believe is not just about the king of Babylon. It looks to me like a judgment of the nations of all the world. And he specifically says, “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.  Habakkuk 2:3

The Pulpit Commentary says:

“The prophecy personified yearns for its fulfilment in “the end,” not merely at the destruction of the literal Babylon, but in the time of the end – the last time, the Messianic age, when the world power, typified by Babylon, should be overthrown.”

In verse 4, God compares the wicked and the righteous by saying, “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.”  Instead of relying on their own strength, those who follow God live by faith in the strength of God.

So, what does God say? It seems to me I should copy down everything from Habakkuk from this point to the end of the book, but I won’t do that to you. It would be good to find the book online and read it, asking God to help you understand.

Suffice it to say, God tells of the evils the nations have done; how they have hurt the innocent. In chapter 3 he moves on to judgement, when he will come down and allow the earth to be destroyed while he saves those who are waiting for him. They are hiding from their persecutors, but he knows where they are.

When this earth is dying from global warming, which will cause heat from the sun to burn our food and people, then Jesus will return and rescue those who believe in him. This is told in the book of Revelation and is one of the last plagues to fall on earth.

“The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire.”  Revelation 16:8

God doesn’t cause the sun to burn us, be he allows the world to reap what it has sown. We have sown chemicals into the earth and sky and one day they will rain down on us. But there is hope in God. He will save those who wait on him. Jesus will come the second time in the clouds of heaven and call us to himself.

“I have made you and I will carry you;

I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”  Isaiah 46:4

I give permission for anyone to copy and use my posts.

Part 4. How Daniel Came to Babylon.

Continued from previous posts:

“The past causes the present, and so the future.  Any time we try to know why something happened…we have to look for factors that took shape earlier.”

We start this story way back in the 13th Century BCE when God brought the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt and gave them their own land.

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God offered them a deal; God would take care of the Hebrews if they would serve him.  The Hebrews agreed, they entered the Promised Land, and all went well for a while.

But as time passed, the Hebrews split into two different kingdoms and both began to ignore their side of the bargain they had made with God. They began to worship other Gods and sacrifice their children to them.

God used prophets to beg the people to return to him but that did not work.  So then God sent warnings, saying if they did not keep their side of the deal, he would be forced to withdraw his protection and, in effect, punish them.

prophet

Sometimes a good king would come to power that would listen and lead the people back to worshiping God, but that did not happen often and, when it did happen, it did not last long.  The Northern half of the split Hebrew kingdom was the worst and evil king after evil king ignored God’s pleadings and warnings.  God finally withdrew his protection and, in the year 722 BCE, the Assyrian army invaded, killing and taking prisoners, virtually wiping out the entire Northern kingdom.

syria

But the Southern kingdom had not yet reached the end of its probation, if you will.  For the most part, the people remained rebellious but God continued to plead with them and warn them until finally, more than a century after the Northern kingdom fell, he had to give up on the Southern kingdom.  By this time the Assyrian kingdom was no longer the big dog in the area…Babylon had become the world’s dominant empire and was swallowing up country after country.

In Judah, the Southern kingdom of Israel, an evil king named Jehoiakim rose to the throne in the capitol city of Jerusalem.  Little did he know what was going to happen during his short reign…God was fed up with Judah and had withdrawn his protection.  During the third year of Jehoiakim’s turn as king, king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon marched his army into Judah and conquered the entire country.

Good people often get caught up in bad things, and not all of Judah had abandoned the worship of God.  A young man named Daniel, and several of his friends, were faithful servants of God but, when Judah fell to Nebuchadnezzar, they were caught up in the fray and taken as prisoners to the capitol city of Babylon.  Here Daniel found favor with those in power and was assigned to work in the palace.

book_of_daniel_chapter_1-3_bible_illustrations_by_sweet_media

 

 

 

Kingdoms Rise…Kingdoms Fall.

daniel3

Photo by: Ambenalain

 

Nebuchadnazzar was King of ancient Babylon. At that time, Babylon was the world’s dominant kingdom. It’s realm covered most of the known world. 

 

One night, the king had a dream from God. He dreamed of a large statue made up of different metals. The head was gold, the chest silver, the thighs bronze, the legs iron and the feet were made of iron and clay together.

 

The story of this dream, and the prophet Daniel to whom God gave the interpretation, is found in Daniel chapter 2 of the Bible. Daniel told the king God had sent the dream to show the future. God used Nebuchadnazzar to proclaim to the nations that the God of the Hebrews was the true God. He did this through two proclamations that were sent throughout the kingdom.

