Habakkuk’s Psalm (Part 1)
Text: Habakkuk 3
Proposition: In the midst of the worst news of his life Habakkuk uses Shiginoth praise to glorify God.
Introduction: There’s something about music that makes it fit the feelings of our heart. So we try to use it to speak to our hardest struggles, It even shows up in some of the worst country songs ever made: “How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away?” ; “I Bought the Shoes (That Just Walked Out on Me)” ; “If You Won’t Leave Me (I’ll Find Someone Who Will)”; “Thank God and Greyhound (She’s Gone)” ; “When You Wrapped My Lunch in a Roadmap, I Knew You Meant Goodbye”. But music really can catch the heart of what is important, it’s why there is an entire book in the Bible that is made up of songs, Psalms of praise, lament, worship, sorrow and joy. This morning I’d like to look at a song that was written by a man we believe was a musician in the Temple in Jerusalem 2600 years before Christ was born. He’d just received the worst news of his life, his entire nation was about to be defeated and then displaced to a foreign land immersed in a foreign culture and made subject t to foreign law. So he writes a song addressed to God, it’s a Shigionth, a wandering kind of melody that turns triumphant. A song but even more it was a prayer for the days that lay ahead. It’s in Habakkuk 3.
I. When God Wraps Your Lunch in a Roadmap, It’s a Call To Pray.
All of chapters 1 and 2 are the roadmap that God is about to give to the people of Israel. They had become godless, prayer was infrequent, worship distracted or distorted, faith a sham. So in chapter 1 Habakkuk had cried out to God to do something to awaken His people and God had responded. In chapter 2 God told Habakkuk how He would use the Babylonian nation to awaken Israel. That reality moves Habakkuk to write the Rock Psalm, the prayer of chapter 3.
It seems that when we first come to know God, not just to know about Him but to actually know Him through the Person of Jesus Christ, through the way the Holy Spirit is made resident within us, that we want to speak to Him, to tell Him what we have discovered about who He is. The flesh and blood of Jesus revealed to us the person of God, gentle yet tough, able to laugh and cry, calm in a storm and compassionate in times of failure. This is the God we know and by faith we believe in and by faith we speak to, at least at first we do. Prayer begins as a discovered voice but if we are not careful it can quickly descend into a duty. Unless we have a list of things to ask for there can seem to be no need to have a conversation. All is well with us until God wraps your lunch in a road map.
Perhaps the first thing we need to remember about prayer is that prayer is always initiated by God, He speaks to us first. He starts the conversation and the expectation is that we will reply. In the circumstances that surround us, He speaks, in the beauty of creation, in the perfect content of Scripture, in our pain He speaks and sometimes He speaks audibly or directly to our spirit. The point is He speaks first and then we respond and speak with Him. That’s the beginning of prayer.
Look at the words of Habakkuk as he begins this song, “O LORD, I have heard Your speech and was afraid; O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy.” God does speak to us, that’s not the question. The issue is we don’t speak to Him as He desires us to, as we were designed to be able to. So Habakkuk writes a song on behalf of his whole nation, a song that admits his fear of the future and admits the failures to remember the past. In days past they had very much seen His work in their own hearts but now their awareness of that work and indeed the very work of God’s glory itself needed to be reawakened in them. But how does any persons’ heart become revived from the subtle sleep that comes from seeking other places to put our trust or confidence in? I think the answer begins where Habakkuk began, it’s to speak to God, to pray transparently before Him, to be with Him from wherever you are right now. It’s that ‘just as I am’ kind of prayer.
So what do you say to God in such a prayer? In this song it began with a straightforward request, “Revive your work in the midst of the years…”. What do you think that meant to Habakkuk? Was it a prayer that one day in the future when Israel was in captivity in Babylon, which they would be for almost 70 years, that sometime in there a new generation would awaken and cry out to God? Was it maybe more present tense, was it a call to the people to remember all the years that had passed already and all the ways that God had been at work in their lives, at least the times they knew of. If those are real possibilities for what Habakkuk meant what would it mean for you to utter the same words, “Revive your work in the midst of the years…”. Here you are in the ‘midst of the years’ is it time to awaken, to speak to God and to be with God, to invite Him to see the masters you have let into your life because there can only be One master. You can’t serve two or three or ten masters at the same time. In Jesus words you will love one and hate the other. Which master is the One you love, which one do you need to hate?
Maybe as you even entertain the possibility of this you find yourself saying, “O Lord I have heard your speech and I am afraid.” I’m afraid that you won’t answer, I’m afraid to leave this Egypt that has captured my will and body. I am afraid that what I’ve done is too much and it is too late for me. But none the less I have heard your speech so despite my fear I ask “Revive your work in the midst of these years. In the midst of these years make it known. O God, in Your wrath against all sin, have mercy on me. Jesus you are my Master!” Has the wonder of His glory faded in your heart, has prayer become a duty, is it possible that Habakkuk’s cry is your cry? Have you heard Him speak, then speak in reply, you have received grace, perhaps it’s mercy you now need, the beginning place of revival. If being revived is what you need, mercy is where you start, speak to Jesus, He’s the way through.