Summary: What kind of prayer is appropriate in hard times? A year D sermon.
House of Prayer
Matthew 21:13 “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers’ den.” Jesus’ anger was justified because a house dedicated to God was being used for commercialism. Prayer is one of the most important purposes for our church buildings.
Matthew 21:21-22 “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
What if we pray and God says, No? Can we learn something from Habakkuk’s prayer? Habakkuk the prophet was possibly a temple musician, a Levite. Tradition records that he was the Shunammite woman's son, whose life Elisha saved. He wrote in the 7th century BC, just before the Babylonian captivity.
Habakkuk expresses his doubt to God about His plans to punish Judah via an unjust Babylon. God reminded Habakkuk that He will punish evil, and Habakkuk learns to faithfully trust God’s decision. Habakkuk 2:4 “the righteous will live by his faith” is quoted several times in the New Testament.
Habakkuk 3:1 “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.” This is the plural of Shiggaion, only used in one other place, Psalm 7. This possibly implies a wildly passionate prayer, which certainly describes the chapter. This indicates the prayer, like the Psalms, was probably set to music.
Habakkuk 3:2 “Lord, I have heard the report about You and I fear. O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years, In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy.” Rebellious people create a passive, cuddly God they don’t have to fear.
Habakkuk 3:3 “God comes from Teman, And the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah. His splendor covers the heavens, And the earth is full of His praise.” God was present with them at Sinai, and the creation provides evidence of His existence, figuratively proclaiming His praise every single day.
Habakkuk 3:4 “His radiance is like the sunlight; He has rays flashing from His hand, And there is the hiding of His power.” To those with insight, the brilliant light and radiance of the sun reveals a hidden secret, the incredible power that created everything in the entire universe.
Habakkuk 3:5 “Before Him goes pestilence, And plague comes after Him.” God did reveal Himself in this way to Israel’s enemies after the Exodus, including the armies of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:35). When necessary, God comes to avenge and judge. As Creator of everything, He has that right.
Habakkuk 3:6 “He stood and surveyed the earth; He looked and startled the nations. Yes, the perpetual mountains were shattered, The ancient hills collapsed. His ways are everlasting.” The mountains and hills may seem permanent, but when God intervenes, a vain and arrogant humanity sees who really is everlasting.
Habakkuk 3:7 “I saw the tents of Cushan under distress, The tent curtains of the land of Midian were trembling.” This imagery is probably from the Exodus. Cushan may be Cush, Ethiopia. Midian was to the east. At the Exodus, surrounding nations took notice and trembled at God’s deeds.
Habakkuk 3:8 “Did the Lord rage against the rivers, Or was Your anger against the rivers, Or was Your wrath against the sea, That You rode on Your horses, On Your chariots of salvation?” God wasn’t angry with sea and horses, but revealed His power over creation, freeing Israel.
In Habakkuk 3:9-17 we are reminded of God’s power over the earth, mountains, sun, moon, nations, armies, trees, fruit, fields, and flocks. In this context, verses 16-17, is a lament about prophecies in Habakkuk 1-2 of a future foreign invasion of a rebellious Judah and captivity by Babylon.
Rejoice in God
Habakkuk 3:18 “Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.” Despite the prophesied Babylonian invasion of Judah, Habakkuk hopes in God because of His track record of saving Israel from Egyptian slavery. Perhaps he even has faith in a second Exodus.
The Lord God is My Strength
Habakkuk 3:19 “The Lord God is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, And makes me walk on my high places.” Though Babylon takes us prisoner, or life takes us through calamity, God helps us be as surefooted as deer and walk on high places.
Habakkuk teaches us that, though we don’t always understand God’s answers to our prayers, Bible history teaches us that we have every reason to rejoice in God, because He will save us from the consequences of our wrongdoings. Habakkuk also teaches us that singing songs of faith is itself an act of faith.
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