I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.
I. The prophet Habakkuk defines for us what the position of that man's mind must be, who would catch the deep, still messages of which everything is full—what it is to be waiting for heavenly signs. (1) There must be an individuality and solitude; you must be, and feel, alone with God. (2) You must be found in your own proper duty, whatever it be, and in that duty faithful. (3) You must carry on your watch at a high level of thought. (4) In the watch, and on the tower, you must be patient. (5) There must be a confident anticipation that something is coming, that God is going to speak, and that God will speak.
II. There are some occasions on which we should especially wait, and when we may so calculate with an entire confidence on the speaking of God that those passages of life ought to be singled out. (1) One is, after prayer. How many answers have been missed, simply because we did not follow our petitions with a heavenward eye, and with the calm waitings of expectant faith! Remember, when you pray, go at once from the footstool to the tower. (2) Another time when we should watch well to see what God will say unto us is just before we are entering upon any important duty, or work done for God, or undertaking any enterprise. (3) Afflictions are the seasons for very earnest listenings. Depend upon it, whenever a cloud rolls over you, there is a voice in that cloud.
III. Whatever else there may be in the voice, long listened for, when it comes there will certainly be three things. God will comfort you; God will stimulate you; God will reprove you. He will comfort you that you are His child. He will stimulate you to do a child's work. And He will reprove you, because it is a child's portion at a faithful Father's hand.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 6th series, p. 109.
References: Habakkuk 2:1-4.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Ecclesiastes to Malachi, p. 348. Habakkuk 2:2.—J. P. Chown, Old Testament Outlines, p. 275.
Habakkuk 2:3The word "wait" is the one word which the Divine wisdom often seems to utter, in rebuke of human impatience. God is never in haste. In Holy Scripture men are often counselled to wait; to wait upon God, to wait for God; language which supposes delay and the need of patience.
I. (1) The history of the earth is illustrative of the principle now suggested. (2) There is something in the movement of the seasons tending to remind us of this great law. (3) There is something in the history of all life adapted to convey the same lesson.
II. Revealed religion contains much in harmony with these facts in nature and providence. (1) We see a fact of this nature in the long interval which was to pass between the promise of a Saviour and His advent. (2) When the Saviour did come, the manner of His coming was not such as the thoughts of men would have anticipated. (3) Nor is it without mystery to many minds that the history of revealed religion since the advent should have been such as it has been. (4) The law of waiting is seen in the spiritual history of the individual believer. (5) So is it with the events which make up the story of a life. We have to wait—it may be to wait long—before we see the Divine purpose in the things which befall us. Experience should check impatience, should teach us how to wait.
R. Vaughan, Pulpit Analyst, vol. iii., p. 1.
References: Habakkuk 2:3.—M. Dix, Sermons Doctrinal and Practical, p. 14; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 266.
Habakkuk 2:3-4A large space of the Church's history, and of every believer's experience, is occupied by waiting. The whole of the Old Testament was a waiting for one dispensation. The whole of the New is waiting for another. David speaks of his waiting for God more than twenty-five times. Isaiah is full of the same thought. And every child of God could have much to tell of it. The reason is evident. It exercises faith. It humbles the soul. It enhances the blessing. It glorifies God. Therefore God waits, and therefore we must tarry His leisure.
I. We understand by the word "vision" something which we do not yet fully see, but which God will show us. It is a familiar thought to us all to wait for the advent of Jesus Christ. The whole Church stands always in the attitude of expectation for the return of her Lord. But very few think of waiting for the advent of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes—goes—His advents are not one, but many. These comings are in very various degrees of power, and light, and influence. Observe St. Peter's remarkable expression: "When the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord."
II. Why does the vision tarry? I answer, partly, sovereignty; partly, your want of preparation; partly, discipline—but all love. It tarries behind your blind, hasty, impetuous rush; but it does not tarry behind God's calm, wise, pre-ordaining counsel.
III. How shall we wait? Just as the Apostles did. In holy places and ancient ordinances; in unity among ourselves; loving and praying; grasping the promises with submitted will; in the joy of confidence, though the God of our future, though the future of our God, be hidden; in the simplicities of faith and with loving views of Jesus.
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 9th series, p. 229.
