PRAYER IN THE BOOK OF HABBAKUKK

PRAYER IN HABAKKUK   Throughout the book of Habakkuk, we are able to see the prophet’s prayer and faith in God. Habakkuk asked the difficult questions, boldly and confidently bringing his complaints concerning a dying world directly to God and in turn, God directly to his prophet. Yahweh answers with an abundance of proof and forecast, assuring Habakkuk that righteousness will prevail. As we journey through Habakkuk, we, the readers, are able to witness the prophets journey from his wavering faith to his total and complete trust in the Lord’s power, his will and his promise.

Habakkuk opens with the complaint of the prophet to God, regarding injustice. Habakkuk was disheartened by the cruelty and corruption that was going on around him and so he poured out his heart to God concerning these things (Habakkuk 1:2-4). Habakkuk cried out to God on behalf of those who were righteous; he wondered, “How long…” (Hab. 1:2), they would have to suffer oppression. God then responds to Habakkuk in 1:5-11, telling him that He would perform acts that would amaze Habakkuk. The Lord responds to Habakkuk’s complaint in verse three, “Why do you make me look at injustice?” by telling him to “Look at the nations and watch and be utterly amazed” (Hab. 1:5a). He goes on to say that,  “[he] is going to do something in [Habakkuk’s] days that [he] would not believe even if [he] were told” (Hab. 1:5b). The “something” in verse five that God is referring to is his plan to raise up the Babylonians to conquer Judah (Hab. 1:6-11) in order to punish the evil doers  in the kingdom. However, this was not the response that Habakkuk was expecting. In Habakkuk’s eyes, to be defeated by a Godless nation, was seen as humiliation, not deliverance. However, the people of Judah had been violent and corrupt and God’s response to this injustice was to judge violence with violence. God told Habakkuk that he was going to send “a feared and dreaded people” (Hab. 1:7) and just like he said, Habakkuk did not want to believe it.

The report of judgment from verses one to eleven, prompts the prophet to cry out to God yet again. He says, “O Lord, are you not from everlasting?…O Lord, you have appointed them to execute judgment…” (Hab. 1:12). His faith has clearly been shaken because he questions if it is truly God he is speaking to because to Habakkuk’s understanding, this was not in God’s character, this is not something that God would do. Why would he send a nation that was more wicked than Judah, to punish Judah, his chosen people? Habakkuk compares the Babylonians to fishermen at sea and Judah to the fish in the sea. The Babylonians would plunder all of Judah without release of the righteous as does a  fishermen at sea who pulls up all of his fish with hooks and catches them in his net (Hab. 1:1-17). We also see in these verses that Habakkuk is finding it hard to believe that a loving God would make his people “like fish in the sea” (hab. 1:14) to be destroyed without mercy. Habakkuk chapter 2:1, gives the reader a  picture of Habakkuk’s attitude of expectation. In spite of his shaken faith, the prophet maintains an attitude of patience, watching and waiting for the Lord’s response.

God responds to Habakkuk’s second complaint in 2:2-5, commanding him to write down the revelation on tablets because it will take some time to come to pass. The recording of the vision was for the future generations who would see these events transpire. In verses two through five, God accuses the Babylonians of their pride, “see, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright…he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples” (2:4-5). God answers the prophets concerns about the righteous being swallowed  up by the wicked Babylonians in verse four, stating that the righteous would be spared even through his use of the Babylonians to pronounce judgment on Judah. The Babylonians would not be aware that they were being used by God to help Judah return to him. God assured Habakkuk that he was still in control and those who have not rejected him would be saved and in time Babylon’s pride would be its downfall.

The second half of God’s response to Habakkuk occurs through a vision in the form of woe oracles that bring accusation and the threat of judgment against Babylon for their pride and their evil desire to gain from the people through oppression (2:6-8), plotting (2:9-11), and violence (2:12-14). The woe oracles also accuse them of shameful acts (2:15-17) and idolatry (2:18-20). These woe oracles ultimately declare the defeat of the Babylonians at the hands of the living God. However, I think it is important to note that these accusations can also be applied to Judah. Although, Babylon was indeed guilty of these sins, so was Judah. Hence, God brings judgment on Judah through the same sins that they were committing.

