The Prayers of Habakkuk
I have been “chewing on” the book of Habakkuk and found the prophet’s prayers very inspiring and encouraging, especially considering the various crises we are currently facing. In the first two chapters, Habakkuk laid out two complaints before the LORD. After receiving God’s answers, the prophet found great comfort, joy, and strength in God’s promises despite the coming severe judgement on Judah.
Witnessing the prevalent violence, destruction, and injustice in Judah, Habakkuk was deeply troubled and inquired God how long this moral decline would last. Instead of promising a revival as Habakkuk might have expected, God prophesied that Chaldeans or Babylonians would overturn Judah. In his second complaint, Habakkuk questioned why God would use such an unrighteous nation to punish His children. God responded by instructing the prophet to write down what would happen: Babylon would be eventually destroyed by another nation and “the righteous shall live by faith (2:4b).”
What struck me the most in Habakkuk’s complaints was that he was deeply concerned about God’s justice (1:4) and holiness (1:13). There is no sign that the prophet doubted God’s characters even though he was perplexed by what was going on and what would soon happen to Judah. Instead, he showed great zeal for God’s righteous name and cause, and his prayers in the third chapter painted us a picture of how the righteous should live by faith, especially during challenging times.
First, Habakkuk praised God by uttering this famous prayer, “LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.” (Habakkuk 3:2, NIV). Like him, we cannot fully fathom what God is doing in the midst of the pandemic and social tension in our time, but we need to fear God’s work, knowing that out of His sovereign hand come both prosperity and calamity (Isaiah 45:7). Surveying what is happening in the world, I often feel I can do little, but beg for God’s mercy on His people.
Secondly, after recounting God’s mighty work in saving the Israelites from their enemies, Habakkuk expressed his confidence in the LORD, “Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us.” (3:16). Remembering God’s mighty work recorded in the Bible gives us confidence, hope, and patience as we wait for God’s deliverance in His perfect timing. It is beneficial to recount also our own salvation stories and thank God for the wonderful deeds He has performed in our lives.
Finally, the prophet did a reality check and anticipated the hardships that he might face when Judah fell to Babylon (3:17). Despite the gloomy future of the nation, he was able to rejoice in God his Savior (3:18) and find strength in the Sovereign Lord (3:19). Looking back through Judah’s history, we know that his hope was not in vain. In fact, even years before the days of Habakkuk, God had promised that it was through the Persian King, Cyrus, that Babylon would be punished and the remnant of Israelites would return to Jerusalem (Isaiah 44:28, 25: 1,13). Looking ahead, we too have the full assurance that our hope will not disappoint us (Romans 5:5a) while we wait patiently for the future glory of a new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them (Revelation 21:3a).”