Lessons from Habakkuk
To some, this title may be a strange question—maybe even absurd. Prayer for the believer is usually our source of comfort as we commune with our God and lay life’s burdens upon the Lord. We normally consider prayer to be integral to our Christian walk. So, how could prayer be “dangerous”?
How many of us have been cautioned in the past by well-seasoned believers, “Be careful what you pray for because God may just answer it”? This has been confusing to many young believers. Should I be afraid to ask God to help me learn humilityif I am struggling with pride and self-centeredness because of the means by which God may teach me?
Maybe some help can be gained from the Lord Himself Who taught us how to pray (Luke 11:1). In Matthew 7:9-10, the question is asked, “What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?” The danger in prayer is not because God is indiscriminate in His dealings, or purposes unnecessary hardship to His children. The danger is only what we in our human frailty perceive when we see God work in His own perfect way. Sometimes, the answers to our prayers are uncomfortable and not what we expect. But these answers should never lead us to question God’s love and faithfulness to His people.
The uniqueness of Habakkuk’s contribution to the canon of Scripture is not so much the message that he delivered to the people of Judah, but the dealings he had with God and what he learned about the sovereignty and ways of God.
In Habakkuk 1, the prophet is appalled at the evil that marked Judah. As he views the violence (v2), the iniquity (v3), lack of justice (v4), and triumph of the wicked over the righteous (v4), he is moved to ask the Lord to intervene in righteous judgment with Judah. He views the moral and spiritual decay in Judah as a desperate situation which only God can correct. But the answer the Lord gave likely left him incredulous.
In chapter 1:5-11, God’s answer was that the fierce Chaldeans of Babylon would come and take Judah captive, scoff at their kings, and inflict terrible atrocities on the people with their impressive horsemen and fearsome armies. Habakkuk is further told that the Chaldeans would attribute the conquest of Judah to the power of their false gods. Why would God answer Habakkuk this way, especially when the prophet had a burning desire to see his people restored to Jehovah? Wouldn’t this be a laudable motive behind his prayer for God to deal with Judah?
Habakkuk further wrestles with the question that if the Holy God is everlasting, and of “purer eyes than to behold evil,” why would he send Chaldeans who were perceived even more wicked than Judah? Could such a God allow this treachery to occur (1:12-13)?
We learn an admirable and powerful principle by watching the prophet. Instead of allowing himself to shrivel up into a disgusted and bitter spirit, we see him climbing the quiet watchtower on the wall of the city to wait and listen for the Lord to reveal His mind further. It’s as if the prophet realizes that his own personal perspective about the situation in Judah does not align with that of his omniscient God.
In chapter 2, the prophet’s perspective is realigned as God promises Judah’s remnant, who are the “just that live by faith,” will be exalted, and the Chaldeans, and all the forces of evil, will be shattered and destroyed. Habakkuk is reminded to wait for the ultimate plan of God to be unfolded because the time of God’s righteous vindication “will come and will not tarry” (2:3).
It is no small wonder that in the third chapter of Habakkuk, a song of confidence and even worship emanates from the prophet. With this newly realigned perspective about the perfection of God’s timing, Habakkuk is able to look back at all the deliverances that His people had experienced when He redeemed them from the cruelty of Egypt, patiently guiding them through their wanderings in the desert, crushing the inhabitants of Canaan, and finally coming to realize entrance into the promised land that flowed with milk and honey (Lev 20:24). Habakkuk resolves to rejoice in the Lord and he is able to recognize God as the God of his salvation even though there was an obvious spiritual drought in Judah (3:17-19).
Personal Application for the Believer
Our perspective of God is often short term. We forget that He knows us better than we know ourselves. After all, He is our Creator. God, in Christ, is our Savior and He “knoweth our frame” (Psa 103:14). The perceived danger in prayer is likely more related to our inability to grasp His ways, our impatience to see the exact answer carried out according to our expectation, and an inability to see the larger picture of God’s perfect timing. We may find the answers to our prayers “dangerous” because they are uncomfortable. But these necessary ingredients produce more of Christ in us. Let us always remember what the Savior taught, that He will not give us a stone if we ask Him for bread. In other words, we must trust Him that He knows our needs better than we do, but we must also trust Him that uncomfortable answers to prayer will not be for the purpose of unnecessarily crippling us without reason. Uncomfortable answers should not cause us to develop a lack of faith in His goodness and care for His people.
May we all come to the confident, prayerful understanding, that “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).