Summary: Habakkuk’s prayer is a pinnacle of praise. It is the mountain top destination of a journey that began in the valley of distress & doubt. It is for God’s power & involvement in the world.
A PRAYER OF PRAISE
Habakkuk is a beautiful gem of a book written by a prophet who started out wrestling with God and ended up worshiping Him. The distressed prophet who complained over the unchecked sin of his country in the first part of chapter one, was amazed at God’s disclosure that He had already prepared an instrument to judge Judah, namely, Babylon. Habakkuk was shocked. He expressed his dilemma to God and waited for an answer. That answer came in chapter two in the form of a dirge, or taunt-song, that Habakkuk was instructed to record. Learning of God’s just plan to destroy Babylon, Habakkuk bowed in humble adoration. A majestic prayer and hymn of praise followed in chapter three.
His prayer in chapter 3, one of the grandest in the Bible, is a pinnacle of praise. It is the mountain top destination of a journey that began in the valley of distress and doubt of chapter one. Let’s look this morning at the first part of the Prayer of Praise to God for His power and involvement in the world.
I. PRAYER FOR REVIVAL AND MERCY, 1-2.
II. PRAISE FOR GOD’S SPLENDOR AND MAJESTY, 3-7.
If you would have what God alone can give, we must pray. If you would have revival in God’s house, His people must pray. Habakkuk records a prayer song of praise for God’s people to sing (see the last statement of chapter 3). As verse 1 states, the song is, “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.”
The revelation of God to Habakkuk has changed him. His circumstances had not changed, but he had changed. He is now walking by faith instead of by sight. He is living by God’s promises, not by human reasonings. Originally he was concerned with iniquity and injustice as it affected his personal world and his nation. Then he was concerned with violence and injustice within the whole world and how God dealt with the world. Now that he has encounter the Lord in a fuller, deeper way, he is concerned about and focused on God and His majestic glory. So he humbly lays bare his heart and begins this new section of the oracle with the words, “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet.” He had come to understand that His God’s ways were beyond Him but through faith and meditation they are glorious to Him. He now stands again simply as Habakkuk the prophet.
Habakkuk records this prayer of praise as a hymn that can be used in public worship. The word Shigionoth is obscure [from šagah, to stumble or go astray]. Scholars think it most probably is a liturgical or worship term or a plea for guidance. Habakkuk was no passive spectator of the sad spiritual decline of Judah nor was he a passive recipient of the coming judgment. These disclosures of God stirred him deeply and caused him to pray, just as they should all of us.
The profound burden of the prophet’s heart is expressed in verse 2. “LORD, I have heard the report about Thee and I fear. O LORD, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known, in wrath remember mercy.”
Habakkuk had heard God’s purposes to discipline Judah and then destroy Babylon. The report filled him with fear or apprehension. Fear or reverence is his personal reaction to the power and sovereignty of God. God’s answer was beyond simple human understanding and God’s sovereignty is an awesome reality. The disturbed prophet finds his outlet for his burden in prayer which begins with two petitions. He prayed for a fresh manifestation of God’s power (revival of deeds) and a full measure of pardon (mercy). Both God’s deeds and mercy were requested. These are the only petitions in the entire prayer.
His first request is for the renewal or revival of God’s working in the world and in individual lives. Revival always begins with God. The need to renew (hiyâh) the impact of God’s previous workings. [The anchor-point of Israel’s faith and hope–the Exodus experience implies that redemption and sanctification were facing extinction]. The twice repeated phrase in the midst of the years states that God’s life changing intervention was needed right now.
Israel needed God to make known, to make alive, by experiential proofs, by the reenactments of His deeds of power and Habakkuk pleaded that God would do it immediately. The prophet wanted God to manifest His grace upon Israel. When Habakkuk prayed for God’s work to come alive, he was also praying that his own faith might grow.
If there is going to be revival their must be a stirring of our hearts by God over what is not happening in the Church and what is happening in the world.