The Prayer of Habakkuk
“O LORD, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy” (v. 2).- Habakkuk 3:1–16
When God raises up one instrument to judge another, we should not assume that He blesses everything about the instrument He chooses. The sovereign Lord is free to work in and through creaturely motives to achieve His purposes, so His intent always remains good even if His creatures’ intentions are wicked (Gen. 50:20). This is known as the doctrine of concurrence, which is displayed in the visions God gave to Habakkuk. Our Creator raised up Babylon to judge the sin of His people (Hab. 1:5–11); however, Babylon’s motives were not pure when it conquered Judah. In fact, the Chaldeans gave no thought to the Lord, being idol worshipers who served gods who could not speak (2:5–19). Yahweh, however, is the living God, and when He speaks from His holy temple, the whole earth must listen in silence (v. 20). He has determined that no one who does evil impenitently can stand forever. We must hear this word in our day. A nation that has experienced great blessing, such as the United States, will not endure if it rejects the Lord of hosts, even if God has used that nation to do good for the world.
God told Habakkuk that those whom He regards as righteous trust in Him alone, resting wholly in His promises that He will accomplish His purposes even when that seems impossible from a human perspective (2:4). So, this righteous prophet unsurprisingly responds in prayer, asking the Lord to revive His past work of deliverance and judgment (3:1–2). Despite Judah’s evil, Babylon’s success, and the suffering of the faithful remnant, Habakkuk knows that God will surely act to redeem His people, just as He did in the days of old. His prayer is a recitation of God’s mighty acts of the past, when He met His people in the desert during the exodus to save them from Egypt and deliver them into His land of blessing. The Lord will approach Judah from the south, from Teman and Mount Paran (v. 3), which were on the route that the Israelites took from Egypt to Canaan (Num. 12:16–13:26). Habakkuk pictures God’s deliverance as a new exodus, alluding to events from the first exodus such as plagues (Hab. 3:5; see Ex. 7:1–12:32), mountains shaking (Hab. 3:10; see Ex. 19:18), and the sun and moon standing still (Hab. 3:11; see Josh. 10:1–15). Ultimately, this new exodus was accomplished in Christ, who came up out of Egypt, did many signs and wonders, and died to execute God’s judgment on sin and save His people from their enemies (Matt. 2:13–15; 4:23–25; Col. 2:13–15).
When we are having difficulty trusting the Lord, it can be helpful for us to recount all the ways in which He has been faithful in the past. First, we should remember how God kept His promises to Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Ruth, David, Paul, and all of the other saints of ages past. Then, we should remember how the Lord has shown Himself faithful in our own lives. Recalling the blessings of the past can help give us hope for the blessings of the future.
Passages for Further Study
2 Thessalonians 3:3