Habakkuk illustrates to us his belief in Gods’ supernatural power, sovereign purposes and settled promises through his prayer and faith. Throughout the book, we have seen the prophet’s journey of faith. Habakkuk starts off with the prophet’s faith having been shaken because of the nations’ sin. However, Habakkuk brings his burden to God and cries out to him and his faith is elevated. Upon hearing God’s response to his complaint, the prophet’s faith begins to falter once more. Once we reach Habakkuk’s prayer in chapter three, we see that his faith has been lifted as he begins to trust in the Lord again. Habakkuk’s prayer demonstrates the faith and trust that he has developed in God’s sovereign purposes. He has accepted God’s will, asking for help and mercy (Hab. 3:2b) but does not ask for the Lord’s help in escaping discipline. Instead, Habakkuk received the truth that Judah needed to be judged for their sin and trusted the Lord to judge fairly and show mercy as he promised the prophet that he would do in chapter 2:4.

The prophet goes on to praise God throughout his prayer, alluding to Yahweh’s supernatural power in verses 2-15. Habakkuk says, “I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds…Renew them in our day.” (Hab. 3:2). Here, the prophet is acknowledging  all that the Lord has done for Israel in the past and believes that he will do it again because God’s awesomeness is consistent; he has a supernatural power like no other and Habakkuk describes this power in chapter three, verses 6, 12, and 15 saying, “He stood and shook the earth; he looked, and made the nations tremble…” (Hab. 3:6), “In wrath you strode the earth…” (Hab. 3:12), “You trampled the sea with your horses…” (Hab. 3:15). Here, Habakkuk conveys his trust in God’s supernatural power. If God can do all of the above through his presence alone, surely he would be able to bring the wicked Babylonians to their demise.

Just as Habakkuk cried out to God concerning Judah, over the years, I have also cried out to God for many things. One thing however, that stands out to me at this moment, is when I was asking God to help me graduate on time during my undergraduate years. Looking back on it, it seems miniscule but during that time, it was a huge stress for me because I had experienced so many setbacks and I just kept asking God, “when are you going to come through for me? Why am I still stuck here?” I even remember saying to God at one point, “it’s not fair that other people have moved on and I’m still stuck in this position.” I really did feel stuck and I was just so eager to move on to bigger and better things that all I did concerning that situation, was complain to God over and over again. I realize now, that the moments that God did speak to me, he was telling me to “wait.” However, I didn’t want to listen because that’s not what I wanted to hear; I didn’t want to wait. Thus, I complained some more. Then, one day something clicked and that was the Lord speaking to me about a similar situation that I had experienced some time ago. When I graduated from High School, I really didn’t know where I was going to attend college and yet, there I was, attending that same college that God had placed me in and I was complaining about being stuck there. Little did I know, God had a plan. Once I came to this realization, I began to ask God to guide me no matter how long it takes. I had spent my whole undergrad, planning to pursue a totally different career when I graduated. One year and a half before I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree, I started looking for graduate schools to attend but nothing sat right with me. In my last semester, I took a class that caused me to totally shift gears and this time, I truly feel like this is what God is calling me to do. God has a purpose and he has a plan but at first I didn’t have faith in that purpose nor did I trust his plan. When I look back,  I now know that all of those setbacks weren’t really setbacks at all but it was God redirecting my path to where he needed and wanted me to be.

We are able to see an affirmation of Habakkuk’s faith in God in chapter 3:16-19. In 3:16, the prophet waits patiently and expectantly for the Lord’s coming judgment on Israel. He is no longer questioning God or begging him for mercy; he trusts in God’s will and trusts that he will keep his promises. So, even though “[he] heard and [his] heart pounded…” (Hab. 3:16a), he still “[waits] patiently for the day of calamity.” (Hab. 3:16b). Habakkuk’s situation ends with him putting full faith and trust in God’s sovereignty. Habakkuk 3:17-19, demonstrates to the reader that, no matter what calamities may come, or circumstances he may face, whether starvation or loss, he will no longer doubt God’s power. For he declares that, “The Sovereign Lord is [his] strength.”

From the conclusion of Habakkuk’s prayer, there is so much that I have learned that could be applied to my own situations. One main lesson is that, although it may seem evil may triumph or defeat may get the best of you, God is still in control. Coming to him with our struggles and doubts allows our faith to be lifted  even when his answer is not what want to hear or expect to hear. We must trust in him and we must hope in him. This means, that we need to go beyond our unpleasant experiences to the joy of knowing God. When we know God, we are them able to realize that he is sovereign and we can take joy in the peace of knowing this. Our trust in God will extinguish all doubts and fears. I know to wait patiently and expectantly on God no matter what the circumstance.

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