I. We know that these words are spoken especially of the last coming of Christ; for St. Paul, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, thus introduces this passage: "Ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry." And then the Apostle proceeds to add, from the next verse of the prophet, "Now the just shall live by faith." The passage sets before us, in a lively and striking manner, our whole condition in this world as a waiting for a judgment of the great day, and the temper of mind with which we are to await it. Let us look upon it as a warning and invitation to us to set aside all disguises and deceits, and to look steadfastly in the face the great, real, and abiding Truth; even as they who wait for the dawning day, and because they can behold no streak of light, look again and again, and, on account of their own impatience, think that the sun is long in rising, while at the same time it is ever approaching and will burst forth in its own appointed time; and they will wonder that their short time of waiting could have appeared so long.
II. The vision will come in its appointed time, and will not tarry; and in the meanwhile "the soul of him that is puffed up is not upright." More prayer, more solitude, more looking into the account of our souls, more humiliation before God—in these we are to grow daily, in order that we may be prepared for the vision of God.
And for this reason we have to cast aside everything that tends to deceive, and to lead us to form a wrong estimate of ourselves. When we look back in the truth of God, behind us we see the Cross of Christ, teaching us humiliation; and when we look forward before us we see the tribunal and judgment seat of Christ, teaching us humiliation. Whenever anyone is lifted up with pride, there is a want of faithfulness in him; and this the day of trial will show; that day of visitation which is the forerunner of the great day of God. Waiting with humility, waiting with patience, waiting for God—this is the state of the Christian.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times" vol. x., p. 11.
Habakkuk 2:4This is one of those texts of which there are so many in the Bible, which, though they were spoken originally to one particular man, yet are meant for every man. They are worldwide and world-old. They are the law by which all goodness and strength and safety stand either in men or angels, for it always was true, and always must be true, that if reasonable beings are to live at all, it is by faith.
I. Think of the infinite power of God, and then think how is it possible to live except by faith in Him—by trusting to Him utterly. He made us; He gave us our bodies; He gave us our life; what we do He lets us do; what we say He lets us say—we all live on sufferance. If we are mere creatures of God, if God alone has every blessing both of this world and the next, and the will to give them away, whom are we to go to but to Him for all we want? It is so in the life of our bodies and in the life of our spirits. By trusting in Him, and acknowledging Him in every thought and action of our lives we shall be safe; for it is written: "The just shall live by faith."
II. This is not a doctrine which ought to make us despise men; any doctrine that does, does not come of God. When the Bible tells us that we can do nothing of ourselves, but can live only by faith, the Bible puts the highest honour upon us that any created thing can have. What are the things which cannot live by faith? The trees and plants, the beasts and birds, which, though they live and grow by God's providence, yet do not know it, do not thank Him, cannot ask Him for more strength and life, as we can. It is only reasonable beings like men and angels, with immortal spirits in them, who can live by faith, and it is the greatest glory and honour to us that we can do so. Instead of being ashamed of being able to do nothing for ourselves, we ought to rejoice at having God for our Father and our Friend, to enable us to do all things through Him who strengthens us to do whatever is noble and loving, and worthy of true men.
C. Kingsley, Village Sermons, p. 34.
I. When this world has done its best and its worst, it will plainly appear that the great question between it and the Church is, whether it is better to trust in one's self—one's own wisdom and fame, and riches, and high spirit—or to go altogether out of one's self and to live entirely by faith upon the heavenly righteousness which God gives to His own people. The world rests upon itself, the Church lives by faith. The last day will show to all God's creation, as even man's death will show to him and convince him for ever, which is the right of these two and which is the wrong. It is the great concern of us all to make up our minds to this in good time, to make it the very rule of our life, that when the shadows of this world pass away, we may not depart helpless and unprepared into that other world where are no shadows at all; but dying with Christ's mark on us, and with our hearts full of Him, may both be acknowledged by Him whom we shall there meet face to face, and may ourselves know Him even as we are known.
II. The faith which keeps hold of our Lord, not only as bearing our sins in His own body on the tree, but also as uniting us to Himself and making us members of Him, strong in the strength of His Spirit to keep all we have vowed to Him—such faith as this leads immediately to the obeying of all His commandments;. not one or two which may happen to come easiest to us, but all.
