Daily Update #303
Today’s reading: This is the message that the prophet Habakkuk received from the Lord in a vision.Habakkuk 1:1 (NLT)
Today we begin our studies with the Old Testament minor prophet, Habakkuk, which is probably one of the lesser known books of the Bible. It was written around 600 B.C. and consists of only three chapters. The prophecy is unusual in that it does not include any words spoken directly to the people, but mainly is a dialogue between Habakkuk and God, with Habakkuk questioning what God was doing. Other prophecies tend to work the other way around – with God asking the questions!!
Habakkuk appears to have been a professional prophet and musician involved in temple worship. Though we know very little else of Habakkuk’s background, what we do know is about his prayer-life and relationship with God and this tells us a lot.
In his professionalism Habakkuk wasn’t removed from the everyday situation all around him. He wasn’t “so heavenly minded that he was of no earthly use” in fact he was horrified at the things he saw, and with good reason. Under the reign of King Jehoiakim the poor became poorer. It wasn’t safe to walk the streets at night because of the corruption and lawlessness all around. Injustice, exploitation and violence were the norm.
Habakkuk’s professionalism didn’t leave him simply praying official formalised liturgical prayers. He had a very personal relationship with God. His prayers were real and he didn’t mince his words!
Habakkuk was concerned that God did not appear to be listening and wasn’t doing anything about the dire situation, and said so. The old cry “how long O Lord…” has echoed through the years. God answered by telling Habakkuk that He had heard and what He intended to do and gave Habakkuk a mental picture of what was ahead.
In response to this Habakkuk was even more horrified. This vision certainly did not bring him comfort. God’s plans seemed inconsistent with His character. It didn’t seem to make any sense at all. With added boldness Habakkuk questioned God again.
This book is remarkable in its frankness, but in spite of Habakkuk’s pain and bewilderment he remained close to God and saw how things developed. In the long-term he was amazed by the way that God acted in His wisdom and sovereign power. As a result Habakkuk was filled with awe and wonder, he grew spiritually and became a true worshipper.
This book opens up questions for us about the way God does things. Many of us have probably wondered why God apparently seems silent in the face of situations around us. If we have an honest faith we cannot avoid difficult questions, and many people have given up on God because He appears indifferent to suffering and pain. We may have thought that we had got God worked out into a neat formula and when He doesn’t do as we expect and hope we are disappointed.
Habakkuk’s very honest prayer life has much to teach us. If we only stick with safe polite prayers our relationship with God may not grow very much. Walking with God is a partnership and when the relationship hurts it is alright to say so. Honest prayers expressing hurt, fear and disappointment may take us much further than the “safe” ones, though always recognising that God is sovereign and knows best. Our prayers may not always produce the answers we would like, but honesty deepens our relationship and confidence in Him.
Let me finish with a question for you to consider, followed by some words from an old hymn….When you are troubled by what is happening in your life or in the world –
do you turn TO God or AWAY from Him?
If thou but suffer God to guide thee,
And hope in Him through all thy ways,
He’ll give thee strength, whate’er betide the,
And bear thee through the evil days;
Who trusts in God’s unchanging love
Builds on the rock that nought can move.
(Georg Neumark, 1621-81,
Tr. Catherine Winkworth. 1827-78)