Daily Reflections December 6, 2017
The book of Habakkuk voices questions that every honest Christian can confess to having wrestled with at one time or another. The prophet raises his first question in verses 2-4. Looking around at his fellow Israelites, he couldn't believe that God had allowed His people to fall so far into sin. After a nation-wide reform under the reign of King Josiah, the nation had reverted back to her rebellious ways under the leadership of Josiah’s son Jehoiakim.
If I could rephrase his first objection, I would voice it like this:
Objection 1: God, why is your church so broken?
Aren’t we the ones who are supposed to paint a picture of Your goodness and holiness for the world to see? Isn’t it true that there are people around the world who are rejecting You, not because of any inherent flaws in Your character but because of the blatant hypocrisy and arrogance they see in us? As Gandhi famously said:
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Have you ever found yourself wrestling with this frustration? In a moment of true zeal for the glory of God we cry out, “God, fix your church!”
However, God’s plan to fix Habbakuk’s people was even more objectionable in the prophet’s eyes than the presenting problem. In verses 5-11, the Lord reveals to Habakkuk that He has seen the wretched state of His people and that He has put a plan in motion to cleanse them. He’s going to use the army of Babylon.
At this point, Habakkuk’s second objection bursts forth in verses 12-17. In exasperation, the prophet asks:
You who are of purer eyes than to see evil
and cannot look at wrong,
why do you idly look at traitors
and remain silent when the wicked swallows up
the man more righteous than he? (Habakkuk 1:13 ESV)
Objection 2: God, as broken as the church is, the world is even worse! How can you use them to judge us?
The Babylonians were an arrogant and godless nation. They thought themselves to be God. For all of Israel’s warts, she didn’t hold a candle to the wickedness of Babylon. That God would use such an evil nation to judge His people left Habakkuk confused and angry.
The answer to this second objection is not found in today’s text. Rather than skip ahead, let’s wrestle with what we see here. There have been and will be times when people who reject God and who speak against God will seem to win a victory over God’s people. Let today’s text remind you that you are welcome to bring your questions and objections before the Lord.
However, we should also be reminded that our defeat may in fact be a sign of God’s judgement upon us. It appears that God sometimes ordains pain and loss for the good of His people. After a crippling defeat, we should consider whether God might be calling us to fall on our knees and repent. God is using all things to further His glory and, if His church is failing to reflect His image, He will not hesitate to purify His people. Even through fire.
Assistant Pastor Levi denBok
It's difficult for us to comprehend the degree to which the Lord Jesus upset the religious authorities of his day. What he did (cleansing the Temple, Luke 19:45-46) and what he said infuriated his opponents. Jesus didn't derive authority from any human; he was the authority. He did not ask, need or require approval by any human or institution. By the cleansing he defied their authority and hurt their monetary profits. As a result,
The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him…(Luke 19:47 ESV)
Practically every interaction the religious authorities had with Jesus was designed to trap him in order to condemn him to death. In Luke 20 the intensity of the hostility grows even greater. Here we witness the events of the Tuesday of Passion Week, four days before Jesus’ crucifixion. Scripture tells us that Jesus cleansed the Temple on Monday after riding in, in Triumphal Entry (Psalm 118:26) on Sunday. The authorities, looking for some way of discrediting Jesus, began by challenging his authority.
…“Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” (Luke 20:2 ESV)
Jesus answered them with brilliance by asking them a question about the authority of John the Baptist. They refused to answer (verses 1-8). They were liars and cowards, trapped in their ignorance, hypocrisy and fear of man.
Jesus went on to teach the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (verse 9-18) of the vineyard (see Isaiah 5:1-7). All the people heard this, but it was clearly directed against his accusers who were false and failed shepherds. The wicked tenants were the Jewish religious authorities who rejected the prophets, and who had rejected the Son of God (see John 1:12). They would have Jesus killed and would themselves be thrown out and destroyed by God, the owner of the vineyard.
Jesus looked directly at them and asked them about the meaning of Psalm 118:22,
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone…
The teachers of the law and priests knew this parable was spoken against them. In the early days of the Church, Peter likewise was challenged by what authority he healed a lame beggar. In his response, he used this same scripture against the rulers of the people and elders to condemn them. He answered,
…Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the CORNERSTONE. (Acts 4:10-11 ESV)
The cornerstone was one of the largest and the most carefully constructed of any in a building. It was used as the foundation and standard upon which a building was constructed. The Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ Jesus the Cornerstone (see Ephesians 2:20).
“Cornerstone” is a messianic name for Jesus that occurs in both Testaments. Those who reject Jesus, the Precious Cornerstone, will be crushed by him (Luke 20:18). This was partly realized in A.D. 70 when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. Beyond that will be the fury of the Lamb and the coming eternal judgment.
We who believe, however, honour Jesus as our Chief Cornerstone with reverence and humility. He is the eternal Cornerstone, the Most High God.
There is a fundamental choice to make in life: either people consider Jesus precious and bow before him and are saved, or they discard him and are destroyed.
Associate Pastor Jody Cross