Elizabeth, 4 December 2016

Series: First Christmas
Luke 1:46-55

Series Big Idea:
Most know the Christmas story, but what did the individual characters experience?

Big Idea: God is making life out of the barren places.


God is making life out of the barren places.

It happened to Isaac’s parents, Abram and Sarai.
It happened to Samson’s parents, Manoah and his wife.
It happened to Samuel’s parents, Elkanah and Hannah.
It happened to John the Baptist’s parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth.

It is still happening today.

My name is Kirk and during this season of Advent—this season of waiting—we are looking at the First Christmas through the eyes of various characters in the story. Last week we examined the wise men who traveled likely hundreds of miles to meet the Messiah, possibly years after his birth.

Today’s character is Elizabeth. If you open your Bibles to Luke chapter one you’ll discover the story of Elizabeth. She may be one of the most underrated figures in the Bible. She not only was the mother of John the Baptist, she was old and barren.

Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. (Luke 1:6-7)

They weren’t just old…both Zechariah and Elizabeth were very old!

Very old people are usually called grandparents or great grandparents, not mom and dad! How could this be?

God is making life out of the barren places.

God, did you see the news this week? The tragedy at Ohio State?
God is making life out of the barren places.

God, how are we going to pay off the Visa bill after Christmas?
God is making life out of the barren places.

God, my marriage is a disaster and I feel trapped in misery.
God is making life out of the barren places.

God, I don’t know what to do about these out-of-control children.
God is making life out of the barren places.

God, I really want a baby but the doctor says it’ll never happen.
God is making life out of the barren places.


What do you think of when you hear the word barren? A desert, right?

Fortunately, we no longer use it to describe women unable to have children. But Elizabeth heard it. She heard it for years. It was likely her label. Barren. “That woman over there…she’s barren. I wonder what she did to make God curse her. What secret sin did she commit?”

In the culture, the more children, the more worth you had, the more God loved you. But Elizabeth was barren…for decades. Imagine the shame. Imagine the stares. The whispers. But notice Elizabeth is not an evil woman.

Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. (Luke 1:6-7)

There’s a great story in the Bible that occurs in a barren desert. Actually, the people of Israel spent forty years in the wilderness, a region which contained deserts. On at least two occasions the people complained about having no water to drink.

Now I think that’s a valid concern, don’t you? “Moses, we’re starving in the desert. We’re going to die out here!” At least twice God provides water for the people. It doesn’t rain. It doesn’t come from a well. No food trucks arrive on the scene with water bottles. In the book of Numbers, it says

So Moses took the staff from the LORD’S presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. (Numbers 20:9-11)

The original Hebrew word for “gushed” is “rabbim.” It means great and abundant. God didn’t just provide a little bit of water. He gave an abundance.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible quotes Jesus as saying

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

Jesus came to give abundant, full life. Greater life. Extraordinary life. More.

Can you think of a time when God provided in abundance?

For Heather and I, First Alliance Church has been an example of God providing for us abundantly. We could never have imagined a year and a half ago we would be serving alongside so many incredible men, women and children in Glass City. My prayers have been filled with gratitude for His abundant provisions.

But back to Elizabeth and Zechariah!

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. (Luke 1:8-10)

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:11-17)

Zechariah and Elizabeth knew all about Abram and Sarai and their miracle baby, Isaac, born to a 90 year-old mom and a dad who was one hundred years old. So obviously, they were filled with faith and excitement about finally becoming parents, right? No!

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” (Luke 1:18-20)

That’s one way to keep a priest from preaching long sermons!

When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” (Luke 1:23-25)

Better late than never, right? Elizabeth’s going to have a baby…but not just any baby. Jesus said of this child

Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11a)


God is making life out of the barren places.

You might wonder what Elizabeth and John the Baptist have to do with Advent and Jesus.

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:26-28)

Sound familiar? Mary is excited and can’t wait, right?

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:29-33)

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34)

Is this a good question? Absolutely! It’s an honest question. Although the word “but” is not here in the English translation, that’s Mary’s response. “But how can a virgin have a baby?”

God is making life out of the barren places.

