Editors Note: Jeremy Sanders returns to In His Image for a three part series on the book of Habakkuk. Note the opinions of this author are his own and do not necessarily represent those of his employer or In His Image.
- Introduction and Recap
“A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth.” (Habakkuk 3:1)
As we come to the final chapter of Habakkuk, a little review is in order to fully appreciate the beautiful prayer that Habakkuk utters to conclude his prophecy. As we have already covered, Habakkuk is living in a wicked time. Israel has abandoned the Lord and adopted wicked practices. They have replaced the laws of God with unrighteous laws. Instead of upholding righteousness, the government of Israel has done the exact opposite. And Habakkuk cannot understand God’s silence, his heart is groaning at what is occurring to his beloved nation. So, he cries out to God in desperation. God answers Habakkuk in chapter 1 verses 5-11. He promises that the wickedness of Israel will not go unpunished, but that He is sending the Chaldeans as judgment. And from God’s response, we learned that even when He is silent, God is working in ways unseen us mortals.
In the second article, we covered Habakkuk’s second question and the Lord’s response. As we discovered, Habakkuk could not understand how the Lord could use the evil Chaldeans, whose wickedness far exceeded that of the Israelites, to judge Israel. After all, Israel/ Judah is God’s chosen nation, and the Chaldeans have destroyed all other nations thus far. Surely, God could not have forgotten His promise to preserve His people? Habakkuk was faced with a great problem, yet He did not despair at the thought of this problem. Instead, Habakkuk models a response we can all follow when faced with problems. First, he steps back to focus on the attributes of God rather than the problem. Second, he waits for the Lord to answer. Third, he lives by faith, regardless of the scale of the problem. And because he follows this pattern, God answers. He delivers a message that seems startling to most. God has every right to use the Chaldeans to punish Israel, despite their great wickedness. God is Sovereign and directs the hearts of kings. And He promises that the Chaldeans will one day be punished for their own iniquities. Yes, Israel will be punished greatly for its sin, but God has the authority and right to direct the course of human history as He sees fit.
So, this brings us to the final chapter of Habakkuk. The prophet’s response is incredibly instructive and once again a model for us today. Instead of complaining to God of the coming judgment, seeking to change the will of God, Habakkuk follows a different course. Instead of praying for personal gain, we will see Habakkuk pray for God’s will to be accomplished. There are four parts to Habakkuk’s prayer, each a model for how we can pray today.
- First, Habakkuk offers Requests. Requests to God are generally what fill the majority of our prayers, and are often looked at dismissively by the “super-spiritual”. However, we will see that not only are humble requests to God part of prayer, He desires greatly to hear our requests.
- Second, we will see Habakkuk model a spirit of remembrance during his prayer. Remembrance (or Praise) for what God has already accomplished in the lives of His people. When faced with problems, it is often easy to forget the mighty works that God has already done in our lives. Yet, if we just take a step back to remember His past blessings, we will gain confidence that He will work in our lives once again.
- Third, Habakkuk takes time to recognize his own sin. Even a prophet well versed in Scripture still has personal sin. And Habakkuk takes time to deal with his sin. Dealing with sin in our lives is extremely important for effective prayer. With unrepented sin in our lives, our relationship with God is strained, hindering our prayers.
- Fourth, Habakkuk closes his prayer with Rejoicing for God’s majesty. The closing verses of Habakkuk are some of the most beautiful and comforting verses in Scripture. They demonstrate that our adoration for God is not tied to material comfort. Too often, people reverence God to gain the benefits of His blessing. Yet, as we will see, our rejoicing should not be tied to our desires, but must be solely due to the glorious attributes of God.
Four simple parts, yet each so deep and so powerful. Without further ado, let’s begin unpacking the prayer of Habakkuk. May it be as great a blessing to your spiritual walk as it has been to mine.
- Requests: (Habakkuk 3:2)
“O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.”
Habakkuk spends only one verse making requests to God. It is one of the smallest sections of his prayer, yet generally the part of prayer that we focus most on during our own conversations with God. However, although Habakkuk only spends one verse on his requests, there a lot of theological gold to unearth in this beautiful verse.
