Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
ON THE WATCH TOWER. Habakkuk 2
We need not imagine the prophet climbing to some hill top to get this expected vision, but that in his own heart he would take the attitude of being on the outlook, and wait for God's message. The message given can be easily applied to the present times, as all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof (2 Timothy 3:16). This message is chiefly for reproof and instruction in righteousness. Here are—
I. Words of Warning. Expressed in five solemn "woes."—
1. Woe to the Dishonest. "To him that increases that which is not his own" (v. 6). This applies to the unscrupulous master, the dishonest servant, the unsympathetic miser, and to all religious hypocrites, who claim that which is not their own.
2. Woe to the Covetous. "Him that covets... that he may set his nest on high" (v. 9). This is coveting for self-display and social aggrandizement. Although such may never gain what their vanity craves for, their sin lies in their covetous spirit. Some may even covet the gifts and power of a Christian brother; not that they might bring more honor to God, but that they themselves might get more honor from men. Beware of this woe. "Pride goes before a fall." It is lawful and wise "to covet earnestly the best gifts" (1 Corinthians 12:31), just as a wise workman might covet the best tools, that he might be able to do better work for his master.
3. Woe to the Oppressor. "To him that builds with blood and established by iniquity" (v. 12). Thank God, the old slavery has been abolished, when truly, cruel men built fortunes on the blood of others, and established their stronghold by iniquity. Every nation, every cause that is built on this policy will certainly be smitten with the woe of the Almighty, as all past history attests. The footsteps of every industry and every individual life that is being built up by iniquity will be followed by the unerring and overwhelming woe of God. "Be sure your sin will find you out."
4. Woe to the Deceiver. "To him that gives his neighbor drink, that they might look on their shame" (v. 15). This attempt to drug a neighbor, that advantage may be taken of them is a kind of deception that has many practitioners in our own day. Not only in giving men drink that they might laugh at their folly, but in giving such teaching that stupefy and bring such dullness and insensibility over the mind that the precious things of God's Gospel become of no vital value And all that they might be classed as followers with us.
5. Woe to the Idolater. "Woe unto him that says unto the wood, Awake, and to the dumb stone, Arise" (v. 19). We pity the poor blinded heathen, bowing down to the workmanship of their own hands, and worshiping the devices of their own hearts What better are the worshipers of fashion, of fiction, of sport, and of purely selfish interests? Whatever takes the place of God in our thoughts and lives is our dumb idol in the day of our real need.
II. Words of Encouragement. Here is a brilliant star gleaming in a cloudy sky. It is the Morning Star of Promise heralding the new day of universal blessing. "The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (v. 14; also Isaiah 11:9). When our Lord comes again in power and great glory, when every eye shall see Him, and all shall know Him, from the least unto the greatest, then shall be fulfilled the promise given at His birth: "He shall be great To Him shall be given the throne of His father David, and He shall reign, and of His kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:30-33). Be of good cheer. As sure as the world's Redeemer has come, so surely will the world's Kingly Deliverer appear, when all power shall be given Him on the earth, and when the kingdoms of this world shall become the Kingdom of our God and of His Anointed.
The closing verse of this part of the prophecy gives us another peace-assuring statement. "The Lord is in His Holy Temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him." The conditions of the world when the King of kings appears will be tumult and uproar. Here is His call for silence. "Let all the earth keep silence before Him." What a solemn, holy hush, when all the earth is silent before Him. The noise of battle, the war of traffic, the strife of tongues, the clamor of skepticism: every discordant note in His ear silenced. Peace on earth, goodwill among men, and glory to God.
THE SECRET OF ABIDING JOY. Habakkuk 3:17, 18
This old prophet with the crooked name had the secret of a happy life. And here it is for you: "Although the fig tree shall not blossom," etc, "yet I will rejoice in the Lord." The meaning is: Although the Chaldeans invade the land and burn up the vineyards and olive yards, hinder the harvest, steal the flocks, and rob me of every earthly possession; yet I will rejoice in the Lord. Will you and I say that in the day of calamity?
I. The Christian has Joy. "I will rejoice." Christianity is not a system of melancholy. Many Christians may have long faces, but every true believer in God has a joyful heart. The joy of the Christian is not that superficial kind of mirth that finds expression only in "roars of laughter." It is more like the calm of the settled water in the deep sea, undisturbed by those elements that constantly affect the surface. "The peace of God that passes all understanding."
II. This Joy is in the Lord. "I will rejoice in the Lord." This joy implies knowledge. You cannot rejoice in the Lord unless you know Him. If you knew Him you would love Him. If you loved Him you would rejoice in Him. We cannot rejoice in God as we ought until we have found in Him that which satisfies every desire of the heart, and fills up every longing of the new-born life. See that little dog creeping over to that sunny spot of the carpet. How it rejoices in the sunshine. The reason why so many Christians are not filled with joy is because they don't abide in the bright warmth of the Holy Spirit. Friends, the Cross of Christ is the only bright spot on earth where guilty men can share the joy and happiness of Heaven.
III. This Joy is the Joy of Salvation. Habakkuk says here, "I will joy in the God of my salvation." "How is it that you are always so happy, Annie?" asked a visitor who had called and marked the little girl's brightness. "Oh!" she said, "I am happy because I am forgiven." After the Israelites had passed through the Red Sea, they struck up the Song of Salvation (Exod. 15:1). How can they help from singing who have been saved. Jonah was in a sore plight when swallowed by the great fish, with the weeds of the deep enrapt round his head—the picture of a lost man. But he cried unto God out of the belly of this Hell. The Lord heard and saved him. Then how gladly he sang "Salvation is of the Lord." Salvation has two sides—the manward and the Godward. Your side is to repent and believe. God's side is to regenerate and restore (John 3:7-16). You cannot regenerate your own soul, but God will if you believe. You are commanded to repent and believe the Gospel. This you can do if you will, and you will perish if you don't. Let me say further that—
IV. This is the Joy of Anticipation. In verse 19 we read: "He will make my feet like hind's feet, to walk upon mine high places." The Christian life is not only one of happiness, but also of progress. A climbing from one high place of grace to another. It is not a grasping at gaudy bubbles that vanish with the touch, but the laying hold of spiritual certainties. For this feet like the hind's feet are needed. I understand that the peculiarity of the hind's feet is that they not only rest on the rocks, but cling to them, so that they can easily stand on high places. Such represent the feet of faith that rests on and cling to the great and precious promises of God. The Christian's prospects are mountains high. The hope of the wicked shall perish.
V. This Joy is Independent of Earthly Possessions. "Although the fig tree shall not blossom," etc., "yet will I rejoice in the Lord." Although I am stripped naked of every earthly thing, yet will I joy in the God of my salvation. You see, beloved brethren, that the joys of the believer are not in the things of this world, but independent of them. Old Job could say, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him."
John Bradford, while in Newgate prison, the night before he was burned at Smithfield, swung himself on his bedpost with great glee, saying to his brother martyr: "Fine shining we shall make tomorrow when the flame is kindled." Was he mad? No. He was rejoicing in the Lord.
Do you know the Lord like that? Have you found in Him your all, your everything? A poor negro slave, who was once asked if he was never unhappy, said: "When all de world are saying, 'Dis is my house,' 'Dat is my cotton field,' I just look up and say, 'Dare is my house, and dare is my Savior,' and when I own de Lord me tinks I own everything." He rejoiced in the God of his salvation. If you are an unhappy Christian it is because you know so little of your Lord. The joys of the worldling are like the flash of a rocket that glares for a moment and is gone. The joy of the true believer is like a star in the Heavens— it abides for life; it abides forever. "The joy of the Lord is your strength."