Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Prayer of Habakkuk

"The Sovereign LORD is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; He enables me to go on the heights" (Habakkuk 3:19).

Yesterday we saw that God told Habakkuk to live by faith. Modern liberal existential Christianity says that faith is a “leap in the dark.” We don’t know who or what is out there, but we must live a life of commitment anyway. We count on the unknown and unknowable “God” to give our lives meaning. 

This, of course, is in direct opposition to the biblical view of faith. God tells us to trust Him because we know what He has done in the past. We know Him personally because He has revealed Himself, and we know about Him because His ways are recorded in Scripture.

The prayer of Habakkuk, which takes up all of Habakkuk 3, shows the biblical concept of faith. This prayer was formerly sung in the church as a hymn. Perhaps the church should return it to her worship because it is one of the greatest songs ever written.

Habakkuk begins (v. 2) by saying that he has heard about God and what He has done. There is no “leap in the dark” here. Then follows the first stanza of the hymn (vv. 3–7) in which Habakkuk recalls how God’s glory cloud-chariot moved from the area of Edom (Paran) to Mount Sinai to greet the people who had been delivered from Egypt. God tore down ancient empires, like Egypt, in order to save His people. This is something we know about the God in whom we put our faith.

Stanza 2 (vv. 8–10) recalls how God split the Jordan River to enable the people to enter the land He was giving them. Stanza 3 (vv. 11–15) recounts God’s mighty deeds during the conquest of the land: the sun and moon stood still (Joshua 10), and the leaders of the Canaanites were stripped of power (Joshua 11; Judges 1:5–7). The “sea” of the enemy nations was trampled by the angelic “horses” of God (Hab. 3:8, 15).

Stanza 4 (vv. 16–19) applies these historical facts to the present. Who is the God we trust? He is the God who fights for His people and tramples their enemies. True, disaster is coming on Judah. True, crops will fail and the people will suffer. But—and this is the great “but” that reverses history and brings the Gospel—but, God has not forgotten His people and He never will. He will act to save them as He always has. This confidence was based on God’s firm control from His seat of authority in His heavenly temple (Hab. 2:20).

The “high place” is the place of worship, in this case, the temple, on Mount Zion, in Jerusalem. Habakkuk ends his song with worship. He thanks God in advance for a deliverance he does not see. If you are in the midst of distress, make Habakkuk 3 your prayer, and by faith thank God for your coming deliverance.