3 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth.
2 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 NIV)
Today we begin Chapter 3 of Habakkuk’s dialogue with God. Chapter 2 consisted of Habakkuk asking his second question of the Lord, and the Lord’s response.
As we ended chapter 2 yesterday, we saw the Lord’s pronouncement – that He is in His holy temple, and for all the earth to be silent before Him.
After some period of time, what was Habakkuk’s response? More complaining? More questions? More demands of justice?
No. Habakkuk’s mind went to only one thing – worship.
Habakkuk introduces chapter 3 as a prayer. The meaning of the term “shigionoth” is not precisely known, but is generally accepted to be a musical term, indicating that the following text is like an ode or lyric set to music, similar to the Psalms. If we jump to the bottom of chapter 3 (verse 19), we see Habakkuk making it clear that this prayer is to be sung and played with musical instruments.
So what kind of music was this to be? A dirge or other sad music, like a funeral procession, since Judah was about to be overrun by the Babylonians? A condemning “I told you so” song, since the people of Judah were under God’s wrath? A frivolous “don’t worry, be happy” song, denying the problems at hand?
No – none of the above. When I think of Habakkuk’s prayer, the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” comes to mind. This hymn is a quiet confidence and faith in God’s goodness and love, despite terrible circumstances.
Horatio Spafford, the man who wrote the lyrics to “It is Well”, was a prominent lawyer on Chicago during the 1800’s. His business investments in various buildings and properties were mostly consumed during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. His wife and four daughters went ahead of him to Europe for a summer vacation, and their four daughters were drowned in a collision at sea; his wife alone survived. His son (born after the accident) died of scarlet fever. The church they attended, rather than supporting them in their grief, saw their tragedies as divine punishment. But yet, Horatio and his wife kept their eyes focused on the Lord.
Habakkuk, despite all he knows will happen, has a single-minded focus on the Lord. Habakkuk calls on the Lord to bring revival to the land of Judah. Habakkuk calls on God to draw His people back to Himself.
His prayer request? “In wrath remember mercy.”
May Habakkuk’s prayer also be ours -in our time, for our nation.