Today’s Passage: Habakkuk 3
This weekend, we come to the third and final chapter in the book of Habakkuk. The prophet Habakkuk lived in the time just before the Babylonians would come and all-but destroy Jerusalem and Judah. But Habakkuk’s vision, when his book started, wasn’t on the Babylonians. He was concerned with the state of his own people – with how wicked the so-called people of God had become. It seemed to him that things were going from bad to worse – and that God was AWOL. But God was anything but absent. His plan to deal with the situation in Judah was well underway. He was bringing in the Babylonians – a people who, to Habakkuk at least, seemed far more evil.
And yet that was God’s plan: to use the wickedness and violence of Babylon to deal with the wickedness and violence in Judah. Much of Habakkuk 1-2 deals with the prophet coming to grips with how God could possibly do anything like that.
Habakkuk is a prophet with whom many Christians can easily relate. Sometimes, life seems to go to the doghouse. Life can suck, and be unfair. Sometimes it seems like the forces of darkness mock the church and Christians. And sometimes, rather than getting better, things just seem to get worse.
Circumstances vary. Habakkuk was weighed down by the sight of violence. Others might be weighed down by broken relationships. Or by the weight of the evil or injustices committed against them. Or perhaps weighed down by ill-health, and the inability of our bodies to keep on going. Others find themselves worried about the future, and what it will hold. Perhaps the weight of your past seems to hold down any possibility of your future taking off.
How do you pray when you’re terrified about the future? Habakkuk was terrified. The Babylonians were a formidable, violent people. How would you pray knowing that the road that God leads us along isn’t always one of sunshine. Sometimes, he leads us through the valley of the shadow of death itself…
Habakkuk 3 teaches us how to pray in such times. His prayer is a song. Perhaps he ordered it into a song himself; perhaps that was done at a later stage. The point is that this prayer was one that was meant to be sung through the ages. It’s a prayer for those facing dark times. A song of encouragement when God’s ways seem impossible to understand. This is a song that’s meant to be passed down through the ages. Because Habakkuk’s experience wasn’t unique to him. His need to remember God when the future seemed bleak and God’s ways inscrutable is one that is shared by countless followers of God throughout the ages.
The chorus of Habakkuk’s song is found in verse 2. Like a good chorus should, it sums up Habakkuk’s prayer and song: Do it again, God. As Habakkuk prays, he remembers all that God has done in the past. He remembers vividly, poetically, how God came to His people in the past. He recalls God’s fury against the nations who stood against His people. He remembers how God came and rescued them. He remembers that God is our Saviour.
Yes, life was difficult for Habakkuk. Yes, he didn’t understand everything about God’s plan. Yes, it confused him how God could use the wicked Babylonians as an instrument of justice. And yes, the thought of God’s might was terrifying to Habakkuk. Thinking back to what he knew of God, Habakkuk realised that God wasn’t someone to be trifled with.
But he also realised that in the midst of wrath, God remembers mercy.
Us Christians can learn a lot from Habakkuk. Like him, we need to remember that God is the main character in history. We need to recall all that God has done, and live our lives on the basis of what that shows us about who God is. Unlike Habakkuk, we have far more awesome things to look back on. We have Jesus – God become man. We have evidences of God’s kingdom breaking into this dark world. We have the history of death being broken by the death of God on a cross. And like Habakkuk, our cry is simply this: Do it again, God. Finish it.
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus. Come to judge this world. And in your wrath… remember mercy.