The last 3 weeks I’ve shared a snapshot of 2 weeks of my life, mistakes I’ve made and decisions good and bad concerning seeking, finding, and walking in the higher ways and thoughts of the Father.
Our text has been Isaiah 55: 6-13 which encourages us to forsake our wicked ways and thoughts and return to the Lord, which nets this result: ‘He will have mercy and abundantly pardon’ – in humility we forsake our ways and come up to His higher ways and thoughts. To go higher you must first go lower.
Today Chris and I went to Walmart in Barb’s car. In the US we have a blue card hung from the rearview mirror for handicapped drivers or their passengers, and I had left ours in my truck, which was in the repair shop. Integrity demanded I park in a regular parking space since I didn’t have that card.
The space I chose had nobody parked on the passenger side, and since I was driving Barb’s car each time we go in and out I have to remove the seat from his wheelchair, remove both wheels, fold it up and place all in the trunk – not a problem with this space and in we went. (With the truck I just place the wheelchair in the back and strap it down without having to fold it first)
We returned the items Barb asked us to return, and strolled the aisles as Chris loves all the variety, but zeroed in on the toy section for as he said: ‘You can buy me a new car if you want’ – which I did as he loves Lightning McQueen from the animated movie ‘Cars’, so he got a little car to add to his collection.
Upon rolling back to the car we saw a pick up truck had parked closely next to us on the passenger side. My first thought was ‘Thanks guy I don’t appreciate that’ – as I pondered if it would be safe to leave Chris in the parking lot while I backed 1/2 way out of the space to give us room, or if I could squeeze him in.
That was a split second thought – just as quickly I countered that thought with ‘He didn’t know we needed room for Chris and the wheelchair, so he didn’t sin against you, his slate is clean, keep your heart right’.
The first thought was pride
The second was the Father’s higher thought. I immediately recognized my knee-jerk reaction for the ugliness it was and countered it with a higher thought, a righteous thought – the driver of that truck didn’t know we needed space for the wheelchair so he was blameless so keep my heart right.
The Father didn’t speak that to me, I countered my first thought purposely and immediately with the higher thought – but frankly, that was only because my heart was humble enough not to push my lower thoughts forward.
If I’d been in a grouchy mood or angry at something, maybe I would have allowed that low thought to stay and be entertained awhile – ‘Great going Father, couldn’t you have made everyone skip that space? Why is it I can’t get a break, isn’t it hard enough setting up and breaking down a wheelchair everywhere we go? Was that guy as thin as a post that he could park so close to my car? How am I supposed to get Chris in there?’
Given another day and a sour mood and any or all of those could have been my thoughts. But I didn’t ‘take’ that first thought to dwell on it. I didn’t make it mine, didn’t take possession of it. Instead, because I was just walking with the Father and praying in the Spirit under my breath and worshipping Him silently all day long, I just slapped down that thought as quickly as it came up and replaced it with a higher thought.
(It was a tight squeeze but I was able to get Chris in there)
Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms…
My mom used to mockingly say that to us anytime any of us kids started to have a pity party. To this day I’m not sure what her point was, but it stopped us feeling sorry for ourselves and I think her point was that we could have as big a pity party as we wanted but she wasn’t going to pay attention, so just get it out of your system and get on with your day and do what you are supposed to do.
Habakkuk had just such a pity party and it is in full display in Habakkuk chapter one. He was seeing a vision of something that contradicted all he thought he knew about the Lord, and he was as angry as he was confused! He was angry at life and God and didn’t know a way out!
The vision he saw in chapter 1, verses 5-11 was of God using the very ungodly Babylonians against the equally ungodly Assyrians, and using the Babylonians to discipline His own people of Judah. He couldn’t understand how a righteous God could use an ungodly people to discipline His own people – whether they were walking with Him at the time or not.
This total rearrangement of his theology caused his pride of self and pride as an Israelite to rise up, as well as challenge his entrenched and most cherished beliefs about God.