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” (Luke 1:35-37)

Here we have two miracle moms. Two miracle babies. Two examples of God making life out of the barren places. Mary appropriately says

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:38)

Then Mary goes to Zechariah and Elizabeth’s home, John the Baptists leaps in the womb when he hears Mary’s voice, and Elizabeth celebrates Mary’s news, leading Mary to say (or sing?)

And Mary said: 

“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful 
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones 
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty. 
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.” (
Luke 1:46-55)

So What?

God is making life out of the barren places.

I’m not saying every woman unable to conceive will have a baby in nine months.

I’m not promising your student loans will be miraculously forgiven next week.

I can’t even say your troubled marriage is guaranteed to thrive in the new year or that this will be the best Christmas ever.

But I can say God is making life out of barren places. But it might take time.

How well do you wait? Waiting is hard in an on-demand world. The microwave can’t cook quickly enough. The fast food order can’t arrive fast enough. The crazy red light can’t turn green soon enough. If my package takes more than two days to arrive at my doorstep…!!!

Imagine waiting your entire life for something. We do, right? That driver’s license? High school diploma? Spouse? House? Kids?

Kids. Elizabeth and Zechariah waited decades.

Could it be that the very things we desire today
will become reality tomorrow…just not today?

I’ve prayed for many sick people and seen them healed, but not always instantly.

I’ve prayed for many broken relationships and seen them healed, but rarely instantly.

I’ve watch friends overcome addiction and abuse and tragedy, but it took time and work.

“Here’s the formula for waiting: buckle up, don’t grow weary, do good, don’t give up.”
  • - Harvey & Gilbert, Letting Go

God IS making life in the barren places. All the time.

There’s one empty, barren place I love. Nobody is certain exactly where it is, but it’s in the Middle East, in Israel. It’s a barren tomb. It once contained a dead body. A body that was placed in the tomb after a brutal death, a death we remember today.

We celebrate the empty, barren tomb because Jesus is alive! He is risen! He will hear us in three weeks when we sing, “Happy birthday” to him! He is with us know through the Holy Spirit. Best of all, he’s coming back to earth soon. When he does, he will permanently make life out of the barren places of our lives. And until then, we declare Jesus Christ is LORD, Messiah, and King.


Some ideas from

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast, 2 August 2015

    Matthew 13:31-35

    Series Overview: this summertime series will examine the various parables of Jesus recorded in thirteenth chapter of Matthew.

    Big Idea: The kingdom of God is advancing…whether you see it or not.


    Every year at this time the news is lit up—literally—with reports of wildfires. California is especially vulnerable this year because they’ve been having severe drought. Nearly one million acres have been destroyed this year by wildfires…some caused by negligently discarded cigarette.

    It only takes a spark to get a fire going.

    The Kingdom

    Jesus devoted much of His teachings to the kingdom of heaven. We began our Parables series looking at the sower. Last week we discussed the weeds and wheat. Today we look at two parables that Jesus does not interpret for us, yet two similar stories which have much to teach us today.

    Our first parable today is about mustard. Do you like mustard? What do you do with mustard?

    Mustard is a condiment. It has no vitamins. It’s one of the few things you can get for free at a ballgame, though it’s hardly satisfying on its own.

    Mustard comes from…the grocery store! It comes from a tiny seed. We don’t commonly see seeds—aside from possibly pumpkin or sunflower seeds—but mustard seeds were known in Jesus’ day.

    He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32)

    Mustard comes from mustard plants. Some have criticized Jesus, saying there are seeds smaller than mustard seeds, but that wasn’t then point. In biblical culture it was known to be the smallest, yet it grew tremendously.

    There’s a bit more you should know about mustard seeds. Virtually all seeds produce plants that grow, but according to Pliny the Elder, a Roman author in the first century,

    “Mustard… with its pungent taste and fiery effect is extremely beneficial for the health. It grows entirely wild, though it is improved by being transplanted: but on the other hand when it is sown it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once.”

    Mustard grows big and fast.

