Summary: Seeing the past clearly enables Habakkuk to look ahead with 20/20 faith. His fear is turned to faith. His worry is transformed into worship. His terror becomes trust. His hang-ups are resolved with hope. And his anguish melts into adoration.
20/20 vision is a term used to express normal clarity or sharpness of vision. It is measured at a distance of 20 feet. If you are fortunate enough to have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet what should normally be seen at that distance. 20/40 vision is what’s usually required to obtain a driver’s license. And if your vision is 20/200, meaning you can see at 20 feet what should normally be seen at a distance of 200 feet, you are legally blind.
We often say that hindsight is 20/20. This means that when we look back at a certain event in our lives, we can clearly see exactly what happened, what led to the event, what other choices we may have had, or what may have led to a different result. We often have a better understanding of a particular circumstance when we look back on it than when we were actually experiencing it. Our vision of the past is often better than our vision of the present.
The prophet Habakkuk learned firsthand what 20/20 hindsight was all about. Habakkuk begins his book by engaging the LORD in a conversation regarding a disturbing burden. Habakkuk couldn’t understand why God was silent about all the evil that was going on in the land of Judah. Habakkuk couldn’t figure out why God wasn’t doing anything about it. And Habakkuk wondered why God even tolerated all that evil.
When God told Habakkuk that he was going to use the wicked Babylonians to bring judgment on the people of Judah, Habakkuk was even more confused. Why would God use a nation that was even more wicked than Judah to be his channel of discipline? It just didn’t make any sense. God’s plan seemed like a perversion of justice.
God reveals the rest of the story to Habakkuk. God would deal with the wicked Babylonians in his own way and in his own time. The Babylonians had exalted themselves, but God would bring them down. The Babylonians had become a proud and violent people, but God would use the nations they had abused to shame and humiliate them. The Babylonians had used slave labor to build an expansive empire, but God would cause that empire to be destroyed. Babylon would surely experience God’s woe.
God assured Habakkuk that the righteous would live by being faithful. God would perform a work that would cause his glory to fill the entire world. And Habakkuk could be confident that God was in control because the LORD was in his holy temple.
In our text this morning, Habakkuk looks back with 20/20 vision. And seeing the past clearly, enables him to look ahead with 20/20 faith. His fear is turned to faith. His worry is transformed into worship. His terror becomes trust. His hang-ups are resolved with hope. And his anguish melts into adoration.
Chapter 3 begins with prayer. “LORD, I have heard of your fame,” Habakkuk prays. “I stand in awe of your deeds.” Habakkuk has heard all about what the LORD has done in the past. He is aware of all the reports concerning God’s work. He has heard everything that has been said in regard to the LORD’s reputation.
And everything that Habakkuk has heard causes him to stand in awe of all the LORD’s works. When Habakkuk ponders the things that the LORD has done, he stands amazed. He gives God honor. He reveres God’s name.
Habakkuk then expresses two petitions. He prays that God will demonstrate his power, and he prays that God will give his people a full measure of his grace. “Do great things once again in our time,” Habakkuk prays. “Make those things happen again in our own days. And even when you are angry, LORD, remember to be kind.”
Habakkuk reflects on all the great works that God has done in the past with 20/20 faith. And as he reflects on those works, he prays that God will do those same kinds of deeds again. He prays that God will reveal himself again through the great works he is able to do. He prays that God will deliver his people by performing the same kinds of signs and wonders that he performed when he delivered his people from Egypt. And Habakkuk prays that God would do these great works soon, just like he had already promised.
But Habakkuk also realizes that God is bringing judgment upon his people. Habakkuk knows that God is just, and God’s justice requires that he must punish sin. God’s discipline would bring trouble and turmoil upon his people. But Habakkuk also knows that it is because of the LORD’s great love that his people are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
And so, Habakkuk prays, “In your wrath, Lord, remember mercy. Don’t forget to show compassion to your people.” Habakkuk prays that God will restrain himself from giving his people the full punishment that they deserve. Habakkuk prays that God will be compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love. Habakkuk prays that God will not treat his people as their sins deserve, or repay them according to their iniquities.