BACKGROUND: The best clue we have to the time of Habakkuk's prophecy is the reference in 1:6 to the Chaldeans (also known as the Babylonians). In 626 B.C., Nabopolassar of Chaldea (the southern part of the Tigris-Euphrates region) revolted against Assyria (the northern part of the Tigris-Euphrates region) to capture the city of Babylon. He then defeated Assyria (612 B.C.) and Egypt (605 B.C), his two most powerful rivals.
Nabopolassar's son, Nebuchadnezzar, attacked Jerusalem in 597 B.C. , then he sacked the city in 587 B.C., killing thousands, and taking most of the rest into exile. The Babylonians remained in power until they were defeated by Cyrus of Persia in 539 B.C. Cyrus allowed the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple.
Habakkuk probably served as a prophet sometime after the death of the good King Josiah in 609 B.C. and prior to the sack of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. His prophecy is directed at Judah (the southern kingdom), because Israel (the northern kingdom) had been crushed by Assyria and had long since ceased to exist as an autonomous nation.
Read Hab. 3:1-2 - A PRAYER FOR REVIVAL
1A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth. 2 O LORD, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy. (ESV)
1 This prayer was sung by the prophet Habakkuk: 2 I have heard all about you, LORD. I am filled with awe by your amazing works. In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by. And in your anger, remember your mercy. (NLT)
v.1: The odd word word "shigionoth" used here (a Hebrew musical or poetical term that scholars have never figured out) in v. 1 indicates that this beautiful heart-felt prayer for revival was originally set to music. Habakkuk prayed because revival was desperately needed. It was a time when God''s people had become forgetful, formal and careless in their devotion and obedience to God. They had almost lost their testimony, God's holy name was not honoured, and His kingdom was not being extended.
How relevant this study is for our own times! - because our greatest need today is for spiritual revival. Our greatest need is not for more evangelistic meetings (although we thank God for these), for more money or for better methods. The greatest need is for spiritual revival, for a fresh infusion of divine life into the Church, for an awakening in the lives of God's people and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It was for this that Habakkuk prayed. Let us examine his prayer:
1. The word 'O'' expresses a deeply-felt longing for revival
The prophet prayed ""I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord..."..." -- what intensity of feeling! Are we burdened like this? What is our reaction to the following facts:-
2. The word ""Lord"" (repeated) declares that God is the source of revival
Habakkuk's prayer was rightly directed to the Lord because revival comes from Heaven. It cannot be worked up; it needs to be prayed down. It is not man's doing, but God''s, though God in His mercy sends revival through His people. The fact that we so often place emphasis on outward things, on organization and methods, on advertising and publicity etc. shows that we do not see this amazing truth. These things do not produce revival -- God alone can!
3. The words ""I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe..."..." show how revival begins
It is when a believer gets alone in God''s presence, hears His voice and trembles at His word (Isaiah 66:2). Habakkuk had in fact done this (2:1-3), and while he was alone in God''s presence he experienced what the Psalmist mentions in Psalm 85:6-8. So often we rush into God''s presence and do all the talking, but it is when a man abases himself before Almighty God, confesses the sins of his people and his own sins, that revival can begin in that one man. One person can open the door through which the Risen Lord will enter in reviving and quickening power into His Church (Revelation 3:20)!
4. The words ""Revive thy work..."..." (KJV) unveil the true nature of revival
Habakkuk did not pray, ''Lord, deal with the heathen and save them...'...', but ''Revive your work......put your people right...'...' Many Christians confuse revival with the work of evangelism. Revival includes evangelism, but evangelism does not necessarily include revival. Evangelism includes organization, publicity, team work, perhaps media appearances, and much human effort -- all of which is good; but when revival comes it is quite apart from these human endeavours. It always begins in the Church and in the hearts and lives of God''s own people.
5. The words ""In the midst of the years..."..." (KJV) speak to us of the time of revival
Habakkuk repeats these words in his prayer, so what is their significance? No doubt the prophet meant, ''O Lord, revive your work now, when the need is so desperate...'...'; and surely for us it means that any time is God''s time for revival, any time when revival is needed and when God''s people will pray. Here we are not in any way contradicting what has already been said about God being the author of revival; God is sovereign, but has also declared in His Word that He is willing to hear and answer the prayers of His people. Therefore, ""in the midst of the years"", at this very time, God will revive if......look up 2 Chronicles 7:14.
6. The words ""make known..."..." reveal the effects of revival
When revival comes, what does God ""make known""? (1) He makes known His majesty, His glory and His holiness (Isaiah 6:1-8). (2) He makes known our sin, weakness, emptiness and failure (Lamentations 3:40-42; Matthew 5:23-24; Luke 19:8). (3) He makes known the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:11-12). When revival comes God reveals Himself, for revival is a revelation of the Lord Himself -- and the result is a tremendous consciousness of God''s presence.
7. The words ""in wrath remember mercy..."..." suggest the true motive for praying for revival
God had been punishing the Chaldeans and chastening His own people, but Habakkuk prayed He would reveal His mercy to show the other side of His nature -- He hates and punishes sin but loves the sinner. Is that our prayer too?