    John Dominic Crossan states, "The mustard plant is dangerous even when domesticated in the garden, and is deadly when growing wild in the grain fields. And those nesting birds, which may strike us as charming, represented to ancient farmers a permanent danger to the seed and to the grain. The point, in other words, is not just that the mustard plant starts as a proverbially small seed and grows into a shrub of three, four, or five feet in height. It is that it tends to take over where it is not wanted, that it tends to get out of control, and that it tends to attract birds within cultivated areas, where they are not particularly desired. And that, said Jesus, is what the Kingdom of God was like. Like a pungent shrub with dangerous take-over properties (
    Jesus, A Revolutionary Biography, page 65).

    The kingdom is “like a pungent shrub with dangerous take-over properties.”

    What would make the kingdom dangerous? It is a threat to satan and the world system. Last week we said the wheat and weeds grow together. Good and evil grow together. The kingdom of God has explosive potential to change people, communities, and even nations.

    One writer said this:

    Think again though about the people who followed Jesus and the multitudes who lived in the margins of society who had their fields taken away from them by the Roman occupation and the corrupt leaders of the Jewish Temple. “The Kingdom of God will take over where it is not wanted. God shall break into this mess and challenge the oppressors?” the peasants must have pondered with one another. No wonder they followed Jesus.

    In the west, we seem to hear only bad news. The church is in decline. People are abandoning the faith. Atheism is on the rise. Young people are less interested in the things of God. At least this is what we are often told.

    Perhaps the weeds are growing strong in the west, but the kingdom of God is forcefully advancing around the world.

    It took nearly 2,000 years for the gospel to spread from the early church to nearly half the world’s population. In 1900, 45.7 percent of people everywhere were aware of the gospel, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. More than 100 years later, that number has grown to more than 70 percent.

    There’s plenty of work to do, but the kingdom of God is advancing like a mustard seed.

    By the way, don’t forget two weeks ago we mentioned the birds that came and took away the seeds that were sowed. We have a real enemy, satan, who wants to steal, kill and destroy the mustard seeds and the kingdom of God.

    Jesus and His kingdom were a threat to the principalities and powers of His time…and ours.

    He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” (Matthew 13:33)

    Some have called this the key parable of the chapter. Interestingly, yeast or leaven is always used in the Bible as a symbol of evil. You may recall the importance of unleavened bread in Jewish life, including the Passover.

    Yeast is a fungi that multiplies rapidly through fermentation. Bread rises because of yeast. We usually think negatively about fermentation and fungi, yet Jesus reverses the meaning of yeast to symbolize the positive, hidden movement of the kingdom of heaven in our world.

    Today, much of the kingdom of heaven is hidden from our view, much like dough slowly rising. Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. In fact, the most radical kingdom activity, heart transformation, begins hidden from our view. It sometimes takes years before the seeds of faith take root, before the effects of the yeast are visible in someone’s life.

    It’s amazing how something so small like a cigarette butt can produce such a large wildfire.

    It’s amazing how something so small like a mustard seed can produce such a large plant.

    It’s amazing how something so small like a bit of yeast can produce such a large loaf of bread.

    Michael Wilkins summarizes, “The mustard seed emphasizes an inconspicuous beginning of the kingdom of heaven with its growth into external greatness, while the yeast suggests its inconspicuous permeation and transformation.”

    God has a way of doing great things with the small. Jesus Himself may be the greatest example. The Jews believed the Messiah would enter our world with power and greatness. He surprised them. In fact, Jesus’ first visit to our planet was so different than what was expected that most Jews are still waiting for the first arrival of the Messiah. Jesus came to earth as a small baby, virtually unknown except for a few visitors. Yet despite humble beginnings, Christ changed the world.

    The prophet Zechariah famously wrote

    Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the LORD that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel?” (Zechariah 4:10)

    It doesn’t look like much, but just wait!

    Our text for today concludes with these words:

    Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:

    “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 13:34-35)

    There has never been a story teller like Jesus for He not only entertained, He spoke truth, His is the truth, and His teachings demanded a response. He repeatedly said, “He who has ears, let him hear” and said those who hear would be blessed. The spiritually alive would become His disciples. The spiritually dead would turn away, some even yelling, “Crucify Him.”

    As kingdom people we are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (5:13–16), regardless of what is politically correct and popular. The kingdom of God is advancing…whether you see it or not.

