Repetition

August 6 2020

Habakkuk 3:16–19

16 I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us17 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, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.

Notice what he says, verse 18, the famous verse, “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Now something happened there that happens so often in the Bible. It’s such a deep pattern in the Bible you get used to it. Those of us who have read the Bible for years get so used to it we don’t even notice it, but I want you to notice it. What happened in that verse? He repeated himself. “Huh?” It says, “I will rejoice in the Lord …” and then he comes right back and says, “I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

Why did he say it twice? Is this a man in horrible need of an editor? The Bible never says anything once. Never! The Bible constantly repeats itself. If you look carefully, it’s saying the same thing but a little differently.

By saying, “I will rejoice in the Lord …” and then saying, “I will be joyful in God my Savior,” it’s a little different and therefore, you understand it better by having it said twice. It goes a little deeper into you and your understanding is a little bit richer. This is a deep pattern in the Bible. Repetition, repetition, repetition. Why four Gospels? Why wasn’t one enough?

They’re covering the same territory; by the time you get to the third Gospel you say, “Yeah, I know he rose on the third day. I know he ate with his disciples the night before he died. Why do I have to learn about this four times?” The answer is because every time it’s the same and yet every time it’s different and it goes in deeper. Your understanding is better. It’s over and over and over.

Pharaoh. God warns Pharaoh, sends him two dreams. Joseph gets two dreams about the future. Nebuchadnezzar has two dreams. Jesus feeds the 5000 then he feeds the 4000.

Nothing happens in the Bible once. Everything is happening over and over and over and over again. Why? Psalm 62:11 says, “Once God has spoken, but twice I have heard it.”

God teaches us by this method of repetition through scripture for a very good reason. The human mind has a difficult time focusing attention. We think we get the point but then our minds wander to something else. Try and retain something in the center of your thinking and what happens? Our minds fly off in a tangent. Our minds must be made literally to concentrate… con-centrate… to stay on center.

So, you take a text and you study it yourself. Then you take a text and you talk about it with your friend. Then you take a text and you study it in your small group. Then you take a text and you hear Marcus or me preaching about it. Every time you get it, it goes a little deeper and a little deeper. That’s the only way you’re going to change your thinking, by the renewing of your mind with the word of God. It’s the only way you’re going to be able to handle suffering. Repetition. The discipline of repeating, of going over and over as it permeates your mind and soul and does it’s work of guiding our thoughts and emotions.

I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. Two lights focused on the same subject.



Choose to Rejoice

August 5 2020

 Habakkuk 3:16–19

16 I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us17 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, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.

As a pastor I have had many occasions to sit with people who are suffering. Some suffer because of emotional distress, maybe they lost someone to death, someone died, or a husband or a wife gave up on a marriage and walked out… they lost because of betrayal. Some have had children who for whatever reason have abandoned their parents and left. All this pain builds up in our hearts and we suffer.

Some suffer because of health problems. Stroke, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, dementia… there are so many ways our bodies let us down. The physical pain is only one component, the loss of mobility and the suffering that comes with the inability to do the things you once did… these things cause great suffering.

We try to comfort people with words, but words do not often help. So, we sit with people and we feel unqualified to help. When does rejoicing in the Lord come? Is it after the calamities have passed? We cry out to God for healing, thinking if things get better, then I will be rejoicing.

I have learned from people who are suffering what Habakkuk reminds us in this book. Rejoicing happens in the middle of suffering, not after it has passed. I have learned in my own suffering, in my own loss, in my own mental anguish and pain what it is to feel the presence of Jesus Christ comforting me in sorrow and grief and pain.

Habakkuk says, “This is how I feel: My heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled.” He can hardly stand, fear has gripped him and staggered him. But notice what he says? “Yet I will wait patiently… yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

Rejoicing is a choice.

Years ago, my young friend Craig was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It was a fast-growing cancer and he was given very little time. I was amazed at his response to the news. He told everyone who would listen that God had chosen him to suffer so that his life might have significance. God was going to use his brain tumor to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Whatever time he had left was going to be committed to that purpose.  But Craig didn’t die in six months like the experts predicted… he lived another 7 years. And Craig lived his life rejoicing in the Lord. “Yet, I will wait patiently for the day of calamity. I will rejoice in the Lord.”

Craig chose to draw near to God in his calamity. Life was difficult for him, chemo, operations… all the mess that comes with the territory… but at the end he told me he would not have changed a thing because of the closeness he felt with his savior Jesus Christ. He chose to rejoice, and that made all the difference.



The High Ground

August 4 2020

 Habakkuk 3:17–19

17 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, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.

In 1851, an English missionary named Allen Gardiner was shipwrecked with a number of other people on a little remote, uninhabited island off the bottom tip of South America. They all died one at a time; he was the last one to be alive before he died. He kept a journal and they found the journal next to his body. The last entry in the journal cited Psalm 34:10, “Young lions do lack and suffer hunger.” Now here’s a man dying of hunger. “But they that seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.”

The very last thing he wrote in his journal was essentially this, “I am overwhelmed with a sense of the goodness of God.” Here’s a man dying of starvation. Here’s a man far from home. His body is broken. All his hopes are dashed. His last words are, “I am overwhelmed with a sense of the goodness of God.” Now let’s think about that for a second. How do you and I ordinarily come to the conclusion that God is good? When do you say God is good? When things are going well for you.

When your fig trees are blossoming. When the money is there. When health is there. When things are going the way you want. When the circumstances of your life are doing well, then you say, “Ah, God is good!” But wait a minute. This man found a way to contact, to access, the goodness and love of God apart from life’s circumstances.

Everything in his life had gone wrong, yet he was in contact with the goodness of God. He was overwhelmed with a sense of it.

See, you and I infer the goodness of God from good things happening in our lives. Then we feel like God is good. But he came into direct contact with it and he knew the goodness and love of God in spite of life’s circumstances and as a result, he could face with poise anything that happened.

Now how do you do that?

Here Habakkuk has learned how. He’s doing it. He says though the fig tree … In other words, in spite of nothing going right, I can rejoice in the Lord. Do you know how he does this? Verse 19 says rejoicing in your suffering is like walking sure-footedly on the mountaintops. After he says I’m rejoicing in my suffering, then in verse 19, “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” Now what’s he talking about? That’s the metaphor. To rejoice in your suffering is like walking sure-footedly on the mountaintops.

Here’s what the image is getting across. To go up high on the mountain is very dangerous. You know, it’s dangerous enough just walking here on level ground, but to climb mountains is incredibly dangerous. One little slip and you’re gone, so to go up there is very dangerous. But if you’re able to navigate it, if you’re able to walk sure-footedly, if you’re able to be up there and live up there … it was the safest place you could possibly be. The people who inhabited the high ground were free from the constant attacks that went on below. There is a freedom in living above the fear of things that happen to you. Habakkuk can rejoice in that.




Daily Devotions 2020