“O Lord, I have heard the report of You; I stand in awe, O LORD, of Your deeds. Revive them in these years; make them known in these years. In Your wrath, remember mercy!” Habakkuk 3:1-2
Habakkuk responded to the wickedness of His own people by coming directly to God for redress. When he received the news of God’s judgment, he went “higher up and further in” to God’s presence and waited his own response until he could understand God’s.
God then shares His work with Habakkuk, and not only for the prophet. God commands that what He is about to share should be made known to His own people to encourage them in His promise they had long forgotten. It is the promise that their corruption and brokenness in this world still has an answer in God’s Greater Plan–the coming of the Promised Messiah whom they will yet bring forth for the salvation of the world.
I had heard…but now I believe
The near prognosis, however, was more suffering. Even though this judgment would be against Judah’s oppressors, it was still terrifying. The horror ahead would have to be endured.
And yet, Habakkuk sees the Sovereignty of God in His message, which is God’s point. Habakkuk had questions: Is God going to deal with the injustice of His own people? Yes. Is God going to then deal with the evil ones who are chosen to enact the punishment? Yes. God is, indeed, Sovereign.
God will do all this in Judah’s future, because God had already done it in all of Israel’s past. The mightiness of God in all of Israel’s history came racing to Habakkuk’s mind. God is the same yesterday, today, and all tomorrows after. God had not abandoned His people or His promise. Habakkuk begins to understand.
Habakkuk agreed with God’s wisdom. He moved to a new level of intercession for God’s mercy; not based on questions as before, but based on a new depth of faith.
In obedience to God’s mandate, the prophet became a poet, the composer of a song of God’s mighty acts. This song was to be sung by Judah to the praise of God Almighty, for His worship and their encouragement during the coming crises. God is still on His throne!
Before, Habakkuk had offered himself and his people to God in desperate, vehement, questioning faith. Rather than smiting him in fury for his boldness, God tenderly and intentionally, purposely drew Habakkuk into His own presence and spoke with him as a close friend. God confided in Habakkuk and commissioned him with understanding. God gave Habakkuk a greater faith that would sustain both himself and the people he and God loved so much.
Habakkuk now had a personal witness of God Himself. He no longer knew merely about God, as we do as mere children. He now knew Him deeply and intimately. He had been brought into the counsel of God’s mind and heart and he was forever changed.
A timeless message
This report could have been just a historical narrative. The events came true in history and that part of the message is over.
Habakkuk’s song in chapter three reminds the people of God of the times when God had shown Himself to them personally before. God kept His covenant promise, which was given in Genesis 3 to Adam; Genesis 12 to Abraham; Genesis 26:3 to Isaac; Genesis 28:13-15 to Jacob; Exodus 34:6-7, 10, 27-28 to Moses; and to David and Solomon and in times afterward. God is, and always will be, a Promise-Keeper. (See Come to the Word below.)
Instead, Habakkuk’s written narrative, including the song to follow, have been preserved in the canon of scripture for our own understanding today.
God is drawing all of us to “Come and see!” that though this world is still broken and we are still the vilest traitors to His kindness, the tender mercies of our God, even in our chastisement, are available to us if we’ll only come to Him in what little faith we have left.
A Paradox that satisfies
We will look more closely at Habakkuk’s magnificent song in the next post, but his first response (3:1) must be established in my heart. I want to linger on it for my own faith.
Facing God in apparent confusion and in my own intense anger at injustice and the works of satan to steal, kill and destroy, the Father draws me closer to Him and I am given understanding.
Where once I was confused and torn in heart, He shares His mind and heart with me, and I finally begin to understand the greater, bigger picture that is God. My situation is unchanged, but I have a new perspective that gives meaning and purpose to suffering. I know this to be true, for I have, like Habakkuk, experienced Him firsthand. He has matured my faith by drawing me near. And though the emotion and feeling of His presence fades, the reality of it never does. It holds me like an anchor in an engulfing gale.
This, then, is the paradox that applies to all who will hear it: When I am most tempted to run away from God for whatever reason, if I face Him instead and trust that He will answer me, He will give me the greater understanding of Himself that answers all my doubts and fears.
“Or do you suppose that it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’? But he gives more grace. Therefore [scripture] says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.“ — James 4:5-10
A master doesn’t share His plans like this with a slave, but only with a son (Galatians 4:4-7). In times of distress and grief, I can come to God, as a child to a loving Father, and receive His tender mercy.
Where once my faith was founded on child-like obedient hope, my belief is now founded upon personal relationship. As Habakkuk said, “Before I believed, but now I have seen for myself!”
From this standpoint, I lose the paralysis of doubt. I have heart-sufficient answers for my secret questions. I can move out, not shakily, but surely with firm, glad steps forward. I have a future and a hope and this sustains me.
My situation may not change immediately, and may not change on earth at all. And yet it may! Either way, I will be given a corrective lens through which to see that God is great, God never changes, God keeps His Promises, and has mercifully provided for my salvation. I shall not die in grief. Joy comes in the morning, if I will but wait for it.
Not just for the intercessor, but for all
We are not forgotten. God is actively at work drawing all men to Himself. We will not just know about God, we will know Him in all truth.
We are all twisted and misshapen by the deceits of evil in this world; no one escapes unscathed from sin. NO one. We all forget His Promise; we don’t understand; we lose patience in waiting. He knows.
All is not lost! For His Promise is true and has never wavered. His truth is still for us in mercy, even as He deals with us in judgment as His own children. He will not despise a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51).
Only come to Him in your confusion, depression, and anxiety.
© May 2019 by www.ReadPsalm119.com.
This is part of a series of personal reflections on the book of Habakkuk. See Habakkuk's Lament (Pt1).
Come to the Word
God’s Covenant Through Moses by John Piper, desiringgod.org. For a full understanding of the covenant promise of God to Israel and all that it means, please read this excellent article. Piper distills five divine promises that comprise this covenant and point us to the Greater Plan beyond Israel to God’s covenant with mankind fulfilled in Christ (Genesis 3).
A Broken and Contrite Heart God Will Not Despise, by John Piper, desiringgod.org. This is a crucial discussion dealing with guilt of indwelling sin with Psalm 51 as his text. His previous post dealt with discouragement (“how to be discouraged well”, Psalm 42).
Come in Worship
Sweet Hour of Prayer, hymn sensitively performed by Alan Jackson from his album, Precious Memories, Volume II. [YouTube; 3:16 min.]. Lyrics are given in the introduction section.
I must also give you this extremely beautiful rendition of Sweet Hour of Prayer by:
Radiance Acappella, uploaded by EZC Media, a ministry of the East Zimbabwe Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Nov 22, 2018 [YouTube; 4:23 min.]. The song is finished in the Zimbabwean language.
Listen to both renditions and let them doubly minister to your soul today.
“I am coming, Lord, coming now to Thee. Wash me, cleanse me in the blood that flowed on Calvary.”
-- I Hear Thy Welcome Voice, by Lewis Harsough (1828-1919), at hymnal.net. Full lyrics, sheet music and guitar tabs and mp3 available at this link.