III. If our faith really tell us that we are in very deed brought so near to God in Christ as the New Testament everywhere implies, how certain must we feel, on the one hand, that none of our labour can be in vain in the Lord, that He counts and treasures up every one of our good thoughts, and actions, and self-denials; and on the other, that every wilful sin must tell for the worse upon our spiritual condition; it may be truly repented of, confessed, forsaken, but there is reason to fear that it never may nor can so vanish as if it had never been.
IV. Faith in Christ Jesus, just in proportion as it makes our actions important, will make our fortunes in this world of small consequence, because this thought will ever be in our minds—God has put us on our way to heaven, Christ is abiding in us by His Spirit to help us thither; what real difference can it make how we fare and how we are employed in the worldly matters through which we must pass here? How we behave, how we think and feel, what our hearts are set upon—that makes the difference, not how well we are provided for in this world.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times" vol. viii., p. 236.
References: Habakkuk 2:4.—J. Keble, Sermons on Various Occasions, p. 428; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix., No. 1749; Ibid., My Sermon Notes: Ecclesiastes to Malachi, pp. 351, 354; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xvii., p. 227; T. Hammond, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 246; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 185; S. Martin, Westminster Chapel Pulpit, 4th series, No. 10. Habakkuk 2:11.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 286.
Habakkuk 2:20The mystery of the Holy Trinity.
I. The Holy Trinity is the foundation-stone of our faith. All religious truth is little more than the expansion of the Trinity. The Trinity, as a fact, is beyond all controversy. It is shadowed out in nature—in leaves, flowers, and many creatures. It strangely pervades Providence. It has its counterpart in the triple composition and the wonderful structure of man. It has revealed itself in sacred histories, when the Three Persons have been pleased to show themselves distinct and yet simultaneous, as in the baptism of Jesus. But there are chains of thought as regards the Trinity—which we cannot, must not, enter—dark and awful! We can only wait outside the porch of the house and say adoringly: "The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him."
II. The expression, "in His holy temple," seems to describe very exactly and beautifully how it is. Within the three courts of the Temple at Jerusalem stood the actual Temple, properly so called. It also had its three parts, and in its innermost part, the Holy of Holies, was the Shekinah—a light always shining over the mercy seat and the ark. No one ever saw it except the High Priest once a year. Between the people and the Holy Place was a curtain, which no one might even dare to touch. Nevertheless, though they might not look on it, every Jew knew that that mysterious light day and night was there, the token and pledge of God's unchanging presence; and this knowing it was there was his confidence and his joy. It was to him matter of faith only, but as true to him as if he saw it. Just so it seems to be God's law that it should be with all grand truths. There are circles within circles, shrines within shrines. Into many we may safely go, we are bound to go; and in these is all we really need for each day's higher life. There we know God, we meet God, we converse with God, we enjoy God. But within it there is a secret place where no foot may tread. Reason cannot follow there. Woe to the man who curiously pries into its boundaries! The secret is—The Lord, the Lord alone! It is the region of pure trust. But then, I know a light I cannot look on is always burning, and to be conscious that there is that hidden lustre of rays, too dazzling for human eyes, is always doing good. It is always something beyond and above me, to lift me up. It exercises me, it humiliates me, it carries on my thoughts into the eternal. I know it is there, and I know that it is mine.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 8th series, p. 223.
References: Habakkuk 2:20.—J. Davis, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 81; Pulpit Analyst, vol. v., p. 412.
And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.
Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.
Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people:
Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and a taunting proverb against him, and say, Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his! how long? and to him that ladeth himself with thick clay!
Shall they not rise up suddenly that shall bite thee, and awake that shall vex thee, and thou shalt be for booties unto them?
Because thou hast spoiled many nations, all the remnant of the people shall spoil thee; because of men's blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein.
Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil!
Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many people, and hast sinned against thy soul.
For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it.
Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity!
Behold, is it not of the LORD of hosts that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity?
For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!
Thou art filled with shame for glory: drink thou also, and let thy foreskin be uncovered: the cup of the LORD'S right hand shall be turned unto thee, and shameful spewing shall be on thy glory.
For the violence of Lebanon shall cover thee, and the spoil of beasts, which made them afraid, because of men's blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein.
What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols?
Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it.
But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.