Look carefully at how Habakkuk begins his address to the Lord. He is honest with God; he admits that God’s words of impending judgment are terrifying. Too often when we pray, we put on a front or an act. Perhaps some of this stems from our experiences in corporate prayer, where we feel pressured to sound “super-spiritual”. We do not expose our hearts but pray the words we believe that others, or God expects to hear. If you or I were praying Habakkuk’s prayer today, we might not admit the terror that Habakkuk felt in his heart. Yet, how can we expect to have a meaningful relationship with God unless we are honest with Him? Think for a moment of your closest temporal relationship, whether it be with your spouse, sibling, parent, or best friend. The feeling of closeness and trust can only be obtained if you are honest with each other. If you are not close with someone, then you will not confide in them. Habakkuk is perfectly honest in his response. The coming judgment terrifies him.
Even though Habakkuk is terrified, notice what he does not do. He does not immediately ask God to stop the coming judgment. He does not ask God to defeat the Chaldeans. He has already been told by God directly that the Chaldeans are acting according to the Sovereign plan of God. So, Habakkuk does not pray to change God’s will. Of note, it is not necessarily wrong to ask God to change his plans. We see a perfect example of this fact in Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus prays, “Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42). Jesus knows God’s will. We see that God has preordained the exact time, manner, and place of Christ’s death (Acts 2:23, 1st Peter 1:20). Jesus knows this, yet still prays to God that if He is willing, to let Christ avoid the Cross. This is not sinful; this is a demonstration of Christ’s manhood. Yet, Christ adds the key phrase “not my will, but thine, be done.” Christ willingly went to the cross in obedience to His Father’s plan. And He prayed according to His Father’s will. Habakkuk likewise models a perfect example of how to make requests of God. He prays according to God’s will.
How does Habakkuk maintain the proper focus on God’s will, despite having great desires of his own? He does so because His life is consumed with service towards His Creator. If we realize our proper position, it is easier to pray according to God’s will. If we make a habit of obeying His will in our lives, then we will begin to desire His will. Our obedience will mold our desires, and our prayers will reflect these newfound desires. And when we do not know how to pray, the Holy Spirit will make intersessions for us before the Father, as we read in Romans 8:26-28. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Emphasis added). Christ even provides a model on praying according to God’s will when He declares in Matthew 6:10 “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven”
So, Habakkuk prays for God’s will. He does not pray according to earthly desires, but Godly desires. And since he has molded his desires to match the desire of God, His prayer will be heard by God. Too often our prayers remain unanswered because we do not pray according to the will of God. There is a movement in the modern “church” (I use that term in the broadest possible sense) that says it is wrong to pray according to God’s will, that it demonstrates a lack of faith. Apparently, we should pray according to our desires and if our faith is big enough, then God will answer. Such a belief turns God into little more than a vending machine. If you have enough money (i.e., “faith”) then you can get whatever you desire. But this is not Scriptural. James 4:3 states “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” If we make requests based solely upon our desires, then we will not receive what we desire and we will not be praying according to God’s will.
But what about John 14:14, you ask? “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” Or how about Psalms 37:4? “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” How do we square these two verses with James? Shouldn’t I just ask God what I want and He will give it to me? Isn’t that His promise?
No, absolutely not! We must take these verses and look at their context. In John, Jesus is talking about doing works to advance the kingdom of God. John 14:12, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” It is not about getting our personal desires, it is about asking for things that are according to God’s will that advances His kingdom!
What about Psalms 37:4, you ask? It says I will get the desires of my heart. Yet, absolutely it does. But, what are those desires? Notice you are to delight yourself in the Lord, meaning His glory and His will is what you delight in. Therefore, once you delight in Him, your desires will align naturally with His glory and His will! Notice the very next verse, Psalms 37:5, “Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” Only once your way (will) is committed to the Lord shall He bring about the desires of your heart. Your desires must align with His!
Habakkuk provides a clear model for such prayer. He does not ask for protection, health, deliverance, ease, personal escape from the coming judgment. He doesn’t pray that the Chaldeans will be defeated, or that Jerusalem wouldn’t be sacked. What does he pray? “revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known.” He prays that his people will be revived by the work of God. He desires that God will make His glory known in the middle of the years of coming judgment. What faith, what devotion to the will of God!
