Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Sep 5 2019 - Habakkuk 3 – Habakkuk's prayer of faith

In yesterday's reading God declared that he is in sovereign control of human history and is working out his purposes through all that Habakkuk sees going on around him. God's purposes will culminate in the earth being "filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." The Lord calls upon his people to trust him – for his righteous ones to live by faith.

In today's passage we read Habakkuk's response. It is entitled "a prayer" for it is addressed to the Lord, but in many ways it is a psalm of praise rising out of a situation of pain.

Habakkuk remembers what God did for his people in days past. The stories of God's saving acts of power towards his people had been passed on down the generations of the people of Israel and have been the focus of regular celebration. They recalled how God had rescued their ancestors from slavery in Egypt by acts of judgment which broke the power and will of their oppressors and led them into freedom. Habakkuk longs for God to come and do the same again:

LORD, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD.
Repeat them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy. (3:2)

Habakkuk longs that God would again deliver his people and save his anointed one (v.13).

We often have feelings very similar to those of Habakkuk. We read of what God did in days past, in times of revival in the eighteenth century under the ministry of Whitefield and the Wesley brothers or in the USA through the ministry of Jonathan Edwards. We read of the revivals that broke out in Wales at the beginning of the twentieth century or in the Hebrides in the middle of the twentieth century. We read of how thousands were drawn to faith in Christ and whole communities were transformed. We read of what God is doing today in parts of Africa, South America, China and Cambodia where the churches are multiplying as many turn to faith in Christ. Surely when we read such things our hearts cry out to God, "Why not here and why not now? Lord we have read of what you have done and it fills us with awe at your deeds. But it also fills us also with a deep ache in our hearts that you would do the same for us today. Rend the heavens and come down."

But Habakkuk has learnt to trust God and to wait on God: "I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us" (v.16). The chapter ends with verses that express his deep trust in God, his confidence that God will act to save his people according to his promise even though he cannot yet see that salvation:

Though the fig-tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the sheepfold
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Saviour. (vv.17-18)

This is faith, trusting where one cannot see and rejoicing in God's promises even when they are yet to be fulfilled. This is what it means to "live by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Father God, you have given your Son for our salvation and have promised with him to freely give us all things. Help us to look beyond the difficult circumstances that sometimes threaten to overwhelm our lives and to trust in you and your word. By your Spirit, fill us with joy and peace in believing.

Peter Misselbrook