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Habakkuk, 2 November 2014

    Big Idea: We don’t always understand God and His timing, but He can be trusted.


    Today we examine our bonus eleventh book in our series The Most Unread Books of the Bible, based upon the ten least-read books on


    Timing in life is vitally important. Photographers long for the perfect timing of an event to capture it forever. Runners and other speed racers can win or lose a race by 1/1000 of a second. I used to think I was a patient person, but I find myself frustrated at the brief delays in my life caused by red lights, slow microwaves (!), and seasons of life, both literal and figurative (unless it’s spring or summer!). God’s timing is perfect because He is perfect, He is sovereign and in control. Daddy knows best.

    Sometimes we feel like God is sleeping or even a myth because He usually doesn’t respond to our prayers on demand. We want it now! Have you ever prayed, “LORD, heal them tomorrow” or “Please give me a new job next year”? We assume we know best and God should obey our every command. Fortunately He doesn’t! He has bigger plans and ideas…if we only trust Him.


    This is the only book in which the name Habakkuk appears. His name means to embrace or wrestle with God. He likely lived around 600 BC. He lived during Judah’s final days and Babylon’s domination.

    Chapter 1: Wrestling. Why?

    The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received. (Habakkuk 1:1)

    This word oracle in the original Hebrew language,
    mas-saw’, meant an utterance, a doom, or a burden. Habakkuk is definitely burdened!

    How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted. (Habakkuk 1:2-4)

    Most prophets deliver God’s message to the people. Habakkuk brings the questions of the people to God. He begins with four questions.

    Can you feel the anxiety? The frustration? Where are You, LORD? Do You see what’s going on? Are You really sovereign, in control? If so, surely You don’t want

    • Ebola spreading
    • the Islamic State to continue
    • innocent children dying from dirty water and starvation
    • Your chosen people, the Jews, in constant battle in Israel
    • natural disasters destroying communities

    Whoever said following Jesus was easy?! This world is messed up! God knows. He sees. He does choose to intervene sometimes, but when? Why? It’s okay to ask God. It’s okay to have questions and doubts. God can handle them. It’s okay to ask why. Jesus even did it on the cross: “Why have You forsaken Me?”

    Obviously our perspective is limited. Daddy knows best. The cross comes before the crown.

    What is your favorite book of the Bible? Mine is the Psalms. As a musician, I especially love the poetic song lyrics contained within the Bible’s song book. However, they are not all happy songs of praise. One third are psalms of lament. They are songs of grief. There is an entire book of the Bible devoted to lament—Lamentations. Why? Because life is hard. There are many battles in which evil wins. As long as satan and his demons are allowed to roam we will experience death, destruction, and pain.

    Today is not the end of the story, however. There is more to come. Much more. 75 or 100 years seems like a lifetime. Wait! It
    is a lifetime, but compares to eternity, it’s instant. As Paul said to the church in Corinth

    …we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16b-18)

    Back to Habakkuk. Here’s God’s response to his lament.

    “Look at the nations and watch — and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own. They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor. Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like a vulture swooping to devour; they all come bent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand. They deride kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at all fortified cities; they build earthen ramps and capture them. Then they sweep past like the wind and go on — guilty men, whose own strength is their god.” (Habakkuk 1:5-11)

    God says the solution is the Babylonians. Huh? God would use Babylon to judge Judah. How could God use the wicked Babylonians to judge His chosen people?

    O LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, we will not die. O LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgment; O Rock, you have ordained them to punish. Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? You have made men like fish in the sea, like sea creatures that have no ruler. (Habakkuk 1:12-14)

    Again, God can handle our questions. I have found sometimes when I express my questions, I feel better even if I don’t get the answers I’m seeking.

    Three young men refused to bow to an idol and were sentenced to burning in a fiery furnace. If you recall the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, they did not deny the reality of their situation, but understood God may or may not perform a miracle. Instead of denial, they were defiant.

    Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)

    “Even if not.” They understood God knows best. He may choose to say yes, no, or wait. They knew God could be trusted, whatever His decision.

    In this instance, He entered the fire with them. King Nebuchadnezzar said

    “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:25)

    It’s better to be in the furnace with Jesus that without Him outside of it. Where is God when it hurts? With us. Always.