Today, we often pray for God to bless America. We sing the song, say the phrase, perhaps even pray the prayer in our hearts. But we are singing the wrong song, praying the wrong prayer. We should be singing “America, Bless God”, for that is what our country needs. Instead of praying for America to escape judgment, we should be praying for revival. The church must pray for purity, not prosperity.
So, what are you more concerned with today, the will of God, or your own worries? When praying for something, what do you pray for? If you are facing temptation, do you pray to avoid the temptation, or become more like Christ? If you are seeking a promotion, are you more interested in the pay raise and prestige, or the opportunity to further advance God’s kingdom? If you are single and seeking a spouse, are you praying for a godly spouse to fulfill your needs and escape loneliness, or are you praying because you desire to draw your future spouse closer to Christ, and in turn that they would draw you closer to Christ? If your focus is on God, He will ensure your desires are molded to fit His desires. So, whatever your current situation, focus on the attributes of God, wait for His perfect timing, and live by faith according to His will.
Before we move on to the next portion of Habakkuk’s prayer, we need to briefly examine his last statement at the end of the verse. “in wrath remember mercy.” Habakkuk was not asking God to cease His divine righteous wrath. He was not asking for the punishment to not occur. However, he does ask God to be merciful amidst His wrath. He is focusing on another aspect of God’s character. God is wrathful towards sin, yet also displays mercy. The story of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice on Calvary is a perfect illustration of this fact. God’s wrath was poured out upon Christ, the spotless sacrifice for the sins of the world. And in God’s wrath, He displayed mercy to mankind.
Habakkuk does not ask God to have mercy due to any good works committed by the Israelites. Our works cannot appease the wrath of God for “…we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). And because of our wickedness, God’s wrath rests upon mankind. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;” (Romans 1:18). It is only belief in Christ that appeases God’s holy wrath. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 3:36). Habakkuk, therefore, is appealing to God’s Mercy based upon His divine character, not the good works of Israel. Because God had sworn a covenant with Israel that depended solely on God’s character, Habakkuk asks God to remember mercy during the coming judgment. It is a legitimate request. God always provides mercy in the midst of wrath, and He will do so in Habakkuk’s situation as well. After the Chaldeans destroy Judah, the remaining Israelites are carried into captivity. Seventy years after Judah is destroyed, God allows a remnant to return home, demonstrating mercy upon His people.
When you are faced with suffering due to judgment, focus on the character of God. Accept the punishment, do not attempt to flee. Yet, you may and should ask God to show mercy. Such mercy is not based on anything you have done or on human ideas of “fairness” or “equity”. No, it is based solely on the merciful character of God.
- Remembrance: (Habakkuk 3:3-15)
In verses three through fifteen, Habakkuk’s prayer focuses on remembering the mighty works of God. He spends multiple verses praising God for his great faithfulness. Prayerful remembrance of what God has already accomplished, both in Scripture and in our own lives, necessitates praise. Habakkuk’s greatest desire is that Israel would repent and experience revival. Therefore, he brought to mind what God had already done concerning his greatest desire. It gives him reason to hope, and thus a reason to praise God.
Habakkuk is an extremely relatable character, even though we know little about his life or interests. His struggle to match his desire with God’s will is evident, while his sorrow over sin is also quite evident. We can (or should!) relate to such feelings. For me personally, there is another way that Habakkuk is extremely relatable. Habakkuk is a student of history. His love for history is evident through his prayer. He loves the history of Israel because it is the story of God’s great faithfulness towards His people. As we will see, Habakkuk recounts the history of Israel as a means of extolling God’s attributes, praising the Lord for who He is, not just for what He has done. And this is the most important reason to study history. Not just to see what God has done through His mighty works, but to see His character during those works.
- Glory and Light (Habakkuk 3:3-4)
“God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power.”
Habakkuk begins His remembrance of God’s character by reflecting on the glory of God. He starts at Mount Sinai, where God reveals Himself to Moses and gives the Law. Teman and Paran are references to Sinai. There, God’s glory was so great it covered the heavens, basking them alternately in darkness and light to hid His glory. Of course, Habakkuk does not yet know that God’s glory will be personified in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the final and ultimate expression of God’s glory. John 1:14 says when speaking of Jesus, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (Emphasis added), while Romans 3:23 reminds us “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”.
