Noah, Habakkuk, and Faith (and a mistake I made)

Some brief thoughts on faith and the Work tonight before I hit the sack.

I’ve had Noah and Habakkuk on the brain, today, and some of the things they teach me about faith.

Noah was commanded by God to build an ark.  God told Noah that the world was full of violence, that He was going to destroy mankind with a flood, and that He was going to use him and his family to save eight people and representatives of all the living creatures in a giant boat that Noah was to build.

Most everyone is familiar with that story.  What people often overlook is that Noah was a preacher of righteousness during that time (2 Peter 2:5).  I can imagine what it was like to be Noah then, telling the men and women of the world at that time that their end was coming soon unless they repent.  Perhaps they jeered at him, “How soon, old man?”

And he didn’t have a very specific answer for that, as far as I could tell.  Only, “soon.”  That, and he could point to the work he was feverishly doing at God’s command — the ark he was building — that must be completed before the end came.

There is, of course, the obvious parallel.  We, too, have a work that God has commanded that we do (Matthew 28:18-19, Mark 16:15), and it, too, must be completed before the end comes (Matt. 24:14).  But also, like Noah, we cannot point to exactly when that end is coming.  Only that we know it is coming soon.

It took faith for Noah to continue day after day, preaching to the people, building the ark.  We have no assurance in Scripture that God spoke to Noah every day, encouraging him.  What faith he must have had.  I pray that we can have that sort of faith, too, continuing to do the Work and to preach the message that we’ve been given, not knowing the day or hour of our Master’s return, but knowing that it is coming soon.

Then there is Habakkuk.  It’s a little Old Testament book, and sometimes gets passed over.  But Habakkuk had to learn a lesson in faith, too, and I think it is a lesson for us, today, who “sigh and cry” over the state of modern Israel (Ezekiel 9:4) and its prophesied future.

Habakkuk lamented before God concerning the sinful state of Judah (Hab. 1:1-4), wondering how long God would put up with it — how long before He set things right.  God responds that He is bringing Babylon and the Chaldeans upon Judah (vv.5-11).

Habakkuk’s response to God’s answer is humorous, but I sympathize with it so much.  He is taken aback, and we see his confusion expressed in the rest of chapter 1 and verses 12-17.  He is essentially asking, “But the Chaldeans are even more sinful that Judah! Would God bring an end to the sinful by granting victory to the even more sinful?!? Is this Judah’s end?”

However, though he is confused, He trusts God, and in Hab. 2:1 he stands ready to hear God’s word on the matter.

God explains in the rest of chapter 2 that the Chaldeans will also face judgment — that though they will be a tool in his hands for the accomplishing of His purpose, their day of reckoning lies ahead (Hab. 2:8), and God’s plan will ultimately produce not just a righteous Judah, but a righteous Earth (Hab. 2:14).

Habakkuk responds with a beautiful song in the last chapter of his book, ending with a moving expression of faith:

Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls–

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The LORD God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Habakkuk saw his country falling apart.  He then learned the details of the terrible fate that awaited it — a fate that, apparently, he would have never imagined and which did not make sense to him.  Yet he fully trusted in the God of heaven and in His purpose, and — in faith — committed himself to that purpose.  And as I see the things happening in my own country, and read in God’s word what lies ahead for my own nation, I find myself sympathizing with Habakkuk and looking to God to establish the same faith in me, the faith of Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:2) that says, “Your will be done” (Matt. 26:42).

So, while Noah and Habakkuk never had the chance to meet, in my mind today they have.  And, of course, one day they will.

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[Having mentioned Habakkuk, this seems as good a time as any to mention a “behind the scenes” tale from a recent Tomorrow’s World telecast that some of you might enjoy in some way.  Someone interested in attending our church called me today and mentioned how much he appreciated the telecast I did that aired last month, “What Will Save America?” It’s funny he should do that today when Habakkuk is on my mind, because I very briefly refer to Habakkuk in that telecast, but I did so in error.

