Habakkuk prophesied during the time of the rise of the nation of Babylon as a worldwide power. The surrounding nations of Assyria and Egypt had already been defeated and subjugated by the armies of Babylon’s ruler, Nebuchadnezzar and Judah was under threat of invasion by Babylon at any time.
Just prior to Habakkuk’s time of ministry, Judah (the southern kingdom), had seen a revival of sorts under the reforms of King Josiah. Sadly, their fidelity to the Lord was short lived, and they soon plunged into a state of depravity that caused the prophet to bemoan the wicked state of his countrymen to his God.
This short book had much instruction for us on the subject of prayer. I have broken the book into three sets of instruction based on Habakkuk’s example.
**Prayer directed to God as a BURDEN as opposed to a COMPLAINT
**The discipline of waiting on God in prayer with ears to hear and receive CORRECTION
**Willingness to COMPLETELY SURRENDER to the sovereignty of God for the answers to prayer
- WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A BURDEN AND A COMPLAINT?
READ HABAKKUK 1:1-4
Burden: a heavy, weighty thing
In this case, Habakkuk was weighed down by fact he was surrounded by iniquity and perverse judgement among his people and it seemed as though his God was turning a blind eye to it all.
Last week we looked at the example of Lot’s torment as he dwelt among the wicked of Sodom.
2 Peter 2:7-8 (God) delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked 8 (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)
To the casual observer, this may look like a complaint; a charge against God for seemingly being unjust.
Complaint: A statement that a situation is unsatisfactory or unacceptable
Complainer: One who is discontented with his lot in life
Rule of complaining : It is not wrong to complain to God, it is wrong to complain against God and His judgements and sovereignty over His creation! (Examples: Moses and David)
Job 40:7-8 "Now prepare yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer Me:
8 "Would you indeed annul My judgment?
Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?
The best example of the negative effects of complaining against the Lord are found in the book of Numbers , which recounts the patience of Jehovah as He led the children of Israel through the desert towards the promised land. They tried both God’s patience and Moses forbearance throughout the journey.
They complained that there was no water and food.
They complained against God’s choice of Moses as their leader.
They complained that God had led them into the desert in order to kill them.
In all this, God patiently endured their complaining, but there came a point in which the forbearance of God was pushed to its limit. The children of Israel had reached the border of the Promised Land, and because they chose to believe the report of giants in the land by the ten spies, rather than trusting the promise of God to give them the land, they pronounce a self-fulfilling prophesy against themselves!
Num 14:26-30 And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 27 "How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me. 28 Say to them, 'As I live,' says the Lord, 'just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: 29 The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.
What made Habakkuk’s complaint acceptable?
His heart was in alignment with God…he was in the midst of an evil generation and was grieved in his spirit as a result. (verses 1-4)
A.W. Tozer gives needed instruction on how we can determine if your complaints are in alignment with God.
He warns: “Christians need to watch and pray lest we fall into the temptation to be vexed, agitated and irritated by what we see taking place in our world and spoil our Christian testimony as a result. We must be able to discern between a SPIRITUAL BURDEN or a RELIGIOUS IRRITATION.”
He states: “A TRUE BURDEN SPRINGS FROM AN ACUTE CONCERN FOR THE HONOR OF GOD AND THE SOULS OF MEN.”
- THE DISCIPLINE OF WAITING ON GOD AS IT RELATES TO PRAYER
God’s answer to Habakkuk’s complaint was not what the prophet expected!
(READ HABAKKUK 1:5-6)
God was doing an ominous and impressive work.
The Chaldeans were the remedy to Judah’s infidelity. Judgement was coming, and it would be meted out by a blood thirsty, ruthless nation that was more treacherous than Judah by far!! God warned the prophet that he would be utterly astounded at His response!!
Has this been your experience? You cry out to the Lord to intervene in a situation and the answer is nothing like what you expected? (READ HABAKKUK 1:12-13)
The truth is that God’s ways are higher than our ways!!
Isa 55:8-9 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord.
9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
How can we keep from questioning God’s ways, methods and will in our own struggles?
We need to have a willing heart to wait on Him for correction.
(READ HABAKKUK 2:1)
Our perceptions about God, ourselves and others as it relates to the situations, we bring to Him in prayer can be wrong or just incorrect based on lack of complete knowledge, limited understanding, lack of experience and our level of spiritual maturity . The question is, are we willing to acknowledge these facts as we approach God in prayer??
As my husband observed in a study: “ Things Are Not as They Seem! ”
You may be dealing with a situation right now that might be perplexing---you may not be sure how it will turn out or what you are able to do about it---the best thing to do is to WAIT UPON THE LORD .
YOU MUST BE WILLING TO BE CORRECTED!!
(God will allow questioning prayer that is coupled with this attitude)
Pastor Steve’s message from 3/24/19 gives us the methods in which we can hear God’s voice. Through the word, others, our conscience, etc. Why is it important to train yourself to hear God’s voice? SO YOU CAN HEED IT!!
We must be willing to accept the fact that our judgement of a situation can be wrong.
Matt 7:1-5 "Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
Our judgement is often wrong because we tend to be partial to ourselves first, the truth is, only God knows what’s going on inside of our little deceitful hearts and we need to look to Him to bring it to the surface so we can see clearly.
"The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
10 I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings.
Oswald Chambers - “We have to get rid of the idea that we understand ourselves; it is the last conceit to go. The only One who understands us is God…the only way that we can be of any use to God is to let Him take us through the crooks and crannies of our own characters. It is astounding how ignorant we are about ourselves !”
Be willing to see that your perspective on a situation, possibly one you have held on to for years, can be changed in an instant!! We must be willing to acknowledge when we are wrong!! That is the beauty of following Jesus, He is never finished with the work of conforming us into His image.
- THE PEACE OF GOD WILL COME WHEN WE SURRENDER TO HIS WILL
(READ HABAKKUK 3:1-2)
Habakkuk didn’t resist God’s plan, he accepted it and interceded for his people.
Habakkuk’s time of questioning and complaining is over; God’s will would be done and as a bonus, the prophet was let in on the rest of the story; Babylon would eventually be judged by God (Ch 2:3), along with all evildoers and ultimately, the earth would be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Ch 2:14).
When we lay our burdens at the foot of the Cross, an exchange should take place …we come away with the peace of God that passes understanding.
Habakkuk knew what was coming---judgement to Judah, and yet in spite of this, he had peace and rest. (Habakkuk 3:16-19)
I love this section---it is described in my bible as Habakkuk’s hymn of faith. This was a prayer he put to music, in order to console himself when the judgement came!! In essence, he is saying, “No matter what happens as a result of Your sovereign plan, O God, I am going to trust You to take care of me and give me strength to endure whatever comes.”
Can we say the same? And not only this, but can we rejoice, no matter what the circumstances God might bring into our lives and see things from an eternal perspective ? This is often where the adjustment in our thinking must be made.
It’s like the song we sing—“Blessed be Your Name on the road marked with suffering; though there’s pain in the offering, Blessed be Your Name!”
This is the attitude Habakkuk had in the midst of trial. He prepared his heart to remain steadfast in his faith toward God, no matter what He chose to bring into his path!
Let me end with the exhortation Paul gave to the Philippian church;
This is where we find the picture of the great exchange that takes place when we bring our burden to the Lord in prayer:
Phil 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Use this exhortation as your guide…if you don’t have peace, then you have not left your burden at the foot of the cross.