Habakkuk’s prophecy records a dialogue between God and the prophet over the spiritual condition or desperate need of His people. That conversation includes the great statement of Habakkuk 2:4—“the righteous person will live by his faithfulness”—which is referenced three times in the New Testament (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38). Habakkuk 3, however, is different. It has the characteristics of a psalm, even to the point of including musical instructions for how it was to be presented—“On shigionoth” (v. 1). One scholar says this description refers to highly emotional poetry. Also, some translations add the term Selah at the end of verses 3, 9, and 13—a term often used in psalms. Finally, in verse 19, additional instructions are offered: “For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.” As such, this song becomes a good example of a national or corporate lament (see the Insight for January 3).
Monica prayed feverishly for her son to return to God. She wept over his wayward ways and even tracked him down in the various cities where he chose to live. The situation seemed hopeless. Then one day it happened: her son had a radical encounter with God. He became one of the greatest theologians of the church. We know him as Augustine, Bishop of Hippo.
“How long, Lord?” (Habakkuk 1:2). The prophet Habakkuk lamented God’s inaction regarding the people in power who perverted justice (v. 4). Think of the times we’ve turned to God in desperation—expressing our laments due to injustice, a seemingly hopeless medical journey, ongoing financial struggles, or children who’ve walked away from God.
Each time Habakkuk lamented, God heard his cries. As we wait in faith, we can learn from the prophet to turn our lament into praise, for he said, “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (3:18 italics added). He didn’t understand God’s ways, but he trusted Him. Both lament and praise are acts of faith, expressions of trust. We lament as an appeal to God based on His character. And our praise of Him is based on who He is—our amazing, almighty God. One day, by His grace, every lament will turn to praise.
By: Glenn Packiam
Reflect & Pray
What are your laments today? How can you turn them into praise?
Dear Jesus, remind me of who You are and of what You’ve done in my life.