Depiction of statue.

God showed the rise and fall of kingdoms through this statue. Daniel told the king that he himself was the head of gold.

Head of gold: Babylon

Chest of silver: Persians/Medes

Thighs of bronze: Greece (Alexander the Great)

Legs of iron: Rome

Feet of iron and clay: Nations of the world. No one nation would rule the world again.

While gazing at the statue, Nebuchadnezzar saw a rock cut out, but not by human hands, strike the iron and clay and smash them to pieces. This rock was God, who will set up his universal kingdom at the end of time.

We are living in the time of iron and clay. There have been mighty nations after the Roman Empire, but none that ruled the entire world. Britain was powerful, Germany tried to rule the world, and now the strongest nation on earth is the United States, with Russia coming in second and China third. They all have the power to destroy the world with their bombs, if they so desire.

United States

Russia

China

Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall. These kingdoms will also fall one day like all others, and the way the world looks right now it could be soon. But God has told us not to fear what nations do. He says he is the one who sets them up and pulls them down. 

The night Babylon fell, Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson, Belshazzar, was king. He gave a large party, inviting all the important people and his wives. As they drank, the king sent for the golden goblets that the Babylonians had taken from the temple of God at Jerusalem. They poured wine in them and then gave toasts to their own gods.

All of a sudden, a hand came into the room and began writing on the wall. 

“Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lamp stand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking.”   Daniel 5:5,6

No one could understand the writing. The king sent for Daniel and he interpreted the words for the king. 

“Your Majesty, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. Because of the high position he gave him, all the nations and peoples of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled. But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like the ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes.

 

“But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.

 

“This is the inscription that was written:

MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN

“Here is what these words mean:

Mene : God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

Tekel : You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.

Peres : Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom.

That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.i      Daniel 5:18-30

 

I believe God weighs each nation on the scales of justice. When evil is rampant, as it was in Sodom, as it was at the flood, then God will act to put a stop to it. God had shown the Babylonians over and over again how powerful and loving he was. Now a new nation would take over, and God would work with them through Daniel to show himself to these new people. 

I see the United States as coming into judgement. For many years, morality has been cast to the ground. Not only cast down, but laughed at. This has become especially apparent when it comes to sex. 

Then there is the opposite side of the pendulum. People who say they are Christians, yet act like they hate those who don’t agree with them. There is a middle group. These people go quietly through life believing in God and doing good for others. If they are persecuted, they don’t get angry and strike back. They just keep working for the Lord and waiting for his coming.

Some Christians, want to unite Church and State. They think this will mend the country. They think God will be pleased with this and I can understand that. Unfortunately, every time Church and State are united there is persecution of those who don’t believe the same. This will happen in the United States if they amend the Constitution in order to pass religious laws.

I’m not sure if there is anything worse than persecuting good people for their religion. That is what they did to Jesus. The church leaders joined with a Roman Governor and nailed him to a cross. He was teaching things the leaders thought were blasphemy, things that put them in a bad light.

After Jesus, they started killing more believers. This happened again in the Dark Ages with the Catholic Church that tortured and burned those who believed differently. Then the Protestants persecuted the Catholics. Quakers were persecuted by other churches. Mormons were persecuted. Now ISIS is killing everyone who won’t join their brand of Islam.

What can we do when it feels like the world is falling apart? Trust in God and do good. That’s what Jesus did.

Do not fret because of those who are evil

or be envious of those who do wrong;

for like the grass they will soon wither,

like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good;

dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Take delight in the Lord,

and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;

trust in him and he will do this:

He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,

your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord

and wait patiently for him;

do not fret when people succeed in their ways,

when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;

do not fret—it leads only to evil.

For those who are evil will be destroyed,

but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

A little while, and the wicked will be no more;

though you look for them, they will not be found.

But the meek will inherit the land

and enjoy peace and prosperity.

The wicked plot against the righteous

and gnash their teeth at them;

but the Lord laughs at the wicked,

for he knows their day is coming.

The wicked draw the sword

and bend the bow

to bring down the poor and needy,

to slay those whose ways are upright.

But their swords will pierce their own hearts,

and their bows will be broken.

Better the little that the righteous have

than the wealth of many wicked;

for the power of the wicked will be broken,

but the Lord upholds the righteous.

The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care,

and their inheritance will endure forever.

In times of disaster they will not wither;

in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

But the wicked will perish:

Though the Lord’s enemies are like the flowers of the field,

they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke.

 

Psalm 37:1-20