Why is God’s glory, personified in Christ, so relevant when discussing Sinai? Because at Sinai, God gave Israel the law as a means to point His people to Christ. Israel could never fulfill the Law and thus could never be saved by the Law. However, the Law could point them to Christ. Galatians 3:24 makes this point clear, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” The Law brings us into the presence of God’s Glory, Jesus! And when we are brought into the presence of such glory, our lives will reflect His glory, in some cases literally! In Exodus 34:34-35, Moses has an encounter with the veiled glory of God, and the experience causes his face to shine. “But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded. And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.” Such is the nature of God’s glory, that exposure to an infinitesimally small portion causes Moses’ face to shine. Because of this exposure, Moses was forced to place a veil across His face, for the people were unable to behold the reflection of such glory.
Because of the powerful nature of God’s glory, He mercifully hides much of His glory, lest we be overcome by its sheer power. One way God conceals His glory is utilizing great light, which we saw in Habakkuk 3:4. The brightness of God is like a great light. And in the light, God’s power is hidden. God’s glory cannot be displayed fully to man, lest we be consumed by the everlasting holiness of God. So, it is hidden, as the Israelites experienced firsthand on the Mount of Sanai.
One interesting expression in this verse is the picture of horns coming from the hands of God. What does this phrase mean, what truth about God is Habakkuk trying to convey? The Hebrew words for “horns” and for a ray/ bolt of light are very similar. Habakkuk is likely saying that rays of light came from the hands of God like the horns of a gazelle. Furthermore, it is also likely a reference to the Law being given by God to Moses. If we read Deuteronomy 33:2, this verse lends support to such a statement. “…The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.” (Emphasis added). The Law of God is like a mighty horn, that shoots out of God’s hand. It is strong and covered in glory.
- Sovereign and Powerful: (Habakkuk 3:5-8)
“Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet. He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting. I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: and the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble. Was the LORD displeased against the rivers? was thine anger against the rivers? was thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thine horses and thy chariots of salvation?
In these verses, we see the power of God displayed throughout Israel’s history, as He sovereignly guides His people. God controls and shapes history according to His own divine will. Whether it be weather, the acts of nations, or the hearts of kings, God Sovereignly works through all to accomplish His good pleasure and will.
We see a beautiful example of this truth during His judgment against Egypt. We remember the story, as surely did Habakkuk’s audience. Israel was being afflicted by the Egyptians and had been cast into slavery. God sends Moses to deliver the people, but Pharoah will not let them go. God hardens Pharoah’s heart to ensure he will not let the Israelites go. God does this to demonstrate His supreme Sovereignty and Power over even the mightiest ruler on the earth (Romans 9:17). Once Pharoah refuses to release the Israelites from captivity, God sends 10 plagues to judge the Egyptians. This is the “pestilence, and burning coals” that Habakkuk is referencing in verse 5. Habakkuk continues referencing these plagues in verses 7-8 when he declares that Cushan (Egypt) was afflicted and the rivers (the Nile turning to blood) experienced the anger of God.
Furthermore, God did not just demonstrate sovereignty and power over Egypt, but all other nations that stood against God’s people. Midian trembled at the power of God, while verse six tells us that God “drove asunder the nations”. Habakkuk recounts this history to demonstrate that all nations ultimately operate only as permitted by the dictates of God. Thus, the Chaldeans, as bitter and terrible a nation as ever existed, were to be feared no more than any other nation because they could only act as long as permitted by God.
God’s Sovereignty is not just over nations but over the entire earth. We have already seen that God judged the Nile River by turning it to blood. God also can scatter the mountains, and cause the hills to bow to His commands. Here, I believe Habakkuk is referencing back to the flood of Noah, where the entire earth was consumed in the great deluge. Shifting tectonic plates caused mountains to rise and fall, as water gushed upwards from the cracks in the earth’s surface. Mountains, rivers, and oceans all obey the dictates of our Might God!