There is a moment on the telecast where I am referring to America’s horrific debt burden and I briefly refer to a few different verses, giving the references only without reading them aloud.  One of them, if I recall accurately, was Habakkuk 2:6-7 (or possibly just 6 or 7 singly).  The problem is that although this verse speaks of debt, and though, in principle, the danger expressed in the verse does apply to America’s current situation, the prophesy is not directly spoken about the U.S. there.  It is being uttered concerning the Chaldeans and not even Judah directly, let alone Israel.

Actually, the reference was not in the final script that I created for that telecast, because Mr. Ames caught it in a draft I had sent to him and I consequently removed it from the final version, leaving the other, non-Habakkuk references.  I often try to get a copy of my script to Mr. Ames and his editorial assistant as early as I can, as I find their input and opinions to be absolutely invaluable.  Regrettably, for me “as early as I can” is often the day before filming, but I am improving, I think!

However, midway into filming this particular telecast I began to realize that I had somehow given the TV staff an earlier version of that script and not the final draft.  I continued anyway, thinking that this would simply mean that the TV crew would have more words to edit out for time constraints (sorry, TV crew!), since the normal reason I have so many drafts is due to their original, excessive length.  However, I forgot that this reference was in there, too, and in going through that part in front of the camera so quickly, it didn’t even enter my mind.  (The camera is good at doing that!)

And it isn’t the worst mistake in the world.  As I said, the situation — in principle — definitely applies to the U.S.  But the overly picky wordsmith-type person in me wishes that I could dive in and add a qualifying comment of some sort, like rearraging the mention of Habakkuk 2 so that it is at the end of the sentence and is prefaced by the words “and in principle.”  It’s probably, too, the old mathematician in me that sees an important subtlety that is not being communicated.  Like when my kids are learning about how all numbers can be put into ordered lists and I am biting my tongue so as not to say, “Of course, we are assuming here that our domain is restricted to the Reals and does not include the Complex numbers…”  I’ve already messed them up by explaining why the set of integers is just as big as the set of rational numbers, but that the set of irrational numbers is bigger than both even though all three sets are infinite.  I think Boy #2 was in tears over that one.

OK, what was I talking about again?]

5 thoughts on “Noah, Habakkuk, and Faith (and a mistake I made)

  1. Thomas

    Perhaps you should go all the way and introduce your boys to the continuum hypothesis, and then explain that it has reduced more than a few mathematicians to tears in its time (and then some!). Might make boy #2 feel better. Or not…

  2. Ha! We actually did discuss it, but it didn’t mean as much to them. The “differently sized” infinities were just too disturbing for Boy #2, and Boy #1 still seems to regard it with suspicion. They certainly are not ready to become members of Cantor’s fan club (at least not yet!).

  3. Craig

    “Different sized” infinites is too much for me to handle. Oxymoron to me!

    One fact re. Noah that was not mentioned, but is very sobering to me, is the fact that the net result outside of his family was nil! Not one person repented! One hundred and twenty years of warning and ZERO converts! Perhaps everyone mocked him as a nut case. Perhaps decade after decade they chided him with, “Where is the promise of this destruction?” Perhaps society was too laodicean to pay any serious concern. Perhaps they were too busy watching violence on TV.

    The moral seems to be that you do it anyway. You preach the warning. If absolutely nobody repents, then that is not a sign of failure.

  4. Re: Noah — Good point. Like John Quincy Adams said, “Duty is ours; the results are God’s.” (From memory, so I may be off!)

    Re: Infinities — No oxymoron, my friend. “Differently sized” inifinities are a reasonable concept and well-defined, mathematically.

  5. Lyndell

    Construction of the ark is an overt countdown timer; doomsday clock?! Must have been a suspensful moment when the ark was completed.

    Just so long the kids don’t jump in the Thames over the concept of infinity you’re okay.

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