He confronted the Lord in v12-13: “Are you not from everlasting O Lord my God, my holy One?…You are of purer eyes than to look on evil, and cannot look on iniquity. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those who are more righteous than themselves?”
Haven’t we all had those thoughts when it seems God is nowhere to be found when we are pressed in on all sides with no one to come to our aid? How can you, a righteous God, let this happen to me!?
The ‘guess I’ll go eat worms’, part
Chapter two opens with such a visual picture we can imagine the prophet crossing his arms and getting up on the city wall in a quiet place and telling the Lord something like “I’m going to just sit here until either you answer or I die.”
The English doesn’t do it justice, but by comparing several translations we understand the stubbornness of his lowly thoughts and ways: “I will just stand here on my watch, and station myself right here on the wall, and I will see what He says to me and how He answers my complaint!” (2:1)
Remember this is a vision of the Lord and these events he is seeing – chapter 1:1 states this. Habakkuk evidently did get up on the city wall and waited to see what the Lord would say about his complaint, but He didn’t get the answers he sought:
“And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain on tablets that whoever reads it can run with it. For the vision will happen at an appointed time, and at the end it will make sense and be understood not to have been a lie. Though it is a long time coming, wait for it because it will surely come and will not be late.”
With His next words the Lord (only then) addresses Habakkuk’s pride and stubbornness: “Look, the soul that is lifted up in pride is not upright in himself nor righteous; The just must live by his faith.”
Habakkuk didn’t understand how a God who cannot look upon iniquity could use the evil Babylonians to chastise His own people, and the Lord offered absolutely no answers to dissolve the confusion or even offer comfort to his confused mind and raw emotions.
All He told Him was that he was in pride and stubbornness and his soul wasn’t right in him, for he was going to have to live by his faith. That line; Thus just shall live by (his) faith, is repeated verbatim in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and stated in so many words in James chapters 1-4, so we know the lesson is as good for us as it was for Habakkuk.
The lesson for us all
We all have questions for the Lord, some more pressing than others, yet rarely does He provide answers. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, therefore His answer to Habakkuk is His answer to us – you are going to have to live by faith in humility in spite of not having all the answers. That walk of faith IS the higher way and thought of God on matters of confusion.
The low ways are the ways of a pity party – feeling sorry for yourself, feeling all alone, confused, angry at God and man. Angry at the guy who took your parking space or the justice system or the insurance company or the government or your neighbor or your church or your spouse…you fill in the blank.
The higher ways are a conscious decision to be obedient and to walk on in faith. Notice that the Lord first told Habakkuk to be obedient – just write the vision as it is for others to read and benefit from – and as for you Habakkuk, you’ll have to live by your faith. Your life isn’t only for yourself, for your life is a vision written in the hearts of those who observe you – so you may not understand it all, but just be obedient and walk on in the higher ways and thoughts.
Habakkuk did deliver himself from his lower ways and thoughts of chapter 1, determined to walk on in faith even if he didn’t understand what was going on around him. His final words are these:
“Though the fig tree doesn’t blossom, neither is there fruit from the vines, and if after all that work the olives fail and the fields yield no food, and if the flock is destroyed away from the safety of the corral, and there is no herd in the stalls; Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation, The Lord God is my strength and he will make my feet like the deer and make me walk in his high places.” (3:17-19)
We are raised by a church system that equates emotion with anointing, but the true presence of the Lord is found in the ‘in between times’ – those times your thoughts hang in the balance between low thoughts and high thoughts – there He may be met, there is where He watches and observes.
If we choose His higher ways and thoughts He is there in full presence…if not, He will let us sit on the wall having a ‘hissy fit’, mad at the world and ready to prove it by eating worms until we repent of our low ways and thoughts and return to the Lord, and He will then have mercy and abundantly pardon…
Next week, higher ways and thoughts in Acts…blessings,