This political season in America is evidencing a decadence unparalleled in American history. Lying, bullying, and boasting is the norm. Though it would be easy to blame the candidates, we must remember that politics is almost always downstream from culture. Our political front-runners are a reflection of the pollution that has flowed down to them from our culture.
So should it surprise us that as in the days of Noah, and as in the days of Habakkuk, that a holy God might “shake the earth” and in so doing, sift the wheat from the chaff? We know the prophecy of Habakkuk is a double vision prophecy, with both a near and far vision. We know the near prophecy was fulfilled. We don’t know when the far prophecy will be fulfilled, but we do know that Jesus told us to be alert to the “birth pangs,” and as we see decadence, natural disasters, and terrorist acts increasing in strength and frequency, we would be fools not to prepare our hearts.
This week my dear friends Ann and Sylvia are here, for their annual visit. (They have come to me for the 12 summers I have been without Steve.) They bless me abundantly with their love.
Sylvia’s daughter texted her, asking her what her blood type was, for she was standing in line in Orlando to give blood to help with the worst shooting disaster in American history. Sylvia’s nephew is a doctor who was helping with the injured, overwhelmed by the horror. This is not in a far away land. This is here.
We said to one another, “What is happening to our world?”
Ann and Sylvia came with me to my church, The Orchard, and we were all struck by something my pastor said. In the Greek, (and in many translations) Romans 8:26 says that the Spirit helps us to pray because we do not know what to pray. I’ve always thought that said how to pray. And while they are similar, the what turned a light on for me. For twelve years Ann, Sylvia, and I have prayed together — but primarily about circumstances. When we asked our adult children to send prayer requests, they asked to be married, or to have children, or to be employed. We ourselves have prayed for our own challenging circumstances to be remedied. And God has been so gracious in answering those prayers, giving us so often, though it often took years, our hearts’ desires. AND PLEASE, DON’T THINK WE SHOULDN’T PRAY ABOUT CIRCUMSTANCES, for God tells us to cast our burdens, to make our desires known, and to practice dependence on Him. In fact, as Ann and Sylvia and I, and our children, look back upon so many specific answers to specific prayers, we are humbled that we belong to a God who is GOOD, who loves to give good gifts to His children.
AND YET, WE MUST NOT ONLY PRAY ABOUT CIRCUMSTANCES.
The three of us have spoken against the “health and wealth gospel,” and treating God like a vending machine.
But though we know this, if we are praying primarily about God to remedy our circumstances, are we not falling subtly into this same error? Are we revealing we do not know what to pray? If God, as a good good Father, cares more about our hearts than our health, wealth, and even happiness, should not we as well? And indeed, if God is choosing once again to lead His people into the wilderness and to refine them through suffering, how will we respond when instead of rescuing us politically, or from terrorists, or from natural disasters, He brings “the Chaldeans?”
Will we simply be praying for “the Chaldeans” to go away?
That’s not what Habakkuk did.
Habakkuk shows us both what and how to pray when trouble comes so that we can be strong and sturdy, surviving like the deer who lives in the wilderness and needs to traverse treacherous mountains.
Last year when Ann and Sylvia came we determined to pray Scripture, to pray for our hearts, and the hearts of our children — as well as circumstances. As we reviewed those requests this year, we have seen growth, though it is harder to see spiritual change, for it is inward, than it is to see marriages, babies, employment, and improved health. But we do see evidences that God is at work in our hearts and the hearts of our loved ones: more peace, more passion, better relationships, and more joy, despite trouble. We are seeing more “fruit” in the vineyard. And so we continue on to pray Scripture for our hearts and our loved ones.
And as the birth pangs increase, we must learn to pray as Habakkuk did.
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
Monday-Wednesday Bible Study
2. Read Habakkuk 3:1-3 in your own translation and then in The Message.
3 1-2 A prayer of the prophet Habakkuk, with orchestra:
God, I’ve heard what our ancestors say about you,
and I’m stopped in my tracks, down on my knees.
Do among us what you did among them.
Work among us as you worked among them.
And as you bring judgment, as you surely must,
3-7 God’s on his way again,
retracing the old salvation route,
Coming up from the south through Teman,
the Holy One from Mount Paran.
A. Meditate and then comment on this:
“As you bring judgment, as you surely must, remember mercy.”
B. How do you see both judgment and mercy at the cross?
C. When judgment falls, “as it surely must,” Habakkuk looks back at God’s “old salvation route.” Teman and Mount Paran (verse 3) were part of the wilderness, and repeatedly, (think Exodus, Hosea, Song of Songs) God leads His bride into the wilderness. What was His purpose in doing so, and how does this show us how and what we should be praying for in the wilderness?
D. Now, whatever wilderness you are now in, or your children are now in, or whatever wilderness may come, for what do you think it is most important to pray? Do so, here, for yourself and then for your loved ones.
Right after Steve’s diagnosis of cancer, God told him to “fight.” We thought it meant to fight the circumstances of cancer, but as time passed, Steve realized it was to fight the enemy who wanted him to despair of God, and to persevere to the end with faith. The Holy Spirit showed Steve what to pray. He prayed He would be faithful, that He would glorify God no matter how great the suffering became, and that if it was the end, he would end well. He prayed for His children to be children of great hearts, trusting God, no matter what. Steve did glorify God to the end, and how I remember his room in the Milwaukee hospital being filled with emotional doctors and nurses before he was helicoptered home to Nebraska to die — they saw Jesus in him and said they would never be the same. God answered Steve’s prayer for the Spirit showed him what to pray. For Steve “the Chaldeans” did not go away, but neither did they win. God made Steve’s feet like hinds’ feet in high places.
3. Compare Hab. 3:3-7 with Exodus 19:16-20. What do you see? What insight and comfort did this give Habakkuk?
4. Compare Hab 3:8-15 with Exodus 15:1-13. What do you see? What insight and comfort did this give Habakkuk?
5. How did remembering these things and repeating them in prayer help Habakkuk to be strong?
6. In a sentence, remember one time God showed His mercy and mighty hand to you.
7. Read Hab. 3:16-19
A. As the prophet waits for the “day of trouble,” find anything you can that expresses his emotions.
B. How, when everything is taken, is it possible to still rejoice?
C. How can this attitude give you hinds’ feet in high places?
8. Share your notes and comments.
9. What is your take-a-way and why?