Daily Devotion 19 December 2020
Habakkuk 3: 2, 16-18 ‘The Prophet’s Prayer: Trust and Joy in the Midst of Trouble’
2 O Lord, I have heard of your renown, and I stand in awe, O Lord, of your work. In our own time revive it; in our own time make it known; in wrath may you remember mercy. 16 I hear, and I tremble within; my lips quiver at the sound. Rottenness enters into my bones, and my steps tremble beneath me. I wait quietly for the day of calamity to come upon the people who attack us. 17 Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. 19 God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights.
The prophet Habakkuk is a shadowy figure about whom little is known. The book probably dates from around 600BC, when the tiny state of Judah was being crushed by the empire of Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar (the Northern Kingdom of Israel had fallen to the Assyrians long before), and the Jews were about to be taken away to captivity and exile. However, this little book of just three chapters had an importance influence on St. Paul, (especially Chapter 2:4) and his teaching on faith – which lies at the heart of what we believe as Christians.
It’s definitely worth turning to Habakkuk from time to time – and how appropriate these little-known verses are for us today! The first two chapters largely consist of Habakkuk’s complaints to God: the eternal “Why?” that is always (and understandably) asked by those who suffer, and will no doubt be on the lips of many today who call out to God in their distress. But Chapter 3 is an extraordinary prayer, and the key word is ‘yet’ (3:18). In spite of all the signs of disaster around him, Habakkuk can proclaim his trust in ‘the God of my salvation’.
The theologian J. Neville Ward used to say that all our prayers should stem from thankfulness. In his classic The Use of Praying, he writes that “when things go wrong for the believer, thanksgiving is still possible and right because he sees…that evil can be turned to good, and ultimately will be…and the certainty that he is not being asked to endure his darkness alone” 1. That is both a huge challenge for us as Christian in these dark days, but also a promise – because the God we worship, love and trust is one whose light shines in the darkness, whose love is stronger than death, and whose arms are forever around us.
Loving God, we trust in your never-failing goodness and mercy.
We bless You for our creation, preservation and all the blessings of this life.
Keep us faithful in times of doubt and distress,
and give us the peace and joy which the world cannot give,
but which comes from the assurance
that nothing can separate us from your love, in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Reflection © 2020 Barrie Tabraham.
Image © 2020 Sweet Publishing www.freebibleimages.org.
1 p.24, The Use of Praying by J. Neville Ward, 1967, Peterborough: Epworth Press.
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