Habakkuk: A Case Study

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1. THE PROPHET’S JOURNEY

1. He got up early (1:2, 2.1, Mark 1.35)
He determined to pray and to “take counsel with his God” before he prophesied to his community. He began to call out to the Lord about the state of the nation.

2. He began to take careful note (1:3)
He got involved. He observed first-hand awfulness of the nation. But God did not seem to be answering Habakkuk’s prayers; in fact, it seemed God wasn’t even listening to him. Greg Haslam says:

I think that in large quarters of the church today, there is a gnawing suspicion that God is not listening to us or our prayers for mercy and revival either. Far from being able to come up with the keys to success and the faith to turn this situation around, some leaders and churches seem to have given up on spiritual warfare altogether. They have resigned themselves to inevitable defeat and the triumph of evil.

Habakkuk was sinking deeper and deeper into doubt and fear, and two negative views become focussed in his mind:
(i) prayer seems pointless and
(ii) God seems powerless.

3. He started get passionate (1:3-4)
His first complaint is: “How long, 0 Lord?” He cannot keep bringing the burden of a nation to God in this way, with no answer at all from him.” The second complaint is “Why?...” He needed answers!

But God had not forgotten him. The Lord did speak to Habakkuk. There came, in the end, an answer to the prophet’s longing for a word.  Habakkuk was so shocked that God would use a godless people to punish his holy nation that he erupted immediately into his third complaint: “How could you?”

Habakkuk may have seriously complained, but he also listen carefully to God’s reply. Habakkuk was genuinely looking for divine help to strengthen his shaken faith.

The abiding value of the book of Habakkuk is that it presents a picture of a man who believes and yet questions.” It is alright to question God. You may gain valuable insights from him that you would never have obtained in any other way.

To confront God directly in this way requires a good degree of spiritual maturity, insight and sensitivity. This is why we need to grow in the prophetic.

2. THE PROPHETIC TASK: WATCHING AND WAITING (Hab 2.1-4)

Watching and waiting are mandatory or anyone who wishes to be prophetic.

1. Watching needs faith to see something differently
Growing in the prophetic implies that you have faith that God will speak.

2. Watching is best done “higher up”
The primary calling of a prophet is to listen to God on behalf of others, and discover a higher divine perspective. So the prophet goes higher, standing on the ramparts above the clamour and cacophony of human voices. Prophetic people are more interested in what God has to say than they are about human guesswork, opinion or speculation.

3. Watching can be a solitary task
Prophetic listening is a private and intimate activity of solitude and silence. He is a God who speaks, and a God who surprises us.

Haslam, again,

Sometimes we are taken by surprise as a word from God arrives in our hearts. Prophetic people acquire the habit of always listening, always watching, keeping a detachment in their hearts whatever they are about, because God doesn’t always wait for the silence. Yet sometimes finding a place of silence and solitude is part of the preparation of our hearts. Just as God called Abraham his friend into the desert, Moses his prophet and Jesus his Son, so he calls us into wilderness silence and solitude, to wait, watch and listen for his revelation. Moving in the prophetic was never about instant fixes; it takes time, and it takes self-discipline. (My emphasis)

4. Watching means waiting
Habakkuk waited.  Prophetic people must have the self-discipline to wait. We need to wait for the moment when God is ready to speak. God does nothing in a hurry. Daniel waited three full weeks before his answer came (Daniel 10). Jeremiah was put in a vaulted cell where he “remained a long time”, before the word for King Zedekiah came to him (Jeremiah 37:16).

5. Watching and waiting is a very responsible task
The prophet, along with my God, is the watchman over Ephraim” (Hosea 9:8).

Prophetic people carry responsibility for the wellbeing, comfort and safety of many others. The watchman’s task is to be alert to spiritual reality – to look out for danger and deception as well as for God’s voice. Every congregation needs watchmen whose eyes and ears remain open, who can read the signs of the times and also listen to Word of God.

6. Watching and waiting require obedience
A prophet’s word must be trustworthy and honest; we have to know we can rely on prophetic people to see truly and report faithfully. When God speaks, the prophet’s task is to convey accurately what God said, resisting the temptation “to edit it, modify it, add to it, soften it, distort it or simply remain silent”.

3. THE PROPHETIC VOICE

1. Prophecy means seeing and sharing vision from God
God has access to our imagination.  We have to learn to trust God, and open our visionary capacity to receive the Holy Spirit’s perspective upon how things can and should be. .

2. Prophecy needs to be written down
This preserves the details so that they are not forgotten or mislaid somewhere on the long journey from reception to fulfilment. It also prevents distortion in the retelling from one person to another. Recording prophecy helps us to build our faith because of what God has said to us over many years..

Prophecy should be so clear that he who runs may read it, and so memorable that he who reads may run with it.

3. Prophecy has a deadline
There may be only partial fulfilment, with much more still to come. One preacher expressed our frequent frustration in waiting for God like this: “The problem is, I’m in a hurry … and God is not!

4. Prophecy requires faith from the hearer too
Prophecy requires both faith to receive it, and obedience to act on it. It drives us into action.

a) Faithfulness:True faith means perseverance in believing what God has said. God is looking for faithful people.

b) Life: Prophecy helps to keep the church faithful. Prophecy helps to keep the church alive. That’s why it’s worth all the watching and the waiting, and that’s why we need the prophetic.