Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Keep on Keepin' On

One of the first things we do in my bible study every Thursday night is review the things we have learned thus far about the book of Hebrews. I'll share a couple of these truths:
  • It is a letter of exhortation written to Jewish Christians.
  • The recipients of the letter were being severely persecuted and were in danger of shrinking back to their belief in Old Testament practices.
  • The recipients were well versed in Old Testament scripture.

We typically spend several minute doing this; the repetition has cemented a lot of truths in our minds as we review and repeat the same things each week. Something new that hit home last week was the basic premise that when the outlook on life looks really bleak, we need to remain confident in Christ by keeping our eyes firmly on Him and the promise we have been given. This is a great reminder because we've all been there when our week is going terrible and it only seems to be getting worse. However, as I briefly mentioned in my previous post, our lives look pretty sweet compared to some of the persecution referred to in biblical times. Consider Hebrews 10:32-34:

"But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly being made a spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners, and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property..." (emphasis mine)

While the great conflict of sufferings is not described in detail, we can be sure that their property was seized. This could mean that their home had been taken away and maybe all their livestock. Can you imagine having your home, vehicle or business seized simply because you confess to be a Christian? While this may not happen in America today, the reality is this still happens in countries across the globe; praise God for the freedoms we often take for granted. As a way of encouraging the recipients of his letter, the author goes on to quote Habakkuk 2:4a, "But my righteous one shall live by faith." Why would this small quote be so significant or encouraging?

The prophet Habakkuk was questioning God about the current state of affairs in Judah - there were many evil people and he wanted to know why they were not being punished. He cries out in the first couple of verses of chapter one stating that the wicked are surrounding the righteous and justice is never upheld. God replies, "I am doing something" (1:5) for "I am raising up the Chaldeans" (1:6). The Chaldeans (Babylonians) are described as the fierce and impetuous people who came for violence and to mock kings; Babylon was the world's rising super power at the time. God was making it clear that Judah's impending judgment would come at the hands of a nation more wicked than Judah? How is that encouraging? While this seems to be at odds with the very nature of God, Habakkuk trusted God's purpose in using the Chaldeans to accomplish His purpose in His time. He ends the short book of Habakkuk with this (3:17-19):

"Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds' feet, and make me walk on my high places."

As I mentioned at the beginning of my post, the Hebrews were familiar with Old Testament scripture. When the author of Hebrews referred to Habakkuk, they fully understood that Judah's judgment was fierce and ugly yet the prophet remained hopeful in spite of this knowledge. How can we too be hopeful with the knowledge that our walk as Christians may get harder before it gets easier? Like Habakkuk reminded us at the close of his book, we must rejoice in our Lord knowing that He is our strength, and in all things He is purposeful. Not everything in our life will be good, but God will work all things for our good in the end (Romans 8:28).

While applying this to my own life last week, I described it as being something kind of like an out of body experience. I have to endure the struggles and challenges that I face with my physical body in the temporal world, knowing that Christ is purposeful in all that we experience. We have to keep our eyes and mind on the things of above so that we can exult in the Lord, and rejoice in the God of our salvation. We must be confident that we can endure all things if we choose to live by faith in God (Habakkuk 2:4/Hebrews 10:38a).

I pray you are encouraged by God's reminder; I am going to re-visit the idea of living by faith in an upcoming post so if you get a chance, check out Hebrews 11 in the next couple of days.

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