"The Ways of the Lord are Everlasting"
(Click here for other Lessons in the Habakkuk series.)
At the end of Chapter 2, the Lord is on His Holy Throne, and the earth is silent before Him. Hush!
... Don't you wish you could know everything that Habakkuk saw in this vision? We do know that what he saw combined with what he had learned from his conversations with the Lord, resulted in chapter 3. When the silence was broken, Habakkuk prayed.
A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.
This prayer was a song, to be played upon stringed instruments (see the end of verse 19). Calvin's commentary suggests that Habakkuk taught this song to the people before they went into exile. Habakkuk, the prophet who had just delivered to his people the sad news that they would be judged and overtaken by the cruel Chaldeans, now lovingly gives his people a song/prayer that they can take with them into captivity in a pagan land to remember their God, to give them hope.
This kind of remembering/hoping song reminded me of the hymns sung by the slaves in our country. They sang these unique songs to each other and taught them to their children to remember their cultural heritage while they were in captivity, to encourage them through difficult times, and even to impart information in a kind of code during the days of the underground railroad.
Why a song?
Isn't it so much easier to memorize things that are set to music? I know the books of the Bible in order and the names of the twelve disciples because someone set them to music and taught them to me long ago. I know many Scriptures by heart because I sang them as hymns in church. Our brains seem to latch on to any words paired with a catchy tune.
(Just a note about the word "Shigionoth".... from the many commentaries I read, there is no clear consensus about the meaning of this word. It's only other use in the Bible is in the singular form in Psalm 7. Most agree that it is some kind of poetic or muscial form and perhaps a dirge. See the GotQuestions.org site's description here.)
Lord, I have heard the report about You and I fear. O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years, In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy.
Habakkuk begins his prayer by acknowledging reverent fear of the Lord from what he had heard, both what he heard about the coming judgment of both Judah and the Chaldeans and what he had heard of the Lord from the past. There is a sense that this hearing has brought about a new understanding of the Lord. The Christ Centered Exposition Commentary notes "It's as if he were saying - I've heard, but now I see!"
When he saw, he was in awe!
For the first 35 years of my life, I had heard of the Grand Canyon. I knew it was vast, breath-taking, and magnificent. Some told me it was the most amazing thing that they had ever seen! So, I had a mental picture and expectations of what it would be like. However, when I finally had the chance to go to Arizona and see the Grand Canyon for myself, the description I had heard and the pictures in my mind were so very inferior to the real thing!
The sense from verse 2 of Habakkuk is that kind of new revelation. Considering how blown away he was by God's answers to his questions earlier in the book, is it any wonder that Habakkuk now sees with new eyes?
Job had a similar change of his view of God as revealed in Job 42: 5-6
Habakkuk's 3 petitions before God:
Habakkuk has learned that both Judah and Babylon will be judged by God for their wickedness. But, Habakkuk knows that judgment can bring repentance. Also, from Chapter 1, Habakkuk knows that there will be a remnant saved. All of God's people will not be destroyed. Repentance and turning back to God would result in the fulfillment of all 3 of Habakkuk's requests!
Godly repentance would result in Judah again worshiping God in the correct way. God's work would be revived.
If the people repent and return to worship the Lord, they would again be a light unto the nations. Then knowledge of God would spread. God's work would be made known.
When people turn from sin and repent, God is faithful in forgiveness. God will show mercy in the midst of His wrath.
Habakkuk simply prays that the result of the upcoming horrible judgments will be repentance and worship of God among the people.
Ultimately, this is the best outcome -when judgment acts as a discipline to restore the sinner.
As Matthew Henry's commentary pointed out, we must not say, "remember our merit, but remember YOUR mercy, O Lord".
PRAYING FOR REVIVAL
Many of us pray for revival.
But what, specifically, do we mean by the phrase "pray for revival"?
We know that we cannot "organize" revival. (I think of revivals such as the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905 when over 100,000 people were saved.) True revival is the work of God. But we are asking God to work.
A few of our staff put together the following prayer list for our church family. It provides ten specific ways to pray as we ask the Lord to do the work that only He can do.
Perhaps this list would be a help to others who also pray with the psalmist, "Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?" (Psalm 85:6).
10 Prayer Requests for Genuine Revival
Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.-Psalm 139:23-24
2. God would break any stubbornness and hardness of my heart.
Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.-Hosea 10:12
3. That God would show me any relationships that need to be restored.
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.-Matthew 18:15
4. That God would help me to have a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit that I have never experienced.
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.-Ephesians 4:30
5. That God would grant me a deep conviction of sin, repentance, and a renewed fear of God.
For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.-2 Corinthians 7:10
6. That God would give me a spiritual hunger and fervency that I have never known.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.-Matthew 5:6
7. That God would bring loving unity and deep harmony in my church and my family.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.-John 13:35
8. That God would fill my heart with a passion to see people saved.
I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:-Romans 9:1-3
9. That God would call many from among our church to missions and Christian service.
Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.-Matthew 9:37-38
10. That God would take what He does in our church family and use us to the furtherance of the gospel around the world.
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am
with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.-Matthew 28:18-20