“FOR THE VISION IS YET FOR AN APPOINTED TIME; BUT AT THE END IT WILL SPEAK, AND IT WILL NOT LIE, THOUGH IT TARRIES, WAIT FOR IT; BECAUSE IT WILL SURELY COME, IT WILL NOT TARRY.” HAB.2:3.
It was hardly “luck” or coincidence. Such was not in my mind when I was thinking of a Scripture that would be the focus of our First Tuesday Prayer for Revival for October 2023. Later, it turned out that Habakkuk 2:3, the promise chosen to plead before God, was the same chosen by ECWA Executive as ECWA 2024 Theme. It was neither “luck” or coincidence, but perhaps, providential.
When I chose Habakkuk 2:3 as a devotional passage and prayer focus, I was trying to encourage persistent prayer and faith towards revival. I had a feeling that some of us might have begun to doubt or become skeptical about the revival that ECWA as a denomination began praying for about three years (October 2020). I felt that Habakkuk 2:3 is an appropriate passage to encourage us to continue to pray, trusting that a faithful God will do what He said He would do in His own time. There is a mystery about prayer that is beyond all human comprehension. While promises abound about answer to prayers, only God in His Sovereign will determine when and how each prayer is answered. Ps.115:3. This applies to prayer for Revival.
It was a time of vying for power supremacy in the Middle East. The new Babylonian Empire had just crushed the Assyrian empire in 612 BC. Egypt under Pharaoh Neco preempted an attack to stop Babylon from being the dominant power, marched North passing through Palestine. King Josiah, perhaps, in league with Babylon confronted Neco in a battle at Megiddo and got killed. Neco, on his part trying to regain lost power marched on to engage in a battle with Babylon at Carchemish and was defeated. Having become the new world power, the Babylonians naturally acquired Judah which was a vassal state of the humiliated Egyptian empire. Upon extending its authority to Judah, the Babylonians deposed Jehoiakim, the eldest son of King Josiah, whom Pharaoh Neco had enthroned in preference to his younger brother, Jehoahaz. 2 Kgs. 23:36-24:7. But Jehoiakim was a rascal of his own making. Unlike his godly father, King Josiah, who revered the word of God, Jehoiakim was the exact opposite. He was the” poster boy” who was imbued by hubris, cut in pieces the scroll from Jeremiah being read to him and threw it into fire and watched it burn to ashes.Jer.36:1-26. As the idiom says, “like the ruler, like his subjects.” The despicable attitude towards God’s law and the moral degradation in Judah appears to reflect its ruler’s disregard for God’s commandment.
HABAKKUK’S VISION V.1-4.
It is with this background in view that Habakkuk, a prophet of obscure background, became burdened by the moral and spiritual decay in the nation that he cried to God for intervention and perhaps for judgment. It was a period of prevailing violence, lawlessness, suppression of the powerless, injustice, and seeming anarchy.1:1-4.
GOD’S RESPONSE V.5-11
God’s reply to Habakkuk’s complaint was as unexpected and stunning as it was disappointing. God said that He was preparing a new superpower, Babylon, to punish the kingdom of Judah. God did not need any informant or information from any source about the new superpower which He has just elevated. He knew the potential and the future demise of the new Babylonian empire. But He wants to exercise His Sovereignty over all His creation regardless of their devotion to Him. Proverbs 21:1 does not exclude anyone.
HABAKKUK’S REACTION 1:12-2:1.
Habakkuk was flabbergasted. He was utterly disappointed by what he considered a strange divine response. It was difficult for him to imagine (in his mind) such an unreasonable means of punishment. To him, the people of Judah were sinful, but the Babylonians were more cruelly sinful and idolatrous. He could not reconcile how a holy God would use cruel and idolatrous Babylonians to punish people more “righteous” than they. He nevertheless resolved to wait and see how this paradox would pan out.
GOD’S REPLY 2:2-3.
Just like when Job demanded answers from God regarding his suffering, Habakkuk got none. Although neither Job’s questions nor Habakkuk’s bewilderment were ignored, God demonstrated that He does not have an obligation to answer every question that is demanded of Him. Rather than explaining His plan to Habakkuk, God instructed him to clearly write and display the response that he was given for all to see. The vision was to be written on a durable material and displayed in a public place for all to read. Not only to read, but that whoever reads might quickly run with it and announce it to others. No specific time of fulfillment was given, that is concealed in God’s own timing and Sovereign plan. Deut.29:29. Although the fulfillment may seem delayed, it will surely come to pass. Babylon’s ascendancy to power reached its climax in 604 BC after victory over Egypt. But as God promised, Babylonian Empire succumbed to a new rising Eastern empire under King Cyrus, the Persians, in 539 BC.
The book of Habakkuk is one of the shortest books in the Bible written by an obscure prophet of unknown pedigree. Its message, especially the promise in 2:3, is relevant for our time. God’s instruction to Habakkuk is a reminder that God’s word, often at first, may be contrary to our human reasoning. It also instructs us not to judge the ways of the Lord by our limited human knowledge alone. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isa 55:9. William Cowper reflects this truth in his classic hymn.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense
But trust Him for His grace
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face
For us as believers, we need to learn to trust what God says. The old Scripture Union Chorus says, “He cannot fail for He is God” “He cannot fail, He pledged His word.” It is similar as when God promised Abraham a descendant that will multiply as the stars in the sky. Gen.15:1-5. Years later, when God repeated this promise, He swore by His name. Gen22:15-18. It is upon this premise that the author of Hebrews urges his recipients to have hope and confidence.Heb.6:13-18. And so should we.
Going back to what originally prompted me to use Habakkuk 2:3 for our First Tuesday Prayer for revival. There is the temptation for some people to begin to lose hope or become skeptical. God, in His time, fulfilled His word about Babylon. The defeat and destruction of the Babylonian empire by the Persians is only a partial judgment. In eschatology, there will be the final judgment and destruction of Babylon the Great. Rev. 17-18.
Therefore, as we continue to pray for revival and other needs, let us focus on God’s word. Depend on God and His faithfulness, for He who called us is faithful and He will do what He has promised 1Thess.5:24. Jesus taught us to pray with perseverance Lu.18:1-8. Borrowing again from the inspiring wisdom of William Cowper:
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain
For God is His own interpreter
And He will make it plain
In His own time
In His own way
“Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time. But at the end, it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it, because it will surely come. It will not tarry.” Hab.2:2-3.
“GOD SAID, I BELIEVE IT. AND THAT SETTLES IT FOR ME“ is a creed worthy of our faith.