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Wrestling with God (Part 6)

March 2, 2010

God’s Submission Hold

When I was a kid, I really enjoyed watching wrestling on television. In fact, when I was in the sixth or seventh grade, I got to meet Jerry “The King” Lawler. It was clearly one of the highlights of my young life. One of my favorite things about a wrestling match was the submission holds. Whether it was the Sleeper, the Figure 4 or the Claw, these moves were meant to “convince” one’s opponent submit or tap out.

Throughout history, God has used a number of maneuvers to cause his people to submit to Him. He used a great flood. He used famine. He used slavery. In many cases, including during Habakkuk’s time, he used the oppression of other nations. Earlier, He used the Assyrians to overtake the northern kingdom of Israel. Now, He would use the Babylonians to take over the southern kingdom of Judah. Later, it would be other nations, including the Romans, which ruled during Jesus’ time.

Habakkuk prophesied that God would use the Babylonians to discipline His rebellious people. Habakkuk lived and prophesied during the reign of King Jehoiakim. His reign is described briefly at the end of 2 Kings 23. Not much detail is given, but this one line is very telling: “He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, just as his ancestors had done.” That gives us a little insight into what life was like in the land during his reign and, more important, why Habakkuk was so upset with the nation of Judah. When we look back along the line of kings, we eventually get to King Manasseh, who encouraged sin in the kingdom. Remember, this is one of the ancestors whose example Jehoiakim followed. This sin had continued to Jehoiakim’s day. There was a brief respite from the evil during the reign of Josiah. He reinstituted temple worship and tore down the false gods. When Josiah died, Jehoiakim returned to the evil practices that had been done before him. Despite Josiah’s reforms, these sins had become ingrained into the nation and became the cause of God’s judgment. Read 2 Kings 21:1-18. This is a clear description of the evil being done in Manasseh’s (and Jehoiakim’s) time. There was idol worship nationwide. There was idol worship in the temple. In the literal house of God, the priests were making unclean sacrifices to false gods. In describing the idol worship, the word translated “idol” literally means “round things”. This is probably an allusion to dung. The idea is that the objects of their worship are foul, filthy, disgusting idols. Led by King Manasseh himself, the nation became involved in offering its own children sacrifice. It was like a “greatest hits” record of evil.

This is the world Habakkuk lived in. Is there any wonder he spent the first four verses complaining to God for not doing anything about the situation? But God would do something. He would use an evil nation to discipline them. He would cause them to submit.

The nation of Judah was clearly, undeniably in rebellion against God. What does this have to do with us? We would never reach such a low point. We would never commit these kinds of atrocities, would we? The truth is we do not have to commit the atrocities that the nation of Judah did to be in rebellion against God. Anytime we put ourselves or anything else above our faith in God, we are being rebellious.

In what area of your life do you struggle with rebellion against God? Is there a time when God used outside circumstances to bring you into submission to Him? Your story may be a help and an encouragement to someone else. Would you be willing to comment below?

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