It is important to keep this perspective when dealing with our problems. Habakkuk is not just recounting history for history’s sake. As someone with a passion for history, I enjoy reading and studying history simply because I find it fascinating. Yet, unless we learn from history and apply its lessons and principles to our own lives, we are merely wasting our time. Habakkuk does not spend the majority of his prayer recounting history simply because he finds it interesting (although he obviously does and this is one reason I find him such a compelling writer!). No, he does so to demonstrate the character of God through history. Remember, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8). Because God is unchanging, His character does not change throughout history, even though liberal professors and “scholars” might argue that the God of the OT is angry, while the God of the NT is loving. God is unchanging. Because of this truth, we, like Habakkuk, can look back on what God has already done and rest assured that He can do so once again. If we are in a desperate situation, God has already demonstrated His power. Of course, this does not mean God will act according to our desires. Just because God delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians did not mean He would prevent their conquest by the Chaldeans. Yet, it did mean that He had not forgotten His people, and had a Sovereign plan to accomplish their salvation.
- Defender and Deliverer: (Habakkuk 3:9-10, 13-15)
“Thy bow was made quite naked, according to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word. Selah. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers. The mountains saw thee, and they trembled: the overflowing of the water passed by: the deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high.” (HAB 3:9-10)
“Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck. Selah. Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages: they came out as a whirlwind to scatter me: their rejoicing was as to devour the poor secretly. Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses, through the heap of great waters. (HAB 3:13-15)
God is ready to defend His people; He longs to do so. God is our ever-present Defender, ready to make His bow naked, prepared to shoot his arrows at the enemy invader. Not only is He ready to defend us, but He is also a strong defender, that causes the mountains to tremble. We can look to history to see time and again how He has defended His people against attacks. In our own lives, especially if one has walked in the faith for many years, we can look at times where God has defended and provided for our needs. And that is why it is important to look at history. Not just as a means of nostalgia, but as hope for the future.
Not only is God our Defender, but He is also our Deliverer. In verse 13, “thine anointed” is a reference to Christ, the anointed of God. He went forth why? “for the salvation of thy people”. Christ is our salvation; it is why he came to the world. Luke 19:10 tells us, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Christ came to earth to bring about our deliverance from sin, this was His eternal plan. “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:” (Acts 2:23). He came willingly to Calvary, not as a victim, but to act as our Deliverer from sin. We were totally guilty before God and deserved hell. Nothing we could do could deliver us from the consequences of our sin. It is only the grace of God that saves us. Titus 3:5 tells us, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”
Habakkuk is looking both at history, the present and into the future when describing God as the Deliverer. God saved Israel in the past, would save Israel from being completely destroyed in the present, and one day in the future save His children eternally through the death of Jesus. Of course, this should not surprise us. As we have already discussed, God is unchangeable in character. He is our Deliverer, of past, present, and future!
- Judge and Destroyer
“The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of thine arrows they went, and at the shining of thy glittering spear. Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger.” (HAB 3:11-12
Habakkuk not only focuses on God the Defender and Deliverer, but He also shows that God is a Judge and Destroyer of the wicked. The prophet draws our attention to the Hebrew conquest of the Promised Land, where we see God not only fighting for the Israelites but vanquishing their enemies. In Joshua 10:12-14, we read that God caused the Sun and moon to stand still so that Israel could continue destroying their enemies. Habakkuk references this act, demonstrating all of the characteristics of God we have covered this far. He defenders and delivers Israel from their enemies, demonstrating His Sovereign power over the universe and right to judge the wicked while destroying them from the face of the earth. And these attributes demonstrate the glory of God! Indeed, God’s judgments are likened to lightning that flashes brighter than the moon or sun. It streaks across the sky in a flash of light, bringing instant consequence.
Remembrance is an important part of any prayer. It forces us to look at God’s past actions and emphasizes His character. Any History that focuses solely on our actions or outcome misses the point. When we pray, we are to remember the divine attributes of God, and use these to provide us hope, no matter the current situation
- Recognition of Sin (HAB 3:16)
“When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops.”
The next part of Habakkuk’s prayer is short, yet crucial to a right relationship with God. He knows God is Sovereign, but He still fears what the Chaldeans will do. He wants to rest in the day of trouble, He is scared to face the coming trouble. Admitting our fears and failings is important to a proper relationship with God. We are to confess our sins to Christ, repent of those sins, and then continue in our relationship with Jesus.