    Chapter 2: Waiting on God. When?

    “Waiting” means to pass time. It also means to serve another person like a servant waiting on his master.

    Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. “See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright — but the righteous will live by his faith — indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples. (Habakkuk 2:2-5)

    Do you like to wait? I hate to wait! When we wrestle with God we often ask “why?” When we wait, the question becomes “when?”

    It’s time for a geology lesson! Geology is the study of pressure plus time. Pressure and time reveal our character. Do you know what pressure over time produces geologically? Diamonds. They are created from the carbon as coal but time and pressure create a jewel.

    Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

    This is your diamond, your reward. Can you wait? Can you trust God?

    God wants us happy, but He especially wants us holy. Pressure plus time equals beauty.

    What is the largest diamond in the world? The Hope Diamond!

    Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4)

    The judgment would occur very soon as God stated. They could remain proud like the Babylonians (we talked about the pride of the Edomites last week) or live by faith knowing God is in control.

    Verse four is one of the most important verses in the Bible. In fact, it is referenced three times in the New Testament (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38). It is through faith in Jesus that we can receive the righteousness of God.

    For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)

    Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” (Galatians 3:11)

    But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” (Hebrews 10:38)

    We are saved by faith.
    We are to live by faith.

    Notice how Habakkuk is able to express his questions in the midst of faith.

    Next Habakkuk offers a series of woes against the Babylonians. God would bring them down in His perfect timing.

    “Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying, “‘Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion! How long must this go on?’ Will not your debtors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their victim. Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you. For you have shed man’s blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them. “Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high, to escape the clutches of ruin! You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life. The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it. “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime! Has not the LORD Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies. You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and be exposed! The cup from the LORD’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory. The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, and your destruction of animals will terrify you. For you have shed man’s blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them. “Of what value is an idol, since a man has carved it? Or an image that teaches lies? For he who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak. Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it. But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” (Habakkuk 2:6-20)

    Chapter 3: Worship.

    Chapter three is Habakkuk’s final response, a song (v. 19). He asks for mercy (2) and describes the character of God (v. 3-15).

    A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On
    shigionoth. LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth. His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden. Plague went before him; pestilence followed his steps. He stood, and shook the earth; he looked, and made the nations tremble. The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed. His ways are eternal. (Habakkuk 3:1-6)

    Habakkuk remembers what God has done. Sometimes the way forward is to first look back. The Old Testament is filled with spiritual amnesia, instances of people forgetting God’s goodness and faithfulness. We need to remember. Jesus told us to remember Him, His death, and His resurrection.

    I saw the tents of Cushan in distress, the dwellings of Midian in anguish. Were you angry with the rivers, O LORD? Was your wrath against the streams? Did you rage against the sea when you rode with your horses and your victorious chariots? You uncovered your bow, you called for many arrows. Selah You split the earth with rivers; the mountains saw you and writhed. Torrents of water swept by; the deep roared and lifted its waves on high. Sun and moon stood still in the heavens at the glint of your flying arrows, at the lightning of your flashing spear. In wrath you strode through the earth and in anger you threshed the nations. You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one. You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness, you stripped him from head to foot. Selah With his own spear you pierced his head when his warriors stormed out to scatter us, gloating as though about to devour the wretched who were in hiding. You trampled the sea with your horses, churning the great waters. (Habakkuk 3:7-15)

    What is the result of Habakkuk’s laments, woes, and anguish?

    I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. (Habakkuk 3:16)

    He accepts what God is doing and then trusts Him. Here’s the conclusion…

    Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. For the director of music. On my stringed instruments. (Habakkuk 3:16b-19)

    He was willing to wait. No matter how hopeless the situation, there is hope in God. Tomorrow is coming. As Tony Campolo used to say concerning the crucifixion, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!”

    God can be trusted. The righteous will live by faith. The best is yet to come. In the meantime, we can worship by faith, offering up a sacrifice of praise.

    For Further Study

    Where is God When It Hurts? by Philip Yancey

    Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Patience, 20 November 2011

    Big Idea: we must live as if Christ will return today, and patiently wait for Him as if He will come later.

    Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you. (James 5:1-6)

    What is James saying here? Very simply, we cannot rely on our riches but, instead, need to put our trust in God. We have repeatedly said that each of us is financially rich compared to the rest of the world.

    Greed is not good.
  • We are to be good stewards of our wealth.
  • Generosity honors God and blesses people.

  • Note that it is not wealth itself that is bad, but the love and hoarding of it.

  • One writer said to summarize this text, “A believer who seeks spiritual growth dare not become caught up in the accumulation of wealth for himself. He should share his possessions for God’s glory and the good of others.” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary by Walvoord and Zuck)

  • I used to consider myself a patient person...until I had kids!

  • It is difficult to be patient in our culture because things happen so rapidly. People live busy lives and when a slowdown occurs, we often don’t know how to react.

  • James writes...

  • Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. (James 5:7-8)

  • It’s easy to get impatient. This is true in the short-term when we are waiting for a red traffic light to turn green, for instance, but also in the long-term.

  • Students, how many of you can’t wait until graduation? For some of you it is years away!

  • We have singles in this room that may be impatient about finding a spouse.

  • There are hurting parents here today that have been waiting years for their wayward children to return to Jesus.

  • Most of us would say that we long for the return of Jesus. We are excited about heaven and eternity in the presence of Christ.

  • What I find interesting is that Jesus said He would return...when? Soon! I guess soon means different things to different people! 2000 years is not my definition of soon!

  • In life, we need to think of the long-term, the ultimate goal. The race we run is a marathon, not a sprint. The LORD’s coming is near and we need to be ready. We need to be ready to persevere until He returns. We need to be focused and intentional about how we live our lives. We need to live with the urgency of knowing that at any moment the trumpet could sound, signaling the arrival of Christ. Some have said, “Jesus is coming. Look busy!” That’s not exactly the point, but we are to be patient as we await His return, yet also stand firm, regardless of the circumstances that surround us.

  • Peter wrote…

  • But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

  • But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

  • Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. (2 Peter 3:8-12)

  • We are to be patient and stand firm. We cannot speed up the return of Christ any more than the farmer can speed up the harvest.

  • Patience is a part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. If we ask for patience, we will surely receive...but asking for patience is a dangerous prayer!!!

  • James continues...

  • Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! (James 5:9)

  • Children have been known to misbehave when the teacher steps out of the classroom. Often someone will play lookout and warn everyone when the teacher is coming.

  • In a similar manner, the Judge, the King, Jesus Christ is coming and we need to be ready. We need to not only look busy, we need to be busy doing the business of our Father.

  • We need to be ready.

  • Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (James 5:10-11)

  • There have been countless martyrs throughout history that have been killed simply because of their faith in Jesus. At this moment there are brothers and sisters around the world facing persecution and execution for following Christ.

  • It’s going to be worth it.

  • Friends, this life is so short compared to eternity. Someday God will judge. He will set things straight. He will honor those who persevered like Job. Note that it does not say that Job had patience, but he endured and was steadfast despite his impatience with God!

  • That last sentence is powerful—the LORD is full of compassion and mercy. There are days when it doesn’t feel like it, times when it seems that God is taking a nap, moments when we wonder if He is good, but I’m here to tell you and James is here telling us that He is full of compassion and mercy. He can be trusted.

  • Above all, my brothers, do not swear — not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned. (James 5:12)

  • This is not speaking of profanity, but of an oath or promise. God is watching...and He will return soon so we are to always be honest and trustworthy or we will be condemned and fall under judgment.

  • So what’s the big idea? We are to persevere and patiently wait until the return of Jesus. He is watching. Our lives matter. Our actions matter.

  • We are to stand firm.
  • We are not to grumble.
  • We are to remain steadfast during trials.
  • We are not to break promises.

  • This text reminds me that we are to live not only for today, but also for tomorrow. That’s what Jesus did. He modeled patience and endurance. He never grumbled or broke a promise. He remains our example, and promised to be with us always through the Holy Spirit.

  • King David wrote

  • I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. (Psalm 27:13-14)

  • Good things will eventually come to those that wait.

  • You can listen to the podcast here.
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