“In Christ alone! – who took on flesh, Fullness of God in helpless Babe.
This gift of love and righteousness, Scorned by the ones He came to save.
‘til on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid; here, in the death of Christ, I live.”
Reading: “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth. 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.” Habakkuk 3 : 1-2
As we said at the beginning of our walk through this short book, although we know that Habakkuk was a prophet, the book does not follow the normal prophetic pattern. Over the past few days we have been looking at the “five woes” the Lord sends in response to Habakkuk’s prayer, and then in this last chapter we have another prayer. This was almost certainly used as a Psalm or a hymn by the worshipping community; the word “shigionoth”, in verse 1, is usually taken to be a musical term, and the chapter ends with a note to the director of music.
Habakkuk begins this prayer with a reference to the awesomeness of God, who has worked amazing deeds in the life of the nation, and indeed who works amazing deeds in the world at large. The history of God and the people of Israel is something that the Jews clung onto, regardless of what was going on around them. They were the chosen people, selected by God to live in the land that He promised to them, and then to be the nation, hundreds of years later of course, into which the Saviour of the world, God’s Son Jesus Christ, would be born.
All that was to come, but for now Habakkuk pleads with God to repeat His wonderful deeds, and to make them known again to the people. As we saw a couple of weeks ago, God is going to allow the ruthless and impetuous Babylonians to conquer the nation, and they will then be taken away into captivity. This is going to happen, but even so Habakkuk pleads with God to reveal Himself again to His people, who, as we saw at the start of this book, have turned away from their Lord, and are pursuing their own ends regardless of the cost or suffering to others.
The last phrase of today’s reading includes a word which is not always popular with many Christians, and that word is “wrath.” The usual objection is to question how can a loving God, indeed the one who is Love, be at the same time a wrathful God. In his book “Gentle and Lowly”, which we read together during Lent, Dane Ortlund writes of the awfulness of sin, of the holiness of God, and of how the only way of salvation is through the death of Jesus, assuaging the anger of God. God is not angry with sinners, that of course is all of us, but He is rightfully angry at sin, which has broken our relationship with Him, and He was even willing to give up His Beloved Son in order to bring about our restoration to His family.
I began this morning’s Reflection with a verse from that wonderful hymn of Stuart Townend’s, “In Christ Alone.” I am fairly sure that when someone changed the third line of this verse, objecting to the use of the word “wrath”, Stuart was rightly incensed and insisted that the verse be sung as written. I’m going to close today’s Reflection with a verse from another Christian hymn writer, Graham Kendrick, who actually referred to the last phrase in today’s reading when, together with Chris Rolinson, he wrote a song we use regularly at St. John’s, “Restore, O Lord, the honour of Your name.” As I mentioned earlier, God is love, and His love for us knows no bounds. He is merciful, generous, and always ready to hear us when we turn to Him, whether that is seeking forgiveness, seeking guidance, searching for peace, or just seeking to know again the presence of our faithful, amazing God.
“Restore, O Lord, in all the earth your fame,
And in our time revive the church that bears Your name.
And in your anger, Lord, remember mercy,
O Living God, whose mercy shall outlast the years.”
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www. zondervan.com. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™