Here, Habakkuk knows that he needs to trust God, yet his lips still quiver at the coming judgment. Often when we are faced with difficulty, we know what the right thing is for us to do. Yet, the old man, the flesh, sometimes wins the battle, and we fall into temptation. We think of Paul, one of the most spiritual and righteous men to walk the earth, yet he too struggled with this problem. In Romans 7:19-20, he writes, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” We are often caught in a similar battle. Think of the disciples, who fell asleep in the garden before Christ’s arrest. “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt 26:41). We must combat this weakness, and admit it when we fail. Like the father of the demon-possessed lad in Mark 9:24, we echo his words, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
How do we rejoice when we have a heavy heart? Habakkuk is facing circumstances impossible for us to understand. As far as America has fallen from God, we have (as yet) not been faced with the threat of judgment from a foreign invader. However, we are under judgment due to abandoning God. And because of our acts, God has given us over to a perverse mind. “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;” (Romans 1:28). God has given us over to a reprobate mind, which is why even reality itself is under attack. Our culture claims women can be men, that men can be pregnant, that sex is malleable, that truth is relative, that unrighteousness is righteous, that babies in the womb are not humans and all sorts of other perverse teachings. We are under God’s judgment, make no mistake about it. So, how do we rejoice when surrounded by such wickedness? It begins when we humble ourselves and confess our sin. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2nd Chronicles 7:14)
- Rejoice (HAB 3:17-19)
“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be 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 hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.”
Even amid great sorrow and struggle, it is possible to rejoice in the Lord. These three verses that conclude Habakkuk’s prayer are some of the most comforting verses in Scripture. They do not promise troubles will never come, far from it. Too many Christians think they can live a life free from struggle. They are caught up in the lie that “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”, which has permeated Christianity. Yes, God loves His children, but his plan may not be wonderful in the traditional sense of the word. Our lives will be full of trials and tribulations, we are to expect this treatment as Christians. Yet, despite our difficulties, we can rejoice in the Lord for who He is. By doing so, we will not only bring Him glory but will be a testimony to others.
Habakkuk knows he is about to lose everything. The fig trees will be destroyed, the fruit of the vines will cease, the olive trees will not produce crops, while the fields will yield no food. The flocks and herds will also be seized by the invaders. The people will lose not only their livelihoods but also their source of sustenance. Poverty, devastation, and starvation are on the horizon, and there is no avoiding it.
But what is Habakkuk’s response? “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation”. He does not go to a self-help clinic. He does not pull himself up by his bootstraps or go get help from a psychiatrist. He does not seek help from the government, they were corrupt anyway! No, He rejoices in the Lord. What a marvelous example for us today.
Habakkuk’s response is the ultimate expression of love. If we care more about God’s will than our comforts, then we will glory in His will no matter what happens. Obviously, this is far harder when in the middle of these trials, it is easy to comment when we are not facing impending disaster. Habakkuk though, is in the middle of his greatest trial, facing a disaster on a scale far greater than anyone in modern America. Oh, that we would heed his words. They remind us of Job, in chapter 13:15. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.” No matter our circumstances, if we trust and love God more than our own desires, we can experience the great joy of serving the Lord.
Habakkuk ends on a note of hope. God will provide him with the feet of a gazelle, nimble and sure even in rocky terrain. In the end, even if all this trouble occurs, even if he dies, Habakkuk will escape the evil and wickedness, because of the grace of God! This world is not our permanent home, we are just passing through. Because of this, our final salvation is assured.
So, what can we learn from Habakkuk, the prophet of whom we know so little? First, even though God may appear silent, He is always present and moving to accomplish His plan. We may not understand His plan, but we can rest assured that He will accomplish it for His glory. Second, we see God’s path to solving problems: step back and focus on God’s character, Wait on the Lord, and Live by faith. Thirdly, we see a pattern for prayer that focuses on Requests, Remembrance, Recognition, and Rejoice. Fourth, we saw how we can draw hope from focusing on the mighty character of God displayed through history. Like Habakkuk, we too face trials and tribulations and must choose how to respond. How will you respond today? Will you focus on God’s plan and pray that His will be accomplished? Or will you focus on your wants and desires? The choice is yours, and it will affect not only how you respond to problems, but your very relationship with God.