Text: Habakkuk 2:2-4
Proposition: God uses bent nails, people whose motives and actions are bent to their own purposes and He straightens them as He does so.
Introduction: We’ve been looking at theMinor prophets, men who were used by God to speak to a distracted and spiritually destitute Israel. It was about 600 years before the birth of Jesus, the people had begun to slide on all kinds of temptations and a prophet named Habakkuk had prayed that God would straighten them out. Have you ever been trying to build something and you reach for a nail only to discover it’s the last one left but it has been bent. So you take the nail and you begin to try to tap it back into a straight line with your hammer.
When a scuba diver stays down at depth too long the nitrogen levels in his blood become too high and the diver begins to feel like he’s drunk and he begins to make really bad decisions. When that happens the diver is said to be ‘bent’. He’s compromised and needs to get balanced again, straightened out, ‘detoxed’.
Israel was bent so God told Habakkuk in chapter 1 that He would go way beyond what was being asked by the prophet in order to straighten Israel. God told Habakkuk He would do that by having it be invaded and taken captive by a nation that hardly anyone even knew of at that time, the Babylonians. In chapter 2 of this small book Habakkuk waits for God to tell him what will happen and how. So this chapter is really all God speaking as God describes this hammer He plans to use. Have a look at Habakkuk 2, verse 2.
I. The Hammer Is the Recorded Word of God.
Habakkuk is told to write down what God is about to reveal. He’s told to write it on tablets, putting it in written form so that ‘the one who reads it may run’. What do you suppose that means? Is the immediate context to the people of Israel so that they would be ready for what will soon take place? Is it a call for them to repent, to recognize the way God not only keeps bent nails but straightens them in order to be able to build His kingdom with them? But we are here this morning also reading these very words, are we too included in that phrase, ‘so that he who reads it may run’? If we find ourselves saying yes to all of these then what is about to be revealed is not just historical record. it’s seeking to straighten us as well. Look what he says next, “ For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay.” Like a slow delay fuse the Babylonians would come to greater power, Judah and Jerusalem would fall in 607 BC to the Babylonians and the resulting 70 year captivity would be the process that God would use to straighten the people in their faith, to end their civil war that divided them, restoring them to their whole land and rebuilding the Temple as the central place of worship and Jehovah as the only God that is. But the point here is that it will happen, the word warns us and though nothing changes right this day the fact remains that God will straighten that which has been made crooked. The Word calls us to see what is wrong and to address it, the very action of that begins to straighten the bent heart, the bent will, the bent flesh. So what is it that trips us up, trips all of us up and how can we overcome it?
II. What Makes a Nail Good Is When It’s Not Bent On Itself.
If you ever try to hammer a bent nail what happens is that nail just redirects the energy into itself rather than into the wood and the bending of the nail just gets easier and easier with each tap of the hammer. So what is it that trips us up, trips all of us up, making us bent on self ruin? Have a look at verse 4, it’s the hinge for this whole chapter, “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him”. The soul that is not upright or right side up is that way because of one great flaw, a flaw that weakens us all, pride. There’s been lots and lots of conversation about having pride in your work and being proud of your children but let’s face it the pride that weakens us all is not that, it’s the pride that deflects the actions and energy of grace into ourselves. We become proud of almost everything when that happens. I love that quote from Spurgeon, “There may be as much pride inside a beggar's rags as in a prince's robe; and a harlot may be as proud as a model of chastity. Pride is a strange creature; it never objects to its lodgings.” We can be proud of wealth or proud of a not having wealth, proud of education or proud of the lack of it, proud of being popular or proud of being the loner. It’s all pride and the soul is made perverse by it. The word perverse means upside down, the net effect of an upside down life is that it drives you to be bent on trusting only you, of getting more and more bent into being independent of everyone but especially independent of God. That’s why pride is so dangerous to us, it’s like crack cocaine to our egos and the ruin it creates separates us from each other but especially from God. So what is the antidote to pride? Look at verse 4 again, “But the just shall live by his faith.” This simple line is quoted three times in the New Testament, over 600 years later Paul would read Habakkuk and in Romans 1:17, Hebrews 10:38 and Galatians 3:11 it would quoted. Literally the phrase reads like this, “But the just by his faith shall live.” When your soul is upright within you, you experience life as it was meant to be experienced. When this text is referred to in the New Testament in each case a different emphasis is put on these words. In Romans 1:17 the emphasis was on being just, “But the JUST by his faith shall live.” When you get right with God, when you agree with what His Word is trying to straighten in your life, then you let your self justifying talk go and you cling to the cross of Christ where He justifies us by the blood of Jesus, that’s when the Just shall by his faith truly live.
But then in Hebrews 10:38 the emphasis of the quote changes and is put like this, “But the just by his FAITH shall live.” The emphasis here is not on self reliance but on a reliance in and on God. Do you see how such an approach kicks at the grip of pride on us? Hebrews 11 :1 describes faith like this, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This says that faith has substance, you can see it. It gives evidence and by it the just finds life.
Then lastly in Galatians 3:11 the emphasis shifts one more time, “But the just by his faith shall LIVE,” In Galatians 3 Paul puts this rather penetrating question before us, “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?” How are you going to find life if all you are going to depend on is your own strength, your own resolve, your own stubbornness? If what Christ began in you was by the Spirit, what makes you think you can take it from here without Him. To do so will leave you with a life that is far from the abundant life He designed in you. The just by his or her faith shall live. Why…because the pride is knocked back, because the soul is restored and made upright, we have become His choice tool for the building of His kingdom, bent nails made straight that they would glorify the Lord God Almighty.
Some last thoughts about bent nails…
There’s a gentle and yet firm touch required to hold a bent nail, it wants to flop to the side as it resists the action required to straighten it. So the carpenter holds it firm, helping it to stand firm against its tendency to slip out of His grip.
The carpenter has to put his own fingers right in the way of harm and then bring the hammer down hard enough to effect change and the shock of its blows is felt in His own hand.
The nail that was bent is not going to look like it once did, there will be a slight curve, an irregularity to it but in the carpenters eye it’s the nail He chose.
Then the carpenter holds the straightened nail, redeemed by His hand, in His hand and He likes what He sees.